Nest Freezes Sales of Smoke Alarm, Is Sued Over Thermostat’s Energy Savings Claims

Alexis Petru
| Friday April 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments

NestNest Labs quickly became a darling of both the sustainability and tech worlds for its sleek, Internet-connected thermostat and smoke detector designed to provide customers with energy savings and safety. But has the sheen finally worn off on the Palo-Alto based company, acquired by Google earlier this year?

Nest announced yesterday that it is halting sales of its Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors due potential safety concerns and will refund customers who want to return their current devices. Meanwhile, the company was hit with a class action lawsuit in late March, charging that Nest’s Learning Thermostat fails to accurately measure and control a home’s temperature.

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Code for America Shows How Empathy and Technology Can Improve Government

| Friday April 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments
sfteam with mayor lee

The Code for America SF team with Mayor Lee.

“We can’t do without government, but we do need it to be more effective,” Jennifer Pahlka, the founder and executive director of Code for America (CfA), told the audience in her 2012 TED talk.  I guess some people would disagree with the first part of her statement, but probably 99.9 percent would agree with her about the second part.

But how do you do it? Well, for some it might look like an impossible mission, but to Palhka and her small army of talented developers, designers and researchers, who serve as CfA fellows working with local governments, this is a difficult yet doable challenge. “You just have to architect the systems the right way,” explains Pahlka.

Technology is definitely key in CfA’s work helping government become more engaging, user-friendly and effective, but I believe that there’s also a secret sauce that makes it work – empathy.

A great example of how Code for America successfully converges technology and empathy is the story of Promptly, a text messaging notification system that was developed by four CfA fellows working with San Francisco’s Human Services Agency in a project funded by the Vodafone Americas Foundation.

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Sustainable Cities: Vision of Solar-Powered Skyscrapers Nearer Reality

| Friday April 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

SolarWindowthubmbIAs urbanization, and urban populations, continue to spread, finding ways to enhance the quality of urban life and make urban living socially, ecologically and economically more sustainable has become a critical issue in our times. Much attention is being focused on reducing waste and pollution and making buildings more energy, water and waste-efficient, as well as powering them with clean, renewable energy.

Lined with high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, designing economically viable distributed renewable energy systems for the densely-packed built environment of cities presents a stiff challenge for architects, builders, urban planners, and renewable energy technology and project developers.

At least a couple of innovative startups are making strides toward developing a product that could go a long way toward realizing this goal, however, by creating transparent organic solar photovoltaic (PV) films that can be applied to commercial glass plates.

Last week, 3p’s Mary Mazzoni noted the progress being made by German solar company Heliatek, which unveiled a 40 percent transparent organic solar cell that’s ideal for generating energy from windows, façades and glass car roofs. There’s at least one other entrant in the field. If remaining hurdles can be overcome, solar-glass developers at New Energy Technologies envision SolarWindow arrays being installed on and producing clean, renewable electricity for high-rise buildings, apartment and office towers in cities around the world.

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Climate Change: Business Must Learn to See Future Uncertainty as Opportunity

3p Contributor | Friday April 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment
An ambulance is swallowed by Hurricane Sandy flood waters in Hoboken, N.J. in 2012.

An ambulance is swallowed by Hurricane Sandy flood waters in Hoboken, N.J. in 2012.

James Goodman, Forum for the Future

If you think it’s hard to attribute a flood, a drought or a storm to climate change, try a banking crisis, a social movement or even a war. These are the kinds of consequences that the second part of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, released on Sunday, alludes to. In amongst the analysis of “observed impacts” and “future risks” was this insight:

“Understanding future vulnerability, exposure, and response capacity of interlinked human and natural systems is challenging due to the number of interacting social, economic, and cultural factors, which have been incompletely considered to date.”

They list factors such as: “wealth and its distribution across society, demographics, migration, access to technology and information, employment patterns, the quality of adaptive responses, societal values, governance structures, and institutions to resolve conflicts.” Understanding how climate change alters the rules of the game right across the board will be key to prospering in the years to come.

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Shocker: 89 Percent of Fast Food Workers are Victims of Wage Theft

Eric Justian
| Friday April 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

479219421_8ecbb32ffe_zAs if it’s not enough that so many minimum wage workers can’t make ends meet on an honest day’s work, many also find themselves performing work for free or less than they’re due. A new poll conducted by Hart Research Associates shows an overwhelming majority of fast food workers, 89 percent, have experienced wage theft.

Low-wage employers’ conniving ways to avoid fair pay for honest work is the general rule, not the exception. McDonald’s franchise employers, for example, are facing lawsuits for these types of practices, as they exploit corporate-provided computer systems to doctor their workers hours so they can avoid paying overtime, or to make it seem like employees took breaks they worked through instead. Time worked, but not compensated.

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Interview: Brandon Tidwell on Darden Restaurants’ 2013 Citizenship Update

Mary Mazzoni
| Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Darden Harvest1Earlier this year, Darden Restaurants, the Fortune 500 restaurant giant known for brands like Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze, released its 2013 Citizenship Update – which includes some pretty impressive numbers related to sustainability, culture and corporate social responsibility (CSR). With more than 2,100 restaurants in its portfolio, the world’s largest full-service restaurant operating company is making it clear that sustainability is a priority in its latest report.

Thanks to water reduction efforts that have been in place since 2009, Darden achieved its water reduction goal of 15 percent less per restaurant two years early. The company also set a goal to shrink energy use by 15 percent per restaurant by 2015 (compared to a 2008 baseline), which it is well on the way to achieving with a 12.3 percent drop as of last year, according the update.

As of 2013, the company’s Darden Harvest program, which sends fresh food that isn’t served to community food banks across the U.S. and Canada, has donated more than 66 million pounds of food with a fair market value of nearly $600 million since its inception in 2004. The company is also making waves in sustainable seafood sourcing, an increasingly important issue as ocean health concerns mount. Last year Darden bought 100 percent of its shrimp, 85 percent of its salmon and 80 percent of its tilapia and catfish according to the Global Aquaculture Alliance Standards.

I recently the chance to chat with Brandon Tidwell, manager of sustainability for Darden Restaurants, about the latest Citizenship Update and where the company is headed when it comes to sustainability.

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Video: The Basics of Palm Oil in Honduras

| Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
Endless palms near Progresso, Honduras (From Google Maps)

Endless palms near Progreso, Honduras (From Google Maps)

Landing at Honduras’ San Pedro Sula International Airport treats the passenger to a vista of nearly endless plantations of densely planted palm trees.  Specifically these palms are elaeis guineensis - the most common variety of palm grown for its oil, and a booming cash crop, not only here, but especially in Southeast Asia.

TriplePundit readers are acutely aware that the growth in palm oil plantations is among the most serious causes of deforestation in tropical regions, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia where Phil Covington recently looked into the problem.

Honduras is a minor, but growing player in the palm oil scene. Fortunately, most of Honduras’ new palm oil plantations are replacing other crops, especially bananas, rather than virgin forest.   Nonetheless, the rapid growth in this crop – used as an ingredient in everything from soap to margarine to biodiesel – presents numerous social and environmental challenges.  Among these are worker safety, pesticide use, agricultural waste, economic development and indeed pressure to expand into high value natural areas.

I’ve just returned from a brief trip to Honduras to visit the first Rainforest Alliance certified palm oil cooperative -Hondupalma.  I’ll be getting into the details of how Hondupalma works (it’s an interesting co-op of over 500 families) over the course of the next week or two.  But first, I thought a brief introduction to the actual process of producing palm oil would be interesting.

I shot some video while I was there.   Take a look after the jump…

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Tropical Pacific Ocean Acidification Occuring Much Faster Than Expected, NOAA Finds

| Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 9 Comments

pmel-oceanCO2uptakeChange is taking place in the tropical Pacific Ocean, where NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) researchers have found that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have increased as much as 65 percent faster than atmospheric CO2 since 1998. Rising CO2 concentrations of this magnitude indicate that tropical Pacific waters are acidifying as fast as ocean waters in the polar regions, which may have grave repercussions for marine food webs, biodiversity, fisheries and tourism.

NOAA researchers collected data from CO2 sensors that NOAA Research Pacific Marine Environmental Lab Carbon Group scientists and engineers installed on moored buoys within the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Array, a network of buoys stretching across the Pacific. The data stretches from 1997-2011, NOAA explains in a press release.

“We have a 30-year record of CO2 collected from instruments on ships, but this new data tell us the tropical Pacific has changed more rapidly in the past 14 years than observed previously,” coauthor and NOAA Senior Scientist Richard Feely was quoted as saying.

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Latest IPCC Report Shows Climate Impacts and Risks Worse Than Expected

RP Siegel | Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Parched earthLast week, Working Group II, the sub-committee of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that is responsible for assessing the impacts of climate change, revealed substantial portions of their latest report, the second in what will eventually become a series of three. Though not scheduled to be formally released in its final form until later this month, the report is already sending shockwaves throughout the world.

Unlike the previous report, which focused on faraway impacts on exotic creatures in the distant future, “It’s us and [it’s] now.” So says Penn State Professor Michael Mann.

Climate change is not some abstraction, nor is it a theory. It is a new challenge that is putting considerable pressure on the already stressed areas of human existence, namely hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war.

Scientists have already observed numerous impacts from warming, including heat waves across the Southern Hemisphere. Severe floods, such as the one that displaced 90,000 people in Mozambique in 2008, are becoming widespread in the global South. In the North, intense downpours have increased in severity. Changes in the Arctic, where the heating is most pronounced, is affecting not only the polar bear, but the culture and livelihoods of indigenous people in northern Canada.

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U.K. Companies Share Clean Tech Expertise at Globe 2014 in Vancouver

| Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 0 Comments
offshore wind

Offshore wind power is just one U.K. growth industry in the renewable energy sector.

Last week a delegation of British companies supported by U.K. Trade and Investment attended the sustainable-development advocacy conference Globe 2014, in Vancouver, British Columbia, to showcase the country’s expertise in low-carbon solutions and sustainability innovations. U.K. Trade and Investment (UKTI) is the British Foreign Offices’ business development arm which aims to promote U.K. businesses abroad, as well as attract foreign investment in the country, with an overarching aim of creating job growth.

Despite the fact that the U.K. is a small country and is not a huge emitter of carbon in the global context, it has nonetheless set ambitious environmental policies, like reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. In addition, since the U.K. operates under the European Emissions Trading Scheme, regulatory incentives exist for companies to develop innovations that will help meet emissions targets.

I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Rosenfeld, Vice Consul – USA Clean Technology Sector Lead for UKTI, about the strengths of the U.K. clean tech industry and how its businesses are poised to be competitive players on the global stage.

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Women in CSR: Kathleen Tullie, Reebok International & BOKS

| Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment

women-csr-banner
Welcome to our series of interviews with leading female CSR practitioners where we are learning about what inspires these women and how they found their way to careers in sustainability. Read the rest of the series here.

2013_BOKSKathleenTullie_HeadShot_HighRes_Cropped copyTriplePundit: Briefly describe your role and responsibilities, and how many years you have been in the business.

Kathleen Tullie:  I am Director of Social Responsibility at Reebok International and Co-Founder and Executive Director of BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success). BOKS is a free,  before-school physical activity program that aims to help improve kids’ academic performance and overall health by promoting physical activity and nutritional knowledge as a way to jumpstart children’s brains and better equip them for learning. The program is run by moms, dads, teachers and volunteers, two-to-three days a week before or during school.

Following my departure from the world of corporate finance, my attempt to be a “stay at home mom” was short-lived. I had this desire to engage with the community and leave an impact on children. It was the book Spark, by Dr. John Ratey from Harvard Medical School, which supported my belief that there is a strong positive correlation between exercise and learning.

I began the before-school activity program for kids in October 2009 at a school in Natick, Mass. With support from the school faculty, and my team of mom volunteers, we were able to start a program that focuses on the importance of building both healthy bodies and minds in youth.

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Students Design Edible, Plastic-Free Water Bottle

Alexis Petru
| Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 1 Comment

Ooho Water BottleIn an ideal, eco-friendly world, disposable plastic water bottles wouldn’t exist; everyone would drink their water from a reusable cup or bottle. But in reality, Americans drink more than 73 billion half-liter water bottles each year, according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group – enough to circle the planet more than 370 times.

While single-use plastic water bottles may just be too convenient for our rushed, on-the-go culture to give up entirely, three industrial design students have come up with an innovative, alternative packaging for water that is so biodegradable you can even eat it when you’re done drinking. The “Ooho” water container doesn’t look like your typical water bottle; it more closely resembles a water droplet – one of nature’s most simple and beautiful forms, designer Rodrigo García González wrote on Designboom.

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Today: A 3p Chat w/ David Gottfried; Founder, USGBC & World Green Building Council

Marissa Rosen
| Wednesday April 2nd, 2014 | 2 Comments

David-GottfriedEvery Wednesday, TriplePundit takes 30 minutes or so to chat with an interesting leader in the sustainable business movement. These chats are broadcast on our Google+ channel and embedded via YouTube right here on 3p.

David Gottfried is a catalyst for transformation. His work has impacted the global building industry more than almost any other, having founded both the U.S. Green Building Council and World Green Building Council, with GBCs in 100 countries.

Today, TriplePundit’s Founder and Publisher, Nick Aster, interviewed David Gottfried about the LEED accreditation program and the state of the global green building movement.

If you missed the conversation, you can watch it right here or on our YouTube channel.

 

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Supply Chain Worker Rights: From Good Intentions to Implementation

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday April 2nd, 2014 | 1 Comment

manifesthope_arrietaNot that long ago worker rights were a given, labor unions were strong and powerful, as was the American middle class where a large part of the work and the need to enhance and protect workplace rights, benefits and progress was most in evidence.

Sure, it was a simpler time. Today’s globalized economy and its extended supply chains, rising income inequality, and stagnant economic and trade conditions makes the preservation of worker rights more problematic and difficult. This is especially true for supply chains in manufacturing and retail apparel sectors.

Today, worker rights might even be considered an oxymoron. But it’s a struggle well worth engaging as both a holding action and in efforts to bring workers across the globe living wages, safe working conditions and better standards of living.

Driven by globalization, supply chains are rapidly evolving across every industry sector, and the vendors in those supply chains are often a moving target as multinational corporations search for the lowest cost suppliers. Another unfortunate result of globalization is a race to the bottom by resource-poor, developing nations that are eager to secure sourcing contracts from wealthier countries. Concerns also center on how labor standards can best be monitored and enforced throughout these evolving organizational structures.

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Can Technology End Overfishing?

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday April 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments

Fishermen at Norpac Fisheries Export tag their catch using the company’s barcode tracking system.

Back in 2002, Thomas Kraft, managing director of Norpac Fisheries Export, came up with the idea to electronically track each fish the company captures and sells. Soon after Norpac’s electronic monitoring system was up and running two years later, Kraft realized that the technology was not only an effective management tool, but it could also help the company trace fish through the supply chain and guarantee its products were not caught using illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices.

In fact, the nonprofit Future of Fish identifies tracing fish through the supply chain as one of the best ways to curb overfishing – one of the greatest threats to our oceans, where 85 percent of global fish stocks are fully or over-exploited, according to the organization. And now companies like Norpac are turning to technology to make fish traceability more efficient and accurate.

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