A maker of thermostat data systems that claims to be able to reduce heating and cooling costs for buildings by 20-30 percent won Grand Prize at this year’s Cleantech Open, one of the leading environmental technology competitions in the country.
Ecofactor makes integrated systems that calibrate a residential or commercial thermostat for maximum energy efficiency without having any noticeable effect on comfort. The system uses information from 24,000 data points, such as local weather, typical customer behavior and the design characteristics of a home or business to control the thermostat, which is connected to the Internet via a broadband connection.
As National Prize winner, Ecofactor took home $250,000, including $100,000 in seed capital. This is in addition to $100,000 the company won as California regional finalist in October. Started in 2006, Ecofactor has raised angel funding, and currently in negotiations for its Series A round, according to Earth2Tech.
Cleantech Open runners up were: Alphabet Energy (waste-heat recapture); and MicroMidas (transforms raw sewage into biodegradable plastic). Earlier in the day, audience members at the Awards Gala voted Alphabet Energy as the People’s Choice business competition winner.
Pop quiz: what does our municipal sewage waste that gets processed at wastewater treatment plants, and the great Pacific garbage patch, have in common?
Well, not much…yet.
A clean tech startup by the name of Micromidas may change all that, and in the process, change the game for plastic packaging.
Micromidas won the EPA’s 3P (People, Prosperity, Planet) clean tech contest earlier this year and is competing at this year’s Clean Tech Open in San Francisco. The bottom line is that it says it can convert 80-90 percent of sludge (biomass waste) to bioplastics. Typically, this sludge is either burned or allowed to decompose naturally, a process that takes 30 days or more. Either way, it contributes to climate change by producing greenhouse gasses. Instead of letting that happen, Micromidas turns that sludge into solid products that can be used in much the same way as conventional plastics.
While waiting for the PBS show, the NewsHour, to begin, I saw a Monsanto advertisement which said, “Monsanto…producing more, conversing more…that’s sustainable agriculture.” On Monsanto’s website the company states its commitment to “help farmers produce more and conserve more” by 2030. One of the ways Monsanto will achieve its goal is through “developing improved seeds.”
In 1996, Monsanto, the world’s largest agrochemical company, introduced Roundup Ready Soybeans, which included “in-seed tolerance to Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides.” Roundup Ready seeds are the “most common herbicides used with cultivated GMOs.” Roundup itself is one of the most common herbicides. Roundup Ready seeds ensure that glyphosate, the chemical name for Roundup, will be used on crops.
Southern California-based Genea Energy is ranked number 13 on Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies list. Doug Schneider, Genea Energy’s CEO, said, “Forbes saw in Genea a special potential for growth, and that just echoes what our management team has been saying all along. We have a very special business — we’re just beginning to see its potential, and that’s exciting.”
Genea Energy offers a “highly interactive way of controlling and optimizing energy consumption in commercial office properties.” One of the company’s services, the Building Optimization Solution, provides building owners with a “web-enabled technology platform” that controls energy consumption and businesses processes.
When it comes to footwear, comfort, style, durability and affordability are important aspects when picking out a pair of shoes. But there is a lot more that goes into shoes than just our feet.
Canadian-based footwear company Oliberté, is stepping up and reaching out to impoverished African communities and making a difference in a big way. In fact it is touted as the “first to market premium urban-casual footwear made in Africa.”
Recently, I’ve been reading with my son The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We’re at that point in the story when our travelers arrive on the planet of Magrathea. Magrathea, you may recall, made a name for itself millions of years ago by specializing in building designer planets for the super-wealthy. Then, out of the blue, a severe economic recession hit the galaxy and demand for Magrathea’s high-end product vaporized. The citizens of Magrathea decided to mothball the planet until market demand returned. Fast-forward five million years, and the Magratheans are still waiting. Talk about an allegory for our time.
In a recent webcast, Stephen Blank, Urban Land Institute’s Senior Resident Fellow for Real Estate Finance, expressed what many in real estate already know and fear: that the downturn in residential real estate in 2007-8 was nothing compared to the tsunami coming at us in 2010 in the commercial sector. Values are likely to dip to 40 percent from three years ago, a commercial resurgence is not likely to occur until 2012, and the financial markets will continue to remain frozen except for the vulture plays stepping in with all-cash, low-ball purchases of distressed assets. Of the total $3.5 trillion in commercial debt out there, $900 billion is held in the problematic CMBS market. Thirty-nine billion dollars of that debt will be due in 2010; $150 billion by 2012.
At the last minute, I decided to attend Tuesday night’s Cleantech Open Awards Gala, and was pleasantly surprised at just how many companies with game-changing technologies were participating in the event. From the finalists to the runners-up to last year’s winners, the promise of what was on display was truly astounding, and gives me quite a bit of hope that we have a strong chance of beating some of the enormous challenges that are facing our environment.
EcoFactor, the competition’s overall winner, humorously presented an amazingly simple concept: a web-enabled thermostat that automatically and continuously adjusts the temperature of your home based on local environmental conditions. According to the company, more than half of households with programmable thermostats do not program them. The company’s technology avoids that problem, providing 25 percent or more energy savings with a hands-free solution.
While EcoFactor certainly has a very innovative product, I was simply shocked that they managed to beat out fellow finalist New Sky Energy, whose carbon-negative C02-to-building materials process appears to be an almost magical solution to excess carbon emissions. New Sky’s revolutionary chemical technology takes carbon dioxide from the air, combines it with polluted water, salts and renewable energy and ends up with carbonate-based building materials, in the form of bricks, tiles, laminated wood composites and others.
The winner of the Innovation Competition, held as part of the GreenBeat 2009 conference in San Mateo, California, today, is actually a pair of winners.
The judges could not quite settle on one of the 11 entrants and so instead awarded both Locust Storage, a startup (just out of stealth mode today) and CPower , which provides businesses energy management services, as the co-winners.
Here’s the deal. 1 billion people lack access to clean water. 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. Every year 3 to 5 million people die from water-related diseases.
Water will surely be the biggest issue of our time, globally. So, what are the strategies being used to bring clean water and sanitation to the poor? I attended some water-related sessions at the 2009 Net Impact Conference last weekend, investigating what some organizations are doing in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Three of the main themes that I identified were: empowerment, ownership and self-reliance. Bringing clean water solutions to the developing world requires systems that help empower the local communities – helping mobilize the women and creating entrepreneurs – as well as creating a solution that communities feel they own; solutions must fit into the culture. Self-reliance refers to the fact that NGO’s historically have brought solutions to communities without a long-term plan in place for maintenance and within 3 to 5 years the systems are in disrepair or abandoned.
Obama’s recent trip to China felt like a bit of a bummer, with the Times pointedly portraying the President as a solitary figure, wandering alone on the Great Wall — and getting stone-walled by the PRC’s leadership.
But behind the scenes, hard-working diplomats hammered out agreements on what could be the basis for an important partnership between the world’s two largest polluters on clean technology, ranging from carbon capture to electric cars and more.
And it couldn’t come soon enough, as a new study calculates China, Japan and South Korea will spend $502 billion on clean technology over the next five years, $337 billion more than the US, which the authors warn is in grave danger of being left behind.
Manufacturing in America has eroded over the decades to approximately 10% of our country’s annual Gross Domestic Product. The Bureau of Labor Statistics documents 3 million jobs lost in manufacturing between 1996 and 2006. At an average manufacturing hourly wage of $18.50 representing a loss of $115 billion in annual manufacturing wages. I witnessed this first hand while living in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1980’s when the entire textile industry was relocated to Asia eliminating a wonderfully industrious work force who proudly called themselves “lint-heads.” If we are going to have a sustainable economy and environment we have to figure out how to build a sustainable manufacturing base.
And Valley Forge Fabrics ValleyForgeFabrics could be the example on how to do this. They sell textiles to the hospitality industry, namely furniture fabrics and bedding. This is a globally competitive industry that became very heavily regulated after the tragic 1980 MGM Grand hotel fire. The secret sauce to winning business in this industry is a competitive price, good service and regulatory adherence to fire retardation standards.
Take a look at the baby in this video. He’s innocent, adorable, and completely irresistible . . .
At least that’s how Seventh Generation hopes the U.S. Congress sees it.
Seventh Generation, the nation’s leading brand of non-toxic and environmentally-safe household and personal care products, has joined forces with eco-advocate Erin Brockovich and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to launch the Million Baby Crawl, a grassroots effort designed to urge Congress to pass stronger regulations regarding the chemicals used in household products.
Currently, synthetic chemicals are regulated by the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), an outdated law that experts say has utterly failed to keep us safe from substances that cause cancer and a host of other serious illnesses. Under the TSCA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have the authority to demand the information it needs to evaluate a chemical’s risk, and neither manufacturers nor the agency are required to prove a chemical’s safety before it can be used.
As a result, in the 33 years since the TSCA was enacted, the EPA has required testing on only 200 of the more than 80,000 chemical compounds now in use. Only 200 of 80,000? That’s an astonishingly small 0.25%!
Fortunately, a new proposal to reform the TSCA is in the Congressional pipeline. This new bill will:
A report released recently by McKinsey and Company argues that electric car makers should consider engineering their vehicles for different market segments, rather than try and build a “one size fits all” electric car.
According to the report, the “one size fits all” model means a longer range, and thus a larger battery, than many drivers need. For instance, people who use the car mainly to drive around town use significantly less juice — less than half, according to the report — than someone using the car to commute to work on highways. (Most of that difference comes not from the increased range required by commuting, but by the higher speeds on the highway, which drain power dramatically.)
This is the second article in a seven part series on careers in wind farm development. The first part can be viewed here.
The creation of a wind farm requires a wealth of geographic information for effective planning. A Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist provides much of this material through maps of site characteristics, such as land parcels boundaries, transmission lines, infrastructure, environmentally sensitive areas, land cover, wind resources, turbine micrositing, and topography. These maps are used in every step of planning from energy analysis through construction.
The information provided by a GIS specialist is the foundation for determining the wind resource. “We receive digital elevation maps from our GIS department,” says Diane Reinebach, Senior Energy Specialist for RMT, Inc. “That is loaded into the software, which knows the wind direction. It can then predict how the terrain impacts the wind over the site, and whether there are speed-ups, slow-downs, or turns in the wind.”
Marketers’ jobs aren’t easy. They need to politely, but aggressively, get the word out about their products, and then get those products into as many pairs of hands as possible. And sometimes that works out a little too well, or in unexpected ways. A good case in point graces the cover of Newsweek this week. Sarah Palin might think that shot of her, taken for a Runner’s World profile, is turned into a sexist statement when in the context of a news magazine. The folks over at Icebreaker, manufacturer of that Icebreaker GT base-layer she’s sporting, no doubt find it perplexing.
“Not only can former Governor Palin see Russia, but apparently she can see New Zealand too,” wrote Lee Weinstein, who handles communications for Icebreaker, in a letter to its list of media contacts this morning. A Kiwi outdoor clothing manufacturer, Icebreaker strives to maintain a sustainable supply chain and responsibly and ethically source the merino wool that makes its garments so fabulous (I say that based on the Icebreaker garments I own, and covet).
Greenwich: Oct 23 – Oct 26 Social Venture Network 2014 Connect with like-minded business leaders at an SVN conference, Social Venture Institute or workshop. Get recharged, supported and inspired! Register here.
Los Angeles: Oct 28 – Oct 31 Sustainatopia Consisting of 5 Conferences and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability like no other single event. Register here.
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New York: Nov 4 – Nov 6 BSR Conference 2014 BSR 2014 will explore how transparency can transform supply chains, energy and climate, consumer engagement, community impacts, and more. Register here.
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