Fortune Brainstorm Green: What Do Environmentalists Want?

3p Contributor | Monday April 26th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Evelyn Lee

Scattered among the innumerable shakers in green business at last week’s annual Fortune Brainstorm Green Conference, the public sector had ample opportunity to chime in on a panel discussion entitled: What Do Environmentalist Want?

Making their way to center stage at the intimate business conference was Frances Beincke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, David Yarnold sitting in for Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, and Mark Tercek, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy. Fortune Magazine contributing editor Marc Gunter opened up the panel with a pessimistic view of what is currently not being done relative to policy and climate change posing a rather ominous question to panelists asking: “What do you see as the path to solving the global warming problem?”

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Houston Launches $23 Million Building Efficiency Project

| Monday April 26th, 2010 | 0 Comments

The City of Houston has agreed to pay Schneider Electric $23 million to retrofit 19 city buildings to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

As part of the contract, the company guarantees the city will save $1.8 million a year over the 15-year contract, or they’ll pay the difference.

The deal highlights the no-brainer calculations behind energy efficiency, and was announced after the success of a smaller, $9.6 million contract begun last year by Schneider. Schneider plans to have both phases completed by August 2011.

Houston is the first C40 city in this country to announce a comprehensive retrofit program. The C40 cities group grew out of a meeting of leaders from the planet’s largest cities in 2005. The group partnered with the Clinton Climate Initiative in 2006 to push its membership to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency.

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Solar-Powered Internet Cafés Bring Hope to Remote Zambian Villagers

Leon Kaye | Monday April 26th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Macha, a sparsely populated region in southern Zambia, is about as far from London as one can get.  This region, smaller than the US state of Delaware, has no commercial industries or agriculture.  Its people, who live in smaller villages, live off of subsistence farming, consisting mostly of maize and peanuts.  But thanks to Computer Aid International, an NGO based in the UK, Macha has received the first of the non-profit’s solar powered internet cafés, opening its people’s eyes to a much wider world–one that London’s citizens take for granted.

Computer Aid already has an impressive track record of service:  the organization has sent thousands of refurbished computers to Africa, and has offered cost-effective and innovative IT solutions in Zambia and Kenya.  The Macha lab is impressive for several regions:  it’s a retrofitted shipping container, powered by solar panels, and includes hardware that minimizes the facility’s power requirements.

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How My Landlord Went Solar

| Monday April 26th, 2010 | 0 Comments

The New York Times ran an article last Wednesday lamenting the lack of progress in getting Californians to install solar panels on their roofs. The goal, set out by Arnold in 2007, was “a million rooftops” by 2018. Three years later we’re at about 50,000 statewide, and less than 2,000 here in Los Angeles, the eighth sunniest city in America.

I would, however, like to provide at least one counter point to that story: my landlord, R&E Investments.

For months, really ever since I started seriously covering renewable energy for 3P, I have day dreamed about convincing R&E to put solar panels on the roof of my building. I figured they would clearly benefit financially from the technology, feel-good environmentalism aside–let’s face it, they’re landlords, not treehuggers.

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I’d Like a Little CDP With My GDP: Google Adds Carbon Data To Finance

Dale Wannen
Dale Wannen | Sunday April 25th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Google Finance has spoken. Recently, the financial section of Google inserted a new dimension to its “key stats and ratios” section by adding the Carbon Disclosure Rating amongst other well known financial metrics, including profit margin and return on equity, on the main summary page. Why? Who? Where? What the?

This is actually rather groundbreaking in terms of trying to measure individual companies along with making a stock selection for your own portfolio. Google has taken the initiative to include this metric and for this it should be applauded.

However, let’s take this with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that not all companies have responded to the necessary CDP questionnaire so the pool of companies is limited. On top of this, as I look through the Industrials Sector I see the large military aircraft supplier Boeing with a comparatively high score of 87. I also see the 4th largest oil behemoth Chevron with an even better score of 88. We need to beg the question, “what is the methodology?”

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John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, and F.A. Hayek Compared

| Saturday April 24th, 2010 | 13 Comments

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By Jonathan Mariano
Three of the most influential economists include John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, and F.A. Hayek. Keynes and Friedman are typically viewed as opposing, rather than supporting each others views. Hayek often gets overlooked, although is becoming prominent once again, as of the last boom and bust. It’s interesting to note the overlap and differences between the three economists.

Keynes vs. (Friedman + Hayek) on Markets
When it comes to markets, Keynes suggests interventionism from the government, and Friedman + Hayek usually suggest free markets with little, if any government involvement.

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Alterra Coffee Plus Mars’ Flavia: A Sustainable Combo?

| Saturday April 24th, 2010 | 13 Comments

You’ve probably never heard of it, but Alterra Coffee is a well loved Milwaukee coffee roaster that has been growing steadily for years as one of the area’s most respected brands. It’s also had a very strong commitment to sustainability: It’s 100% wind powered, has gone to great expense to revitalize interesting historic buildings anchoring entire neighborhoods, has an experimental artificial wetland to treat parking lot runoff at one of its stores, and has made a solid commitment to fair trade practices. It even works with urban farming legend Will Allen’s Growing Power organization on a vermiculture project.

The company scored a big victory this week by teaming up with Mars corporation on a global brand distribution plan which will make Alterra a household name internationally and offer huge new revenue potential. Mars will distribute Alterra coffee as part of its Flavia line of single serve coffee makers. That’s great news for a small home-grown company, and something that likely resonates with readers of this site, many of whom are entrepreneurs with big ideas.

But what about Alterra’s sustainability commitment?

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Starbucks Holds Cup Summit, More Talk About Reducing Environmental Impact

| Saturday April 24th, 2010 | 5 Comments

This week Starbucks released their 2009 Corporate Social Responsibility report. There are 10 goals in total that run the gamut from coffee production to storefront design. Among these goals, Starbucks tracked 2009 initiatives such as increasing loans to the coffee producers that work for them, reduce water waste, develop more LEED-certified stores, and encourage Starbucks partners to increase community service hours.

Starbucks has a long way to go before reaching their goals. As of today, only 299 stores have a recycling program in 7,529 company-owned stores in US & Canada. That is as little as 3 in 10 stores. In addition, licensed stores in places like Target, do not have any recycling program in place whatsoever, although Starbucks says they are working on the issue.

Current Starbucks Initiatives: More Branding Opportunities
One of Starbucks goals is to develop a “comprehensive recyclable cup system by 2012.” That’s basically jargon for saying Starbucks wants to improve on the type of cup they use, how it is recycled and figuring out ways to educate partners and customers on recycling. Starbucks has an interesting way of justifying this goal.

It’s important to realize that their paper cups are very important to their branding. There’s nothing more iconic than seeing someone on their way to work with a Starbucks cup in hand. And, the fact that they are crating this goal points to the fact that the “to-go” market is a huge part of Starbucks business. However, Starbucks says their biggest barrier to creating the right solution is that recycling programs differ from city to city, and really, it’s not whether a cup is recyclable, rather “will it be recycled?” It’s also an interesting development given shareholders recent negative vote on another recent recycling proposal we covered a couple weeks ago.

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Fair Trade Gold Standard Could Revolutionize Mining and Jewelry

3p Contributor | Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 6 Comments

By Jesse Finfrock

In March, the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) and Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) launched the first Fair Trade certification for gold, potentially revolutionizing metal industries stretching from mining to jewelry and opening up new market opportunities for millions of responsible small-scale miners.

Organized miners in Peru (Photo: Alliance for Responsible Mining)

The new Fair Trade certification standards are especially important as gold prices soar while artisanal miners only receive payment for a small fraction of the value of their work. Around the world, mining and refining practices continue to wreak havoc on human health and the natural world. In the worst cases, as recently highlighted by National Geographic and CBS’s 60 Minutes, gold mining can be brutal labor in toxic conditions that poison societies and environments alike.

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Greenpeace Attacks Kerry’s Climate Bill Preview

| Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 2 Comments

Greenpeace executive director Phil Radford said the much-anticipated Kerry-Graham-Lieberman energy bill, due out Monday, has been hijacked by “polluter lobbyists,” after co-sponsor Democratic Senator John Kerry gave some details of the bill to a business group known as We Can Lead.

In a conference call with We Can Lead, a coalition of companies pressing for climate change legislation, Kerry said the bill would implement an emissions cap on several sectors of the economy, as well as give $10 billion to “clean coal” projects and support the construction of 12 new nuclear power plants, according to the Washington Post. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, co-sponsor of the bill has also said expanded offshore drilling will be part of the bill, presumably going beyond what President Obama outlined earlier this month.

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Highlights from Investors’ Circle Conference, Winners of West Coast Village Capital

| Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

I attended my second ever Investors’ Circle Conference this week and as with last year, found it to be one of my favorite social enterprise conferences.  Attendees are entrepreneurs and investors and then a few random folks like me.  Both groups of people I find fascinating – lots of do’ers and self-starters.  Instead of giving you the blow-by-blow, I thought I’d share a few takeaways and start-ups to watch.

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Does Amonix Bet Mean Less is More in Solar Power?

| Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

The news yesterday that Amonix, a concentrating photovoltaics company (CPV), received $129 million in venture capital financing certainly put some spring in the step of the solar industry, which even as it pulls out of the recession is facing a series of challenges.

Most pressing on the utility-scale end (that is, solar power in the tens or hundreds of megawatts) is the lack of readily available land to build solar plants, which can require miles of space. As we’ve reported previously, environmental roadblocks, NIMBY issues and other legal challenges are stymieing big solar projects and raising costs.

But concentrating photovoltaic power, which uses lenses to focus sunlight onto super-efficient solar cells, can provide the most watt per square foot of any of the leading solar power technologies. For example, it would take 1000 of First Solar‘s thin film PV panels to generate as much electricity as one of Amonix’s 7700 CPV systems. Amonix’s CPV also uses half the square footage per watt as solar thermal energy.

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Part One: Interview with Shareable.net’s Neal Gorenflo

Jennifer Hicks | Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

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Sharing.  It’s what many of us were taught as kids: Share your toys; Wait in line for your turn; Share you allowance with someone who has less.  But, alas, for Shareable.net logomany of us, that philosophy became obscured as we struggled up whatever business ladder we chose.  We learned to hold onto our ideas until the time came to bring them forth – knowing we would get the credit and not need to share.  And sharing became even harder during the recession, when the economy and businesses ground to a halt. It became increasingly difficult to just survive on our own, let alone share with others.

Except, that’s not how it works at Shareable.net, an online magazine about sharing cofounded in September 2009 by Neal Gorenflo. As a former stock broker, Gorenflo had a big salary, challenging work and great travel opportunities.  But one day he realized he’d become “a man without purpose, place, or real attachment to people” and that the work he was doing was “dedicated solely to profit un-moored from concern for specific geographic communities.”

In part one of this Q&A, Gorenflo explains the why of the magazine and how it all works. 

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ReRides Takes Upcycling Out of the Green Ghetto

| Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 1 Comment

ban-startup-fridaySometimes the inspiration for a company comes from what’s right in front of you. In the case of Mike Gudgus, what was right in front of him was the town of Boise, Idaho, a major bicycling community, where it’s hard to find a place to recycled tires and inner tubes. Gudgus, who runs Inner Glow, an EL wire, solar lighting and green technologies company, decided he wanted to create an alternate route for them, upcycling the rubber into unexpected secondary uses. Thus, ReRides was born.

This is not new. However, what ReRides is doing in terms of design and how it branches out to the mainstream is something much less common in this category:

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Maximizing Efficiency: How Much Toothpaste Can’t Be Squeezed Out?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 1 Comment

Many people try squeezing every last bit out of products they use. Who hasn’t rolled up a tube of toothpaste in order to get out the last drop? As a woman proclaimed in a Consumer Reports video, “It’s the philosophy of just not being wasteful.” In order to determine how much product does not come out, Consumer Reports conducted tests. A total of 22 products were tested, including glass cleaners, lotions, liquid detergents, and toothpaste. The tests found out that lotions were the hardest to empty, and pump bottles leave 20 percent of the lotion behind. Glass cleaners delivered most of the product. Plastic squeeze tubes can trap 10 percent of the toothpaste.

Last fall, Consumer Reports conducted similar tests on skin lotions, liquid detergents, condiments, and toothpaste. Testers emptied a product “in the usual way,” and waited a couple of days for the remains to settle. Then they “pumped, poured, squeezed, shook, and tapped as much as any frugal but rational consumer might.” Lastly, the testers weighed what was left inside. The results revealed that skin lotions left the most product, about one-fifth of their total contents. Toothpaste left one to 13 percent behind. Colgate and Crest brands were used in the tests.

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