Being a greener business can take many shapes and levels of complexity, but sometimes it’s the obvious that can make a substantial impact. Take eco.love Wines: Among its many sustainability minded touches is intentionally having longer rows in the vineyard. Why? That means less turns for the tractors, which results in decreased fuel consumption.
But how does a winery from New Zealand manage to be the world’s first carboNZero certified winery in the world?
We all know that the amount of plastic generated by the manufacture and consumption of beverages constitutes a huge use of resources. Coca Cola has long been a leader in doing something about it, becoming a large scale recycler itself. Roughly two years ago, it began changing the bottle itself with the creation of PlantBottle: 30% of it came from plant materials, the maximum possible at the time, given average municipal recycling facilities.
100% plant based bottles, while impressive sounding, can’t be recycled through traditional means. Safe disposal requires a professional grade composting system and these are few and far between.
Another problem with PlantBottle is that the plant material comes from sugar cane ethanol grown in Brazil. While Coca Cola worked hard to choose a source that has minimal input requirements and is fast growing, the use of sugar cane means the company is relying on land that could be used for food crops.
This week, the story has changed:
I don’t know about you, but for perhaps the first time ever, I want to buy a Nissan. The Leaf, of course. But there’s a problem. Where can I charge it? Sure, I live in Portland, the ecotopia where there are likely oodles of places to do it. And outside that bubble? Not so clear.
And that’s a likely stumbling block that could keep all but the most ardent supporters of electric vehicles (or those of us feeling the impending pain of sky high gas costs) from making the leap to an electric car.
Fortunately, an intriguing solution just launched this week to address so called “range anxiety”: Plugshare is a new mobile app that starts with the most extensive listing of publicly available electric vehicle charging stations available. Then it gets interesting –
Has this ever happened to you? After buying a huge stack of books for your University courses, half of them end up being used for only a single chapter, or perhaps a handful more. That’s money and resources that didn’t need to be used. But up until now, professor’s hands were tied, as they typically can’t legally copy the needed chapters or give them to students as a PDF.
With the increasing ubiquity of iPads, Kindles and the like, eBook versions of text books are starting to become an option for students. But what if you only need certain chapters of the book and paying for the whole thing is an unnecessary expense?
Until services like Reference Tree, there wasn’t much you could do.
In our still car dominated society, traffic is, for the moment, a necessary evil. Sure, mass transit options are increasing in some cities, and numerous efforts are making bicycle commuting more amenable and doable. But rush hour is still a twice daily reality for most of us.
What can be done to reduce traffic, right now, at no additional cost and disruption to our current transportation infrastructure?
Avego is a viable option that merits attention.
Recycling seems like a straightforward thing from the consumer vantage point: A little bit of sorting, put it in the bin, and it’s whisked away, recycled into the many products we all buy that contain recycled material. Only it’s not as beneficial as it may seem, since a substantial percentage of the material gets sent to China for processing: an unnecessary carbon burden and a drain on our economy.
What if the boxes, as they are, could be reused? It’s a simple idea with profound possibilities, that Boxsmart is exploring.
Think for a moment: Just because a box has been used once, doesn’t mean it is no longer usable. But, barring a business reusing them itself, there’s not been an easy, clear path to do this. Even this limited reuse is beyond the time and will of most companies.
Boxsmart has another option for companies to consider:
How do you get people to save electricity? The pain of the monthly bill is certainly an incentive, but it’s an after the fact, fleeting one, people lapsing back into their usual behaviors. Video of giant crashing icebergs is far overused, and has no direct connection to people’s lives (Or so they think). Angry guilt provoking rants get tuned out or actively resisted. So what else can we do?
Think about it for a moment. Do you know where your energy comes from? Is it down the street, or in another state? Is it coal, nuclear, wind, solar, or water perhaps? I’m betting you don’t know. And you’re not alone. For those not inclined to make a point to think about behaving more sustainably, flicking the light switch and turning the tap have no impact beyond what they see as a direct result of their action. The rest? Doesn’t exist. Or doesn’t matter.
The answer might lie in the humble sticker, aka wall appliqués…
In many parts of the world, cities are actively taking steps to increase biking as a daily activity – London’s “bicycle superhighway” is the latest example, generating a staggering 70% increase in bike use in one year, even on regular streets. But there’s a hitch to getting a broader professional segment of the population on two wheels: Their suit.
Riding in your suit to work is a deal breaker for many. Sweat, rain, and wrinkled clothes are too much of a hurdle for people to overcome. An opportunity lost. But what if there was a way to carry your suit, your laptop, all the necessaries, and be able to maintain your expected dress while reducing your weight?
That’s why Vancouver’s Chris Thom, himself an Investment Advisor, decided to create a solution when he couldn’t find one in bike stores: Suitsak. There are other options out there, like the Suit25 from Slicks.
But there’s a crucial difference: How it’s sold.
Something interesting is bubbling up in the Pacific Northwest. And it’s not beer. But it has a connection to it.
Water offsets, or as their creator BEF calls them, Water Restoration Certificates do the seemingly impossible: Bring water back to dead or seasonally running waterways. Four billion gallons as of 2010.
But it’s not some magic that brings water back.
2011 is being hailed as the year that electric cars finally (re)emerge as a contender for the hearts, minds, and increasingly tight pocketbooks of consumers. Electric vehicles, at least initially, will require people to behave differently, having to find or create their own way to charge it rather then depend on gas stations being ever present as they are now.
Given this, people’s driving habits, whether it’s the length of commute or how fast they drive, will be reshaped. Who drives electric cars first will be much different then early adopters of previous generations of petroleum based vehicles.
So it makes sense that vehicle sales will also occur outside the usual places you’d expect.
Plastic, to most people, is just a vehicle to carry their groceries, contain their soda or water, and serve as a utensil for their lunch. But as you and I know, the disposal of it is a hugely problematic issue, much of it accumulating in the ocean in enormous islands, or gyres, either continuing to accumulate or reducing to tiny pieces, ending up consumed by sea creatures and ultimately us.
I was shocked to find out that there’s not just one gyre but five. It’s a threat, not only to the creatures that live in the ocean, but also to those of us (read everybody else) who depend on a healthy ocean to support life as we’re accustomed to it.
It’s enough to just get depressed and feel helpless. Or, you can be part of “Waves for Change.”
Many of you reading this have a glass of water sitting nearby. Water is typically seen either neutrally, something that just comes out of your tap, or contentiously, a wasteful carbon intensive purchase whose plastic containers generate huge amounts of waste annually.
What if your water purchase was actually beneficial to many people, and its delivery had no impact? That’s what NedWater is doing, right now.
How do you combine American’s need for the big, the fast, and the green? (Yes, we’re talking about lawn care). Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have one answer in the works: The Mowercycle by Real Power.
One of the entrants in the third annual Engineering, Mechanics and Aeronautics design competition, Mowercycle combines the size and maneuverability of a motorized sit down mower with the lack of emissions of an old fashioned manual push mower.
City life has a lot going for it, but for most cities, the high density brings with it high traffic. That high traffic is both exacerbated and created in part by the numerous small parcel transport vehicles picking up and delivering throughout the day.
What if package delivery could be crowdsourced?
That’s the question DHL is going to test out shortly. Based on a program created by the students at the University of Potsdam’s HPI School of Design Thinking, it takes advantage of the increasing ubiquity of location aware smartphones to tap people who are already commuting through the routes a package needs to take.
It used to be that Energy Star was the de facto standard for knowing that a product was energy efficient. That was, until an undercover investigation involving the formation of fake companies with blatantly non efficiently products such as a gasoline powered alarm clock passed muster.
It’s a credibility gap that needs to be filled, and a trust that will take some time to rebuilt. Fortunately, in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, a new standard has emerged that exceeds Energy Star standards by at least 30%: Energy Forward.
Currently focusing on televisions, computers and monitors, it claims that if everyone in the Pacific Northwest region (Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana) purchased energy efficient electronics, they could save enough electricity to power all of Seattle for year, saving $60 million.
Reading the FAQ, it’s clear that EF has talked to consumers and are aware of the issues they may have. Things I wouldn’t have fathomed asking, like “Will I sacrifice performance by buying these electronics?” are answered effectively. And one that is likely on many people’s minds, “In relation to other things, most electronics don’t use that much energy, do they?” The answer is surprising: