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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Five Common Corporate Energy Efficiency Roadblocks Identified

| Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 1 Comment

Five key roadblocks to improving energy efficiency at companies were identified by an industry panel at the very successful Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, held this month in Laguna Niguel, California.

The panel included Gwen Ruta, vice president, Corporate Partnerships at the Environmental Defense Fund; Gretchen Hancock, project manager for Corporate Environmental Programs at GE; Bill Weihl, Google’s Green Energy czar; and Beth Trask, deputy director of EDF’s Innovation Exchange.

The panel represented some of the most informed thinking on implementing cost savings through energy efficiency; as benefit to all of us that weren’t there, EDF provided a five-point summary of some of its key findings on the Innovation Exchange blog. I’ve summarized them below. 

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IBM and Columbia University Team Up to Provide Sustainable Skills Training

| Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

You’ve probably seen IBM’s ad campaign touting its Smarter Cities initiative. Now the company is teaming up with Columbia University to bring smart students hands-on training in the smart technologies IBM is developing.

The two institutions announced today the Smarter Cities Skills Initiative, a partnership between the Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement (CTICE), part of Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), and IBM. The partnership will open IBM’s resources, including access to its 40 Innovation Centers worldwide, to help prepare students to work in the green economy.

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Project FROG: Leaping Ahead in Green Construction

Jennifer Hicks | Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 4 Comments

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Imagine a classroom flooded with natural light, where your eyes weren’t assaulted by the ever-present flickering of fluorescent lighting.  Imagine how that might have affected your Project Frog green modules attention span while struggling with that calculus text. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of daylight on the learning environment, according to American School & University magazine. Some of the findings demonstrate “enhanced student performance and mood, increased teacher and student attendance, reduced energy costs, as well as a positive effect on the environment.”

Project FROG knows that—and acts on it. The green-building company founded in San Francisco in 2006  makes technologically advanced, energy-efficient building modular systems, primarily used in schools, and says it can do so much more quickly—at a cost about 25% less than comparable permanent structures. 

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Heineken Aims for World’s Greenest Brewer Title in 10 Years

Leon Kaye | Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

I am aging myself here, but when I was in my early 20s, drinking a beer usually meant pallid, dull brews that somehow all tasted the same.  Then the microbrewery craze caught on: walk into your nearest Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or even a Safeway, and you’re inundated with choices, many of them local.  Not only does this give consumers better choice and a happier palate, but drinking local brews is good for the economy (dollars stay local) and good for the earth (heavy bottles not hauled as far, hopefully!).

Now, large brewing companies are riding the sustainability bandwagon:  Sapporo Breweries started a pilot program that calculates a beer’s carbon footprint on its bottles’ labels, and InBev, which owns Anheuser Busch, has a snazzy CSR report trumpeting the company’s goal to “Become the Best Beer Company in a Better World.”  Now Heineken, perhaps mindful of its Wobo bottle legacy (1960s bottles shaped like building blocks), has announced its ambition to become the world’s “greenest” brewer within 10 years.

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Startup Friday: Closing the Loop Between Soiled Diapers and Soil

| Friday April 23rd, 2010 | 2 Comments

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I found a new favorite start-up today: Earth Baby.  Three Bay Area families with babies were disgusted at the amount of diaper waste they were producing.   Earth Baby was created to solve that problem by providing, collecting and composting compostable diapers for families with newborn babies throughout the Bay Area.  Their singular mission is to keep disposable baby diapers out of the landfill.  One baby creates about 10 pounds of diaper waste each week!  And even if your city composts, it does not accept human waste.  Cloth diapers are another solution, however they require rigorous laundering which uses much more energy than Earth Baby’s composting solution.

Earth Baby is itself still in diapers.  Launching in January of 2009 with 17 customers, Earth Baby now serves 700 customers in the area and composts nearly 7,000 pounds of baby waste each week.   “We are building our business on word of mouth alone,” Earth Baby CEO Mark Siminoff told me.   And already the company is profitable.  In start-up land, breaking even within a year of launch is certainly noteworthy, even brag-worthy.

So how does it work?

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Earth Day Turns 40 Today

| Thursday April 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

Picture 5Since the first Earth Day took place 40 years ago, we have all been hard at work moving people towards new behaviors, and consumers toward new products and services, that help to sustain the quality of life on our planet.

40 Years ago, the folks at Keep America Beautiful started the snowball rolling in the US with an ad featuring a crying Indian.

This Thursday April 22 will be the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Saatchi NY lead by Neal Foard helped the Earth Day Network to rebuild the Earth Day brand and make this year a truly significant day on our beloved planet.  The website looks great!

But the EDN is no longer the only kid on the block – they’re flocked by countless companies who want to both capitalize and contribute on the holiday.   From where we stand today in April of 2010, the trend toward the world’s largest companies embracing sustainability shows no sign of waning.  From countless promotions and communications during the month of April, to simple progress on longstanding goals and aspirations, Earth Day is the perfect moment reflect on how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go.

Below, we’ve included a couple of timely campaigns to think about.

But really, it’s Earth Day folks… go outside!  Pick up some trash while you’re at it.  And if you’re in D.C., get to the Climate Rally today to see Sting, John Legend, The Roots and Passion Pit!!

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P&G rolls out a new “multi-brand commercial innovation” called Future Friendly in the UK…soon to come to the states?

Wal-Mart communicating its Sustainability innovations and goals

Having conquered the light bulb space, GE moves into wellness with Healthymagination

Sunchips launches the first ever compostable chip bag

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Time to Fiesta: Pushing 40 MPG at $13K

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday April 22nd, 2010 | 1 Comment

OK, so I know nothing about automotive marketing. But as a consumer, it’s easy to see when carmakers take unexpected, nonsensical turns. Like when GM decided to cash in on the image of the Hummer as an urban prestige rig instead of focusing on its true talents as an off-road vehicle (a move that ultimately cost the company the brand). So I can’t figure out why Ford isn’t pimping the great fuel efficiency and low cost of the 2011 Fiesta, and instead focusing on the fact that you can sync your smart phone to the car’s dashboard and stream music.

I had a chance to test drive this little car Wednesday morning, on a course over at Candlestick Park, here in SF. Most journalists who tried it out are from car mags (Car & Driver, etc.) so they’re interested in performance and handling as they careen, mach schnell, through a test course. I love to drive, but I was hardly putting the Fiesta (or the Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris, which were there for comparison’s sake) through the paces. I’m sure all the Ford reps are still laughing about my glacial maneuvering through the cones.

But that’s not the point. The point is, this car can get 40 miles per gallon (on highway, 30 in city). It’s a gasoline combustion engine. No fancy battery (and accompanying life-cycle conundrum). No expensive clean diesel engine. It’s just a smart engine design–in fact, the secret sauce is a dual automatic clutch called PowerShift that makes the efficiency of the automatic Fiesta a tad better than the manual version. It’s a bit unusual to drive the PowerShift–you can tell the engine is operating slightly differently than a conventional automatic–but it didn’t impact the driving experience for me. (And most consumers are just trying to get from point A to B. They’re not geeking out about how well the cars handle on a slalom course. Am I right?)

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Capturing the Promise of Renewable Energy Manufacturing Jobs: An Interview with Stephanie Burns of Dow Corning

Sarah Lozanova | Thursday April 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

dow corningRenewable energy and the new green economy are being praised for their economic development potential in the U.S. and are a key component of the stimulus act.  There has been growing concern however that this opportunity is slipping away.  Over the last five years, the trade deficit between the U.S. and China for renewable energy products grew by a staggering 1400 percent to $5.7 billion.  This can be worrisome, as manufacturing offers one of the greatest employment opportunities in renewable energy, representing 70 to 75 percent of the jobs in this sector .

I recently interviewed Stephanie Burns, president and CEO of Dow Corning, to hear her insights on the topic.

Sarah Lozanova: What are some of the biggest challenges in creating clean manufacturing jobs in the U.S.?

Stephanie Burns: Our challenge is to take advantage of the momentum created by the manufacturing tax credit and, by all means, make it permanent, remove the cap or re-establish the funding. It enabled many companies to develop new manufacturing facilities for renewable components, but that is only one piece of the puzzle.

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