Clean Tech Open: The Top Three Green Challenges for Start-Ups

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Clean Tech logo-mainBy Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

I had the opportunity to be a sustainability coach to some of the Clean Tech Open semifinalists earlier this week. The Clean Tech Open is an organization of leading entrepreneurs, academics, investors and companies, working together to accelerate the development of clean technology start-ups.

In addition to getting support around marketing, finance and intellectual property issues, the Annual Business Competition provides green mentoring and sustainability workshops to help clean tech entrepreneurs integrate sustainability into their business plans.

I was one of five volunteer advisers; over the day we met with a range of start-ups in 45-minute sessions.  They gave a pitch and we then drilled down deeper into the issues associated with the environmental benefits of their product, the life cycle issues raised by manufacturing and the pitch to stakeholders.

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Used Cooking Oil and Recycled Glass Make Candles for Japanese Start-up

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Filt, a Japanese startup, puts old cooking oil to a new use: candles. The Tokyo-based company has implemented a unique process, Fast Company reports. First, it collects used cooking oil from cafés and other local sources. Then, it filters, colors, and scents the oil. Finally, it congeals the oil in containers made of recycled glass (which it finds in local recycling bins). Filt’s product line speaks for itself: who knew up-cycled products could be so… cute? Yet Filt’s approach highlights more than just an innovative re-use of a common household product. By appealing to a wider, more domestic consumer base, Filt could be making “sustainability” more of a household name, so to speak. Does the sale of products like these suggest that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those battling to take sustainability mainstream?

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Kenyan Entrepreneurs’ Bike Powered, Phone Charging Dynamo

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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(from the BBC)

(from the BBC)

In an inspiring bit of can-do from southern Africa, two electrical engineering students at Kenya’s Nairobi University have built a cellphone charger that uses energy generated from riding a bicycle.

Cellphone use in Kenya has gone from 200,000 in 2000 to 17.5 million today. But in a country with intermittant electricity, Kenyans routinely pay the equivalent of $2 to charge their phones — in a country with  per capita income of $1600.

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Australia Breaks its Own Record in Renewable Energy Goals

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Australia’s Parliament passed a law Thursday that set the country’s renewable energy goals for the next 11 years: the country must draw 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources (for example, sun and wind) by 2020. Reaching the 20 percent goal would allow Australia to provide enough clean energy to power all 21 million Australians’ households, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

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Plextronics: Developing Inks that Convert Sunlight into Electricity

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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plexcorePVink Imagine being able to “print out” solar-photovoltaic cells on to just about any type of base—from electronic gadgets and textiles to walls, windows and roofs. While there are numerous hurdles—technological and financial—to negotiate, the ability to manufacture PV cells from the readily available hydrocarbon feedstock used to make plastics would ratchet down manufacturing costs—possibly as low as $1/watt—while making scaling up production capacity that much easier and profitable, industry insiders and analysts say.

It’s hard to imagine what combination of circumstances led to the discovery of inks that conduct and convert sunlight into electricity, but pioneering companies such as Pittsburgh-based Plextronics are hot on the “organic PV” and printed electronic circuitry R&D and commercialization trail.

Based on research and development of conductive polymers originally done by Richard McCullough and spun off as a commercial enterprise from Carnegie Mellon University in 2002, Plextronics’ subsequent work is attracting more and greater interest from established, mainstream plastics, electronics and solar-PV technology providers. Yesterday, Plextronics announced that Solvay North American Investments LLC—the venture capital arm of an international, Brussels-based chemical, plastics and pharmaceutical group–led a successful, $14 million round of “Series B-1″ financing.

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Eight U.S. Airlines Sign Deal to Use Alternative Fuels

| Thursday August 20th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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Rentech Inc, a renewable energy and synthetic fuel manufacturer, has announced a partnership with eight U.S. airlines to use up to 1.5 million gallons a year of synthetic diesel fuel made from plant waste starting in 2012.

The feed stock will come mostly from “woody green waste” such as yard clippings and other urban wood scrap. The fuel will power ground-service vehicles and equipment at Los Angeles International Airport.

On board for the deal is American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and UPS Airlines.

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Southern California Edison to Complete Big Solar Power Project

| Thursday August 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Southern California Edison signed a deal with Arizona’s First Solar, Inc., in which the companies will construct two solar power facilities (one near Desert City in Riverside County and another in San Bernardino County). First Solar will begin building the 250-megawatt Riverside facility in 2012 and the 300-megawatt San Bernardino facility in 2013 and completing both facilities in 2015. When the facilities are complete, Edison will buy solar power from them, and First Solar will sell them to investors.

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BP Invests in Biofuel Research – Are Oil Firms Coming Around?

| Thursday August 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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In the midst of certain lobbyists’ underhanded attempts to prevent climate change legislation, one oil giant, BP, has joined the biofuel-research-by-oil-firms club. BP recently invested $10 million in a joint project investigating new techniques for converting sugar into biodiesel. BusinessGreen.com reports that, according to BP Biofuels Chief Executive Philip New, the project will allow BP to deliver sustainable, economic, and scalable biodiesel supplies. Granted, this could easily be “we’re sustainable – really!” rhetoric, or a cursory attempt to appear environmentally concerned. After all, who really knows a corporation’s true intentions? If BP is sincere, though, its research could contribute significantly to the evolution of a sustainable energy mentality. Yet could investment in biofuels by a well-known oil firm undo the economic and environmental damage of years of investing in unclean fuels? And could BP’s investment be a sign that oil firms in general are starting to come around?

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Social Networking: a Key Part of Your Sustainability Communications Strategy

| Thursday August 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Social-Network-SustyEffective sustainability strategies depend on many moving parts. Sustainability change experts reading this blog will tend to have more than a little experience with most of them! However, there’s one tool that we’ve seen chronically underutilized: social networking. These tools aren’t just for connected teenagers anymore – effective use of social networking can make all the difference in effectively communicating sustainability efforts while positively impacting image and brand. Using sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, savvy organizations can now easily and inexpensively (think sustainable!) communicate directly to their customers.

Social networking can and should be a crucial part of every comprehensive sustainability strategy. Read on to discover how it can maximize the return on your sustainability initiatives.

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Wind Versus Natural Gas: First Skirmish of the Renewable Energy Revolution?

| Thursday August 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

windturbine2Natural gas is being touted as our bridge to clean power. It’s dirty, but not nearly as dirty as coal. It’s non-renewable fossil fuel, but the US produces 85% of the gas we use in this country domestically, and we have estimated reserves that could last us 75 years or more.

Well, the bridge has already been built, at least in some parts of the country, and natural gas is beginning to feel the heat. The Wall Street Journal, cribbing from a surprisingly readable report(PDF) by Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., an investment bank, suggests that 100% renewable wind power is already muscling out natural gas as a provider of electrical generation in Texas.

Texas currently has about 8,000 Mw of installed wind generation, and another 10,500 Mw should be installed by 2013, according to Tudor Pickering. Since much of that electricity is generated when the state would otherwise be using gas turbines, the two sources are direct competition, and wind is winning.

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API’s Faux Grassroots Campaign Draws Greenpeace’s Ire

Richard Levangie | Thursday August 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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God bless Greenpeace.

Faced with a multimillion dollar media juggernaut devised by the American Petroleum Institute (API), Greenpeace countered with simplicity and honesty: A grassroots campaign that speaks the truth to power, and turns up the heat on oil executives.

To cut to the chase, last week Greenpeace came to possess an API memo that described an expensive misinformation campaign — under the banner of Energy Citizen rallies — in great detail.

To their credit, API execs admitted that the email was authentic — perhaps because it was ready to launch — and that the $45 million initiative is designed to look like a grassroots rally, and not a staged event run by an experienced marketing company. It’s all about optics, and getting on the nightly news.

And that’s about as fair as I can be to API.

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Back to School Special: Sierra Club Names Top Ten Eco-Enlightened Schools

| Thursday August 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

Colleges are getting their green on.  From local, organic food to renewable energy to green building, for students who embody green values, the Sierra Club just announced the top ten eco-enlightened colleges, with the University of Colorado (CU) heading the pack. Go Ralphie (CU’s buffalo mascot)!

According to Sierra Club, “Back in the day, high schoolers looking at colleges were mainly concerned with three things: prestige, location, and whether the place had a rockin’ social life.

These days, however, applicants look for something more: a school with green credentials.”

For students who want to attend a school with a green track record, or for returning students interested in improving sustainability programs on their campus, the Sierra Club guide is a great resource. And hopefully by studying at a green campus all students will leave with a greener ethic to apply to their work and lives.

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Naturally Gorgeous? Sephora Has Their Own Definition

| Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 8 Comments

sephora-natural A recent trip to Sephora to replace my favorite (and highly toxic) lip gloss sparked a question: What is “natural” beauty? I would define it as something unchanged by human hands, as in a sunset, a wild flower, or a good-looking person with no make up. Sephora defines it as make up containing “natural” ingredients.

But here’s where we start getting into trouble. There is no official definition of “natural” when it comes to beauty products. Unlike Certified Organic, there’s no USDA when it comes to cosmetics. The government regulates what passes through our lips, but not what we put on them. This leaves the door open to companies like Sephora to create their own definition of what  natural products are.

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American Petroleum Institute’s “Energy Citizens” Website Is Not a Pretty Picture

| Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 10 Comments

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When it comes to combating climate change legislation, the American Petroleum Institute (API) plays dirty (pun intended). In its efforts to prevent the climate bill from passing, the API recently launched a website – “Energy Citizens” – which allows site visitors to e-petition legislators and speak out against the bill. (API’s launching of the site is in line with recent goings-on at town hall meetings by (alleged) oil lobbyists and absurd “clean coal” advertising.) What kind of long-term social and economic effects will this “astroturfing” have?

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Dot Eco LLC Names Chief Environmental and Policy Officers

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday August 19th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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We’ve been giving a fair amount of ink to the Dot Eco LLC plan to establish a green top-level web domain (TLD)–and to its battles against other groups attempting to do the same. Will this TLD unite or distract the environmental movement? Is Gore’s endorsement enough to save .eco from the dustbin of other TLDs, such as .mobi and .tv?

You’ll get different answers to those questions, but one thing is for sure: the PR machine at Dot Eco is bound to keep the news flowing. Dot Eco issued three press releases in the past week, the last two of which serve to introduce new appointees to the group’s management. (And it sounds like more appointments are coming soon.)

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