According to non-profit marketing organization SmartPower, even though 80 to 90 percent of the public agrees that energy from renewable sources is better than energy produced from fossil fuels, and they are willing to pay $5 or $10 more per month for that energy, the market penetration of renewable energy products still remains below 5 percent. The company aims to change that by researching exactly what barriers consumers face when they are considering a clean energy or energy efficiency purchase, and then combining innovative marketing campaigns with grass-roots action to overcome these barriers.
SmartPower’s latest campaign is the Energy Smart Ad Challenge, offering a $10,000 prize for the best 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) promoting how young adults can save money by being Energy Smart through energy efficiency and conservation. The 10 finalist videos were posted on YouTube Friday, and viewers are invited to comment on how well the videos “speak to young people about being energy smart.” Each day, one video will be eliminated from the competition, presumably with the viewer input weighing heavily in the decision. As of this writing, the video titled “Generation”, (posted at the top of this article), was far and away the viewers’ favorite.
I don’t know how many of you remember green stamps. Back when our phones were universally black and we saw the USA in our Chevrolets there was this fantastic brand loyalty marketing program where every purchase at a participating store resulted in an allocation of green stamps (just the like postage kind) that moms would paste into green stamp books. After accumulating enough books of stamps they could be taken to the green stamp store for redemption of household appliances, televisions, golf clubs, etc. It was a path for converting everyday shopping into the realization of a family’s dream consumer product purchase. I clearly remember those magical special days when our entire family would walk the green stamp store’s aisles trying to reconcile among ourselves which one of the thousands of products we dreamed of owning was going to be the one we actually took home by redeeming our green stamps.
Showing a fine sense of message and timing, the United States entered the first day of the crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen armed with a potentially game-changing decision from the Environmental Protection Agency: Greenhouse gases threaten public health and the environment and must be regulated.
EPA’s announcement Monday sent a sharp signal to the world that the Obama administration is serious about addressing climate change on both the world stage and within its own borders. It tells the U.S. Congress that the administration is prepared to contain global warming without congressional action if necessary. And it adds a further layer to the battle for rapid congressional approval of health care reform.
More importantly the so-called “endangerment finding” goes beyond mere words. It sets the stage for action and underscores a firm break with the policies and inaction of the past decade or so.
I was recently asked to highlight some of Hewlett-Packard’s environmental printing programs, but after reviewing the materials the PR folks sent, I decided the more interesting story was to reflect on how HP got listed #1 in Newsweek’s recent rankings of green companies, as well as ranked highest in the category of electronics by Climate Counts.
So to find out why, I referred to an interview I conducted (for a piece I did on Tips for Getting Your Sustainability Project Off the Ground) earlier this year with Bonnie Nixon, HP’s director of environmental sustainability. I went back to those notes to help answer the question, “What Does it Take to Be #1?”
Fast Company reflected on this same question last month and concluded, “What was confirmed to me is that behind every major corporate transformation story is a truly heroic man or woman. While I am sure HP has a team of hundreds who have contributed strongly to this position as number one on the Newsweek list, I was certain after spending more time with Nixon that she was an integral part of it.”
Five critical factors make a company like HP stand out:
Al-Jazeera recently posted a video highlighting an investment surge in the tiny central African nation of Equatorial Guinea. The country is the third largest exporter of petroleum and gas–a fact that is not immediately obvious when looking at the quality of life for its 500,000 citizens. But with important infrastructure projects funded by China underway, conditions may be changing.
Chinese attention reaches well beyond Equatorial Guinea and the China Export-Import Bank is financing energy and transportation projects throughout the continent. An excellent 2008 World Bank report revealed that Nigeria, Angola, Sudan, and Ethiopia were the largest African recipients of funding from China. The Communist Regime’s intense interest in the region has stirred strong feelings for two reasons. First, China has shown that it will deal with governments with questionable (and I’m being generous) human rights records. Second, there is concern that the Chinese will bring a “New Colonialism” by not providing local laborers with fair wages or working conditions.
Triple Pundit has been investigating what makes the world’s biggest and smallest companies sustainable for over five years. We’re not ashamed to admit that we often end a long day with a cold one. Beer has been a catalyst in our discussions and networking, not to mention something we enjoy in our time off. Now, we’re reaching out to brewers large and small to seek out what “sustainability” means to them, and to help tell the story of “green,” socially conscious brewing.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you stories from some of the most sustainable breweries in the world. Their tales are quite remarkable since food and beverage is a highly competitive, low margin business. First up: New Belgium Brewing
While speaking to the Bard Center for Environmental Policy’s National Climate Seminar last week, Jeff Sharp, one of Rep. Ed Markey’s (D-MA) staff members, said about climate change legislation, “We expect more things to be moving forward.” Passing cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate “will be a very tough fight,” he added. However, Sharp pointed out that the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act last summer which would create a cap-and-trade program, and set an emissions reduction target of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
The Senate Environment Committee approved a version of ACES early last month. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) will have to “put votes together” to pass the legislation, Sharp said. He said there are “solid votes in favor of the bill.” Ten to fifteen votes on both sides of the political aisle “must be picked up in order to pass the legislation. Although climate change legislation will not be passed in the Senate until next year, Sharp said, “There will continue to be impetus for climate change legislation.”
Renewable energy is desperately needed to combat climate change, and communities should support developers of solar and wind energy projects. However, the acronym NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) still expresses well the sentiment of some folks. Take a recent Los Angeles Superior Court case, for example. The Tesoro del Valle Master Homeowners Association (HOA), a 1,100 home community, sued a neighbor who had installed 300 square feet of solar panels “close to a sidewalk.” The jury ruled against the homeowner.
The HOA denied the homeowners application to install the solar panels, and several requests were made to “cease and desist,” according to a press release by the Greenberg Glusker, the legal firm representing the HOA. The release also stated that the HOA allowed other members of the community to install solar panels, but the offending homeowner’s “installation was rejected for reasons of safety and aesthetics.”
Where Were the Electric Utilities on Cyber Monday? I post this question drawing upon the following two data-points:
1. Almost 100 million Americans (certainly all of whom are electric utility customers) shopped via the Internet on Cyber Monday, the online retail event following Black Friday.
2. ALL of the top 15 products that consumers searched for on Cyber Monday are consumer electronics, which, of course, use an electric battery or household current for their operation!
But while consumers are increasingly interested in consumer electronics, the ways in which they use electricity are changing. The utility industry’s future could be one of revenue erosion as consumers adopt off grid self-generation and the customer side of energy efficiency solutions. Additionally, revenue erosion could occur from consumer conservation, sparked by a price backlash against utility rate increases in both average prices and peak period prices. At the same time, smart metering and the potential of plug-in electric cars afford “killer app” opportunities for managed revenue growth that can increase operating margins. So in defining its role in advancing energy efficiency, renewable energy and electric transportation enabled through smart metering and grids, electric utilities have a complex set of messages to communicate.
Finland is a country that is very generous with its entrepreneurs. According to the representatives from Tekes, a publicly funded organization for financing research, development and innovation in Finland, it’s pretty easy for most entrepreneurs to get low-interest grants and loans for 1 million euros or less. That’s obviously pretty appealing to many would-be entrepreneurs (one of the entrepreneurs we spoke to called Tekes the “Finnish rainmaker”), and in turn this easy access to funding makes it pretty easy for game changing technologies to have a shot at reaching the mainstream.
Here are four interesting startups we learned about during my visit to Finland last week:
In the glorious Past Before Television, adventurous men and women gained fame and fortune by testing their skills in competitions designed to expand the limits of human knowledge and innovation. Several organizations are bringing back this kind of “innovation prize” in a big way, with competitions designed to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges, and expand its horizons beyond terrestrial limits.
One of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in history was the result of a prize offered by the British government in the 18th century. At that time, many ships were being lost due to the inaccuracies involved in calculating their longitude at sea. The previous method, dead reckoning, introduced greater errors the farther the ship got from a known point, usually ending in loss of life and heated discussions about the velocity of various types of swallows. The British Parliament offered the modern equivalent of $4.56 million for a solution to the Longitude Problem.
One of the potential solutions to the problem required invention of a marine chronometer of such high accuracy that even Sir Issac Newton doubted that it could be created. But, in 1730, clockmaker John Harrison set himself to the task, and effectively solved the multiple problems of corrosion, temperature, humidity and durability within five years, (although it took him another thirty to collect his prize) a task which has been compared to the landing of men on the moon in the 1960s.
McDonald’s is doing things a little backwards. Usually, how it works is: companies go green, and then change their logo to reflect these new, sustainable practices.
But McDonald’s Europe has decided to go ahead and make that logo switch first. An Associated Press article reports that European McDonald’s is exchanging its traditional red color for a deep hunter green in an effort to project a more environmentally friendly image.
In years to come, we may look back on 2009 as the year that electric vehicles became mainstream–at least as far as the media is concerned. The past few weeks have been no different as a number of organizations from all over the automotive industry made EV-related announcements. One of these organizations, the Cleantech Group, seems to be bucking the trend with its prediction that so-called Smart Mobility will overtake EVs in 2010, although AutoBlogGreen’s Sebastian Blanco disagrees, and argues that, as far as the media is concerned, 2010 will be even bigger for EV news.
Fueling the Imagination
For example, just hearing the words “X-Prize” is bound to conjure up images of maverick entrepreneurs competing for millions of dollars of prize money to achieve new milestones in air and space flight. That’s exactly what the founders of the X-Prize Foundation want you to think about when you hear about the Progressive Automotive X-Prize, a new competition which focuses on environmentally-friendly automobiles instead of airplanes and rockets. As we reported in a previous article, the competition awards a $10 million dollar prize to the car that, in addition to being the winner in a series of speed and endurance trials, must achieve an effective 100 miles per gallon, have a 200 mile range, and adhere to a large number of very stringent design and safety criteria.
According to the New York Times, the new X-Prize is receiving a boost from the Federal government in the form of $5.5 million of stimulus money from the Department of Energy. This support of competition seems like a good way to promote fairness and innovation, especially since the DOE has been previously accused of stifling innovation in the automotive sector with its Advanced Technology Manufacturing Loan program.
Food production, in aggregate, is considered to be the single largest source of environmental degradation globally. Fisheries around the world are suffering, and while the ecological impacts of this destruction could be catastrophic if not corrected, the environmental, economic and social impacts are also staggering. For concerned consumers, it’s important to think about how food was produced and transported and not just where it was produced.
A global study of salmon conducted by Dalhousie University, Ecotrust and the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology shows that sustainable food production may not be so sustainable. This three-year study points the way to sustainable salmon production and, along the way, debunks some food sustainability myths. Rather than pushing for organic or land-based production, or worrying about “food miles,” the study finds that the world can achieve greater environmental benefits by focusing on improvements to key aspects of production and distribution. The researchers chose salmon as their focus because it exemplifies important characteristics of modern food systems and offers unique opportunities for comparison.
Greenwich: Oct 23 – Oct 26 Social Venture Network 2014 Connect with like-minded business leaders at an SVN conference, Social Venture Institute or workshop. Get recharged, supported and inspired! Register here.
Los Angeles: Oct 28 – Oct 31 Sustainatopia Consisting of 5 Conferences and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability like no other single event. Register here.
London: Nov 3 – Nov 5 Sustainable Brands London 2014 Connect with Sustainability Executives, Brand Strategists, and Design & Innovation Leaders as the Sustainable Brands London Conference convenes to drive the innovation that leads to enhanced business. Discount with code: NW3pSB14LRegister here.
New York: Nov 4 – Nov 6 BSR Conference 2014 BSR 2014 will explore how transparency can transform supply chains, energy and climate, consumer engagement, community impacts, and more. Register here.
Redwood City: Nov 12 Corporate Philanthropy Institute 2014 Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Grantmakers bring together many of the country’s leading CSR professionals to discuss changing expectations of corporate citizenship, strategic local and global programs and assessing the impact of community investments. Register here.
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