Clean Tech Case Study: When Sustainability Means Big Savings

3p Contributor | Friday June 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Solar panels on the roof of

Solar panels on the roof of Herculaneum High School in Missouri.

By Lacey Miller

Sustainability is more than just company operations. At the Doe Run Co., sustainability is also about “protecting our workforce and neighbors”… to the tune of $2 million in savings!

In 2013, Doe Run invested about $600,000 into the Herculaneum High School, part of the Dunklin R-V School District in Jefferson County, Missouri, paving the way for major upgrades to the inefficient campus. With the help of Microgrid Energy, which performed the energy audit that covered lighting, HVAC, water heating, plug loads and building envelopes, the final project included several energy conservation measures, set to save the school an estimated $2 million over the life of the project.

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Xeros Laundry System Saves Businesses Water and Money

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday June 27th, 2014 | 2 Comments

XerosWater is a precious commodity, and reducing water use is a goal every business should set.

A Sheffield, England-based company called Xeros has developed an innovative laundry system that makes it easy for companies to reduce water use by up to 80 percent. The system uses polymer bead technology that attracts dirt and absorbs it into the beads, which can then be reused for hundreds more washes before being recycled. Xeros launched its laundry system at the International Motel and Restaurant Show in November 2013, and received the Editor’s Choice Award for Best New Product for Hotel Operations.

The British company has since expanded in North America. Xeros recently announced that its plans to roll-out out the system to the hospitality industry is on track, and most of its laundry systems have been sold to the top five hotel groups in North America. Since hotels in the U.S. use about 2.3 billion gallons of water a month to wash linens, that is a good fit. A life cycle assessment (LCA) carried out by Sustain Ltd found that the Xeros system also reduces carbon footprint by 44 percent. The life cycle savings in carbon footprint and water use are equal to the emissions produced by watching a 32-inch LED TV for 32,000 hours or 10 years’ worth of direct water use by an average U.K. household.

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How Little Steps Can Help Your Business Create Big Change for the Environment

3p Contributor | Friday June 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments

green businessBy Dennis Hung

What does a business produce? The simple answer would be that every business produces a commodity of some kind, be it a product or a service. A more optimistic response might include the idea that a business should generate a profit. However, besides money and merchandise, there’s something else that every business produces: environmental damage.

In a 2010 study performed by the London-based firm Trucost, it was estimated that the 3,000 largest public companies in the world cause an annual estimated $2.2 trillion in environmental damage. And even though larger organizations may have a greater overall impact, smaller businesses can also cause significant damage when their leaders don’t take action to embrace a “green” corporate lifestyle.

But what can they do? It takes money to make the switch over to eco-friendly business, and given the current state of the world economy, many entrepreneurs and start-up businesses are barely managing to stay afloat as is. Well, there’s no need to give up hope; there are things that your business can do to help save the planet, without going bankrupt in the process. Here are a few tips on how you can go green, without having to spend all of your green.

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Is LEED Becoming the New Normal?

| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

SkyscrapersThe LEED certification program has its roots back in 1993, when David Gottfried and Mike Italiano founded the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The aim was to promote sustainability throughout the building and construction industry, which naturally involves standard-setting, and so just a few years later, in 2000, about 60 private and nonprofit sector stakeholders gathered to launch LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Since then, USGBC has grown to 76 chapters with 13,000 member companies and other stakeholders, along with a roster of more than 181,000 credentialed LEED professionals. According to USGBC, currently more than 4.5 billion square feet of construction space have gone through the LEED system.

Just by the numbers, LEED has clearly gone mainstream. Acceptance by leading global companies like Mariott is another mainstream marker. Even the U.S. Department of Defense has adopted LEED standards to help fulfill longstanding energy conservation mandates, despite opposition from the usual suspects (yes, Sen. Inhofe, we mean you).

This poses an interesting problem. If LEED certification is the new normal, how can it make your business stand out from the crowd?

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Consumer Demand Could Turn the Tide on Sustainable Fishing

Lauren Zanolli
| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 0 Comments

218617131_c01bbf550c_zIn 2006 Walmart sold fresh Atlantic salmon fillets in its stores for $4.84 per pound — an incredibly low price. Where did it all this cheap salmon come from? As it turns out, over the previous 10 years, fish farms had proliferated along the coast of Chile, a country far from the natural habitat of Atlantic salmon in the cold waters of the northern hemisphere.

Despite a lack of experience with fish farming, salmon became the second largest export of Chile, thanks in no small part to the huge market reach of the big-box retailer. As Charles Fishman documented in his 2006 book, “The Walmart Effect,”  Walmart bought all of its salmon from Chile, amounting to perhaps one-third of the country’s total exports.

Lax regulation and price-driven suppliers eager to meet Walmart’s demand led to exactly the kind of overcrowded, antibiotic-heavy, environmentally-destructive fish farms that environmentalists caution against. In 2007 an outbreak of an infectious disease led to a near-collapse of the salmon farming industry in Chile. Walmart, known for its ability to pressure suppliers to change their policies and decrease price, has since diversified its salmon purchasing. And Chile has started to improve its fish farm practices: In 2013 the country’s Verlasso farm became the first ocean salmon farm to receive a “good alternative” rating from the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch.

While Walmart is in a class of its own in terms of size, the point is that because of their massive purchasing power, large corporate grocery chains can wield incredible influence over product markets and even the policies of their suppliers. In the world of seafood, there are fairly immediate consequences — for better or worse — for the environment.

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Risky Business: The Cost of Climate Change to the U.S. Economy

Emilie Mazzacurati
Emilie Mazzacurati | Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Editor’s Note: Nik Steinberg contributed to this report.

Screenshot 2014-06-25 10.10.48In 2006, the British government released the world’s first and most comprehensive assessment of the economic impacts of climate change. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change was instrumental in establishing unequivocally the link between physical impacts of climate change and economics. It helped dramatically shift the conversation on greenhouse gas mitigation.

Eight years later, the United States now has its own Stern Review.

Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States provides the most comprehensive assessment of the economic risks our nation faces from the changing climate. The report focuses on the clearest and most economically significant of these risks: Damage to coastal property and infrastructure from rising sea levels and increased storm surge, climate-driven changes in agricultural production and energy demand, and the impact of higher temperatures on labor productivity and public health.

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Supreme Court Upholds Power Plant Carbon Emissions Limits

Mike Hower
| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 4.45.12 PMThe coal industry has been up in arms ever since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to require large industrial facilities and power plants to limit their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.

In November 2013, nearly 3,000 miners and workers from across the coal industry descended on Capitol Hill to protest President Barack Obama’s alleged “War on Coal.” The rally was organized by a group with a history of opposing climate change legislation — the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Some 30 members of Congress also attended the event, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and even a few coal-country Democrats.

The rules, which the EPA claimed are pursuant of the Clean Air Act, would cap carbon emissions at future coal-fired power plants at 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour (Mwh) and 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per Mwh for new natural gas power plants. With the average coal-fired power plant emitting around 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per Mwh, both new and existing power plants would be forced to improve their environmental performances.

Opponents of the proposed rules, which include the coal industry and some states, claim that the rules are “extreme” and “unworkable.”

Turns out, the U.S. Supreme Court disagrees. On Monday, the high court ruled 5-4 that the EPA reasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act to require large industrial facilities and power plants to limit their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses if they are also required to obtain permits due to their emissions of other dangerous air pollutants.

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Solar Leases May Scare Off Potential Homebuyers

Sarah Lozanova | Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

solar lease Imagine saving money on your electric bill and locking in today’s price for your future bills with no money down. Solar leases have helped fuel the residential solar market boom, with installations increasing by 60 percent from 2012 to 2013.  Now that some homeowners with solar leases are putting their homes on the market, the deal doesn’t seem as sweet. Solar leases may scare off potential homebuyers, particularly if they don’t understand them.

Some homebuyers are shying away from buying homes with solar leases, seeing them as liabilities instead of assets. The lease does require the homeowner to purchase solar electricity from the lessor, typically at a slightly lower rate than what’s provided by the utility. Homeowners typically save money from day one — while locking in the power purchase rate for years to come. SolarCity locks the electric rates for 20 years, thus serving as a hedge against rising energy costs.

Considering that home equity lines of credit have become more difficult to obtain and many homeowners can’t pay the upfront cost of a solar system, a solar lease is an appealing option to utilize solar energy, reduce electric bills and mitigate the impact of rising electricity costs.

“They’re essentially moving into a home with a lower cost of ownership, a lower cost of energy, so a solar lease shouldn’t make it harder to sell a house,” said Jonathan Bass, a spokesman for SolarCity. “It becomes a selling point instead of a point of misunderstanding.”

Why are homebuyers shying away from leasing homes with solar systems?

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The High Cost of Cheap Shrimp

| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

ShrimpRptCvrThanks in large part to aquaculture, global shrimp production has increased by an average 13 percent per year since the 1980s. Prices have dropped nearly 30 percent. That’s turned shrimp from a luxury food item into one of the most popular and affordable seafood products in the world — and made shrimp aquaculture a lucrative and important industry in Asia and other developing regions.

While the benefits of lower prices and greater availability are clear for consumers to see, the social and environmental costs associated with shrimp aquaculture and fishing are often not. As a report from CSR Asia highlights, shrimp production as it’s being practiced today is associated with environmental degradation, excessive use of antibiotics and chemicals, and land grabs — not to mention scandals revolving around slavery and human trafficking.

In “Opportunities for Inclusive Business: A Case Study of the Shrimp Value Chain,” CSR Asia brings to light 10 key challenges facing the shrimp industry in three of the world’s leading shrimp producing nations, then goes on to identify “possible entry points and interventions for inclusive business opportunities.”

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San Francisco: No-Go to Sharing Economy Parking App

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 7 Comments

San_Francisco_parking_meter_JasonTester_GuerrillaFutureHas the sharing economy concept gone to far?

This week San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a cease-and-desist demand to the mobile-to-mobile bidding app that’s been gaining a popular footing in the parking-poor Bay Area, MonkeyParking. The service, which is currently used on iOS devices, allows drivers to auction off their public parking places. As of this week, it was still available on the Apple Store, with the tagline that the app “lets you make money every time that you are about to leave your on-street parking spot.”

And that, says the city, doesn’t fly.

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Bill’s Passage Boosts California Distributed Energy and Storage

| Thursday June 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

PNM_Prosperity_Energy_Storage_Project_picCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown signed a wide-ranging Public/Natural Resources trailer bill into law this past weekend. Among a host of significant new measures and amendments, Senate Bill 861 (SB 861) adds impetus to the California state government’s pioneering energy storage initiatives, which extend down from utility-scale energy storage mandates to incentives for small- and medium-sized companies to deploy intelligent solutions.

More specifically, enactment of SB 861 maintains annual funding of $83 million of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), allocating a total $415 million in state funds to assure its operation through 2019. Run by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), SGIP provides “rebates for qualifying distributed energy systems installed on the customer-side of the utility meter.”

In addition to wind turbines, waste heat-to-power systems, pressure reduction turbines, internal combustion engines, micro turbines and fuel cells, qualifying SGIP technologies also include advanced energy storage systems, which are poised to play a significant role in the emergence of a clean energy ecosystem in California.

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Symantec Bets on Next Generation of Cyber Security Workers

| Wednesday June 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment
In 1983, the field of Cyber Security didn't exist, but if it had, it would have prevented Matthew Broderick's character in War Games from hacking the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

In 1983, the field of cyber security didn’t exist, but if it had, it would have prevented Matthew Broderick’s character in “War Games” from hacking the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Cyber security sounds awfully complicated, and, well, dashing, doesn’t it? The type of thing a hacker-meets-James-Bond fellow might do during the day to cover expenses while he builds the next BitCoin at night?

Symantec wants you — and the young people of America — to know that not only is this career path well-paying and approachable, but also, in many cases, it doesn’t even require a college degree.

The security software giant isn’t just getting the word out, it’s launching an initiative to educate young people and train them for the field. The Symantec Cyber Career Connection (SC3) launched yesterday to address the global workforce gap in cyber security positions.

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Climate Change Isn’t Man Made? Prove It for $10,000

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday June 25th, 2014 | 325 Comments

earth_climate_change_NasaNaysayers, you’re on. If you’re convinced that climate change isn’t man-made, a physicist in Texas wants to hear from you. Bring your virtual chalk, polish up your math, hone your argument and prove your point. Your time won’t be misspent: If you can irrefutably prove your hypothesis, he’ll pay you $10,000.

Dr. Christopher Keating, author of “Undeniable: Dialogues on Global Warming,” has offered the challenge to anyone who can “prove, via the scientific method, that man-made global climate change is not occurring.” Keating, who is well versed in climate change research, has taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

He’ll also pay $1,000 “to the first person to show there is any scientific evidence that refutes the conclusion of man made climate change.”

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Here Comes Entrepreneur Barbie: Will Women Buy It?

Leon Kaye | Wednesday June 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Entrepreneur Barbie, Barbie doll, Mattel, entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, Leon Kaye

Entrepreneur Barbie is ready to take on Silicon Valley

She’s been around for over a half century, has aged less than the late Dick Clark, and has been in high demand by countless girls (and some boys)—while suffering criticism by many others. But Barbie is still proving that life in plastic is fantastic—even at age 55, for which now she can score some senior citizen discounts.

Now Barbie is going full-on MBA with the launch of Entrepreneur Barbie, available online or at a toy store near you. Based on what I can see, she is the combination of a business leader, diplomat and of course, entrepreneur—as in part Sheryl Sandberg, part Hillary Clinton, but mostly Kim Kardashian.

Going entrepreneurial is a hugely positive step for Barbie during her (what some would say is too long of a) life. After all, she suffered through a 45 year relationship with Ken, only to have no children—though the fault was clearly Ken’s. She has had a love-hate relationship with her owners, even suffering “maiming and decapitation,” as a leading British study revealed. On the sustainability front, she has even been accused of causing deforestation in Indonesia. And of course, there is the long standing criticism that she sends mixed messages to women, from past dieting tips including “Don’t Eat!” to bathroom scales maxing out at 120 pounds (54.5 kilos).

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Food Companies Rally to Protect Bees, While Pesticide Giants Dispute the Evidence

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday June 25th, 2014 | 3 Comments

Whole Foods beesU.S. honey bee colonies are declining by an annual rate of 30 percent.

Experts believe pesticides, parasites and habitat loss are likely culprits. Since bees and other pollinators are needed for more than two-thirds of all crop species, the lives of bees and humans are intricately connected. In fact, even cheese, milk and butter depend on bees.  They are even essential to the reproduction of clover and alfalfa — staples in the diet of grazing animals.

“Honey bee pollination supports an estimated $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a nutritious diet,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The future security of America’s food supply depends on healthy honey bees.”

The bee crisis is already impacting some types of crop production, including almonds. Large orchards in California bring in numerous bee colonies to pollinate the flowers.

“Other crops don’t need as many bees as the California almond orchards do, so shortages are not yet apparent, but if trends continue, there will be,” said Tim Tucker, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation. “Current [bee] losses are not sustainable. The trend is down, as is the quality of bees. In the long run, if we don’t find some answers, and the vigor continues to decline, we could lose a lot of bees.”

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