Ohio Utility Ships Customers Energy-Efficient Bulbs, Plus a Huge Bill

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 13 Comments

deadlight-bulbCall it greening run amok. Or, more likely, poor planning combined with petty penny pinching by a large corporation. FirstEnergy, an Ohio utility, sent two $3.50 energy-saving compact florescent light-bulbs (CFLs) to customers, and then charged them $21 for the bulbs — whether they wanted them or not.

According to news reports, the remaining $14 was to pay the utility back for the electricity customers would not be using because they had the new bulbs. But if customers don’t use the bulbs, or if they already have their own, they still have to pay the fee.

The scam program, which was set to begin October 12 but has been “postponed,” was FirstEnergy’s response to the state’s new energy law, which requires investor-owned electric utilities to reduce consumption by 22.2 percent by 2025. The bulb distribution was supposed to help FirstEnergy’s customers meet the new requirements.

FirstEnergy, which was a little startled by the outcry, pointed out that customers would save $60 over the life of the bulb. It was unclear if this figure was before or after the $21 fee.

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Chipotle to Use Solar Power at 75 Restaurants

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Monday October 26th, 2009 | 6 Comments

Chipotle Mexican Grill LogoColorado-based restaurant chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill, is going solar.  The popular restaurant chain is taking another step towards a more sustainable future.

According to a company press release, Houston-based Standard Renewable Energy will be installing solar panels at 75 Chipotle restaurants during the next 12 months, making the chain the largest producer of solar power in the restaurant industry.   The company  has “committed to panels that will produce 500 kilowatts of electricity.”  So far, solar panels have been installed at 13 restaurants at various locations across the United States.

The solar initiative will reduce Chipotle’s energy consumption during peak operational hours from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.  Once the project is complete,  it is estimated the initiative will reduce global CO2 emissions by about 41 million pounds.  Not bad.

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It’s My Birthday and I’ll Give If I Want To

| Monday October 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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SloaneOver the summer, I featured a remarkable woman, Sloane Berrent as part of my Philanthropy in Five series, who has literally dedicated her life to doing good, spreading good and seeing the good in others. It’s rare to find someone who walks the walk and talks the talk, but Sloane definitely puts her money where her mouth is — or, in this case, where her birthday cake is!

This year, to commemorate the big 3-0, Sloane, along with her friend, Doug Campbell, who was also turning 30 within days of her birthday (October 3rd and 5th, respectively), decided they wanted to do something memorable that not only celebrated life and the beginning of their 30s, but also included a strong charitable component. Both are avid social change agents, Doug most known for a worldwide tour raising money for nonprofits called ‘The Tuxedo Travels’ and Sloane whose latest cause adventure took her to the rural Phillipines for a 3-month fellowship with the microlending nonprofit, KIVA, so a cause campaign was a no brainer for this dynamic duo of do-goodery.

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Lead by Example: Obama Executive Order Pushes Federal Sustainability

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday October 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments

White_HouseIn these parlous economic and perilous environmental times a firm focus on sustainable government practices sounds like a good exercise that could also serve as a valuable template for action outside of the government.

It’s also impossible to imagine something this sweeping coming from the previous administration, another reason why President Obama’s recent Executive Order could become a landmark in the world of sustainability.

The Executive Order signed by the president earlier this month sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies, focusing on improving their environmental, energy and economic performance.

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Day Two BSR Conference Highlight: Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

BSRSure, the BSR conference brought together CSR thought leaders to discuss the latest sustainability strategies. But the Day Two highlight for me was listening to the oceanographer Sylvia Earle, author of several books including her latest, The World is Blue.

Ms. Earle was soft spoken, but delivered a powerful lecture on the current state of our natural systems, particularly our oceans, providing an important context for why socially responsible business practices are important in the first place.

The ocean is home to half the earth’s species and provides half our atmospheric oxygen produced by phytoplankton photosynthesis.  But we are so concerned with carbon, she warned, that we often neglect our oceans.

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How to Tweet Like Tim Ferriss

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 5 Comments

Tim FerrissI’m a huge Tim Ferriss fan and I don’t think I’m alone.  He spoke on two panels at BizTechDay.  Working 4 hour weeks is pretty much anathema to starting a small business, and I get the sense that Ferriss himself works more than 4 hours per week.  Ferriss, author of New York Times best-selling 4-Hour Workweek, angel investor and tech start-up advisor, introduced himself as “about 14 minutes into my 15 minutes of fame.” In any case, he imbued some priceless nuggets of wisdom I’ve compiled here.  They may not be sustainability focused, but this applies just as well to someone getting out a green message as it does to someone selling widgets.

How to use Twitter

  • Ferriss uses twitter for 3 things
  1. To communicate day to day bits of info that are not relevant for his blog
  2. As a microblogging tool to convey useful resources to his audience of 60,000+ followers
  3. For polling and getting feedback from the broader world (i.e. market research)
  • Keep it fun.  It should not feel like work.  And if you’re tweeting and using other social media for business reasons, you better have a measurable output
  • Don’t tweet when angry or drunk.  Even if you delete a tweet, it doesn’t disappear
  • Posting a pic or a video gets massive click through rates (if you’re Tim Ferriss)
  • Ferriss uses direct message rather than @replies to respond
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Opportunity Green: Last Chance for 30% Discount, and Epic Bike Ride…

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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It’s less than one week from the biggest green business event to hit Southern California since this time last year – and Opportunity Green still has space available for you. 3p readers can get a generous 30% discount on admission by using the code “TripleP30” when you register here. We’ll be excited to see you there!

In the mood for a bike ride?

The Tour d’OG is rolling down the california coast as you read this. Currently camped out near Santa Cruz, we roll to Big Sur tomorrow… internet connections depending, we’ll update this post with some pictures and notes from the road. See you at Opportunity Green!

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Business Not As Usual: Eyes On The Electric Vehicle Market…& More

John Laumer | Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments
  1. Rocky Mountain Institute just rolled out another one of its typically fascinating crystal balls – one which gives a glimpse into the future of electric vehicles.  Is yours one of the many businesses looking for opportunities in a booming electrical vehicle market?  Timing will be everything.  If your firm wants to catch the wave, or is just thinking about it,  have a look at What Will It Take to Get EVs on the Road (Really) Business significance: U3/C5
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Causecast: Getting the Word Out, Bringing Donations In

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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causecast_logoWhen he founded Causecast, Ryan Scott focused on one major problem that charitable organizations were facing: they were paying too much in donation transaction fees. So he set out to find ways of lowering those costs, since they bleed so much money away from a non-profit’s core fund-raising goals. “I realized [nonprofits] needed better IT infrastructure because they were getting overcharged on transaction costs. I wanted to bring those costs as close to $0 as possible,” he says.

Now, about two years later, Causecast helps lower transaction fees using a number of methods, from linking the non-profits up with companies who cover the fees through dollars earmarked for cause-marketing, to making the payment processing infrastructure more efficient for non-profits using emerging technology. For example, Causecast is launching a system by which consumers can make donations via their cell phones, using a text-to-pay payment system that generates low or no transaction fees.

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Crowdsourcing: Why it’s Not a Waste of Time

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 4.05.58 PMCrowdsourcing. You’ve probably heard the term over and over, and when I began to hear it from Dwayne Spradlin of Innocentive as he presented at the inaugural Social Media for Sustainability conference in San Francisco on Monday, I began to tune out. A buzzword with not a lot of tangible results. A recipe for messy, small-results projects.

But what he did earlier got my attention. He said that if we in the audience as a group of 100s could synchronize our claps in under 45 seconds, he’d donate to a charitable cause of note. We did it in about 10 seconds. Trivial as this may sound, it served as a micro example of how, given the right incentives, people can coordinate and focus activity towards a goal, getting results faster than otherwise thought possible.

In his presentation, “Creating Value Together – Online Collaboration and Competition Networks,” Spradlin gave several real-world examples of opening, widely, to help get supposedly intractable problems solved quickly.

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3rdSpaces Helps SF Venues with New Mandatory Waste Ordinance 

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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logo3rd spacesWith San Francisco’s mandatory waste ordinance in effect as of Wednesday, the city’s businesses and residences are now required by law to compost their food waste. This is a big shift for the city’s over 4000 restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that will now have to divert a huge section of their waste to their green bins. Luckily, there is one company uniquely poised to help San Francisco’s venues take on this challenge: 3rdSpaces.

3rdSpaces is the city’s first entertainment venue sustainability company. CEO (and my friend) Mike Zuckerman started 3rdSpaces a number of months ago. By working closely with the San Francisco Department of the Environment, 3rdSpaces provides a service to help local venues save money through sustainability. And this new waste ordinance couldn’t have been more well-timed for the firm’s big launch.

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Should Eco-Labels Come from Government or Third Party Private Organizations?

Scott Cooney | Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 11 Comments

ulenv-logo-headerAccording to Ecolabelling.org, there are more than 300 eco-labels commonly applied to products and services as diverse as building products and cleaning supplies.  The website defines an eco-label as, “any consumer facing logo that claims an added environmental or social benefit.”  Off the top of my head, I could only come up with about 20, and I work as a sustainability consultant and green business writer.  As a fairly savvy eco-consumer, I would expect to know more about these labels, and to know more of them.

Some of these I know are good, such as the USDA Organic symbol, Energy Star for appliances, LEED for green building, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for sustainable forest products like wood and paper, and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for sustainable fish.  Some I know are bad, such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), an industry-backed, greenwashing “eco-label” for wood products that is significantly less rigorous as FSC.  But many, like the Green Seal…I simply don’t know enough about them, nor do I, as an industry professional, let alone a green consumer, have the time to learn about them all.

This leads to the inevitable conclusion that there are simply too many eco-labels, which leads to a lot of consumer confusion.

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Sinautec Makes Ultracapacitors Work

Richard Levangie | Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 8 Comments

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sinautec ultracapacitor busUltracapacitors are the Holy Grail of clean transportation: they’re powerful, they’re reliable, they’re relatively inexpensive and they charge in minutes. But they also discharge in minutes, and that’s the problem companies like EEStor and Altair Nano are working furiously to combat. Even the best ultracapacitors have about five percent of the average lithium-ion battery’s storage capacity.

But Sinautec Automobile Technologies, a capacitor company based in Arlington, Virginia, has decided to to turn the technology’s weakness into its advantage. Along with Chinese partner Shanghai Aowei Technology Development Limited Corporation, Sinautec has developed an ultracapacitor-powered bus that charges quickly every few stops. A collector on the bus roof extends to overhead power lines, and in minutes the batteries — called banks — charge fully.

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Is Monsanto Unstoppable?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

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The French documentary, The World According to Monsanto (Le Monde du Monsanto), calls the agrichemical company, Monsanto, “one of the most controversial companies in the industrial age.” The reason Monsanto is so controversial can best be explained by listing the products it has created: Roundup, genetically engineered seeds, Agent Orange, bovine growth hormone, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Monsanto is still a controversial company. A recent ruling in France’s highest court found Monsanto has not been truthful about the safety of its herbicide Roundup. The ruling confirmed a previous judgment against Monsanto that it falsely advertised Roundup as biodegradable and claimed it “left the soil clean.” The court fined the company 15,000 euros ($22,400).

A French environmental group sued Monsanto in 2001, claiming Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, is classed “dangerous for the environment” by the European Union (EU). Monsanto reported a fourth quarter loss of $233 million, “driven mostly by a drop in sales of its Roundup brand,” according to the BBC. Stil, Roundup is the world’s best selling herbicide.

The state attorney general of New York in 1996 fined Monsanto $50,000 for its advertisement which claimed its glyphosate base spray-on herbicides, including Roundup, were safer than table salt.

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Coming Up: 350.org Day of Action, Is Business Aboard?

| Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

Bill McKibben’s climate action group, 350.org has rallied together an astonishing 4600+ events of all shapes and sizes in close to 200 countries to raise awareness of climate change tomorrow – October 24 – in a globally staged call to action. I’ve been riding the California coast with my colleagues and will be rolling into San Francisco just in time to catch the main event.

What’s the point? To imprint the number “350” into the cultural consciousness – according to scientists it’s the right parts-per-million that we need in our atmosphere in order to retain a stable climate, avoiding the worst aspects of climate change. Right now we’re at 387ppm.

MBA Students at the Presidio Graduate School get wet for climate change

MBA Students at the Presidio Graduate School get wet for climate change

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