Hawaiian Electric to Retool with Solar, Smart Grid and Energy Storage

| Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 | 3 Comments

best-value-in-solar-661x308 Distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, along with smart grid and energy storage capacity, will play a much larger role in Hawaii’s energy future if a recently proposed plan comes to fruition.

Pursuing a goal to achieve the highest level of renewable energy use in the U.S., Hawaiian Electric Co. proposes to nearly triple the amount of distributed solar power capacity coursing through its grid by 2030, as well as install smart grid and energy storage systems.

Almost completely reliant on fossil fuel imports for energy generation, electricity costs – as well associated costs in terms of human and environmental health and safety impacts – in Hawaii are roughly twice that of any other U.S. state. That’s changing for the better, however, as Hawaiians embrace renewable energy technology, enhance energy efficiency and try to dial down energy usage.

Hawaiian Electric’s plan sets a goal of sourcing 65 percent of electricity supply from renewable sources by 2030. Realizing this goal would drastically reduce Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuel imports, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution associated with fossil fuel use. In addition, Hawaiian Electric expects customers’ electric bills would be reduced by 20 percent.

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Making the Case for Nonprofits in Microfinance

3p Contributor | Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 | 2 Comments
Most families in Maungu have no electricity or water. Zawadisha provides loans for solar lamps and rain water harvesting tanks to women, making these products accessible to poor, rural families.

Most families in Maungu have no electricity or water. Providing small loans for items such as solar lamps and rain water harvesting tanks is one way that micro-finance organizations can experiment to better serve the poor. 

By Jennifer Gurecki

Risk-taking and experimentation are not necessarily terms synonymous with the nonprofit sector. In fact, we normally look toward for-profit entities to take the lead on innovating systems and products, but in the case of financial inclusion for the poor, perhaps it is time to revisit the role of nonprofits. Dean Karlan, in the Fall 2014 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, does just this, illuminating three important functions that nonprofits can serve in the ever-evolving sector of microfinance: serving the unprofitable, building trust and promoting innovation.

At Zawadisha, we are quite familiar with working with people who have been considered too poor and too rural. We have dedicated more time to building relationships with these individuals than we have with developing policies and protocols that inhibit experimentation. We have gained valuable insight from these individuals, resulting in the quick implementation of new products and services that truly meet people’s needs.  We have been able to accomplish all of this precisely because we are not a financial institution. We are not bound by top-heavy policies and red-tape that slows down processes and places a heavy emphasis profitability. In this way, we have benefitted from our nonprofit status, allowing us to test different methods of financial inclusion while still working toward achieving a triple-bottom-line approach to poverty reduction.

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Green Beams for the Blue Revolution: How Standards Can Benefit Aquaculture

3p Contributor | Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Erik Bonsaksen

When world fisheries catches declined in the late 1980s, it was explained by the combination of overfishing, size of resource base and changes in ocean climate. At the same time, global aquaculture production began to blossom, expanding by 12 times and becoming today the fastest-growing food production industry on the planet, a development famously coined the “Blue Revolution.”

Aquaculture became a promising field in terms of countering food production challenges for the U.N.-estimated world population of 9.3 billion by 2050. However, as the World Wildlife Fund and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment suggest, human consumption patterns are already now approaching the upper limit of what Earth’s resources can sustain with signs of depletion on nearly two-thirds of the planet’s natural resources. To evade a global food supply crisis, an increased level of sustainable management is required as further exhaustion of natural fish populations and surrounding environment can be fatal for the upcoming demand.

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Beijing Recycling Program Turns Bottles Into Subway Rides

Lauren Zanolli
| Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

beijing recycleForget your reusable bottle at home this morning and find yourself towing an unwanted plastic bottle? If you are in Beijing, you are in luck — you could trade in that empty bottle for a subway ticket.

“Reverse vending machines” in subway stations around the city allow riders to deposit polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles in exchange for a commuter pass or mobile phone credit. Donors receive 5 fen to 1 yuan (about 16 cents) for each PET bottle, depending on its weight and composition. Incom Recycling, which is owned by Asia’s largest PET processor, Incom Resources Recovery, first introduced the system to Beijing subway stops in late 2012, with 10 machines across the city. The company has since expanded to include 34 machines, and it plans to install as many as 3,000 across the city, according to local media reports.

The machines would seem like a great way to encourage recycling in a city of upwards of 20 million. Except that Beijing doesn’t have a plastics recycling problem — it already has a 90 percent recycling rate for PET bottles, above most cities around the world.

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Obama to Seek ‘Politically Binding’ Climate Agreement

RP Siegel | Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 | 16 Comments

ObamaHow much room is there to maneuver between a rock and a hard place?

That’s a question President Barack Obama must be asking himself, when it comes to the question of climate change. On one hand, you have overwhelming evidence of an increasingly unstable climate system, posing an existential threat to the future of mankind — and most of the entire world angry at the U.S. for being the leading cumulative emitter and doing so little at the governmental level to address the problem. On the other hand, you have some Senate Republicans who are politically entrenched in denial of the problem, along with coal-state Democrats ready to contribute enough down-votes to block any attempt at a climate treaty — which requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

With a United Nations summit meeting coming up in Paris next year that will attempt to come up with some kind of meaningful global agreement, the president is determined not to show up empty-handed this time.

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Green Job Openings More Than Double in the Second Quarter of 2014

| Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

E2ClnEnTrnsprtJobs2QMore than 12,500 clean energy and transportation jobs were announced in this year’s second quarter (Q2 2014), more than double that of Q1, according to a report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) on the eve of the Labor Day weekend.

The announcement of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan instilled confidence and greater certainty regarding the future of clean energy in the U.S. That, in turn, helped spur the jump in clean energy job announcements in Q2, Environmental Entrepreneurs stated in a press release.

“This Labor Day weekend, the story is that more Americans are working because of clean energy,” E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe was quoted as saying. “But to keep that growth going, we need our state and federal leaders to do their jobs too. We need them to support smart policies that grow our economy and protect our environment – policies like the federal Clean Power Plan.”

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The Value of Bike Sharing: Looking Beyond Carbon Emissions

Raz Godelnik
| Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments

citibikeWhile the sharing economy fan base continues to expand, questions rise  about the true economic and social impacts of sharing.

Interestingly, one part that is still missing from these discussions (well, not entirely) is the environmental impacts of the sharing economy. The general notion is that the sharing economy has a positive environmental impact as it promotes a greater use of underutilized assets. But is this true?

This answer no doubt is complicated. There are even doubts about the environmental impacts of first appears to be one of the greener parts of the sharing economy – bike sharing.

As Bobby Magill reported recently on Climate Central, while we know for sure that nobody has ever died on a bike-share bike, we can’t really be sure what impact bike sharing has on climate change.

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Millenial Voices: Navigating the Intersection of Race, Sexuality and Profession

3p Contributor | Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in “The Millennials Perspective” issue of Green Money JournalClick here to view more posts in this series.

TDBy Julius Tapper

As you may have noticed, there’s a theme to this issue of GreenMoney. As I write this article, featured as a “millennial voice,” I can’t hide a small smirk of irony. I grew up hating labels. Or, more diplomatically put, I had a strong aversion to them – especially my own. As a kid, my labels made me uncomfortable; black, gay, nerd. By definition, they were accurate, but they didn’t seem to fit. They felt limiting and prescriptive; they came with baggage that wasn’t my own. I felt my individuality, my identity, was undercut by my group affiliations.

My perceived stereotypes of “gay” and “black” were incongruent with my desire to be socially accepted and professionally successful. Inhabiting my intersection of race and sexuality was also difficult; Jamaica (where my parents are from) has a notoriously homophobic culture. In response to the tension between my identities, I retreated from them. When I stopped running from – and turned to examine – my ascribed labels, I found community, culture, and stories with personal resonance. I came to acknowledge that my individuality is enhanced by the intersectionality of my identities, and the history they bring. Frankly, I’m now quite proud of my labels, and they are an active and living part of who I am. Maya Angelou’s recent passing, for me, reinforced one of her most poignant lessons: “I go forth alone, and stand as ten thousand,” and I call on those tribes often.

Having been called on as a millennial to share my story for this article, I’m a little less suspicious of the label, and a little more interested in exploring what it means to me and what it might mean for the investment community. All of this talk of identity may seem a little sentimental for an investment publication, but I argue that identity will be a critical consideration for the investment community going forward.

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Taking Sustainability Beyond the Company Walls

Eric Justian
| Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 | 0 Comments
SBAmiller, maker of this fine malt liquor, is expanding the meaning of "sustainability"

SABmiller, maker of this fine malt liquor, is expanding the meaning of “sustainability.”

A thoughtful article in the Economist suggests we should be more rigorous with the meaning of ‘sustainability’ in the corporate world, granting it to the broad efforts undertaken by companies like SABmiller and Unilever.

What many companies call ‘sustainable’ measures should be more succinctly termed ‘efficiency’ measures … which, if we really think about it, is what corporations should be doing anyway in the name of just straight-up economic principles. If producing less waste, using less packaging, putting up solar panels and reducing energy use with LED lights is ‘sustainable,’ then of course companies that do this will see a return. Of course they will!

However, the jury arguably is still out on broader, more aggressive moves toward social and environmental responsibility. But companies like SABmiller are undertaking the Big Experiment.

SABmiller is the second largest brewer in the world. Here in North America we’re familiar with the company through products such as Leinenkugel, Molsen, Miller Genuine Draft and Miller Lite. And of course the next time you poo-poo that 40-ounce bottle of Olde English 800, just know that the company producing it is personally bringing experts and facilities to wheat farmers in Rajasthan in northern India to help them reduce water draw from the strained aquifer by 23 percent and water runoff by 40 percent. The company is also increasing its focus on its own customers with road-safety and anti-drunkenness campaigns.

The difference between SABmiller’s approach and other company-centered ‘efficiency’ efforts is the depth of focus outside the company’s own walls. A business can say “we reduced our water use” or “we have reduced our carbon footprint” or even say “we don’t use child labor” but refer only to what is directly from their own operations, which tends to be comparatively small.

The larger environmental and social impacts are often found in the sprawling supply chain and in consumer use.

According to Jane Nelson, director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, the broader view of social and environmental responsibility is part of a growing trend among businesses.

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Despite Bully Tactics, We Can’t Stop Using Uber

Mike Hower
| Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 3.14.12 PMNobody likes a bully. Nowhere in the world is this truer than in the United States, a nation which was founded on the notion of standing up to bullies. We disdain an unfair fight and often find ourselves rooting for the underdog. We are taught since kindergarten to believe that we ought to treat others the way we wish to be treated — and that the one most hurt by bullying is the bully himself.

Tell that to Uber, which has made little effort to shroud its back-handed tactics to annihilate its ridesharing competitors, namely Lyft. Earlier this year I likened Uber to the Galactic Empire of Star Wars and Lyft to the underdog Rebel Alliance. Leveraging a war chest which now has grown to some $1.5 billion dollars, Uber has done whatever it can to put Lyft down — from gimmicky marketing schemes and attack ads, to even lowering rates.

But all of that seems paltry in comparison to Uber’s latest anti-Lyft strategy, which has devolved into outright sabotage. According to the Verge, Uber is hiring teams of independent contractors equipped with burner phones and credit cards as part of a sophisticated effort to undermine Lyft and other competitors. The contractors, which Uber calls “brand ambassadors,” are paid to requests rides from Lyft and other competitors in an effort to recruit their drivers — all the while taking multiple precautions to avoid detection.

Well, they didn’t go undetected. According to CNN Money, Lyft claims that 177 Uber employees have ordered and cancelled about 5,560 rides since October 2013. One brand ambassador allegedly created as many as 14 different accounts in order to perform 680 cancellations. Lyft drivers also have complained about being propositioned to join Uber.

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Passive House Standard Results in Energy and Cost Savings

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 | 0 Comments
passive house

Some of the most energy-efficient homes on U.S. soil, Belfast Ecovillage homes use 90 percent less energy to heat and cool.

While typical homes of a comparable size require families to spend several thousand dollars each year on heat alone, my family of four in Midcoast Maine spent less than $120 a month last winter on of all our utilities, including heat and hot water. On cold, windy days, our home has no drafts. During sunny winter days, our home is heated exclusively by solar gains, and the heating system doesn’t turn on for many hours. Despite having no air conditioning, our home is comfortable throughout the summer. The secret is that we live in a home at Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, a 36-unit community constructed to the Passive House standard (although it was not certified).

Homes built to the Passive House standard use a mere 10 percent of the energy for heating and cooling that a code-built home does. For every $1 our neighbors pay to heat their homes, we pay only 10 cents. Generous quantities of insulation in the foundation, walls and roof; a solar orientation; exceptional ventilation; triple-pane windows and doors; an airtight envelope; lots of southern glazing; and thermal mass in the slab have resulted in exceptional comfort and very low utility bills.

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The Online Artisan Marketplace: A Huge Boost for Handmade Products

Leon Kaye | Tuesday September 2nd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Artisanal goods, artisan, artisanal products, social enterprise, online artisan marketplace, Etsy, Leon Kaye, amazon,

Surely someone, somewhere is selling handcrafted mate cups.

At a first glance, it is easy to lament both the decline of the small store and the artisan marketplace in North America, as big-box stores have redefined conventional and online shopping. E-commerce behemoths such as Amazon, where one can buy anything from dog food to king-sized beds, have also done a number on small goods. Plus, the rise of China as the world’s factory hardly helps the cause of the small shopkeeper or artisan.

All of this has been on my mind while I’m spending some time in Montevideo, Uruguay, where it is easy to avoid the malls and hypermarkets: There is something to be said about going to five or 10 different businesses while walking to do errands, from the laundry service, to the cheese store, to the vegetable stand, to finally the kiosk to recharge my phone. Living here, it would be easy for me to change my profile picture to that icon, “I didn’t buy it on Amazon.”

At the same time, however, the Internet has made it far easier for artisans, artists, and craftsmen and women to highlight and sell their wares. The creative types who have long been priced out of neighborhoods, such as Williamsburg in Brooklyn or Fillmore in San Francisco, can open a store, online, with no overhead. And for their customers, while the experience may not be as social, or convivial, as walking from store to store, finding that perfect item can be rewarding as he or she bypasses Amazon, Walmart.com or the other online giants. The result is a welcome trend for handmade goods.

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Health Care Savings Will More Than Cover the Cost of Reducing Emissions

RP Siegel | Monday September 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

asthmaPeople, primarily skeptics, often want to know what is the business case for taking action on climate change. Typically, all they can see is the prospect of energy prices going up since, they imagine, energy companies will be forced to make expensive modifications or pay taxes or credits that will raise the price of everything else while providing nothing additional in return. My favorite answer to the question is this one: What is the business case for not taking action? But recently I discovered another set of numbers that justify taking action, which leads me to believe there are probably even more waiting to be discovered.

Consider this: A cost-benefit study conducted by a team of MIT researchers and published in the journal Nature Climate Change looked at three different climate intervention scenarios, taking into account the health care cost savings. What they saw was that in one scenario, the health care cost savings achieved were actually ten times greater than the cost of implementing the scenario. In fact, in two of the three scenarios, the savings achieved by reducing the need for health care, avoided hospital visits, and decreased incidence of pollution-related illnesses more than covered the cost of the program.

The three scenarios selected were a clean energy standard, a policy aimed specifically at emissions from transportation, and a cap and trade program. What the researchers found was the following:

ScenarioCostHealth Care Savings
Clean Energy Standard$208 billion$247 billion
Transportation Emissions~$1000 billion$260 billion
Cap and Trade$14 billion$147 billion
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Survey: Furniture Companies Dropping Flame Retardants

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday September 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

California_flame_retardants_Jeremy_KeithBig changes are afoot in the California furniture market. A survey conducted by the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health and design firm HDR Architecture shows that many furniture manufacturers have dropped, or are in the process of removing chemical flame retardants from their ingredients lists. Their manufacturing changes CEH says, are in response to the state’s recent updates to laws that govern how flammability standards are measured, and whether manufacturers can opt out of including chemical flame retardants in their products.

According to CEH, of 56 office furniture producers surveyed in a recent poll, 12 say they have already removed chemical flame retardants (CFR) from their furniture. This includes Arcadia and Global, which are largely known for their office and home retail products, and David Edward, which produces office and healthcare furniture. Three other companies, Haworth, Martin Battrud and Herman Miller, say they expect to be CFR-free by 2015. Eight others said they are planning to eliminate the chemicals but needed more time to respond to the survey.

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3p Weekend: 6 Ways Eco-Labels Can Help Us Stay Sustainable

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday August 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Eco-labels may not sound like the most exciting topic at first. But when you look a bit more closely, it’s easy to see that labels and certifications are the backbone of any sustainability claim, whether it’s a product or practice. Of course, navigating the wide world of eco-labels can be confusing at times. To clear things up, this week we rounded up six ways eco-labels can help consumers and businesses stay sustainable — no matter what their interests are.

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