Toyota’s Social Innovation Umbrella

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Latondra Newton just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities. We sat down with Newton at Net Impact '14 to find out what that means.

Latondra Newton just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities. We sat down with Newton at Net Impact ’14 to find out what that means.

The 2014 Net Impact conference gathered like-minded people from all walks of life: Students, C-suite executives and members of the media sat side-by-side in panel discussions addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, and folks from across industries mixed and mingled to inspire solutions to those challenges and more.

During the hustle and bustle of the conference, I had the chance to sit down with Latondra Newton of Toyota North America. She just took on a new role and has been asked to unite – for the first time – Toyota’s North American social innovation activities, including philanthropy, community relations, and diversity and inclusion. She is also charged with overseeing the Toyota Mobility Foundation, which was created earlier this year to address mobility challenges around the world.

If it sounds like a tough job, that’s because it is, but Newton has met the challenge head on. During our chat, we touched on what social innovation means to Toyota and some of the company’s far-reaching community relations programs — some of which were even news to me. For example, did you know Toyota’s manufacturing processes helped streamline food delivery after Hurricane Sandy? I surely didn’t.

Read on for that story and more.

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Food Cowboy Lassoes Food Waste

RP Siegel | Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

FoodCowboy_logo smallOne of the great (and sometimes not so great) things about our modern, hyper-connected world is that we have become much better at keeping track of people and things. That provides the opportunity to not only recognize how incredibly wasteful our society is, but also to do something about it.

One of the areas in which we are incredibly wasteful is food. We talked about that here last week and disclosed the fact, as originally reported by the National Consumer League, that 40 percent of the food grown in this country is wasted. Some readers had a hard time believing that which is understandable.

Putting these two things together is Food Cowboy, a company started in 2012 that uses mobile technology “to safely route surplus food from wholesalers and restaurants to food banks and soup kitchens instead of to landfills.”

The company was founded by Roger Gordon, a lawyer and former caterer; his brother Richard, a long-haul produce trucker; and Barbara Cohen, Ph.D., the author of the USDA’s Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit.

If you check out this video on Food Cowboy’s website, you will begin to understand what happens. Most of the produce sold in this country is delivered by truck. Truckers usually make their deliveries between midnight and 6 a.m. Palettes or sometimes even entire truckloads are often refused for cosmetic purposes — the potatoes have too many eyes or are the wrong shape, or the tomatoes are too close to being ripe. The truckers need to make room in their trucks for their next load, and given that they are often in unfamiliar locations in the middle of the night, they have little choice but to discard this food in a dumpster or a landfill.

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Brand Owners Want Sustainable Packaging: Two Key Lessons for Environmental Leaders

3p Contributor | Friday November 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment

multi material-blue-box-recyclingBy Elisabeth Comere

Recycling is intrinsically linked to sustainability. We will always produce material things in some form, and it will serve us best in the long run if we can put those materials back into productive use. Recycling is an essential component for minimizing our dependence on natural resources, and it contributes to advancements in market development and green technologies. But recycling has gone beyond accepted to expected, and that fact invites us to address other key variables which contribute to a circular materials economy.

Long-term success requires action on both ends of the spectrum. What we need is a two-pronged approach to achieve our economic and environmental objectives. First, we must move toward a circular materials economy, a system that addresses resource limitations by radically improving resource efficiency from the beginning of the product lifecycle. Second, we should use a lifecycle analysis to make informed decisions around product packaging design — one which considers recyclability and renewability.

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How Cities Should Invest for Future Economic and Environmental Vitality

3p Contributor | Friday November 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

buildingBy Cathy Palmer

Cities are the driving force behind the global economy: According to McKinsey, just 600 cities are responsible for 60 percent of the global gross domestic product – and the number of people living in cities is expected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2010 to 6.3 billion in 2050.

What strategies can cities adopt to plan, build and maintain themselves as centers of innovation and economic growth?

Design trends for future cities

Before discussing investment strategies, it’s worth considering why cities have been growing for the last 5,000 years. In short, it’s because they have proven to be an incredibly durable and productive economic model. The shift to urban living is helping to increase the incomes and purchasing power for millions around the world.

Infrastructure plays a critical role in a city’s success, providing the energy, water, transportation, waste management and access to food and manufactured goods. Vital to a city’s well-being, infrastructure supports more than basic needs; it encourages the ability to interact, communicate with ease and share ideas – the fundamental basics of innovation and future economic growth.

Today people move to cities for many reasons, including access to jobs, schools, services and culture. What will the city of the future look like? Quality of life is likely to be even more important in years to come, and factors like sustainability, resiliency, energy efficiency, quality housing and schools, safety, and even happiness will be requirements. Cities will be adaptive, collaborative, walkable, and everyone will have access to public services and public transportation.

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Largest Solar Power Plant in Africa Flips the Switch

Leon Kaye | Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 72 Comments
Solar, Jasper, South Africa, Solar Reserve, Kensani Group, Intikon Energy, Google, Leon Kaye, clean energy, renewables

The Jasper solar power plant in northern South Africa is now the continent’s largest.

With seven of the world’s fastest growing economies located in Africa, it should not be a surprise that the continent’s energy demands will only surge in the coming decade. Hence plenty of opportunities exist for clean energy companies as investors worldwide realize Africa, with all of its risks, is a booming market. To that end, California-based Solar Reserve, together with numerous partners, has completed and launched the Jasper PV Project in South Africa.

Built in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, the Jasper solar power plant is now the largest of its kind on the African continent. The consortium that led the development of the Jasper facility included the Kensani Group, Intikon Energy, Rand Merchant Bank and Google. Incidentally, the Jasper plant is Google’s first clean energy investment within Africa.

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China’s 20% Renewable Energy Commitment Challenges U.S. Utility Industry

Bill Roth | Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Tangshanpeng Wind Farm in Shandong Province, China generates 26.45 MW of electricity for nearby Qixia City.

The Tangshanpeng Wind Farm in Shandong Province, China generates 26.45 MW of electricity for nearby Qixia City.

The U.S. electric utility industry now confronts a new disruptive business reality from China’s announced commitment to source 20 percent of its energy from renewable technologies like solar and wind. This commitment is not a “non-binding charade,” as characterized by Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

China faces an environmental wall that blocks its continued economic growth. The country must restore the healthiness of its air, water and food or confront a costly degradation in worker health. China has no choice but to shift toward zero-emissions renewable energy.

China’s massive commitment to renewable energy will create economies of scale that will shatter current price levels around the world. Its success will bring to scale the technologies and processes required to integrate renewable energy into an electrical grid. China is on a path that will push the U.S. electric utility industry over a renewable energy cliff.

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Can Nuclear Fusion Save the Planet?

Michael Kourabas
| Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 14 Comments
Nuclear fusion’s tenuous future as a reliable energy source is perhaps best illustrated by the history of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project.

Nuclear fusion’s tenuous future as a reliable energy source is perhaps best illustrated by the history of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project. The project is under construction (here the round shape of the future Tokamak is now apparent in June 2013) and should be turned on within a decade.

Our ability to transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy will likely determine the fate of the planet.  Some countries are making progress toward this goal, using solar, wind and water power.  In the historic deal struck on Wednesday between the U.S. and China, for instance, China pledged that solar and wind power would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.  Denmark, which aims to completely eliminate its use of fossil fuels by 2050, will rely on its cutting-edge wind power industry.  Germany has focused on solar and wind power in its push to remake its electricity system, and Brazil now derives more than 75 percent of its electricity from hydro-power sources.

Yet, the real ‘solution’ to global warming may lie in a fourth renewable energy source, and one about which we typically hear almost nothing: nuclear fusion.

The science

Nuclear fusion isn’t new.  In fact, the oldest thermonuclear reactor is approximately 13 billion years old or the approximate age of the universe and the first star.  Our most popular fusion reactor is the sun.  Explaining the real science behind nuclear fusion is best left to the experts, but the short of it is that fusion, the reaction that gives stars their energy, is the opposite of fission.  Whereas nuclear fission creates energy by splitting one atom into two, fusion does it by joining two (hydrogen) atoms together to create one (helium), and the resulting reaction releases neutrons and an unbelievable amount of energy.

As it turns out, this is quite difficult, because in order to get the nuclei of two hydrogen atoms to fuse, one must defeat the protons’ natural tendency to repel each other.  Overcoming this tendency requires temperatures of over 100 million Kelvin (~six times hotter than the temperature at the sun’s core) and incredibly high pressure.  The prevailing method for accomplishing this is known as magnetic confinement, using a reactor known as a tokamak, and it is impossible to understand.  (There’s also another method that involves lasers, and it is even more confusing.)

Humans have been experimenting with nuclear fusion since the 1950s, and the scary amount of energy released by a fusion reaction was the impetus for the hydrogen bomb.  As our own RP Siegel pointed out, the goal of those working to turn nuclear fusion into a renewable energy source — as opposed to a weapon — is to take the science behind the H-bomb and control it, thereby allowing for the gradual (and self-sustaining) release of energy.  Unfortunately, doing this has heretofore proved impossible.

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From Spin to Sea: Polyester Microfibers Clog Our Beaches

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 3 Comments

plastic_microfiber_oceans_HillaryDanielsIt’s been said that there’s a downside to everything, and nowhere can you find a better example of that fact than in our clothes. We’ve mastered the art of doing more with less by recycling materials into duds that years ago were never thought of as wearable. Plastic bottles are the best example of this new recycling trend that has admittedly helped to keep millions of bottles out of the landfill.

But the latest research concerning the debris washing up on our shores suggests cutting down on pollution from plastics may not be that simple. Thanks to ecologist Mark Browne, companies that use plastics like polyester in clothing are becoming aware that their ingenuity doesn’t necessarily ensure that plastic microfibers won’t end up polluting another part of the environment – the ocean, for example.

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Wind Energy is Big Business … And It’s Getting Bigger

| Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 4 Comments

USA leads world in wind energyIt’s that high-drama time of year again, and we don’t mean the upcoming Black Friday sales mayhem over the Thanksgiving holidays. Nope, it’s time once again for Congress to consider extending the production tax credit for wind energy.

When the wind tax credit was created in 1992, it mirrored the long history of taxpayer support enjoyed by the fossil fuel industry. The intention was to serve the public welfare mission of Congress by fostering the development of domestic energy resources. And as a matter of fact: Congress extended the tax credit for wind as a matter of routine until the past several years, when it became the subject of fierce partisan debate.

The U.S. wind industry was pretty small potatoes in the 1990s, and if it had remained that way, you could have made a good case for dispensing with continued taxpayer support. However, in recent years wind energy technology has improved by leaps and bounds, resulting in exponential growth for the industry. The U.S. wind industry is on track to become a main underpinning of the future domestic energy platform, with costs on par with — or better than — fossil fuels, and industry advocates have the stats to back it up.

Wind energy is big business

First up is a new article from Forbes, detailing the impact of low-cost wind energy on the Texas economy.

Drawing from an analysis compiled by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Forbes contributor Peter Kelly-Detwiler described how Texas consumers are saving millions on their energy bills. The commercial sector is also saving millions on hedging against fuel price volatilities, Kelly-Detwiler reported.

With costs continuing to drop, wind energy presents millions in expected savings compared to other fuel prices.

That’s just for starters. As described by Kelly-Detwiler, the AWEA analysis also embraces social benefits. Specifically, the cuts in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide pollution are expected to get a savings of about $652 million, $71 million and $1 billion respectively.

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Arizona to Roll Back Efficiency Standards

RP Siegel | Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Saguaro cacti at sunset; SE of San Manuel, AZWhen you see things happen that just don’t make any sense at all, it’s probably politics.

Last year the state of Arizona was ranked fourth in the nation by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy on their list of states whose utility customers saw the most savings on electricity. This was due to the comprehensive energy efficiency standard that was passed unanimously in 2010 by the bipartisan Corporation Commission. Despite the fact that the standard has been enormously successful by any measure, saving consumers and businesses in the state $540 million, last week the commission quietly proposed a resolution to essentially repeal it — gutting it to the point where it has no targets and no directives.

This is the same commission that, back in 2010, said, “The Corporation Commission has long recognized the value of energy efficiency and the benefits from the existing programs at regulated utilities and has approved rules to address how to expand energy efficiency efforts and align incentives to harness greater benefits for consumers.”

The now-endangered standard requires utilities to design programs for demand side management (DSM) and energy efficiency (EE) and has put in place targets that require a 22 percent reduction in power by the year 2020. In the four years since the standard was put in place, Arizona climbed from the 29th to the 15th most energy efficient state in the nation.

What could have happened to trigger such a radical change in philosophy?

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U.N. Extends Protections to 31 New Species

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday November 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment

polar bearLast week, the Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) added 31 new species to the list of protected animals. Held in Quito, Ecuador, more than 900 delegates from around the world attended the conference, which is operated by the United Nations Environmental Program. Delegates represented governments, non-governmental organizations and the media.

The species added to the list include 21 shark, ray and sawfish species. Migratory birds were also added to the list. Part of the Guidelines to Prevent the Risk of Poisoning of Migratory Birds, adopted by the conference delegates, included phasing out the use of lead gunshot. The guidelines acknowledge that overexploitation is a key threat: Large numbers of migratory birds have been killed by illegal trapping and killing for consumption and trade in recent years, and countries agreed at the conference to take action against illegal hunting.

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U.S. and China Reach Historic Climate Agreement

RP Siegel | Wednesday November 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment

490381838_e0d6618ed7_zA surprising announcement came out this morning as President Obama concluded his visit to China where he’d been attending a conference of Pacific Rim economies. The President, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an agreement for the two countries — the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution — to work together to limit emissions.

The agreement, which was over nine months in the making, has China committing to reach peak carbon by 2030, with emission declining after that date. The U.S., on the other hand, has agreed to a 26 to 28 percent reduction by 2025 relative to 2005. This was the first time the U.S. pledged to reduce its emissions more than the 17 percent target by 2020 first declared in 2010 in anticipation of the Copenhagen accord.

On China’s part, Xi Jinping said that clean energy sources such as solar and wind would constitute 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030. Nuclear power is also expected to be part of the mix. In order to meet this target, China, which is still adding a new coal plant every eight to ten days, must complete roughly 1,000 gigawatts of new clean power over the next sixteen years. That’s roughly twice the current world total for renewables.

On the American side, we need to pick up the annual pace of carbon reduction from the current percent to somewhere between 2.3 and 2.8 percent.

Although China is currently the number one carbon emitter, the U.S. is responsible for more of the carbon currently in the atmosphere than any other country.

“We have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,”said Obama at a joint news conference. “Today, I am proud we can announce a historic agreement.”

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Tracking Down Those Sneaky, Unexpected Sources of Emissions

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday November 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment
corporate emissions

Solar panels get a scrubbing to improve their efficiency at Google’s HQ

There is a saying that what gets measured gets improved. For this reason, many organizations are measuring greenhouse gas emissions. In an ideal scenario, carbon accounting is transparent, consistent, accurate, verifiable, and complete.  There are now many tools available to assist in the accounting process, including carbon accounting software and consulting firms if you want help crunching the numbers. While many organizations have a handle on the most obvious sources of emissions like business travel, energy use, and paper use, here are a few sneaky sources of emissions you might not have considered.

Primary and secondary materials in the supply chain

The tiny components that make up your organizations’ final products can pack a big carbon punch. This is especially true when it comes to complex products with deep supply chains, like computer hardware. When there is a big distance between corporate headquarters and manufacturing plants, valuable supply chain information gets lost in the shuffle. In 2004, 23 percent of CO2 emissions made international moves, primarily as as exports from China and other emerging markets to developed countries.

Although many hardware suppliers have a close relationship with their final assembly plants, there is often little to no information about the primary and secondary components that arrive there for product manufacture. “A lot of electronics components are purely commodities: circuit boards, resistors, chips, transistors, wires,” says Andrew Hutson, director of global value chain initiatives for the Environmental Defense Fund. “They can be sourced from anywhere, a couple of tiers down in the supply chain, and it’s virtually impossible for a company to know where they’re coming from.”

Supply chain transformation may be the answer, but it isn’t an easy task. Starbucks achieved transparency by simplifying its supply chain and clarifying functional roles.

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Patagonia’s Investment in Yerdle Shows Sharing Economy Maturing

Leon Kaye | Wednesday November 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Patagonia, Yerdle, sharing economy, collaborative consumption, b corp, Black Friday, social innovation, Leon Kaye

Patagonia has invested in Yerdle to advance its reuse agenda

Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has always had, in his words, a “skeptical view” of the business world. For over 40 years, the outdoor apparel company has marched to the beat of its own drum, from donating one percent of its sales to environmental organizations to helping found the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to supply chain transparency. The company has also urged its consumers to hold onto their Patagonia garments and reduce consumption. Now Patagonia is taking its message a step further with the recent announcement the company will boost investment in Yerdle, a startup where users can use a smartphone app to give and receive things for free and score credits to get even more free items in the meantime.

According to Fast Company, which hosted the Innovation Uncensored Conference where the new investment was disclosed, Patagonia will manage this investment through its $20 Million and Change internal venture fund. Yerdle is the perfect partner for Patagonia as both have a role of keeping products moving between users, therefore keeping them out of landfills. As noted by Yerdle on its Facebook page, “either love what you own, or pass it along to someone who will.”

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Report: Native Peoples at High Risk from Extractive Industries

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday November 12th, 2014 | 2 Comments

native_peoples_dylanwaltersIndigenous rights and risks continue to gain attention these days, and no wonder. Global warming and land rights conflicts with industrial operations both continue to impact Indigenous people’s rights and way of life, according to a new report released by First Peoples Worldwide.

The Fredericksburg VA-based organization, which was started by Cherokee social entrepreneur Rebecca Adamson, looks at the impact of companies and government polices on native peoples worldwide. Their first report, released in November 2013 highlighted the fact that native communities in all nations surveyed faced some type of risk to their land and cultural way of life when industries like oil, gas and coal mining opened operations on or near their indigenous lands.

This year’s report, released last week, looked at 330 extractive industry projects across the world and their impact on the regions’ native communities.

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