New Carbon Capture Plant Will Use Coal Exhaust to Get Oil From the Ground

RP Siegel | Friday July 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment

NRG_cleaner_coalWill we ever be able to get all of our energy from renewable sources? There is certainly enough supply available. Enough sunlight hits the Earth every hour to power the entire human world for a year. But right now, it would take a 310,000-square-mile solar farm (about twice the size of Oregon), or 6 million wind turbines to capture enough sunshine or wind to provide all of the world’s electrical power.

If that sounds like a lot, it is– which is why we will continue to use a mix of sources including natural gas and coal to meet our electrical demand for some time to come. The renewable numbers will continue to shrink as long as the technology and our efficiency improves faster than the population grows. In the mean time, coal, despite being the dirtiest fuel available, is still abundant and still produces 30 percent of the world’s energy. In 2012, the U.S. used coal to produce 43 percent of our electricity, while in China coal produced 81 percent. In other places, like South Africa, it contributed over 90 percent.

While there are a number of problems associated with burning coal, the biggest is the amount of carbon dioxide it produces: Coal combustion generates anywhere between 200 and 230 pounds of CO2 for every million BTUs of heat produced. That is roughly twice the amount emitted by natural gas.

The new EPA Clean Power Plant rule will put pressure on utilities to either clean up their coal plants or switch to a cleaner fuel. Many are already switching to natural gas, but another approach that has been talked about for a long time, carbon sequestration, is finally getting a chance to demonstrate its capabilities in a full-scale commercial operation.

Just this week, NRG announced the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture power generation plant. The project will be a joint venture between NRG’s wholly-owned subsidiary Petra Nova Holdings, and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp.

According to the press release, this commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) system will utilize existing technology to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the processed flue gas from an existing coal plant in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston. Construction on the project has already begun.

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Nestlé Hides Behind ‘Sovereign Nation’ in Desert Bottled Water Controversy

Leon Kaye | Friday July 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Nestle, bottled water, Arrowhead, Cabazon, shared value, Leon Kaye, Coachella Valley, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, public relations

The Coachella Valley has much wind, but little water.

Nestlé yet again finds itself in another bottled water controversy.

One of the great marketing scams of the past generation, bottled water has been a financial windfall for Nestlé and many other food and beverage companies. Despite most of the U.S. having one of the safest drinking water infrastructures on the globe, bottling companies have made a mint convincing consumers they need bottled water. Never mind the excessive cost, the plastic waste and fuel wasted hauling heavy crates of water across the country — these companies and trade associations disingenuously position bottled water as a “consumer choice,” and a fight against obesity.

The controversy continues in the California desert. The state, along with much of the country, has endured one of its worst droughts on record. Residents can now be fined up to $500 for excessive watering as spit-spats between farming, fishing, business and environmental interests fester. One company, however, has been bottling water for several years in one of the driest parts of the state, the Coachella Valley.

Nestlé, which sells the most bottled water in the U.S., is attracting more attention for bottling water in a region suffering from depleted groundwater. Maybe it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to how else water is wasted in the region. Perhaps Arrowhead-branded bottles of water are significantly contributing to lower aquifer levels.

But we don’t really know because since 2009 Nestlé has refused to disclose how much water it is pumping.

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GE Launches $1 Million Competition to Reduce Emissions in Canada’s Oil Sands

Sherrell Dorsey
| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

canada oil sands, zero emissions, energy productionThe 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.

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California, Massachusetts Top U.S. Clean Tech Rankings

| Friday July 18th, 2014 | 0 Comments

CleanEdgeRptCvrCalifornia, Massachusetts and Oregon topped the ranking of U.S. states in terms of clean tech leadership, while three California cities – San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego – came out tops among U.S. metro areas, according to the latest edition of Clean Edge’s “2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index.”

Monitoring clean tech activities and conditions across all 50 U.S. states and the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, Clean Edge found that the improved performance and lower costs of clean technologies are prompting U.S. states and metro areas to tackle climate change head on.

“Climate disruption and the growing availability of market-competitive clean-energy technologies are driving many states and cities to tackle climate issues head-on,” Clean Edge founder and managing director Ron Pernick said in a news release.

“More than ever, this year’s Leadership Index highlights how some top regions are taking climate action seriously, with double-digit clean-energy adoption rates, new policies like California’s energy-storage mandate, and the deployment of clean-energy investment vehicles such as New York’s Green Bank.”

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Coca-Cola’s Last Mile: From Fizzy Drinks to Medical Supplies

Leon Kaye | Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Coca Cola, Project last mile, health care, Tanzania, Leon Kaye, last mile, rural africa

Project Last Mile helps deliver medical supplies to clinics in Tanzania.

Coca-Cola as a medical supplies deliverer? One of its community programs, Project Last Mile, at first sounds odd as the company is one of the world’s most recognized brands, with its red and white logos emblazoned everywhere from mega-city centers to the tiniest rural outposts. Coke’s 100+ year history of prominence is as impressive as it is exasperating to its critics. And its reputation and stature in the marketplace allow it to attract some of the best talent.

But some of that talent wants more than a line on a CV to complement that MBA diploma. More employees, especially newer ones joining the workforce, want to work for an organization that takes sustainability and social responsibility seriously.

To that end, Project Last Mile leverages the company’s vast distribution network to increase and improve the delivery of medical supplies to 10 African countries by 2019.

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Millennials and the State of Employee Engagement

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments
The WeSpire team talks employee engagement at the organization's active booth at the 2014 Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego.

Susan Hunt Stevens (center) and the WeSpire team talk employee engagement at the organization’s active booth at the 2014 Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego.

Employee engagement has been a hot topic in the sustainability space this year — and for good reason. Attracting, engaging and retaining top talent has caught up to — if not surpassed — motives like cost savings as the driving factor influencing companies to embrace sustainability goals.

To put it simply: More and more employees are asking companies about their sustainability programs, and, even in a sluggish economy, some may be hesitant to work for a company that hasn’t identified sustainability as a priority.

While the pressure is coming from all angles, research shows the younger generation is leading the charge: A recent PwC study found that more than half of recent college graduates are seeking a company that has corporate social responsibility (CSR) values that align with their own, and 56 percent would consider leaving a company that didn’t have the values they expected.

Building on this research, cloud-based engagement platform WeSpire (formerly known as Practically Green) recently released the results of a five-year research study that shows the influence millennials have in organizations stepping up their employee engagement action.

The findings are intriguing: In response to employee demand, particularly from millennials, a growing number of employers are adopting an official engagement policy on sustainability. This upward trend was especially pronounced from 2011 to 2014, where the prevalence of an official employee sustainability engagement policy nearly doubled: from 17 percent in 2011 to 30 percent in 2014.

“People are realizing that these are not ‘nice-to-have’ programs,” Susan Hunt Stevens, founder and CEO of WeSpire, told Triple Pundit. “They drive the bottom line and the top line of business.”

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PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi Weighs In on Work/Life Balance

| Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments
PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi

David Bradley, owner of The Atlantic, recently interviewed PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi at the Aspen Ideas Festival, and she gave some frank answers to his questions about ‘having it all’ that coincide more with Anne-Marie Slaughter than Sheryl Sandberg. As in, work/life balance? At the c-suite level, there isn’t any. “You know, stay-at-home mothering was a full-time job. Being a CEO for a company is three full-time jobs rolled into one. How can you do justice to all? You can’t,” Nooyi said.

Interestingly, Anne-Marie Slaughter herself was in the audience at the time, and Nooyi said she was a big fan of her Atlantic piece, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. In it, Slaughter talks about her decision to pull back from a high-powered career in Washington, D.C. to return to Princeton University to teach and spend more time with her family. Slaughter believes that it isn’t a lack of ambition that holds women back, but a lack of workplace policies that could make work more balanced for everyone, not just employees with children.

Nooyi sums up the conflicts that so many women are facing today.

…The biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict. When you have to have kids you have to build your career. Just as you’re rising to middle management your kids need you because they’re teenagers, they need you for the teenage years. And that’s the time your husband becomes a teenager too, so he needs you (laughing). They need you too. What do you do? And as you grow even more, your parents need you because they’re aging. So we’re screwed. We have no… we cannot have it all.

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Southwest Airlines Upcycles 43 Acres of Plane Interior

Sherrell Dorsey
| Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments

southwest airlines, upcycling, luv seatAs 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.

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Tragedy of the Commons: Once Upon a … Water

3p Contributor | Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 3 Comments

7325576614_2f9faba3c7_zBy Meghna Tare

Not a day goes by without coming across an article or blog on water scarcity. We have reached a tipping point where we need to monetize and assign a dollar value to a natural resource like water — without which we cannot survive. We live on the water planet: 75 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water. Yet fresh water is scarce. Aristotle and other philosophers were right on the mark when they said, “What is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it!”

Laws of physics dictate that water cannot simply vanish from the earth. But the water scarcity problem is global and serious. Without introducing the impact of climate change on the water resource, the water scarcity problem influenced by the increasing population and fears of food security is dominating the policy- and decision-maker’s agenda. Even after investing some $400 billion in water supply over the past century, the United States, with so much innovation and technology at its feet, faces a shortage that has no easy remedy. The Golden state and Lone Star states are forced to acknowledge this issue in the face of the existing drought.

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Safeway to Eliminate 1 Billion Single-Use Bags By 2015

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday July 17th, 2014 | 7 Comments

SafewaySafeway, the second-largest supermarket chain in North America, is making progress toward its environmental goals, according to its sixth annual sustainability report released last week.

One of the chain’s most notable targets is to eliminate 1 billion paper and plastic bags in its stores by 2015 — and it has already eliminated more than 300 million plastic and paper bags. Safeway is also halfway toward the goal of sourcing of all of its fresh and frozen seafood from either sustainable sources or sources making credible improvements by 2015.

Additionally, Safeway has a goal of producing zero waste across all of its operations. (To qualify as zero waste, a facility has to recycle or divert at least 90 percent of materials that would have been sent to landfills.) A total of nine of its 13 distribution centers and nine of its 20 U.S. manufacturing and food processing plants have already achieved zero waste.

Taking things a step further, two of the grocer’s California distribution centers, Santa Fe Springs and El Monte, haven’t had a trash pickup since. The two facilities combined are almost 2 million square feet and serve over 270 stores.

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Sustainable Packaging: The New Product Differentiator?

Leon Kaye | Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Sustainable Packaging

Launched in 2008, the How2Recycle label aims to increase recycling rates by informing consumers about proper disposal. (Click to enlarge)

Sustainable packaging has come a long way over a generation. Long ago companies such as Walmart (with Hillary Clinton was on its board) started to tackle wasteful packaging — as in the cardboard boxes that encased deodorant sticks that were … already encased in plastic. What was once dismissed a “green” gimmick started to make business sense as companies realized excess packaging meant heavier shipments, more wasted fuel and of course, less profit.

So while companies are getting smarter about packaging, waste is still an issue. I saw it myself over the past year, living in a city with almost no recycling. I would stash boxes and plastic under the kitchen sink, hoping it would somehow recycle on its own as I couldn’t stand the thought of pitching what could have otherwise been recycled into the rubbish bin. And now more consumers are becoming aware of the waste they generate and are putting pressure on companies to be more proactive about their waste.

To that end, an article by Bharath Satya Y in Packaging Digest suggests companies cannot ignore the problems of wasteful packaging anymore, as consumers either want better materials used or insist on having more disclosure about the materials used to wrap and store their products.

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Fortune: Female-Led Businesses Beat the Stock Market, But Their Numbers Remain Low

| Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment
Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO, Xerox. Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women

Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO, Xerox.

According to a recent Fortune study, the number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 is at its highest total yet at 24 (51 in the Fortune 1,000).

Despite this overall low number, Fortune illustrated some interesting trends, including data that shows that women-led businesses posted better returns than the stock market and generated more than their share of Fortune 1,000 revenue. However, the number of women CEOs has risen extremely slowly in the past decade, and the number of women on boards has stagnated despite an abundance of evidence that women-led companies fare better and that women make good leaders.

Fortune reports:

  • Only 5 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies have female CEOs, but they are responsible for 7 percent of the total Fortune 1,000 revenue. The biggest woman-led company is General Motors (Mary Barra) coming in at No. 7 on the 2014 Fortune 500 List ($155 billion in 2013 revenue).
  • Fortune 1,000 companies led by women outperformed the S&P 500 Index during their respective tenures. The average return was 69.5 percent, whereas female CEOs posted an average return of 103.4 percent. Home Shopping Network’s Mindy Grossman and TJX’s Carol Meyrowitz are two of the CEOs who reported the highest returns during their time as chief.
  • Fewer than half of female CEOs have a graduate business degree; the most common degree is engineering (another solid reason to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers).
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‘Give Back Box’ Turns Old Shipping Boxes Into Charitable Donations

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Cardboard boxesMonika Wiela was walking to work on Michigan Avenue in Chicago when she passed a homeless man holding a sign that read, “I need shoes.” Wiela desperately wanted to help him. As the founder of online shoe store, she had a warehouse full of platform heels and stiletto boots – but no men’s shoes.

Wiela did, however, have a ton of cardboard shipping boxes, and after ruminating over the man’s dilemma all night, she came up with a solution: What if you could take your old shipping boxes from online retailers and – instead of tossing them into the recycling or garbage – pack them with clothes and household goods you no longer need, and send them to charities?

That’s the idea behind Give Back Box, a startup Wiela launched last year after running a year-long test with clientele. Before shipping a pair of new shoes to customers, the Polish-born entrepreneur placed a prepaid mailing label addressed to a secondhand charity in the cardboard box, along with donation instructions. The result? Thirteen percent of shoppers boxed up their unwanted goods and mailed them off to nonprofit organizations.

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Clean Tech Leadership Index Ranks States and Cities

RP Siegel | Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

2014_US-Clean-Tech_Leadership_Index_Logo_0As we push towards a radical overhaul of the world economy, with the goal of establishing a sustainable human presence on the planet, it is important to manage our progress. As quality expert Edward Deming once said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” It’s a good thing, then, that we have organizations like Clean Edge to provide extensive benchmarking services in the clean technology and sustainability area.

This week the organization released its 2014 Clean Tech Leadership Index. The report tracks clean technology progress in all 50 states, as well as the top 50 metropolitan areas in the U.S.

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New Trend: Climate Optimists Say Climate Change Won’t Be So Bad

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday July 16th, 2014 | 166 Comments
Don’t worry, big guy; climate optimists say you’ll be fine on a warming planet .

Don’t worry, big guy; climate optimists say you’ll be fine on a warming planet.

We all have that crazy uncle who shows up at family reunions, trying to convince us that climate change isn’t real and Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But maybe you also have a relative who tells you he welcomes climate change because he’s looking forward to the warmer weather in his chilly hometown.

Accepting that climate change is happening but putting a positive spin on the consequences is a growing view in the climate skeptic camp, Slate reports. And this new “climate optimism” was on full display at the last week’s ninth International Conference on Climate Change, billed as an “International Gathering of Scientists Skeptical of Man-Caused Global Warming.” Held ironically enough in drought-stricken Las Vegas, the event was organized by the Heartland Institute, which proudly proclaims that the Economist has called it “the world’s most prominent think tank supporting skepticism of man-made climate change.”

“I don’t think anybody in this room denies climate change,” James M. Taylor, senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, said in a speech at the conference, Slate reported. “We recognize it, but we’re looking more at the causes, and more importantly, the consequences.”

That’s right – the climate change debate is moving beyond denial and even a “discussion” of its sources to focus on its effects – and frankly, these climate skeptics say, it won’t be so bad.

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