A covert investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that Energy Star, the EPA’s 18-year-old energy efficiency program, will put its seal of approval on just about anything — as long as the necessary paperwork is filled out.
A phony “gasoline powered alarm clock” submitted by investigators was approved as Energy Star compliant, along with a “room air cleaner” that an accompanying photo showed was actually a space heater with a feather duster glued to the top. In one case, Energy Star certified a non-existent computer monitor a mere 30 minutes after the GAO submitted paperwork.
The GAO concluded that “Energy Star is for the most part a self-certification program vulnerable to fraud and abuse.” See the full report here.
A boat made out of more than 12,000 used plastic water bottles is on its way to Sydney, Australia, proving several points along way: That it can be done; that trash can be useful; and that the huge swath of plastic trash and other debris known as the Eastern Garbage Patch should never happen again.
And assuming the trip is successful, David de Rothschild’s Plastiki – a 60-foot catamaran made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles – could also launch a new approach to boat-building, sans fiberglass.
It’s a dream that’s probably flitted through everyone’s mind at some point: to travel completely baggage-free.
The problem of course, for those of us unable to afford a new wardrobe for each destination, is what to wear when you get there. Zero Baggage hopes to provide the answer.
The startup has concocted a service for travelers that provides them with the clothes and other essentials they need at their final destination. Users simply fill in an online virtual suitcase, the contents of which will be waiting in their hotel room when they arrive. Items are used but clean and well-maintained, new or one-use only.
Weight saved by eliminating checked luggage can be converted into carbon credits which can be spent on various treats. The service hopes to be up and running in November.
Led by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), the fifth annual Earth Hour 2010 takes place tomorrow, March 27, from 8:30pm to 9:30pm local time, around the world. During this hour, at least 1 billion people will shut off their lights in showing their concern over climate change. Since its inception in 2006, Earth Hour has grown–or rather, dimmed?–as many iconic structures from the Empire State Building to Egypt’s pyramids at Giza will flip the switch and go dark. Earth Hour’s supporters expect even more cooperation this year, as corporations such as Wells Fargo and IKEA promise to shut off their lights at many of their locations. One corporate leader in the effort to shut off all those lights on Saturday night is Sears Holdings Corporation, which runs Sears and K-Mart stores from its Chicago headquarters.
According to Michael Brown, Sears Holdings’ sustainability project manager, Sears and Kmart stores nationwide will participate in this initiative by turning off all non-essential lighting during Earth Hour, including every other television and most computer monitors. The stores will remain open, with just enough light to make it safe for shoppers. By shutting off lights at all of its stores, Sears Holdings anticipates saving 80,000 kilowatt hours, or enough energy to power almost eight American homes for a year. Since 2006, Brown and his colleagues have worked with managers and employees throughout all levels of the company in reducing its energy consumption by 20%, saving about 1 billion kilowatt hours. Brown stated that most of the energy reduction was through lighting retrofits, along with an emphasis on educating store managers and their associates on tactics for conserving energy.
Sirona is a Celtic mythological god of healing, his healing touch is needed in Haiti today. It is also needed for the American economy and our global environment. Paul and Michele Lacourciere are two wonderful people who have adopted Sirona as the symbolic inspiration for their business and foundation that is building sustainable solutions for Haiti, America and our world. Their story embodies the very essence of all that is good and positive about the American spirit.
I heard their story through an organization called Vocari that hosts presentations focused upon the quadruple bottom line of profit, planet, people and purpose. At a recent meeting, Paul and Michele presented their story of transformation, where they shifted their lives from the American dream where Paul held a partnership with a major law firm with Michele fulfilling the roles of wife, mom and community activist, to starting a business selling biofuels and a foundation creating a sustainable economy for Haiti.
Ford Motor Company recently announced the launching of a new program that is expected to save the auto company millions. According to a company press release, the PC Power Management program is expected to save the company approximately $1.2 million in power costs and will reduce its carbon footprint by 16,000 to 25,000 metric tons annually.
PC Power Management Program
According to Ford IT project supervisor, Keith Forte, about 60 percent of Ford employees did not shut off their systems at the end of the day, resulting in wasted energy. By updating computer software during off-hours, shutting down Windows’ systems during the evening hours, weekends and when the computers are not in use, power consumption will be reduced and money will be saved. Each computer will have a “Power Profile” which will monitor usage patterns and determine when the system can be safely turned off. The program will also automatically save any Microsoft Office products that remain open prior to shutdown. The PC Power Management program, developed with 1E Inc’s NightWatchman software, will be available this month in the United States and will be rolled out worldwide later this year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its list of the Top 25 cities with the most Energy Star-rated buildings this week, and Los Angeles, with 293 such structures, took top prize. Washington D.C., top-heavy with energy-efficient government-built buildings, came in second at 204. San Francisco garnered third with 173.
Per-capita however, D.C. and S.F. beat the pants off Los Angeles, since both cities have less than one-eighth the population. New York, America’s biggest city (with some of its oldest building stock) round out the top 10 with a mere 90 of the super-efficient buildings.
This is the second year the EPA has come out with its Top 25.
Millions saved, billions to go
In 2009 nearly 3,900 commercial buildings earned the Energy Star rating, according to Energy Star’s press release, saving more than $900 million in utility bills and 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The number of these efficiency-rated buildings grew 40 percent last year, to a total of nearly 9000 certified nationwide since the program’s inception in 1999.
Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for about 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficiency in such buildings has been viewed as a low, or lower-hanging fruit in the fight to push down America’s carbon footprint.
Buildings can earn an Energy Star rating by finishing in the top 25 percent on the program’s Energy Performance Indicator for each building type.
What better way to ensure eternal peace than knowing you went out with a minimal carbon footprint?
Matthews Cremation, a subsidiary of The Matthews Corporation, now offers a combustion-free form of cremation to die-hard environmentalists. “Bio-Cremation”, as it is called, emits one tenth the carbon dioxide of traditional cremation, according to the company.
Saving the Planet, One Dead Body at a Time
In traditional cremation, the corpse is incinerated in a natural-gas fueled combustion chamber, releasing about 880 pounds of CO2 into the air – equivalent to the environmental impact of a 500-mile car trip, according to Reuters.
In addition, if the body has metal fillings, artificial joints or other non-organic ingredients, they are released as toxic gases.
Sometimes being neck-deep in the green business realm, you forget that the connections that make sense to you are foreign to others. Such was the case at the interactive (read: Geek Mecca) component of the South By Southwest interactive media conference, or as it’s known, SXSW.
But if Triple Pundit can help it, that will continue to change. Together with Ecopop TV and CREE Lighting, 3p hosted a Sustainable Media Happy Hour event at SXSWi, gathering major names in the realm, and building momentum for more sustainability to be a part of future editions of SXSW. GOOD Magazine hosted the social entrepreneur focused Good Capitalist Party.
And yet, from what I heard and read, it’s still a largely external component there. Sure, there were the showy retro futuristic solar powered electric bike chargers and composting/recycling stations along with the trash, but the few green related panels were under attended and often rudimentary. Brooke Farrell of RecycleMatch (disclosure: a client of mine) put it best when she wrote, “Unfortunately, preaching how easy it is to give up your plastic water bottles to a room of canteen-carrying believers was a missed opportunity.”
All across the United States, local governments, who carry the burden of waste disposal for their communities, have been overwhelmed by literal mountains of hazardous waste that are the byproducts—the unintended consequences—of our voracious consumer society. Because local governments are rarely if ever equipped to deal with a disposal problem of this magnitude, the result is that there has been a tremendous amount of dangerous substances leaching out from landfills, or out-gassing from incinerators into our air, our water and our bodies, taking a tremendous toll on our environment and our health. Some might say that the buck has been passed to them, both by the manufacturers who design these consumer goods, as well as the people who sell them and the people who buy them.
Robert D’Arcy, the Hazardous Material Manager for Santa Clara County, California said, “Local governments sit at the end of the pipe and unfortunately we fail miserably when it comes to managing these things, because we can’t effectively reach those people.”
In most industrial countries in the world, there are product stewardship laws that require manufacturers to bear responsibility for the ultimate disposition of their products, particularly if they contain toxic or otherwise dangerous components. But not here. Why? Because what little dialog there has been between the stakeholders in this issue— businesses, local governments, and environmental groups—has been suspicious, and contentious if not outright adversarial, so there has been little progress in coming up with a legislative solution. Until this week, that is, when Maine governor John Baldacci signed the “Act to Provide Leadership Regarding the Responsible Recycling of Consumer Products.” Representatives from several other states and D’Arcy were on hand to emphasize the national significance of the moment.
3p is excited to present a LIVE webcast event this afternoon on behalf of The Center for Social Value Creation at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.
The Social Enterprise Symposium: Transforming Business for the Global Good is an interactive evening event designed to introduce new approaches for making impactful, lasting social change around the world using market-based approaches. The event brings together private, public and nonprofit practitioners who are crossing traditional barriers to enable social and environmental change. Stay tuned right here until 5PM EST, 2PM Pacific to take part in the whole thing. The full schedule and more details are below.
By David Jay “Water is the next carbon” has become a go-to-soundbyte in the workshops and conferences I’ve been attending recently. But the closer I’ve looked, the more I’ve begun to uncover reasons why that’s just not true.
Why Water is Smaller than Carbon At first glance, managing water seems like a coming echo of the still-yodeling world of carbon accounting. Both have to do with the environment, and keep employees, customers, and stakeholders happy. Both are a way to stay ahead of regulation from Congress and the EPA. Both involve looking at your operations and supply chain, seeing where the most stuff gets used, and trying to use less of it. So what’s the big deal?
Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook (there were 3 of them), Director of Online Organizing for the Obama Campaign, and founder of brand new non-profit start-upJumo.com, spoke at Tuesday night’s Full Circle Fund meeting. Since I was lucky enough to attend, and Hughes had some greatly relevant nuggets of wisdom, I thought I’d share with you the key takeaways. Human behavior change is a central interest of mine (indeed I majored in psychology). and Hughes’ points all have major implications about what works when attempting to alter human behavior. He outlined 4 main learnings from the Obama campaign and Facebook:
People want to learn. We want to know what other people are up to, we want to be in touch. We also want to know what’s going on in the greater world around us. We want to know how we can help and engage.
People want to share. Using Facebook is one way that we define ourselves in a social context. The more comfortable we are online, the more we are willing to share and discuss our interests, values and more. The better the information we share, the greater our social capital becomes. Facebook created highly controlable privacy settings to ensure maximum comfort sharing.
As I stood and watched the line of 12 in front of me at Starbucks the other day, I daydreamed about the load of cups Starbucks must go through every day. A little googling turned up the fact that it’s actually 3 billion paper cups and 1 billion plastic cups a year. To put that in tangible terms, that’s 8,219,178 paper cups and 2,739,726 plastic cups a day. Wait, 10 million cups a day?
While I wait for those of you who spewed hot lattes onto your laptops to clean up after yourselves, please be assured certain groups are doing something about this. Starbucks annual shareholder meeting just ended Wednesday in Seattle. This meeting was entertainment-infused: Sheryl Crow sang some of her hits and informed the crowd that she “drinks Starbucks coffee every morning” (something tells me we will be hearing more Sheryl at our local Starbucks). But that’s not all. There was shareholder activism to witness. As You Sow Foundation , a shareholder advocacy organization put forth a proposal using shareholder advocate John Harrington’s shares, asking the board of directors to adopt a comprehensive recycling strategy for beverage containers. (Full disclosure: Harrington is my boss.) Although those baristas can stir up a mean mocha, Starbucks as a whole has a poor record when addressing recycling issues.
A senior corporate responsibility journalist has called Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s (formerly Corporate Responsibility Officer) 100 Best Corporate Citizens list “way off base” in a blog post published Tuesday.
Marc Gunther, who writes for Fortune and Greenbiz.com on CSR and environmental subjects said the inclusion on the list of oil companies like ExxonMobil (no. 51) and Hess (no. 10) and exclusion of the likes of Google and Whole Foods, seems bizarre.
As Gunther points out, coal-burning utility Southern Co. (no. 71) led the fight against the administration’s climate legislation, and Newmont Mining Co. (no. 16) operates mines in Nevada that have been a source of mercury poisoning.
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