D-Day for Climate: Engage Students with Senators Now

3p Contributor | Monday November 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

earth-444By Eban Goodstein, Director of The Bard Center for Environmental Policy

Harry Reid made it clear last week. Sometime next spring, a decade of sweeping grassroots education and national activism will culminate in strong federal clean energy legislation, laying a policy foundation that will be vital for stabilizing the climate.

Or it won’t.

The coming few months represent an extraordinary moment in human history. Should the US fail to pass significant climate legislation, the impact will be felt not only by our children and grandchildren, but by the next thousand generations of human beings to follow. In the coming decade, there will be no big second bite at the policy apple, no final last chance to set the country on a clean energy course. And the climate will not wait on our denial for another decade.

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Al Gore Receives Global Humanitarian Award in Silicon Valley

Dev Crews | Sunday November 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

HumanitarianGoreNobel Laureate and former Vice President Al Gore received the 2009 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award last Thursday evening for his successful efforts to raise awareness about climate change. The award was inspired by Applied Materials Chairman Emeritus James Morgan’s belief that technology can be a tool to turn ideas into solutions for a better world. It has been given to individuals whose vision and leadership help to build a just, humane and sustainable world. Former recipients include Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the microfinance pioneer, Bill Gates and Intel philanthropist Gordon Moore.

Gore’s most recent book “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis” is a powerful and inspiring call to action. “Despite the many challenges to solving the climate crisis, there is hope, and the opportunities are everywhere  –especially in the form of increasingly powerful technological tools,” Gore said.

At a black-tie gala, attended by 1,500 Silicon Valley business executives, industry and political leaders, Gore accepted the award with an impassioned speech.

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What to Report on? How Two CSR Leaders Decide

| Saturday November 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

fedex-logo-illusionGapWe’ve all seen them.  Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports weighing it at nearly 100 pages, crammed with charts and graphs, and gray with type.  There’s valuable information in there, but unearthing commentary on issues of strategic importance can be daunting. 

 That’s why I was especially curious to hear CSR managers from two industry leaders, FedEx and Gap Inc., explain how they determine CSR report content in a presentation at the recent Net Impact 2009 Conference at Cornell University.

While both managers acknowledged the value of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework, they lamented its limitations. As a general framework designed to be used by all companies, the GRI calls for a plethora of data which might not be relevant to a particular company or could require addition of costly data-gathering processes.  So, like many other companies, CSR reporting leaders FedEx and Gap Inc. also use corporate strategy and stakeholder input to determine which issues are material to readers. 

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EcoFactor and the Truly Smart Grid

| Saturday November 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Technology works best when it’s least intrusive and does the heavy lifting for you. Apple understands this. And so, it seems, does EcoFactor, the winner of the recent Clean Tech Open.

ecofactor smart energy management diagram

What it does behind the scenes is fairly complex, but for the user, easy and out of the way: It keeps your home at an optimum temperature, via an externally managed system. And it doesn’t require you to buy expensive or not yet available equipment.

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Sustainability and Employee Engagement: Anything Goes

Jennifer Elder, The Sustainable CFO | Saturday November 21st, 2009 | 4 Comments

Engage employees through recyclingEngaging employees through sustainability is not a one size fits all approach.  From Walmart’s Personal Sustainability Project to  Sodexo’s Corporate Citizenship Program to Intel’s intranet to FMYI’s online collaboration, the variety is endless.  Each of the four members of the Net Impact Conference 2009 panel on Sustainable Innovation Through Employee Engagement, had differing approaches on everything from launching a sustainability program to reward programs to changing employee behavior.  The panel was moderated by Justin Yuen of FMYI and was comprised of Holly Fowler of Sodexo, Carrie Freeman of Intel, and Richard Coyle of Walmart.  While variety was their norm, there was also a consistent theme – when it comes to sustainability it doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, it matters that you do something.  Here are some of their ideas for starting a sustainability program and getting the employees actively involved.

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Doing a World of Good for Fair Trade Artisans

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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worldofgoodlogoThe term “fair trade handicrafts” summons images of wicker baskets and hand-dyed sarongs. But the business side of the fair trade marketplace is getting a little less old-world, thanks to World of Good, an organization that connects artisans in developing countries with mainstream retailers (including eBay and Whole Foods).

The organization—comprised of a wholesale business, an online marketplace, and a nonprofit arm—was honored last night with the Katherine M. Swanson Equality Award at the Tech Awards. The Tech Awards are produced by The Tech Museum in San Jose, CA, and recognizes 15 laureates in the categories of education, equality, environment, biosciences, economic development, and health.

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SABA Motors Vision: an Exotic Electric Sports Car for the Masses

Steve Puma | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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saba_motors2.jpgEver since I was a kid, when my father used give me Matchbox cars he bought on his way home from work, I’ve been crazy about cars. So I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to speak with Simon Saba of Saba Motors, whose EV vision is something any gearhead can get jazzed about: to deliver an exotic electric sports car with a price tag of under $40,000, that will have the looks and performance of cars costing 10 times as much and is environmentally friendly to boot!

I had the pleasure to speak with the animated Mr. Saba and his charming wife at the Fast Lane to CleanTech Incubator Mixer, held at Club Autosport in San Jose. Club Autosport is the current home of Saba Motors, and hosts it and a number of other cleantech companies at its “car-condominium” facility, as part of the Electronic Transportation Development Center (ETDC), a San Jose Redevelopment Agency initiative to incubate and support startups dedicated to clean automotive technologies, including battery infrastructure startup EVIN, the very unusual compressed air powered Magnetic Air Cars, and over 30 others.

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Innovators Honored for Applying Technology To Brighten People’s Lives

Dev Crews | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

startup friday

suryaBoats outfitted with solar panels have become “floating classrooms” for children in the low-lying regions of Bangladesh, where floods have destroyed crops, schools, roads and infrastructure. They are among the more than 20 million people who became displaced last year due to climate change. In the past decade, Bangladesh has experienced 70 climate-related natural disasters. In its rural areas, 81% of people have no electricity, relying instead on kerosene hurricane lanterns.

But now, the social entrepreneur group Surya Hurricane: Electrification for the Landless, is helping retrofit lanterns with CFL (compact fluorescent) and LED lights, that can be recharged with excess electricity generated by PV modules on the school boats. The new solar lighting is durable, mobile, alleviates the health problems caused by smoke from the traditional lanterns and reduces CO2 emissions. The lanterns are recharged using excess electricity generated by PV modules on the school boats. Local women, whose communities have been devastated by flooding, charge villagers $.07 USD for the service, generating a much needed additional source of income.

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Chrysler Pulling Plug on EV Development? Maybe Not

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ChyslerET009_068EV_610x362It wasn’t all that long ago that Chrysler Corp. pocketed more than $12.5 billion in government bailout funds to avoid a bankruptcy filing, promising on the way to the bank to build more fuel efficient cars and produce electric vehicles by 2011.

About three years later the U.S. carmaker has launched no hybrids – although plans for them remain in the works – and its ENVI electric vehicle program is fading fast in the rearview mirror largely because of a strategic decision by Fiat. Fiat received a 20 percent stake from the U.S. in exchange for the Italian carmaker’s more fuel-efficient chassis and engine technology, and is apparently calling the shots now at Chrysler.

Oh the irony.

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Paul Hawken on the State of the Markets

Scott Cooney | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

SI forums_header_shortSustainable Industries continues to impress me.  Yesterday’s SI Economic Forum featured Paul Hawken, well-known author (Ecology of Commerce, Natural Capitalism, Blessed Unrest) and sustainability guru (the mind behind Wiser Earth and a variety of other startups).  And while Mr. Hawken is a big draw, the discussion panel that followed also included some real movers and shakers with some fascinating insights into the green business world, including Lisa Michelle Galley, Founder of Galley Eco Capital, Matt Cheney, CEO of Renewable Ventures, Peter Rumsey, Founder of Rumsey Engineers, and Phil Michael Williams, VP of Technical Systems and Sustainability at Webcor

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Live Near a Waterway? HydroVolts Can Power Your Home

| Friday November 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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Hydrovolts develops modular hydrikinetic turbines for use in canals & other waterwars

Hydrovolts develops modular hydrikinetic turbines for use in canals & other waterways

At Tuesday’s Academy Awards of Cleantech (The Cleantech Open), attendees were all abuzz about Seattle-based HydroVolts, winner of the $20,000 Cleantech Open sustainability prize. HydroVolts has created a floating in-stream hydrokinetic turbine that generates distributed renewable energy anywhere around the world.   Hydrovolts’ vision is to provide renewable energy to millions of people around the world who live near water.  The turbines are designed to drop into moving water, such as irrigation canals, spillways, tidal currents, wastewater flows, streams, rivers and other waterways.  Energy is collected from the force of moving water rather than pressure, operating like an underwater paddlewheel, so the turbine is safe for fish, unobtrusive, non-polluting and of course, renewable.  Each turbine can power 1 to 10 homes along the waterway and is about the size and cost of a small car.  The technology is modular, scalable and simple to deploy. Check out this video to learn more.

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h.u.m.a.n. Reinvents Vending with Eco-friendly Machines and Healthy Snacks

Kathryn Siranosian | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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human_healthy vending machineh.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending is on a mission to change the world–one snack at a time.

The Los Angeles -based company is turning the $30 billion/year vending industry on its ear by using state-of-the-art, energy efficient machines filled only with healthy foods and drinks.

In addition, h.u.m.a.n. (short for “helping unite man and nutrition”) donates 10 percent of its proceeds to charities that fight obesity and malnutrition.

“At h.u.m.a.n., we believe that the sustainability of the environment cannot exist without the sustainability of our own health,” says Sean Kelly, a 26-year-old fitness buff who co-founded the company with Andy Mackensen in 2007. “Think about it. How are you going to get people to care about sustainability if they don’t care about themselves? Once we can connect with people about their health, I think we can connect with them about sustainability.”

Thanks mostly to refrigeration and lighting, a traditional vending machine can burn through 3500-4000 kWh/yr .  But, h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending can cut that energy expenditure by up to 50 percent. h.u.m.a.n. machines use energy-efficient cooling units, triple pane insulation, and LED lighting. They also are equipped with remote inventory monitoring devices which allow for greater operational efficiency and reduce the amount of trips required for maintenance and stocking.

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It’s a Wrap: Amazon Launches Frustration-Free Packaging Certification Program

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

PackagesGraphicNothing is more frustrating than trying to remove a newly purchased item from its super-strong packaging.  You pull and you tug, you rip and you cut, but no matter how hard you try, the packaging just won’t budge!  Whether it’s a brand new DVD, a new electronic gadget, a child’s toy or a box of your favorite crackers, trying to get that new product out of the package can be hard work!

Amazon has developed a much-appreciated initiative designed to alleviate consumer “wrap rage” and packaging frustration.   While the Amazon products remain the same, the packaging is dramatically different.

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Self Reporting Doesn’t Cut it: Why We Need a National GHG Measurement System

| Friday November 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Say you’re the Mayor of San Francisco. You’re spending million of dollars every year to increase energy efficiency, install solar panels and encourage the use of electric cars — all in an effort to lower your city’s greenhouse gas emissions, in line with (hypothetical) newly-enacted Federal greenhouse gas reduction guidelines.

Meanwhile, the (hypothetical) Mayor of Sacramento, who doesn’t believe in global warming, and certainly doesn’t believe in spending a dime to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, has completely ignored the GHG guidelines, and then lied about it on self-reported greenhouse gas inventories required by the Feds.

Both cities benefit from reduced emissions, but only one is spending the money to do so. How fair is that?

Not very. Which is why Congress is currently considering a National Greenhouse Gas Observation and Analysis System. The system would consist of a network of hundreds of greenhouse gas monitors that could analyze GHG concentrations on the regional, state, and even local level.

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Ecofactor Smart Thermostat System Wins Cleantech Open

| Friday November 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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eco-factor-logo-lgA 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.

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