Continental Airlines: Fly the VOC-Friendly Skies?

Leon Kaye | Wednesday March 10th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Celebrating its commitment to the environment, Continental Airlines is giving its planes a makeover, broadcasting its “eco-friendly skies.” Many corporations including Continental are working on reducing their carbon footprint, integrating sustainable practices on their supply chain and distribution channels, and finding alternative sources of energy to fuel their operations.  Companies like Google, GE, and Unilever are arguably leaders, either for greening their data centers, reducing waste at their manufacturing centers, or developing technologies that reduce dependence on fossil fuels.  Other corporations implement sustainable policies on one hand, but still have a troubling environmental impact:  Walmart paints its roof white, but still sells cheap goods that devour resources, including the fuel that hauls them; Coca-Cola is trending towards greener plastic in its bottles, but through its marketing materials, dismisses municipalities’ concerns over the amount of bottles that end up in landfills, and Apple touts sustainability but recently shot down two shareholder proposals related to sustainability reporting and management.

Which leads us back to Continental.  The Houston-based company is an impressive case study its how new management turned this company around during the 1990s.  Despite a difficult economic climate, Continental is still the USA’s fourth largest airline and is widely admired by its rivals.  In January 2009, Continental turned heads with a test flight over Houston, a twin-engine 737 fueled by oils from jatropha and algae mixed with traditional jet fuel. 

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Abt Electronics: Best Practices Aligning Value with Values

Bill Roth | Wednesday March 10th, 2010 | 0 Comments

“No one will ever be mad at you for going green,” says Mike Abt, one of the four brothers who operate Abt Electronics, recognized as one of the nation’s largest consumer electronics merchant. “In the old days they might have thought of me as a hippie.” Mike’s quote captures the very essence of how going green has moved from outside the mainstream and into the income statement.

Make no mistake, Abt Electronics is all about being price competitive in the cut-throat world of electronics retailing. Visit the website and you’ll see how aggressively they promote price. Yet, as merchants highly attuned to their customers they are also pioneering how to grow green revenues.

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PNW Takes Fast Route to Dirty Truck Cleanup

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday March 9th, 2010 | 0 Comments

The struggle to take “dirty” trucks operating in West Coast port areas off the road has been a major rallying cry for ports and environmentalists for at least five years, but the effort is beginning to pay off.

The Port of Seattle reports that its voluntary, buy-back incentive clean air program recently saw the 100th dirty truck removed from service, in just a matter of  a few months.

Called the Scrappage and Retrofits for Air in Puget Sound (ScRAPS) program, it began in November with the goal of taking cargo container haulers, or port drayage trucks with pre-1994 engines, off the road.

“So far, the program has exceeded expectations, scrapping 100 trucks in just a few months,” the port said in a press release. Through the program, truckers receive $5,000 or the blue book value of their truck – whichever is greater – in return for scrapping their old truck.

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Why Your Cable Guy Might Drive an Electric Vehicle Before You Do

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday March 9th, 2010 | 2 Comments

[Update: Ford just announced this morning that AT&T is the lead customer for the Transit Connect Electric. The telecom giant, which plans to spend $565 million to deploy more than 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles through 2018, will purchase two of the first Ford Transit Connect Electric vans.]

Last week, I took an all-electric version of Ford’s Transit Connect out for a spin here in San Francisco. It wasn’t all that exciting.

I’m not the only one who thought so, either. Of course, most utility vans aren’t exactly the haute couture of the auto world. They need to be reliable and easy to drive, not flashy.

But Ford’s strategy behind its rollout of the electric Transit Connect is smartly dressed. “This is the right vehicle for the right need,” Praveen Cherian, program manager of the Transit Connect, told me as we drove up Russian Hill on Pine Street. Since utility vans are driven on predictable routes, within a defined urban or suburban area, and are brought back to a central garage at the end of each day, fleet owners can enjoy the big benefit of electric vehicles—zero direct emissions—without worrying so much about their limitations—namely, limited range on a single battery charge.

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How Carbon Markets Can Deliver Local, Sustainable Development Throughout the World

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 9th, 2010 | 4 Comments

Images courtesy of Kincentricity Social Carbon

By Boyd Cohen, co-founder, Kincentricity Social Carbon

Carbon trading is a $100+ billion global industry driven largely by the regulated markets in Europe, where most of the offset trading is done on the European Union Trading System (EUTS). The primary tool resulting from the Kyoto Accord for generating offsets for the EUTS is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). CDM is an instrument originally designed to enable countries and companies from the developed world to develop lower-cost, high quality carbon offset projects in developing countries.

While it has arguably succeeded with that goal, it has fallen well short of achieving one of its secondary goals, which is to enable local, sustainable development in the developing world.

Yes, massive new hydroelectric power plants in China create renewable energy sources for their population, but they also have detrimental impacts on local ecosystems and often cause the displacement of thousands of local villagers. Methane capture from an oil refinery in Argentina also can generate sizable amount of offsets for a profit but can easily lack local impact.

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Energy Secretary Chu Fields Questions at ECO:nomics

| Tuesday March 9th, 2010 | 2 Comments

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, fresh from the inaugural ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, was the final and perhaps most anticipated speaker at last week’s ECO:nomics conference. Throughout the conference, regulatory uncertainty had been the greatest complaint of energy execs and venture capitalists alike. In comparison, the recession had up to this point been addressed rather cursorily: while it has certainly sapped financing for potentially disruptive technologies, the established players at the conference largely claimed that they had not reduced their innovation spend.


*image from energy.gov
Chu’s initial remarks focused on the DOE’s R&D priorities (with fun acronyms like BEET-IT) and Recovery Act investments. His tone balancing patience with urgency, he advocated for a comprehensive energy bill with a long-term signal that “there will be a cap on carbon and that cap will ratchet down.” Referencing the shifts from wood to coal and from coal to oil and natural gas, he noted that “shifts in energy supplies take decades, typically half a century,” even when the new supplies are economically superior, but that climate change demands we do it faster. During his talk, decades were often the timeframe, e.g., to work out siting and costing issues in long range transmission with centralized renewables. At the same time, Chu invoked China, more often than climate, as a reason to hurry: “We can still be the leader in this new industrial revolution…but the train is leaving the station.”

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Emission-Free Delivery in Paris

Leon Kaye | Tuesday March 9th, 2010 | 4 Comments

My memories of working in San Francisco are laced with images of bicycle messengers braving the steep hills and congested streets of the city’s Financial District.  Most of the packages were legal documents that were too long to fax and too costly to send by other courier services.  Over the past decade, however, the number of bike messengers in San Francisco has declined as the US Court system accepted electronic files of court documents.  Other cities, however, are seeing a surge in bike messenger services, because of speed, cost, and environmental concerns.

One such example is Paris-based Cycl’air, established in 2008.  

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eBay Aquisition: Has World of Good Sold Out?

RP Siegel | Monday March 8th, 2010 | 8 Comments

World of Good Inc., a company that has made a business of connecting artisans in developing countries with mainstream consumer markets, announced last week that eBay has fully acquired its brand and related assets. The company also announced that GreaterGood, a division of Charity USA has acquired its wholesale division and line of designer Fair Trade products. Existing relationships with retailers and artisan partners will be maintained. The terms of the transactions were not disclosed, but given eBay’s track record of significant acquisitions, we know that this is a company that believes in the adage, “you have to spend money to make money.”

We spoke with World of Good CEO Priya Haji, to understand the logic behind the sale and to ask her, “Has World of Good sold out?”

Triple Pundit: So what was the question you were trying to answer that ultimately led you to become a part of eBay?

Priya Haji: We started World of Good almost six years ago with the goal of opening much larger mainstream markets for small producers doing fair trade and sustainable products.

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In Seattle, Property Owners Competing to be Biggest Loser in “Kilowatt Crackdown”

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday March 8th, 2010 | 0 Comments

In Seattle, a nearly 100-year-old real estate trade association is using an age-old approach to encouraging energy conservation. It’s fostering competition.

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Seattle and King County is conducting its second annual Kilowatt Crackdown, a contest that encourages real estate developers across the Puget Sound region to reduce the amount of energy their properties consume.  The building with the biggest drop in energy consumption wins.

BOMA’s president Rodney Kauffman told The Seattle Times that in the contest’s inaugural year, the 53 buildings that competed saved “enough energy to power 1,000 homes for one year” (the Kilowatt Crackdown site breaks that down a bit more, explaining that the savings is equal to the electric consumption of 1,000 homes in the Northwest, which has very low electric rates, but it’s still a significant amount of conservation).

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Betting on RecycleBank: The Next Big Thing?

| Monday March 8th, 2010 | 4 Comments

In the CleanTech space, solar may be hot, the future of the smart grid may be bright, but Ron Gonen, CEO of RecycleBank, is proving that recycling can be sexy too.

At its ECO:nomics conference, the Wall Street Journal announced its first ranking of the Top 10 venture-backed, clean technology companies. The survey “seeks to identify green companies that have the capital, executive experience and investor know-how to succeed in an increasingly crowded field.” CEOs from three of the ten firms—John Baumstark of Suniva, Cree Edwards of eMeter, and RecycleBank’s Gonen—were on hand at the conference for an elevator pitch competition titled “Uncovering the Next Big Thing.” After the pitches and follow-up questions, the audience voted on who they would fund with a hypothetical million dollars. RecycleBank won the three-way race with nearly half of the votes.

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Soda Tax Ideas Grow Among Local Governments

Tori Okner | Monday March 8th, 2010 | 10 Comments

The notion of a soda tax has taken on new importance over the last few weeks as local governments increasingly consider the proposition–the term is loosely used to encompass any tax on sweetened beverages, both to be paid by the consumer and the producer. This week, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter put forth his 2011 budget proposal, including a 2 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. Last week, Colorado Governor Ritter signed a series of tax bills in an effort to keep the budget balanced and, in the process, implemented a similar tax. Two weeks ago, California Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez introduced a bill to tax sugary drinks. In New York, 2010 marks the second year that Governor Paterson has proposed taxing sugary beverages, and similar proposals are gaining traction across the country.

The possibility of a soda tax grabbed headlines at Triple Pundit and with mainstream media last September when President Obama deemed it worth consideration in an interview with Men’s Health. At the time, no such tax had been proposed in Congress. Earlier in the year, the Senate Finance Committee included it in a paper on funding options for health care reform. Yet, despite several reputable reports in support of the tax, published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, researches at UCLA, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Committee did not suggest a National Soda Tax in its 2009 Health Reform Proposal. Reaction to the omission by the Committee lead to prescient stipulation that state government would adopt soda tax before the federal government.

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A Day of Energy at ECO:nomics

| Friday March 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Allan Murray, Deputy Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal, suggests that the Journal started its ECO:nomics conference several years ago largely because of the near certainty of federal carbon legislation. At the third annual ECO:nomics conference this week, prospects for such legislation (e.g., a price on carbon) are murkier. This uncertainty was one of the key themes running through a suite of energy-focused sessions on the conference’s main day. The sessions covered a wide spectrum of the energy sector, from fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) to renewables (solar and wind); from established electric utilities to young ventures with potentially revolutionary technologies.

Credit: inhabitat.com

For the most part, the traditional energy executives carefully advocated for their place in a diversified energy portfolio and avoided aggressive, competitive comparison to each other. Though it may not have been universally accepted, the prevailing notion that ALL of these energy sources (nuclear included) are necessary in the near future went largely unchallenged. Further reinforcing the coalition-like atmosphere was the general preference, among those who were asked about it, for a national clean energy standard that includes nuclear and clean coal rather than a narrower renewable energy standard. The audience, able to weigh in on several questions via voting devices, tended towards a similar mindset, answering the questions “Can coal be clean?” and “Should America build significantly more nuclear power plants?” in the affirmative 56% to 44% and 66% to 34% respectively. In fact, the only truly feisty debate of the day was between thinkers Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute over the low cost potential of renewables and whether energy efficiency reduces or increases consumption (Jevon’s paradox).

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How To Make Your Business More Sustainable: Put it on Wheels!

| Friday March 5th, 2010 | 3 Comments

ban-startup-friday

For most people without a washer and dryer, there are three choices: carry your dirty stuff to the local laundromat, drive if it’s too much to carry, or pay someone to pickup and deliver it. For all of these, there are both a business and an environmental opportunity: Bikes.

Yes, as mentioned recently in Springwise, Argentina based Laundry Company has taken advantage of the increasing ability of bikes to carry larger loads, and is now offering a service that picks your laundry up and drops it off, all via a 3 wheel cargo bike (or old fashioned foot power) at no extra charge.

It’s not just a gimmick. Laundry Company provides a reusable fabric based laundry bag and its machines and detergent are designed to be lower impact, an energy savings of 40 percent. The company also neutralizes it carbon footprint via tree planting.

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Hello Rewind Project Gives New Life to Old T-Shirts and Sex Trafficking Survivors

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Friday March 5th, 2010 | 3 Comments

ban-startup-friday
Let’s face it.  Chances are pretty good you have an old t-shirt in your dresser that has seen better days, but for whatever reason, you just can’t seem to let it go.   Whether it has sentimental value or is a one-of-a-kind vintage tee, if you can’t part with that shirt, a new company, that is combining recycling with a mission, can put it to use.

While staring at a pile of old t-shirts in her Manhattan apartment and with no room to spare, Jess Lin wanted to make “something usable” out of all those shirts.  After developing a concept, Lin founded the Hello Rewind Project.  Hello Rewind upcycles old t-shirts into a one-of-a-kind usable product while providing help and assistance to sex trafficking survivors in New York City.

Many people may be surprised to learn that sex trafficking occurs in the United States.   In fact, this form of modern-day slavery has been reported in all 50 states. In 2004, the United States Department of Justice estimated that up to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States annually. While most of the victims are women, men and children are also victims.

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LL Bean Meets PACT: Tom’s of Maine Founds New Company for Wool Skivvies

| Friday March 5th, 2010 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-friday

Like LL Bean? Everyone knows how great its clothes are. Sure, they’re not known for being terribly stylish — but there’s something comforting about that Northeastern, down-homey functionality and durability. Just the right thing for a weekend working on the farm, taking a hike, or clearing brush.

Or what about PACT?  Recently profiled by MC O’Connor in another Startup Friday post, PACT’s gained many fans with its offbeat, half sexy, half cheeky approach to sustainably sourced underwear. It’s the kind of thing for sustainability geeks to wear when trying to be cool and sustainable at the same time.

But PACT doesn’t exactly communicate burly robustness, and you’ll be hard pressed to find many sustainable items at the LL Bean online store. Enter Ramblers Way Farm, a new apparel venture from the founders of Tom’s of Maine, Tom and Kate Chappell. Specializing in all types of base-layer clothing, Ramblers makes their products out of sustainably-produced wool, which is farmed and processed domestically, rather than relying on overseas facilities.

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