Notes from the Cleantech Open Awards Gala

Steve Puma | Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 3 Comments

cleantech openAt 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.

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Data Storage Startup, Energy Manager, Win GreenBeat Innovation Contest

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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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.

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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.

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How are We Going to Solve the Water (and Sanitation) Crisis?

Matthew Savage | Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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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.

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As Asia Outpaces America in Cleantech, US and China Agree to Cooperation

| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment

usandchinaflagsObama’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.

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Price Competitive Sustainable Manufacturing: Valley Forge Fabrics

Bill Roth | Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

FRESH logo 8 17 07Manufacturing 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.

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Seventh Generation Launches the Million Baby Crawl for Toxic Chemical Reform

Kathryn Siranosian | Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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:

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Electric Cars Should Be Customized for Different Drivers: Report

| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 4 Comments

Mckinsey picA 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.)

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Careers in Wind Farm Development: GIS Specialist

Sarah Lozanova | Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

This is the second article in a seven part series on careers in wind farm development. The first part can be viewed here.

wind energy jobsThe 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.”

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sarah Palin Wearin’ Your Product?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 8 Comments

palin_coverMarketers’ 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).

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Power to Your Pedals: Bike Powered Cell Phone Chargers in Kenya

| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Two electrical engineering students at Nairobi University, 24 year old Jeremiah Murimi and 22 year old Pascal Katana, have developed an innovation to literally bring power to more people in Kenya.  Using salvaged parts from old televisions and radios, the duo retrofitted the dynamo attached to all bikes sold in Kenya so that cyclists can charge their cell phones as they ride.

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Of Kenya’s 38.5 million people, it is estimated that roughly 17.5 million own a cell phone.  However, many Kenyans lack access to the necessary electrical infrastructure to charge their phones, forcing them to travel great distances and pay steep prices to juice up their phones at charging stations (around $2 a charge).  This new device, which is small enough to fit in a pocket along with a mobile device, will sell for about $4.50, meaning that consumers will recover the purchase price by the third charge.

As a species, humans are living in an increasingly industrialized habitat—one crammed full of complex machines designed to perform often mundane tasks that we once accomplished with the twist of a wrist (electric can openers?) or ancient technology (plug in air fresheners?).  In such an environment, it is easy to forget that our bodies can do more than consume.

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GreenLink Alliance’s Executive Director on Taking the Mountain Less Traveled

| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Yellowstone Trip 309I believe I was born to help protect the environment. My first vivid memory of the awe-inspiring power of nature came when, as a young teenager, I traveled with my family to the remote wilderness of Colorado for a pack trip deep into the Rocky Mountains. I remember feeling humbled by the Earth’s bounty and overwhelmed by the pure wildness of the landscape that surrounded me. I promised myself then that I would imprint that feeling in my soul forever.

Now, 15 years years later, I can picture that moment in time as if it were yesterday. Today, however, that memory is even more precious as I reflect on the lessons I have learned and the satisfaction I feel as I lead GreenLink Alliance, a non-profit start up, towards success. The beautiful irony is that my life, at least to this point, has brought me full circle, back to the mountaintop where it all began.

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Kaiser Permanente: “60 Sustainable Seconds”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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As part of a new initiative, every month Kaiser Permanente (KP) will feature an online video of an employee or physician who is doing something worthwhile in regards to healthcare and sustainability. The program is called 60 Sustainable Seconds with Kathy Gerwig, KP’s environmental stewardship officer and vice president of workplace safety. Watch the first video below:

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Protecting Ecosystems Makes Money

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

300px-Avalanche_Lake,_looking_southProtecting ecosystems saves money, according to a new study, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). The UN Environment Program (UNEP) hosted the study. The study emphasizes putting a price tag on saving the world’s ecosystems from destruction. The study itself puts a price tag on the ongoing cost of forest loss:  $2 to 5 trillion. Clearing mangrove forests costs local communities over $12,000 a hectare, plus $9,000 to rehabilitate a site.

Protecting ecosystems creates jobs. One in 40 European jobs is linked with environmental and ecosystem services. Investing in the protection of Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve generates $50 million a year, created 7,000 jobs, and increased local family incomes.

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Campaign against Sustainable Forestry Initiative Escalates

| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 5 Comments

Picture 2ForestEthics versus SFI. The green industry is overwhelmed by trustmarks and certification organizatons. As a result, consumers don’t know whom to believe anymore. As it turns out SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) is funded and managed primarily by large logging companies, whereas ForestEthics is an environmental nonprofit dedicated to protecting endangered forests. (And then there’s the Forest Stewardship Council – FSC – just to make things even more complicated, as highlighted in this NY Times article.)

Both ForestEthics and the Sierra club have filed complaints against SFI at both the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. The organizations accused the certification program of lax standards and deceptive marketing intended to obscure responsible foresting standards. But this ongoing war came to a head at last week’s Greenbuild conference.

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Green Event Hit and Misses for 2009 Net Impact Conference

| Thursday November 19th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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About 2,600 MBA students and business professionals from around the world got together a week ago at the 2009 Net Impact Conference at Cornell University to learn and discuss how to use business as a force for social and environmental good.  The event was a success on many levels, and I’d like to highlight some of the creative ways that Net Impact made the conference a great Green Event–as well as suggesting tips for improvement for future conferences.

Cause for Applause

  • Compostable cups, silverware, plates.  Great job at making those products available throughout the conference.
  • Farmer’s market closing reception.  Way to integrate Cornell’s/Ithaca’s local food growers and community in the event!  All that produce (and cheese!) from Upstate New York was quite a treat.
  • Partnership with Terrapass to offset the conference’s carbon consumption and staff travel.

Tips for Improvement:

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