Are Utilities Ready for Smart Meters?

RP Siegel | Wednesday March 17th, 2010 | 15 Comments

The rollout of the highly touted Smart Grid ran into another buzz saw this week, this time in Texas, when  hundreds of consumers showed up at a town hall meeting, and the Grand Prairie City Hall, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, complaining that their recently installed wireless Smart Meters were responsible for higher electric bills. That led state senator Troy Fraser to get involved, asking the Texas Public Utility Commission to halt installation of the meters and to initiate an investigation.

The meters were installed by the Texas utility Oncor Electric Delivery,  which services roughly three million customers in the area. The company has installed nearly 800,000 of these meters and insists that they are highly accurate. They are now running a side by side verification study, where smart meters have been installed alongside the previously used mechanical meters and show little difference thus far.

That doesn’t placate folks like Tricia Lambert, one of the hundreds who have complained, claiming, “My bills average between 1,500 and 2,000 kilowatt-hours, and it goes up a little more in the summer,” she said. “That’s pretty much where I stayed. The first month with the smart meter was 4,383 kilowatt-hours.”

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AussieBum’s New Undies Made From Bananas

| Wednesday March 17th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Is that a banana in your underwear, or are you just excited by eco-fashion?

The answer is both.

AussieBum has recently announced its release of a new eco-friendly line of men’s underwear made with 27% banana fiber. This is a world-first, according to the company.

So much for Fruit of the Loom’s dancing men dressed like giant apples and grapes, this company actually uses real fruit, while reducing its impact on the planet.

Why only 27% banana fiber? “Naturally, you can’t really add anymore banana fiber than that because it might be a bit squishy,” says company spokesman Lloyd Jones. Ew.

The rest of the light-weight, absorbent material is made of 64% organic cotton and 7% lycra.

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8 Steps for Building a Triple Bottom Line Business You Can Sell

3p Contributor | Wednesday March 17th, 2010 | 4 Comments

By John Warrilow

When it comes to creating a business worth selling, a values-based business is just like any other- it needs to serve a demonstrated need and have a strong financial foundation, to boot. Here are eight steps to put your triple bottom line business on the market and find a willing buyer.

1. Identify a scalable product or service
Scalable products meet three criteria:

  1. Teachable — you can train people or program technology to deliver them.
  2. Valuable — your customers want to buy them.
  3. Repeatable — you can show an acquirer a future stream of income.

Once you’ve picked a product or service that is scalable, document for your employees how to sell and deliver it.

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Reduced Packaging: a Low-Carb Diet for Cisco

Leon Kaye | Wednesday March 17th, 2010 | 0 Comments

We have all experienced it–you buy a gadget at your favorite store, and you have to pry your new toy out of obnoxious plastic packaging that is about the size of your car’s windshield.  It seems as if the smaller an electronic gadget becomes, the laws of physics become more defied:  that new tiny smartphone or MP3 player leaves you at home with a mound of cardboard, plastic, and Styrofoam.  Even if your community recycles and you use reusable canvas bags, the amount of waste from a Costco or Target shopping run is disturbing.  Fortunately, more companies, including Cisco, are developing eco-friendly packaging solutions that not only reduce waste, but save money.

Cisco recently began a pilot program seeking to bundle some of its products into “smarter” packaging.  One product line not only reduced the amount of packaging by one-third, but increased its transportation load efficiency by 50% and saved the company US$1.3 million in shipping costs.  Across the entire pilot project, Cisco eliminated 4 million pounds of packaging

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TerraCycle’s Best Practices For Growing Green Revenue

Bill Roth | Wednesday March 17th, 2010 | 0 Comments

TerraCycle produces very cool consumer products from recycled food packaging. But for businesses trying to grow revenues in this “soft recovery” the coolest thing about TerraCycle is its creative business strategies for generating top-line revenue results with attractive profit margins.

How it engage its customers is what makes TerraCycle’s strategy unique. For example, it “up-cycles” Capri Sun wrappers to create products like pencil holders that target the very school children who are the principal consumers of Capri Sun juices. Its customer engagement program involves encouraging school children to collect the wrappers as a fund raiser for their school and a path for learning about recycling. Beyond this being a brilliant social marketing example it also makes money. From a production-cycle perspective, TerraCycle takes a zero-cost waste stream and converts it into a product with attractive margins.

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Carbon Markets: Trading to Stop Climate Change

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 16th, 2010 | 1 Comment

By Elizabeth (Lisa) Zelljadt, Senior Analyst, Point Carbon

Every morning Mike walks into his London office and logs on to the Intercontinental Exchange, where he and most of his colleagues do all their work. He surveys the news for major political developments related to greenhouse gas emissions, then checks current and forward prices of fuels, and throws an eye on the weather. Finally, he sells or buys a few hundred thousand tons…of carbon.

Mike is a carbon trader, one of many financial sector workers who specialize in a commodity that is like pork bellies, scrap metal, or crude oil contracts—but was created entirely by an environmental policy called cap-and-trade.

With all the hype in the news, most people know how cap-and-trade works: regulators set a tonnage limit on the amount of pollution—a cap—that declines over time, and then allocate enough permits to equal the cap. Each permit is worth one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). Emissions from all the entities covered by this cap cannot exceed that limit collectively, but on an individual basis, each can cut its carbon output in whatever way works best

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ExxonMobil Gushing with Cash and Confidence

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday March 16th, 2010 | 8 Comments

Here’s a news flash of sorts: ExxonMobil (XOM), the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company, has barrels of money and plans $28 billion in capital spending this year and about $25-$30 billion each year thereafter through 2014.

The company made more than $19 billion last year and generated cash flow of $28.4 billion. Flush with money and confidence, XOM says it is “well positioned for future growth” despite a volatile industry environment across a “range of market conditions.”

“Each of our three business segments, Upstream, Downstream and Chemical, outpaced our competitors,” Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and chief executive officer, said last week during the company’s annual presentation to investment analysts at the New York Stock Exchange.

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A Light in the Dark: The Success of the U.S. Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) Market

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 16th, 2010 | 6 Comments

By Dan Kalafatas, President, 3Degrees

It is tempting for environmental market advocates (like myself) to gnash their teeth as climate change misinformation and standard Washington gridlock continue to delay passage of climate change legislation that would create a national carbon market. However, in doing so, we are ignoring a bright light amidst the darkness – the stunning growth and impressive success of the U.S. renewable energy certificate (REC) market.

Driven by state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), growing individual and organizational voluntary demand for renewable energy, and the development of a widely accepted standard and trusted registries, today’s vibrant and mature REC market is accelerating the development of a renewable energy economy. Perhaps if we are more vocal about the success of the REC market we can build the political support required to pass federal climate change legislation that uses markets to achieve our environmental goals.

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Can the EPA’s Lisa Jackson Rally Black Communities Around the Environment?

| Tuesday March 16th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Although environmental harm is disproportionately concentrated in low-income communities and communities of color, so far the green movement has largely been one of white people. The EPA’s latest top gun, Lisa Jackson, is its first African American administrator and also the first EPA administrator unafraid to speak frankly about the important overlap between environmentalism and race.

Although leaders tout the promise of green jobs uplifting urban populations, this heyday hasn’t arrived yet. Instead, the environmental movement has so far failed to meaningfully engage communities of color, though these communities often bear the brunt of environmental sins such as toxic dumping, contamination, landfills and plants that wealthy NIMBYs fought off. For the most part, typical environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace have not addressed domestic environmental justice issues, or have only done so narrowly.

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What if Doing Well Means Getting Sued?

Leon Kaye | Tuesday March 16th, 2010 | 12 Comments
Dr. Peter Cappelli of Pennsylvania University’s Wharton School recently finished a study that suggests Indian firms succeed because they often have a strong social mission.  Doing well financially is possible, Cappelli and his team of researchers assert, because they are “doing good.”  Indeed, a cursory look at large Indian corporations offers commendable mission statements:  Tata Group’s value and purpose include a goal to “improve the quality of life of the communities” in which it serves.  Reliance Industries Inc. equates growth with care for good health, safety, the environment, and people.  Many Indian conglomerates list an impressive range of projects that improve the lives of Indians and citizens abroad.  Cappelli concludes, therefore, that American business leaders should serve all of a company’s stakeholders, not just its shareholders.

Unfortunately, US law is in the way of any company striving to do good.

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10 Ways Crowdsourcing Can Save or Fail Your Business

| Monday March 15th, 2010 | 10 Comments

Crowdsourcing is kind of the best of the internet. Strangers self-organize to complete a task or solve a problem, and the solution often comes faster and cheaper than anything one desk jockey in a cubicle could come up with on his own. An amazing example of crowdsourcing in action is the Haiti Crowdsourcing project which connected real time texts and phone calls from Haitians in need after the earthquake with a graphical overlay map of their precise location, so emergency personnel could respond.

Of course, when you set the crowd free, dangerous things can happen, too, like in the case of the popularity contest that left Kraft re-naming Australia’s beloved Vegemite “isnack 2.0″ and then quickly changing it back after the public outcry about the stupid name.

Entrepreneurs and brand managers alike are left wondering how to utilize these tools to benefit their businesses without opening themselves up to disaster. Folks who are passionate about social change are also concerned about using these tools effectively without coercing the individuals in the crowd to do work for free that might otherwise be done by a professional. These are some of the themes that emerged from the SXSW panel Crowd Sourcing Innovative Social Change. The panel was crowdsourced, of course, with the moderator walking the crowd and taking questions and answers alike from both the panelists and the audience members. Here are the best and worst uses of crowdsourcing, straight from the hive mind:

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Defining Corporate Citizenship

| Monday March 15th, 2010 | 3 Comments

How much of a role should business play in tackling global questions such as climate change, unemployment, restoring trust in the aftermath of the financial crisis and distributing international aid?  What is the nature and extent of the private sector’s responsibility in resolving these issues? At what point should corporations step alongside government and help shoulder some of the burden?  These questions, which go to the very heart of defining corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility, are some of the issues that will be discussed at the Economist’s 2010 Corporate Citizenship Conference kicking off this week.  In light of the financial crisis, this year’s convocation will rightfully explore restoring trust and increasing transparency in the financial markets and job creation, in addition to balance in international aid and post-Copenhagen strategies for moving forward.

The conference line-up features a veritable who’s who of big names in sustainability and leading thinkers from the public sector including: Diana Taylor managing director of Wolfensohn & Co. and former president of the World Bank; US Department of Labor deputy secretary Seth Harris; Loews Hotels chairman and CEO Jonathan M. Tisch; and Steve Case, co-founder of America Online and chairman and CEO of Revolution. A highlight will be a conversation with President Bill Clinton who will likely provide an update on the Clinton Global Initiative.

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Three Easy Green Fleet Initiatives for Medium-Duty Trucks

Sarah Lozanova | Monday March 15th, 2010 | 1 Comment

green fleetMedium-duty trucks (class 3-6) consume over eight billion gallons of fuel annually, with each truck emitting an average 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Although hybrid electric trucks typically cost $23,000-$45,000 more upfront, numerous other opportunities exist for fleets to reduce emissions and fuel costs, with a much smaller price tag. Let’s explore some of the low-hanging fruit that the Environmental Defense Fund and the fleet management company PHH Arval recommend in their recent white paper:

Right-sizing Vehicles:

Using the smallest truck that can get the job done saves considerable fuel. “We’re seeing a lot of stuff being done that has an immediate payback,” says Jason Mathers, project manager in the Corporate Partnership Program at the Environmental Defense Fund in an interview with TriplePundit.  “Frito-Lay has moved from a 24-foot Class 6 vehicle, to a 20-foot Class 5 vehicle.  They are saving 10% on fuel and I’d imagine they are paying less upfront for that class 5 vehicle too.”

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P&G Program Finds Purpose and Value in What Had Formerly Been Scrap

RP Siegel | Monday March 15th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Procter and Gamble has recently announced a new program that bears a slight resemblance to what we used to call a treasure hunt, but the results P&G is seeing and the savings it’s achieved are no game.

The new GARP program, which stands for Global Asset Recovery Purchases, is a quest to find someone, somewhere, who can use what P&G no longer needs.
A company of this size–$79 billion–with this many product brands–82 in the US–serving this many people on a daily basis–4 billion–is bound to generate a certain amount of waste.

But if that company was to ask the question, as part of its commitment to waste reduction, “Isn’t there a way that we could use this stuff for something else, rather than just throwing it out?” And if that company were to make a serious, concerted effort to find real answers to that question, it might come up with something like GARP.

P&G did just that and it found that in many instances, leftover scrap, or material that was slightly out of specification for one product, could make a perfectly acceptable ingredient for something else.

For example: Always feminine pad scraps could be used to make cement in Hungary, a Metamucil byproduct could be used to help grass grow, Duracell ingredients could be used to make bricks, or Clairol hair coloring leftovers could be used to make a tire shine.

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Dumpster Diving Day Saves Burt’s Bees $25K Annually

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Monday March 15th, 2010 | 1 Comment

The old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” sure rings true for a North Carolina-based earth friendly natural personal care products company.  In 2008, employees from Burt’s Bees took part in Dumpster Day, an event held to educate employees about waste reduction.

Trash destined for the landfill was collected for two weeks and divided into three categories – items that should have been recycled but were not, things that should be recycled and garbage. With about five tons of stockpiled trash dumped onto the parking lot, employees donned Hazmat suits and dove in to find out what they could dig up. 

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