The biggest barrier facing most cities when it comes to providing the level of innovation and infrastructure needed to reduce waste and increase recycling rates often boils down to one factor: Money—or specifically, the absence of it. As budgets dwindle, missed opportunities to leverage problems in waste diversion cost cities millions of dollars in potential revenue each year.
In 2013, low recycling rates caused cities to collectively spend billions of dollars on landfills and lose over $11 billion in commodity revenue from the sale of recyclable material sent to landfills.
Enter Ron Gonen — co-founder of RecycleBank and former deputy commissioner of sanitation, recycling and sustainability for New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.
Last week, the recycling maverick took the stage at the Municipal Waste Management Association (MWMA) Fall Summit (the environmental affiliate of the United States Conference of Mayors) to announce his latest project, the Closed Loop Fund — a consortium of large corporate companies that plan to invest $100 million over the next five years to support the development of recycling infrastructure and services.
Join TriplePundit, SAP and our special guests for a Twitter Chat about millennials and social entrepreneurship. Follow along at #SAPsocent on October 23 at 9 a.m. PST/Noon EST.
Despite massive growth throughout the years and big companies testing the waters for market opportunities, Latin America still faces historically high unemployment rates and a dismal GDP. For working-class Brazilians, the default means for finding employment — newspaper ads and word-of-mouth — are slow and ad hoc. However, finding work is now becoming as simple as responding to a text message, thanks to entrepreneur Jacob Rosenbloom, founder of Emprego Ligado.
Backed by high-profile investors including 500 Startups, Qualcomm and a new round of Series A funding to increase geographic expansion, Emprego Ligado is successfully taking over São Paulo as a virtual staffing firm that’s connecting blue-collar workers to millions of job opportunities each month.
Launched in 2011, Emprego Ligado serves as a job marketplace for working-class Brazilians with limited access to the Internet. Job applicants simply upload their resumes and filter job opportunities to the system via text message. The process takes as little as 2 minutes to complete, and accepted candidates are able to arrange interviews with potential employers all through the convenience of their mobile device.
I sat down with Rosenbloom via Skype to discuss his venture, the growth opportunities that exist in Brazil, and how he’s charting a new path for economic empowerment that affects on the ground environmental and quality of life issues for the country’s most vulnerable workers.
Here’s an edited version of our conversation:
Addressing climate change comes down to simply implementing good business sense and long-term thinking about how we invest, build and support business growth around the globe. The Confronting Climate Change is Good Economics plenary session, presented at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting this week, drew consensus among notable panelists. They spoke to the changing values of companies and cities as it relates to planning effectively to leverage solutions that bridge both capital and climate change alleviation.
Highly appropriate after coming off a high from the People’s Climate March on Sunday, which drew an estimated 400,000 people from all over the world, this panel discussion accurately assessed the need for government, business and citizens to address greenhouse gas emissions and quality of life by aligning our actions to our most pressing issues.
With just a week away from the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, 160 leading environmentalists from 44 countries are calling on the world’s foundations and philanthropies to take a stand against global warming.
The group, comprised of award-winning environmental laureates, issued the “Declaration on Climate Change” published in the International New York Times last week, calling on foundations and philanthropies to deploy their endowments and save civilization as we face the dangers of a warming climate heading to 4 degrees and 6 degrees Celsius temperatures.
“Our goal with the Environmental Laureates’ Declaration is to help foundations see that the impact of their charitable giving can be augmented by their investment behavior with no risk to their portfolios. Companies, funds and other investor assets that are fossil-free and/or focused on the clean energy economy are now performing at least as well as their more traditional counterparts,” said Aimee Christensen, Hillary Laureate, founder and CEO of Christensen Global Strategies and one of the key signatories of the declaration.
“Major philanthropic foundations, which control hundreds of billions in investments, have a major opportunity to contribute to the rapidly accelerating growth of climate and clean energy solutions. We hope they seize that opportunity and in doing so, reduce their own risk and increase their impact.”
Millions of cosmetic tubes, jars, caps, wands and other hard-to-recycle packaging materials are sent to landfills each year. Not only do our personal care packaging disposal habits wreak havoc on our waste streams, they also ask us to consider: To what extent of environmental costs are we willing to pay in order to maintain our beauty routines?
The onus doesn’t simply fall on the consumer to re-think the way we toss our toiletries. Mass-market brands like LUSH Cosmetics, Cargo Cosmetics and Aveda that have concentrated their efforts on producing smarter and easy-to-recycle lines have demonstratively served both people and planet with their business models.
“Sustainability in the beauty sector is not new given the efforts of brands such as Aveda CPR, Unilever compressed deodorant can, and Cargo now discontinued PlantLove lipstick eco-friendly formula with biodegradable packaging,” explains Tina-Gaye Bernard, cosmetics industry marketing consultant, founder of Cocoa Chic Beauty and former director of marketing for brands such as L’Oreal, Sue Devitt Beauty and Clinque. “Cosmetic industry manufacturers will continue to pursue cost and earth efficient improvements.”
In 2011, Garnier partnered with free waste collection programs TerraCyle to divert a significant portion of its packaging waste from landfills. Through the partnership, Garnier works with Terracycle to allow salons and individuals to recycle their packaging through the Personal Care and Beauty Brigade program — a free recycling program for hair care, skin care, and cosmetic product packaging, as well as a fundraising opportunity for participants. To date, the program has collected over 4 billion units of packaging waste and has raised over $82,000 dollars for charities.
But what if there was another way that cosmetics companies could marry both quality packaging with earth-friendly principles?
When entrepreneur Anita Redd, who faced a challenge when the packaging for her natural skin care products–Anita’s Balm, was discontinued by her supplier, she found cohesive solace between her all-natural lip balm line and a biodegradable jar she crafted with a 3-D printer. The bump in her proverbial road turned out to be just the challenge she needed to re-think her mission of marketing high-quality, natural products with guilt-free packaging.
Her custom designed and printed jars are now patent pending.
What price would you pay to help humanity? For former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Genesis Prize Foundation, $1 million dollars aptly foots the bill. Launched last week, the Genesis Generation Challenge aims to identify and provide seed-money for innovative projects to address the world’s toughest challenges. Ten awards of US$100,000 will be given to the engineers, artists, scientists and business people that can turn their ideas into scalable solutions that demonstrate significant impact in their particular issue area.
The competition will turn passion into reality for 10 winning teams connecting them to mentors and opportunities to convene and learn from one another. Benefits exist even for those teams that do not win; they will become part of an active network of forward-thinking and connected individuals from whom they can receive feedback and grow their ideas.
Monetary incentive aside, mentorship from politician, businessman and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is worth its weight.
“Competitions can provide the incentives and framework to help innovative ideas surface, so we created the Genesis Generation competition to empower young people who want to make the world a better place,” Bloomberg said. “The competition will spur collaboration across borders and regions, and it will encourage young people to find new and better ways to tackle our most pressing challenges.”
The Internet has arguably taken over our lives. In as little as 25 years, the magnitude of its impact and influence on the way our society interacts with technology, money, people and businesses is astonishing to say the least.
A Pew Research study released earlier this year reveals that more than 87 percent of American adults use some form of the Internet, whether through email, their mobile device or directly from their computers. Children aren’t trailing too far behind these statistics, and it won’t be long before they’re outwitting us in the digital space.
If we thought that we were a generation of highly-adept, technologically-savvy Internet-dominating adults, think again.
Increasingly, children are becoming the top purveyors of new media. Common Sense Media‘s fall 2013 report, Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, found that more than half (52 percent) of children ages 0 to 8 now have access to newer mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and 53 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds have used a computer.
Forty-seven percent of American teenagers are reported to own a smartphone that often serves as a primary Internet access point across socioeconomic status.
With the omnipresence of the Internet, parents must be increasingly aware and armed with the tools to keep their children safe online.
I spoke with Rebecca Randall, vice president of education programs at Common Sense Media — a partner of Symantec security systems — to get her thoughts and tips on how parents can prepare and protect their digitally-connected kids.
Can good design improve the health of the public?
This is the question rattling the brains of architects and urban planners as they convene frequently at conferences to trade best practices on helping cities to recover from the sins of post-industrial buildings by leveraging design as a mitigating cure-all to detrimental health statistics plaguing communities around the world.
For Thomas Fisher, professor of architecture and dean of the University of Minnesota, design is capable of serving as a means through which we build healthier environments and influence healthy human behavior.
“It’s not just keeping people safe or meeting the building codes or fire codes, it is really a responsibility about keeping populations healthy,” Fisher told Fast Company.
Tech entrepreneurs are trading in their Google Glasses to try their hand at urban farming in the most unlikely of places. If these disruptive entrepreneurs had it their way, local and fresh food would be grown indoors year-round, providing entire communities and businesses with delicious produce without restriction. Another perk: Crops aren’t at risk of being destroyed by a hurricane, drought or other unpredictable natural disaster.
Surprisingly, high-tech urban farms are popping up around the world in every imaginable space from old warehouses in the Netherlands, to semi conductor factories in Japan and even on the roofs of commercial buildings in Brooklyn. In these futuristic farms, often called vertical and hydroponic farms, you’ll be more apt to find copious LED lighting and smartphone-controlled water meters in lieu of soils and fertilizers.
New York City-based Gotham Greens runs several rooftop greenhouse farms with state-of-the-art climate control and hydroponic growing systems in Brooklyn. They recently opened a 20,000-square-foot farm atop a newly built Whole Foods Market, in which they grow and deliver fresh produce sold in the store. Gotham Greens doesn’t use soil for plant growing, instead they use a hydroponic system of sunlight, oxygen and CO2 that miraculously yields about 20 times what could be cultivated on land, and with about a tenth of the water of conventional agriculture.
The race for big oil companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions is fierce. As zero-emissions solutions from renewable energies and technologies begin to set new expectations for energy production, oil companies are being called to accelerate their environmental efficiencies and, more importantly, compete with foreign oil distributors.
In order to snuff out the competition, Canadian producers are turning to innovative solutions to spur local collaboration and invest in advanced technologies to increase environmental performance and reduce emissions.
Earlier this month, General Electric announced the launch of its GE GHG Ecomagination Innovation Challenge: Energy Efficiency Solutions for Canada’s Oil Sands. The competition aims to provide CAD$1 million to the best global minds to help develop solutions that can be scaled and commercialized within the industry.
More specifically, the challenge calls for proposals that will identify new uses for waste heat and improved efficiency of steam generation.
As airline companies compete to be the No. 1 customer choice for flying the skies, the adoption of environmental responsibility standards is becoming much more prevalent.
From curbing water usage, to better management of air traffic systems, to encouraging passengers to share a can of soda (and you thought they were just being cheap), the breadth of initiatives companies are trying out to reduce their footprint elicits greater accountability within the $708 billion dollar airlines industry.
The latest company coming to the table with rather unique plans to help cut the nearly 2 percent global carbon emissions rates produced by the aviation industry is none other than Southwest Airlines. Having cracked the top 100 in Newsweek’s annual green company rankings this year, Southwest is demonstratively making good on its commitment to pursue triple-bottom-line growth in the name of environmental stewardship and global citizenship.
Through its Evolve campaign, Southwest designed a large-scale retrofit of its entire fleet to enhance customer comfort and improve overall fuel efficiency. Approximately 80,000 leather seat covers were replaced with durable and environmentally-responsible materials that lighten the load of the plane by a whopping 600 pounds — a number that the company reports will translate into significant fuel savings and subsequent carbon emissions.
In a recent interview with Triple Pundit, Marilee McInnis, senior manager of culture and communications for Southwest, said the airline is seeking opportunities to source new materials, overhaul its fleet, and reduce consumption and fuel costs in the process.
Repurpose with purpose
Once the leather was out and the eco-materials were in, Southwest still had one problem to address: Where to send all of those leather seats — 43 acres of material in total — if landfill is not an option.
In fashion designer Eileen Fisher’s world, 1,000 people are capable of making a difference. And when she says people, she means her employees — a team committed to social consciousness that has served as a sounding board for many of the leading brand’s sustainability initiatives in recent years.
Armed with a commitment to gather consensus from employees and inspire leadership practices, Eileen Fisher has curated a culture that allows employees to be leaders of change both internally and within the brand’s work in society at large.
Hiring policies hold significant weight as the brand continues to pursue activities that incorporate stronger sustainability practices and charitable partnership programming. In 2012 upon receiving an Apparel Sustainability All-Star Award, Shona Quinn, Eileen Fisher’s sustainability leader, mentioned that the company has an effective sustainability program as a result of employees with strong social values who are predisposed to consider the environment.
The range of employee contributions to the company’s sustainability strategy is voluminous. Prime example: An employee request to eliminate the use of plastic resulted in an 80 percent reduction of plastic hangers used in stores.
The casual-wear brand has led the charge toward transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry for years. The company has used natural fibers and eco-friendly fabrics for over a decade, and the materials are a hit with its 33- to 50-year-old female target consumers. Bucking sweatshop labor practices and other common fashion industry snafus, Fisher’s legacy is rooted in her commitment to ethical and responsible business practices that treat employees as owners and the planet as a shareholder.
One might assume that handling trash every day for a living might be a smelly job. But for the crew of designers, nerds and Captain Planet-pushers at upcycling firm TerraCycle, trash is a profitable problem that keeps on giving.
On August 8, PivotTV viewers will get a sneak peak inside the world of TerraCycle’s upcycling empire when its original, unscripted docu-comedy series “Human Resources” kicks off for a 10-episode run.
“Human Resources” follows the wacky, fast-paced work environment of the TerraCylce team as they come up with solutions to eliminate the concept of waste. The mash-up of eclectic personalities run the gamut as they bend the rules of corporate America, perform rain dances in the middle of the work day, break for early-morning yoga in the conference room and share kale chips with their in-office pets.
With more than 120 employees in several cities around the world, Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of TerraCycle, encourages both mischief and antics among his lively staff of eco-geeks, scientists and the occasional apathetic employee.
Multinational consumer goods company Unilever is asking young leaders to prove what they’re doing to help build a sustainable future. Now, in the second year of its Sustainable Living Entrepreneurs Awards, the company — in partnership with Ashoka and the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership — is inviting young people (ages 30 and under) to come up with practical and innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest sustainability challenges.
Seven stellar entrepreneurs will be awarded a total of more than €200,000 (US$272,000) in financial support, in addition to mentoring, to help scale their services or applications.
eBay Inc. is proving to be a company that delivers on its promises. With more than 33,000 employees worldwide, the e-commerce giant isn’t naïve about its two-decade span of influence on both society and the global economy. In its very first Social Innovation annual update, eBay Inc. successfully demonstrated its commitment following a series of goals set last June to fuel shareholder value and pursue a three-year, long-term series of objectives to create positive societal and environmental change.
“We’ve long believed in eBay Inc.’s capacity to drive both shareholder value and positive social and environmental change—it’s not just off to the side, it’s built into what we do every day,” said Lauren Moore, head of Global Social Innovation for eBay Inc. “Our Social Innovation efforts formalize this sense of purpose that’s been here from the start and provide a framework to understand our impact. And as shareholder value is increasingly measured in more ways than just purely financial gain, we believe our Social Innovation efforts will continue to position us for sustainable growth over the short and long term.”
eBay Inc.’s annual update is guided by three key focus areas — creating economic opportunity, enabling greener commerce and powering charitable giving — and demonstratively connects each to the crux of its business goals.