A Head Start on Climate and Energy – On the Ground in Germany

Thomas Schueneman | Thursday May 14th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Part one in a series of reports looking at Germany’s energy and climate policies, and how they might serve as a model for the U.S. and internationally

alternative energy becomes more mainstream in GermanyI spent last week in Germany as a guest of the German Foreign Ministry. Part of an international group of 12 other writers, television broadcasters, journalists, and bloggers, invited to participate in a “thematic trip” entitled Climate Protection – International Cooperation on Climate and Energy.

In subsequent posts, I will review what I saw and learned as we explored the public policy and industrial innovation that puts Germany at the head of international efforts to adapt to a low carbon society based on efficiency and renewable energy.

Organized and implemented by the Ecologic Institute, a not-for-profit environmental research think tank, our agenda was “dense” (as the Germans characterized it) providing for us a thorough overview of the agencies, policies, and industries working to achieve the ambitious goals of the country. Here’s a brief look:
Berlin:

Dessau

“Solar Valley”

  • Q. Cells (the largest global manufacturer of mono and multi-crystalline solar cells) – an overview of the business and tour of the production line

Spremburg

  • Schwarze Pumpe – the first coal (lignate) fired plant capturing its own carbon using the Oxyfuel process

Bonn

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Scott Henderson: Keeping Cause Marketers Honest

| Thursday May 14th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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I first connected with Scott Henderson on Twitter, where we became instant friends, united in championing cause marketing and trading insights around sustainable business. Since then, he has been a continual source of knowledge as someone who is perpetually plugged into the philanthropy market, quickly identifying and evaluating a company’s true commitment to the causes they support. A consciousness watchdog of sorts, intent on keeping cause marketers honest about their initiatives, Scott is not afraid to call out the culprits who employ it as a flavor-of-the-month tactic. Fundraising expert and cause innovator, Scott parlays his vast experience from gift officer of a $770+ million dollar compaign at the University of Nebraska Foundation to his current role as Director of Cause Marketing with Media Sauce in helping nonprofits and corporations use online media to pull off their next big thing. He also recently organized the Pledge to End Hunger campaign, where he successfully used social media to raise $28,000 for Share Our Strength. If it’s cause-related, philanthropy focused or sharp, results-driven strategy, chances are you’ll come across Scott Henderson. Or, if you’re being inauthentic in your cause marketing efforts, chances are, he’ll sniff you out.

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PR Battle Over Cap-and-Trade Reaches a Fevered Pitch

Richard Levangie | Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 5 Comments

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Oil and coal companies — the most vocal opponents of US cap-and-trade climate legislation — have spent more than $76 million over the last four months on public relations and mass advertising trying to to defeat the climate bill now before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. When you combine that incredible sum with money spent by gas producers and heavy industries, it’s safe to claim that many of America’s leading companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in 2009 to discredit climate change legislation and, by extension, the science of global warming. One environmentalist suggested that the final tally will be in excess of $1 billion.
Which isn’t to suggest that cap-and-trade legislation supporters haven’t opened their pockets, too: it’s just that their bank accounts aren’t nearly so deep. The Campaign Media Analysis Group suggests that cap-and-trade proponents have spent $28.6 million to convince us that a low-carbon economy is vitally important to the US, and the planet.

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Catalyze a Green Business Revolution in Your Town with a Green Tour and/or Expo

Scott Cooney | Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment

sustainableexpo2.jpgFollowing the lead of an organization called the East Bay Green Tours, the city of Richmond, CA, long considered a crime-ridden afterthought of the more well-heeled East Bay cities of Oakland and Berkeley, is making strides to help a small but fluorishing green business community take off. Tomorrow, I will attend their first green tour (on hydrogen bus) and “Green is Gold Expo,” put on by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
None of this is particularly new for the East Bay, long considered a hub of sustainable enterprise, but it is new for Richmond. In fact, if you google “Richmond California,” you’ll understand why this event, and the effort that brought it here, is terrific news.
What it could mean for the city is good, green jobs as advocated by Van Jones, cleaner communities, less crime, and a much better tax base that should help provide better public services. And after speaking with several Richmond-ites, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were not surprised at all. The level of sustainability IQ in Richmond far surpassed my San Francisco-elitist green snobbery preconception. (And I am happily eating a nice fat slice of humble pie). But it leads to the inevitable question: if Richmond is turning into such a hub of green business, who isn’t? And if they’re not, is it just because no one has organized a green tour to help mobilize the community and bring awareness to the issue?

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In Vauban, Germany, Every Day Is Bike to Work Day

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment

vauban_carfree.jpgVauban took the Subaru out of the suburbs. And the BMW and the Mercedes and every other car. OK: maybe not each and every car, but most of them. That’s because this small suburb near Freiburg, Germany (close to the French and Swiss borders) decided to restrict automobiles on all but just main street and a few byways in and around town. Residents can own a car, but they must park it at the edge of town and pay a staggering $40,000 for a spot, according to the New York Times.
Vauban isn’t brand new. It was completed in 2006. But if it thrives, it will become the poster child for the so-called smart planning movement, which is really just about planning new living communities that look a lot like old living communities. Stores, services and schools are close to homes. Homes are close to each other. Public transportation makes everything accessible and those who have cars don’t need them unless they’re leaving town.

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Greendig: A Daily Video Sieve of the World’s Top Sustainable/Environmental News

| Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Karl Burkart, tech blogger for MNN.com has decided to make his own “humble attempt” as he puts it to, cover, “REAL current news (not tips and tricks) — about climate policy, conservation, new technologies, green business trends,” on his site, Greendig.
Not that he thinks what’s out there isn’t valid, but that it tends to skew to the lifestyle end of the spectrum. Definitely filling a need, but not meeting one he saw, for quick overviews of life and planet changing news.
It’s simple: In a five or so minute segment, he talks about the 5 top stories as he sees them, coming in from the blogs he reads, trends on Twitter, etc. It quickly gives context to and information about topics you may have had on the periphery of your awareness, or may not have even been aware of yet. In a world where there’s millions of voices on the web calling for your attention, Karl filters it down to the essential news of the day.
Let’s watch Karl himself explain why he’s doing this and what it will look like:

And, he intends this to be more than his single viewpoint of what’s news.

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Launching Your Solar Job Search

Frank Marquardt | Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The Solar Energy Industries Association believes that the stimulus plan, and its 19 provisions for aiding the solar industry, could create as many as 110,000 jobs over the next two years. But that won’t make landing one of those spots any easier.
As a result of a recessionary economy and layoffs at some firms earlier this year, plenty of people will be vying for those jobs. Here are some things you can do to get a leg up:

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Peak Oil or Climate Change: Which Is Most Urgent?

3p Contributor | Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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by Andre Angelantoni (For an in-person discussion of this topic, please RSVP here for May 21 meetup in San Francisco)
For a casual, scientifically-inclined observer, climate change used to be easy: the link between CO2 and climate change had been established, CO2 emissions were increasing year after year and unchecked growth was likely to see a world at least 2 degrees hotter than now — and possibly much more.
However, there is increasing evidence that some of the assumptions of fossil fuel availability used by the current set of atmospheric CO2 concentration projections are too high — in some cases much too high.
For instance, in 2004 Germany lowered its hard coal reserves from 23 billion tons to 0.183 billion tons — a 99 percent reduction. The UK and Botswana underwent similar reductions of 99 percent.
It looks like the US is due for a future reduction, too, though not on the scale of these three examples. In 2007 the National Academy of Science studied domestic coal reserves and urged a thorough reassessment because, in their view, “only a small fraction of previously estimated [coal] reserves are economically recoverable.” Subsequent studies put the peak of world and U.S. coal production between 2030 and 2040.

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Senators Deceive Voters with EPA Challenge

Jeff Siegel | Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 3 Comments

barasso.jpgWell, it looks like the deniers are back at it.
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans released a nine-page memo which included the opinions of a number of federal agencies regarding the regulation of greenhouse gases.
The document stated that factories, small businesses and institutions would be subject to unreasonable costs if the EPA proceeds with the regulation of greenhouse gases. This, my friends, is what the deniers do when their data is bogus, and their agendas are based more on political maneuvering than doing what’s right for the nation. They re-word, and repackage the same old argument in an effort to continue the debate.
No rational person has ever denied that the regulation of greenhouse gases would require some sort of price tag. But what most of these folks are refusing to acknowledge is that there have always been costs associated with the production of greenhouse gases. It’s just that these costs have consistently been externalized onto you, me and every living thing around us.

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Cluetrain 2.0: 10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media

| Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Rob Reed, the venerable mind behind MaxGladwell.com had an idea today – get 100+ websites to simultaneously publish a post on ten ways in which social media can “change” the world. Longtime readers of this site know my affection for The Cluetrain Manifesto, written 10 years ago which states:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter – and getting smarter faster than most companies.

Rob’s site is devoted to this principal and to making the best, most intelligent use of social media for positive change – not just in business, but everywhere else. His post follows….
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SAP Getting Serious About Clean Technology

| Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Multinational enterprise software leader SAP is getting serious about clean technology and reducing carbon emissions–both inside and outside the organization. Recent moves are a sign that SAP isn’t merely “talking the talk,” but “walking the walk” when it comes to reducing the negative environmental impact of its business.
On May 1, SAP announced details of the expansion of its campus in Philadelphia’s Newton Square. Designed by FXFOWLE Architects, the recently completed 200,000 square foot building’s sustainable design features include a roof planted with grass and other native plants, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and toilets that use rainwater.
SAP management apparently also sees clean information systems technology as a promising market segment. Just yesterday, the company announced that it was looking to acquire Clear Standards, Inc., a privately-held developer of a “Sustainability 2.0″ software-as-as-service (SaaS) information systems platform that enables companies to gather data, analyze, manage and report on the greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts of their operations.
*Image Courtesy of SAP Americas/FXFOWLE

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Ford Will Convert SUV Plant to Small Cars and New Electric Vehicle

Steve Puma | Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Ford Motor Company announced that it is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. The plant, formerly the production site for Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators SUVs, is one of three North American light truck plants Ford is retooling to build fuel-efficient small cars in the coming years.
This transformation will not only be a shift in the plant’s focus from large SUVs to small cars, it will also include more efficient assembly methods, more ergonomic design to improve working conditions, and an agreement with the United Auto Workers that implements new operating practices to improve quality and efficiency based on joint problem solving and continuous improvement .
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World’s Most Sustainable Coffee?

Scott Cooney | Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 10 Comments

coffee.jpgPop quiz: What are the 2 most commonly traded commodities on the planet? If you guessed bananas and wheat, you’re wayyy off. But who would guess bananas and wheat? Maybe if you just finished eating Shredded Wheat with chopped bananas you might have it on the brain, but odds are if you just did finish breakfast, you enjoyed it with a cup of the world’s #2 most traded.
Coffee, after petroleum (#1), is the second most traded commodity in the world. Of course, the name itself is very misleading. A commodity, according to my Econ textbook, is “something for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across markets. It is the same no matter who produces it…” Examples given are petroleum, iron ore, copper, as well as agricultural products such as corn, soy, wheat, ethanol, and yes, coffee.

Any coffee aficianado will tell you that coffee is anything but a commodity. Can anyone truly say there’s no difference between Folger’s and a local artisan roaster’s rich blends?

And of course, there’s the sustainability aspect. Coffee has been one of the darlings of the sustainability movement. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to switch from a conventional coffee to a truly sustainable one, and gives our conscience something to feel good about with every delicious sip. For coffee to be sustainable, it can achieve a variety of certifications. Organic, Fair Trade, and Shade-Grown, coffees are available in most any city in the world. Some coffees go even further.

So what is the most sustainable coffee on the planet?

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Conversations in Corporation: eBay’s Green Team in Progress

| Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay, stood underneath a pop-up tent on a rainy Friday in San Jose. He had on running shoes, old jeans, and wore an eBay Green Team tee over a long-sleeved, button-up shirt. For being the head of one of the most well-known names in Silicon Valley, he was refreshingly approachable and accessible. Employees came up to him, introduced themselves, and took the opportunity to speak with the man they had probably never even seen walking through the office hallways before. “The best thing about the Green Team,” he started, “is that it happened in a very eBay way.”

The crowd of a couple hundred listening to Donahoe and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed was mostly comprised of eBay employees—tired, wet, and cheerful after a green space beautification project sponsored by the company’s Green Team just miles away from the its corporate headquarters.

What started off as a scant 40 members, volunteering their time because they had a passion for sustainability, the Green Team has now exploded to over 100,000 strong after it opened up to community members (eBay sellers and customers) a little over than two months ago.

“The founding of eBay,” Donahoe said in an interview, “always had a socially conscious outlook, though it was never emphasized or articulated.” Donahoe also made a point to emphasize how inherently green eBay is. Its core offering, the eBay online marketplace, is about returning used goods to the market, supplanting the creation of new goods with large carbon footprints and removing products from the waste cycle. “We didn’t want to be the guys talking about it,” he said, referring to the company’s social values. “We want to be the guys doing it.”

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Green Marketing or Greenwashing? You Decide.

| Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 6 Comments

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Let me start by saying this is an interactive post. In order for it to be a stunning success, you need to pen your thoughts in the comment section below!

Normally at this time you would be reading my weekly column “Sustainably 101″. However, it is trade show season and I wanted to share a few stories from the road. Since April 20th, I have been speaking and attending conferences. First it was Coverings in Chicago, then off to Vegas for The National Hardware Show and The Hospitality and Design Expo.
One common theme carried throughout the exhibit hall: “green marketing”. Some displays excelled in telling their company and product’s green story. On the other hand, others failed miserably. Many companies disregarded environmental marketing regulations and guidelines, mainly because the marketing team didn’t know they existed. “Carbon Neutral” claims were highly visible, yet sales and marketing teams did not know how to talk to their customers about the carbon footprinting process, or if the product or manufacturing process was “carbon neutral”.
So, my question to you is this: Do you think the image above is marketing the product, company, or manufacturing process as carbon neutral? Yes, I have the answer. And, yes, I will share it with you after I receive your feedback!

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