Why the Wood Pellet Industry Is Growing

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 14th, 2010 | 5 Comments

The European demand for biomass pellets is fueling a growth in the North American wood pellet industry, according to a New York Times article last month. The British publication, The Timber Trades Journal, said that the North American wood pellet industry grew “six-fold from a capacity of just over one million tons to more than six million tons in the last five years.”

The Timber Trades Journal article said the U.S. South, with its abundant forests, is expected to become the leading wood-pellet region in North America. The New York Times mentioned Arkansas-based NexGen Biomass, a start-up with plans to build a 150-employee plant capable of producing 440,000 tons of wood pellets a year. NexGen Biomass officials said pine pulpwood will be converted into wood pellets to be used as fuel in Europe.

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FrontlineSMS:Medic Co-founder on Mobile Healthcare at PopTech Conference

| Thursday January 14th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Text messages save lives. So says Josh Nesbit, co-founder of FrontlineSMS:Medic. He discovered a while back one of the key devices in providing adequate healthcare. It has nothing do with lasers or imaging equipment, devices made in the back lab of some highly funded biotech firm. Healthcare, to him, is best delivered by cell phone.

The mission of FrontlineSMS:Medic is to advance healthcare networks in under served communities using innovative, appropriate mobile technologies. The centerpiece of its system, according to its website, is a free, open-source software platform that enables large-scale, two-way text messaging using only a laptop, a GSM modem, and inexpensive cell phones.

A central clinic laptop runs FrontlineSMS software, enabling community health workers to use text messages to coordinate patient care, offer mobile diagnostics, and map health services.

Here’s Nesbit talking at last year’s PopTech Conference on mobile technologies, and the future of healthcare.

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WalMart’s “Sustainability 2.0″ Video Worth a Watch

| Thursday January 14th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Walmart remains the company many love to hate for a lot of reasons, some sound, some irrational. But regular readers know we’ve been generally excited by the myriad changes that have come out of Bentonville in the last few years. With the help of visionaries like Adam Werbach, WalMart has evolved considerably from the days when pondering the nuances of slapping up a big box in a parking lot were about as deeply as Wal Mart considered things.

Though many challenges remain, Walmart has made an honest effort toward reducing waste and becoming a vastly more efficient operation. Not only that, but it has used its clout to force its suppliers and vendors to follow suit. Through the Personal Sustainability Projects program, Walmart has introduced every one of its employees to the basic principals of sustainability and seems to have genuinely affected many in a positive way.

Although financial savings is still the main driver behind most of Walmart’s efforts, there seems to have been a real awakening of consciousness at some levels in the company. How much exactly I’ll leave you to judge, but former CEO Lee Scott says, sustainability represents “the greatest opportunity for the next generation.” Personally, I’d say the current generation has a lot to gain from it too, but the recognition of sustainability as an opportunity makes me feel optimistic. Whoever can help people understand the world more deeply in a time of potential conflict and resource stress is doing something right.

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Apple Snubs Green Shareholders, Refuses Sustainability Reporting

| Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 18 Comments

Fresh from our praise of Apple’s accidental green cred, the computer giant’s board of directors plans to oppose two upcoming shareholder resolutions concerning sustainability. EETimes reports that the board is advising shareholders to reject a call for the company to set up a “board committee on sustainability” as well as a call from accountability group As You Sow which wants Apple to issue a 2010 sustainability report similar to that being issued by Dell, HP, IBM and many others. You can read the whole proxy statement in PDF form here (the relevant stuff starts on page 51).

Both requests seem pretty reasonable and standard these days, so why is Apple recommending rejection? In its opposition statement, the board affirms the company’s commitment to sustainability and rightly points out a number of accomplishments the company has lately made. It also points out that it has already been publishing a great deal of product & carbon footprint information on its environment website, including a stated claim to “consider” the global reporting initiative (GRI) guidelines.

So does Apple just want to “think different?” Or does As You Sow have a legitimate gripe?

John Laumer points out that few people actually read these reports (at least the printed versions) and that putting one together might be a distraction. I suspect that it’s more about the effort required to standardize reporting to match what other companies are doing – comparing apples to oranges… or Dells in this case. Is standardization worth the extra effort? Are Apple’s current reporting initiatives faulty?

What do you think about this one? Are you an Apple shareholder? How would you vote?

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Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference

| Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Girls in TechA feminist at heart (I ran women’s health workshops as an undergrad at Brown), I am looking forward to the Catalyst Conference held by Girls in Tech on Jan 26th at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.  A recent Harvard Business Review article laments how only 1.5% of the world’s top 2000 performing companies are lead by female CEOs.  Clearly some nurturing and leadership development is needed and that is exactly what I hope to find at the Catalyst Conference.

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Project: Critique

CCA LiveE | Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Photo by Ahmed Riaz

Photo by Ahmed Riaz

By Elysa Soffer

This is very NOT Good

A tall, thin, blond woman in her mid-50s, with a thick Swiss-German accent condescends: “Class, come here, everyone, take a look. See this example on the wall? Does everyone see? This is very NOT good.” This was the voice of the typography and design studio teacher who I was both cursed and blessed to have for three years during design school. This voice has echoed in my head for almost 10 years.

Critiquing happens like this – your work is posted on the wall for your entire class to judge, poke and prod at like a science specimen in a lab. They deconstruct the piece and, if you are lucky, help you put the pieces back together by offering some encouraging ideas. It is in school where your skin thickens enough to get you into the real world and strengthen your ability to accept critiques from your future design director and coworkers, who typically have no problem ripping your work to shreds.

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What Does Healthcare Have to Do with Sustainability?

| Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 5 Comments

stethoscopeAs major news outlets talk about “Cadillac plans” and “public options,” it only seems appropriate to take a couple deep breaths, push the stethoscope to the proverbial belly of our culture, and try to find out what it really means to be healthy in this day and age.

Throughout the rest of January, 3p will be featuring articles investigating how sustainability and health intersect. We’ll feature interviews with people behind some of the biggest names in the industry, give glimpses into the innovative models utilizing technology and social media to deliver care in new and unique ways and talk about the trends as we see them (like this article on Stryker from yesterday). Hopefully it will offer some necessary clarity and insight into such a complex topic.

But as health is such a personal thing, we also want to hear from you about the most important issues and stories that affect our lives. Leave a comment or send us a tweet using the #3p hashtag to tell us what you think are the healthcare stories that shock, scare or even inspire you.

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The Latest, Greatest Tools for Health Care Reform: Soap, and Fewer Drugs

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 0 Comments

In recent history, hospitals have become increasingly successful at making people sick—or worse. Studies show that each year, 100,000 Americans die from medical mistakes, and that healthcare-associated infections account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year. But, as NPR’s health blog recently reported, two recent reports show that following some pretty basic practices can prevent infections and save lives.

These low-tech answers include bathing patients before surgery and swabbing their noses with antibiotic ointment. One of the studies found that “when doctors clean the area on the patient’s body where surgery will be performed with chlorexidine, an antiseptic, their patients get 40 percent fewer infections than those cleaned with iodine, another antiseptic.”

Getting in the habit of hand-washing (and in doing so, taking their own advice) will also go a long way toward enabling health care providers to better heal patients. In fact, NPR reports that Peter Pronovost, a Johns Hopkins professor, earned a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship just for devising a simple five-point, pre-surgery to-to list that includes, believe it or not, washing one’s hands. (Perhaps I’ve watched too many episodes of MASH, but I thought that step was pretty well ingrained in surgeons’ minds…)

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iWasteNot Systems: A Dating Service for Trash

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Looking for 50,000 pounds of inedible egg product, a gently used photocopier,  a few 55-gallon drums of alkaline degreaser, or a dozen wooden cable spools?

As the old adage says, to some that’s trash . . .but to others, it’s treasure.

Just ask James Ruttan, CEO of iWasteNot Systems, Inc., in Ontario, Canada. He, together with his father and three out of four younger siblings, has built a business centered on the concept of reuse –both residential and commercial.

Started in 2003, iWasteNot Systems is a software-as-a-service company that supplies web-based surplus materials exchanges for organizations throughout North America. By providing software, web-hosting, security, support and training, iWasteNot Systems helps clients create and operate residential, mixed industrial-commercial, agricultural-biomass-forestry, electronics and in-house materials exchanges.

And, what’s more, the company can even track and report on the weight and nature of the materials reused and then calculate the dollar savings and the greenhouse gas emissions avoided through the waste diversion.

As Ruttan explains it, iWasteNot Systems is grounded in “preaching the path,” making the choice to reuse materials as easy, inexpensive and effective as possible. Or, put another way…

“Think of it as a dating service for trash,” he quips.

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Tomorrow’s Electric Cars at the 2010 North American Auto Show

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday January 12th, 2010 | 3 Comments

In 1986, I bought my very first car. It was a red 1980 Chevy Chevette. And I loved that thing.

I drove it everywhere — from to Boston to DC to Atlanta, that little red Chevette gave me a sense of freedom that I had never before experienced. And I treasured that freedom.

Sure, I had to work a lot of overtime at the pizza shop to afford it ($600 seemed like a fortune back then). And insurance is never cheap for a 16-year-old kid…

But none of that mattered. Because as long as I had my car, I could go anywhere at anytime. And it’s that sense of freedom that I believe every 16-year-old feels the first time he gets behind the wheel of his very first car.

As an adult, little has changed for me.

Sure, these days I take the light rail to work. (Why pay for gas and parking if you don’t have to?) But I still love taking those long road trips from time to time. And I still love checking out all the new cars coming to market.

Especially the latest electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. And there’s certainly no shortage of them this year at the 2010 North American Auto Show.

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Cap & Trade for CO2: Great Solution or Not?

| Tuesday January 12th, 2010 | 9 Comments

Annie Leonard’s Story of Cap & Trade, which we wrote about a while back, throws a critical and generally dismissive eye on the concept of a cap & trade solution for carbon emissions. The film argues that such a solution is at best a distraction from real cuts in fossil fuel use, and at worst a crony-capitalist scam that ends up rewarding the worst polluters and doing little to change the fossil fuel basis of our economy.

However, many commenters on that post, including myself, found the film to be a disappointment which “threw the baby out with the bathwater.” Cap & trade, as currently written, is not flawless, but most of the film’s critiques were about enforcement and the distribution of CO2 credits, not about faulting the basic principal of trading credits. Worldchanging even outlined a full catalog of errors in the film.

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Ford Ups the Ante on EVs

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday January 12th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Ford is investing another $450 million in electric vehicle development and facility retooling, bringing its total investment in this area to a cool $1 billion.

The latest monetary infusion, a part of its “Electrification Strategy,” paves the way for the Dearborn, Mich. carmaker to engineer, produce and launch new electrified vehicles, battery systems and hybrid transaxles, while creating up to 1,000 new jobs in the state.

Ford will build what it calls a next-generation hybrid vehicle and a plug-in hybrid vehicle at the Michigan Assembly Plant beginning in 2012, in addition to producing the new Ford Focus and Focus Electric at the same plant in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

In addition, the company announced it will design advanced lithium-ion battery systems for the next generation hybrid in Michigan and move production of battery packs from Mexico to Michigan.

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Stryker Ups Commitment to Sustainability by Acquiring Ascent Healthcare Solutions

Kathryn Siranosian | Tuesday January 12th, 2010 | 0 Comments

A few weeks ago, Stryker, an international powerhouse in medical technology and one of the largest players in the $35.6 billion global orthopedic market, acquired Ascent Healthcare Solutions, the  leading provider of medical device reprocessing and remanufacturing services for hospitals and surgery centers across North America.

It’s an acquisition that underscores the delicate balance the health care sector must strike between three seemingly disparate elements: quality care, cost and sustainability.

Ascent helps customers reprocess and recycle medical products—such as reusable blood pressure cuffs, compression sleeves, and orthopedic external fixation devices—that they would otherwise  needlessly throw away.  In fact, according to the Ascent website, in 2007, the company saved hospitals and their patients in excess of $100 million dollars in supply expenses, while diverting 3.4 million pounds from community landfills (an estimated $1.6 million in waste savings).

Triple Pundit asked Patrick Anderson, Vice President, Corporate Affairs of Stryker, to fill us in on the details of this new acquisition and what it says about the growing importance of sustainability in the health care sector.

Stryker’s products include:  implants used in joint replacement, trauma, and spinal surgeries; endoscopic, surgical navigation, communications and digital imaging systems; and patient handling and emergency medical equipment.

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United Airlines Demonstrates How to Lose Customers: Death by 1000 Cuts

| Tuesday January 12th, 2010 | 16 Comments

An often overlooked aspect of sustainability concerns positive relations between a company and its myriad stakeholders – with the customer usually the first and most basic stakeholder to maintain good relations with. It’s not rocket science – treat people well and you’ll get treated well, customers will return and so on. Fail to do that and eventually your competitors will take your place – even stealing away your most loyal former customers. If you can’t even manage to build goodwill among the people you serve, then how can your company take on the greater challenges of sustainability – more abstract stakeholders, the environment, and so on?

The airline industry is in flux – driven by high fuel prices, insane security restrictions, environmental challenges, and a general economic malaise. It’s no surprise therefore that cuts have to be made and inconvenience tolerated by all. But there are lines that, even when under stress, a company shouldn’t cross. It’s time to pick on United Airlines. This isn’t to say other airlines haven’t declined in their general customer service outlook in recent years, just that United has made some of the most egregious boondoggles I’ve personally encountered.

Let’s start with a website trick:

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Communication Tools and Seed Bombs

CCA LiveE | Monday January 11th, 2010 | 4 Comments

By Anna Acquistapace

Feelings have never been a part of my past educational experience. We are taught to approach education as a purely intellectual endeavor that requires learning the material then proving you know it when exams come around. However, as we grow into adulthood through our school years, our emotional education develops unguided and intuitively. What we learn is that knowing and feeling are two separate realms that exist in two different spheres, public and private.

In our dMBA LiveE course on communication, we learn that effective communication is informed as much by what we know in an intellectual way as by what we feel in an emotional way. There seems to be a myth that communication in business is about asserting solutions to problems and proving these solutions using numbers and calculations. By doing this, you will be able to convince people that you are in control and have the answers. But, what I’ve realized is that the real value of communication is learning, understanding and connecting. While numbers and information can play an important supporting role, building communication paths based on open dialogue, exchange and feelings lead to richer, holistic solutions.

One exercise from this class involved a performance piece called “Teach Us Something in 7 Minutes.” From this experience, I learned several tools for effective communication that I will carry with me.

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