Business Not As Usual: Climate Action Chain Reaction And More

John Laumer | Friday December 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments
US Senator Robert Byrd

US Senator Robert Byrd

  1. All manner of dramatic actions and hyperbolic statements are being made regarding the upcoming climate meeting in Copenhagen.  No wonder industry leaders are keeping still. For a quick sampling of the latest, consider: Sen. Byrd to Big Coal: “Let’s Speak a Little More Truth.” and, Sarah Palin Issues Statement Calling for Obama to Boycott Copenhagen, Mocking Environmentalists; and, Government of Nepal Meets on Everest to Discuss Climate Change; and, Lou Dobbs Outraged That Obama’s Attending Copenhagen (Audio); and, well that’s enough of that. You see the point. Business significance: U1/C5
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Forests as Feedstocks: The Finnish Approach

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 10 Comments
Nuuksio National Forest on the Outskirts of Helsinki

Nuuksio National Forest on the Outskirts of Helsinki

I’m on the eve of my return home to San Francisco from a lovely time in Finland.

Our wonderful hosts at Finnfacts planned a special last day for us in Nuuksio National Park where we hiked in the woods, smoked our own venison sausages over the fire, and dipped ourselves in a frozen lake and then raced into the sauna.

It was amazing. I gained a new understanding for the deep connection Finns have to the natural world. Don’t get me wrong, Metso the biomass company still has some work to do on its environmental initiatives, but on my tour today I felt like the woods would never end and I saw them as a source for fuel and life-sustaining energy in a way I haven’t ever quite before.

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The Parallels of the Toyota Production System and Sustainability

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 10 Comments

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TPS_Sustainability

By Jonathan Mariano
The Toyota Production System has garnered praise and accolades not only in the realm of automobile manufacturing, but in the realm of operational efficiency. Similar to how individuals interested in sustainable business focus on the the 3P’s, the triple or integrative bottom line of People, Planet, and Profits, the underlying elements of the Toyota Production System can be summarized in the 4P’s: Philosophy, Process, People & Partners, and Problem Solving. The 4P’s are at the heart of what Toyota wants to be culturally. Furthermore, there is much crossover in the fundamental framework of the Toyota Production System and Sustainability. On another note, the visible actions of Toyota are not the core of the Toyota Production System. As Stevens and Kent state, “Toyota does not consider any of the tools or practices – such as kanbans or andon cords, which so many outsiders have observed and copied – as fundamental to the Toyota Production System.” Rather, it’s the underlying cultural framework of the Toyota Production System that enables Toyota to outperform western production methods.

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Study Shows Property Values Not Harmed by Wind Farms

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 3 Comments

house-turbineA full scale wind farm is not a subtle piece of landscaping, and many folks express concern over losing their view, their rural character, or *gasp* their property values. As the number of communities considering wind energy development grows, the need to empirically investigate these concerns does, too.

Good news, as far as property values are concerned, comes from a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and coauthored by Bard Center for Environmental Policy (A 3p Partner), which finds no widespread impact of wind facilities on residential property values. The report, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, constitutes the most comprehensive and data-rich analysis to date on the potential impact of U.S. wind projects on residential property values.

“Neither the view of wind energy facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities was found to have any consistent, measurable, and significant effect on the selling prices of nearby homes,” says report coauthor Ben Hoen, a consultant for Berkeley Lab, and a Bard graduate. “No matter how we looked at the data, the same result kept coming back: no evidence of widespread impacts.” Gautam Sethi, coauthor of the study and Hoen’s master’s thesis adviser at the Bard CEP, said Berkeley’s is the first large-scale study that investigates such a long-standing claim in a rigorous fashion.

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Oybike Rolls into the Bike-Sharing Biz

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday December 4th, 2009 | 2 Comments

ban-startup-fridayoybike
As we’ve been reporting, some bike-sharing programs (well, okay, mostly the Velib system in Paris) have been navigating rough stretches of road, due to everything from vandalism to poor logistics to class distinctions. But that didn’t keep the curiously-named startup Oybike from introducing a bike rental system in the UK.

What makes its system unique is the price to hire a bike: zero dollars (pounds, to be precise). A couple of caveats: the free rentals are subsidized by adverts printed on placards that cover part of the frame, and the freeness lasts for 30 minutes—after that fees kick in, starting at £0.50 for the second half hour. Okay, a third caveat: it’s not really free because one must pay a registration fee online before even getting on the bike. These run from £5 for a week to £18 (roughly $30 USD) for a year. Oh, plus cell phone usage (more on that later). But still, it would make sense for frequent, short trips.

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Let’s Talk Trash: Atayne Athletic Apparel Made from Trash

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Friday December 4th, 2009 | 2 Comments

ban-startup-friday
AtayneWho knew a red shirt would become a life-changing event for Jeremy Litchfield?   On a hot and humid morning back in 2007, Litchfield went out for a run.  Wearing a brand new performance t-shirt, the runner was gearing up for an upcoming marathon.  By the time he finished his morning  jaunt, red stain from his  new shirt covered his shorts, socks, shoes and lower body.

Concerned about the red dye on his body, Litchfield began researching performance apparel.   It became clear that the apparel contained products that were potentially harmful to the environment as well as people. While sportswear is breathable and helps prevent the body from overheating, he discovered the material was often treated with chemicals, heavy metals and was not biodegradable.  According to Litchfield, that red shirt he was wearing that muggy morning also included dioxins, AZO dyes and nearly one-tenth of a gallon of petroleum, among other things. Frustrated and wanting to make a difference, Litchfield quit his day job and launched Atayne, despite knowing nothing about performance sportswear.

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See You in Copenhagen: Better Place’s Shai Agassi on Role of Cleantech

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 6 Comments

If the Copenhagen climate conference has managed to do anything (even before it begins), it has managed to divide. It has facilitated the formation of two neatly antithetical groups of people: those who think nothing will result, and those who are hopeful as to what could happen.

“See You in Copenhagen” is a campaign of short films and ads produced by Found Object Films, in cooperation with the UN Foundation and TckTckTck, to raise public awareness leading up to COP15. It would fit firmly in the latter camp, featuring a certain cautious optimism. We may be sliding down a slippery slope, and Copenhagen may be just a time for political power plays, meaningless gesturing, and the biggest green networking event ever to take place. But it could also be a turning point.

In this video, Better Place innovator, Shai Agassi, talks about cleantech’s role in building the new clean economy, and those implications at COP15.

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New Journal Aims to Move from Problems to Solutions

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Solutions issues[1]There are many scientific journals and publications that exist to raise awareness about environmental issues, where scientists can present research and propose recommendations on ways to mitigate the problems we face related to our environment. Though discussion and debate is important, many believe it is time to move from debate to demonstrated action.

While, as a nation we, await some resolution by way of energy legislation, there are undoubtedly myriad other solutions that have to be implemented. Translating good science into appropriate policy is critical and many ideas and solutions begin by the research coming out of the scientific community, as well as technological revolutions from the business community. There is no silver bullet.

The launch of a new journal titled Solutions aims to help us move from a debate culture to one of collaboration, by creating a global forum for dialogue with people, governments, business and civil society. The goal is to identify integrative socio-economic and environmental solutions that inspire action towards a better, more sustainable future for everyone. Not only is the objective at Solutions different, but the process is too. Instead of a typical peer review process, which can be more destructive than constructive, Solutions reviewers are empowered to use their depth of expertise in a more productive manner, by helping the authors perfect their story. In some cases, if the original author accepts, the reviewers may become co-authors on the piece.

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West Coast Village Capital is Looking for a Few Good Social Ventures

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

light bulb ideaWest Coast Village Capital (WCVC) is a social venture program that brings together entrepreneurs to learn from and support each other’s social enterprises. Over the course of 12 weeks, beginning in January 2010, up to 30 social entrepreneurs will work together in groups of five to share their knowledge, strengthen their models, and build their businesses. If you would like to be one of them, read on.

Inspired by the village bank model used in microfinance, WCVC represents an innovative investment model built on the hypothesis that entrepreneurs, working intimately together and providing peer support to one another, will be able to efficiently and wisely allocate investment to their companies. This means WCVC will put the investment decisions in the hands of entrepreneurs themselves.

First Light Ventures, a sister enterprise to Grey Ghost Ventures, will provide the investment funds by making $25,000 and $75,000 investments in the 5-10 companies identified as most ready for seed capital. “We wanted to test the hypothesis that entrepreneurs can make investment decisions as well, if not better, than investors,” said Ross Baird from First Light Ventures.

WCVC is looking for social entrepreneurs with bright ideas and sustainable business models. If you have a business idea to help improve the world, they want to hear about it.

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B Corps Win Healthy Tax Break in Landmark Law

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

a_bcorp_logo_posB Lab, the force behind a new business sector designation—called the B Corporation—which recognizes companies that meet a set of social, environmental and institutional benchmarks for sustainability, is facing a Herculean effort. The work won’t be in convincing people that business can be a positive force for social change—there are already 240 companies in 28 states (representing more than 50 industries) that have become B Corps, and I’m sure that number will continue to grow. The bigger task will be in lobbying for legislation, on a state-by-state basis, to recognize and provide incentives to B Corporations.

And that effort got an important boost today: The Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously to pass a bill that creates a new sustainable business tax credit for certified sustainable businesses located in the City of Philadelphia. For tax years 2012 through 2017, 25 eligible businesses shall receive a tax credit of $4,000 to be used against the gross receipts portion of the business privilege tax.  Companies can be classified as certified sustainable businesses once they are certified as B Corporations.

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The Importance of Being Earnest About Biomass

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 7 Comments
Finnish Bioenergy Power Plant

Finnish Bioenergy Power Plant

Metso Corporation is pretty confident in its green cred. The Finnish company calls itself “a global supplier of sustainable technology and services” and in a press visit today the company’s VP of strategic development, Michael Hoven, and communications manager, Sanna Rahikainen, when asked if they considered Metso a green company, said it was. They said they don’t greenwash and are proud of what they were doing for the environment.

Unfortunately  the devil is in the details, and Metso has a way to go before this blogger would feel comfortable calling it a truly sustainable business.

The key to Metso’s self-proclaimed environmental credentials is its production of biomass boilers to replace those powered by coal and other fossil fuels. It’s true that biomass has the potential to be an energy source that is superior to fossil fuels from an environmental standpoint. There are at least three keys in my mind to ensuring that biomass is a real sustainable solution:

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Chevy Volt: Where’s My Test Drive?

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 9 Comments
A lucky test driver

A rare non-celebrity test driver

I would like to announce a major scandal surrounding the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt “extended range” electric vehicle: there is only one available for test drives.

Last night, this reporter showed up early for a minor press junket on the sidelines of the LA Auto Show in hopes of getting a spot on the test-drive list, only to find out there were no spots available.

This, despite the fact that the Volt was sitting undriven in a parking lot across the street the entire time. Apparently, the vehicle was saving itself for a pair of B-list eco-friendly celebrities who were running late.

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The Importance of Being Earnest at COP 15

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 5 Comments

COP15_LOGO_A_SIf it’s all about the money, and it usually is, then the future financial landscape for cleantech development hinges on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change conference as essentially as the meeting’s long-term impacts on environmental policy.

There will be impacts whether or not binding and comprehensive agreements on emission reductions are cobbled in Copenhagen, and that’s especially true for green investors.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the United Kingdom research and consulting firm, future investments in clean technology are heavily dependent on the outcome of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Private sector money interests are waiting to see what targets world leaders will commit to, along with what mitigation actions developing countries will take.

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San Diego Convention Center: Committed to Green Events

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

convention_centerThe trade show industry is second only to the construction industry in the amount of waste it generates. If you have ever attended or exhibited at a trade show, you have seen the amount of waste and energy consumed first hand…it is everywhere. Very little about the trade show industry seems efficient. Though companies need to make their products and services known in the green arena, participating in trade shows that don’t include eco-friendly practices seems counter intuitive. Trade shows represent what is good for business but what is bad for the planet. The waste produced from a typical show includes excessive paper handouts that aren’t recycled, countless plastic bottles thrown in the trash, unsustainable promotional items, garbage from packing materials and unregulated energy usage, not to mention the carbon emissions associated with travel to and from the show.

Many trade show organizers simply don’t have enough eco-friendly options when it comes to venues. Hopefully, convention centers and other trade show venues will take a cue from San Diego and realize that a commitment to sustainable practices is good for the planet and very good for business. Their sustainable efforts include waste minimization, energy efficiency, water conservation, food composting, environmental purchasing, donating reusable goods and all-around environmental leadership.

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L.A. Auto Show Award for Greenest Car: 2010 Ford Fusion

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

10FusionHybridThe 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid was awarded the “Most Environmentally Progressive Car of the Year” by “blogazine” Earth, Wind & Power (EWP) at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday. This award is in addition to its other recent accolades, including Car and Driver’s “10Best” cars for 2010 and the Motor Trend 2010 Car of the Year Award. The car also got the highest customer satisfaction rating of any Ford vehicle, ever.

So…what is so awesome about the Fusion? Fuel economy. The Ford Fusion Hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city. Ford reports that this is “70 percent better than comparable non-hybrid models and 8 mpg better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid.”

The Fusion also has a unique “eco-gauge” digital dashboard designed to teach drivers how to increase energy efficiency by following cues that leverage the car’s features.  For example, through strategic braking and steady acceleration, drivers can increase the amount of electricity used from regenerative braking. When drivers maximize their eco-performance, a digital tree on the readout grows leaves.

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