Four Game-Changing Technologies You’ve Never Heard Of

| Tuesday December 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

finland-shipFinland is a country that is very generous with its entrepreneurs. According to the representatives from Tekes, a publicly funded organization for financing research, development and innovation in Finland, it’s pretty easy for most entrepreneurs to get low-interest grants and loans for 1 million euros or less. That’s obviously pretty appealing to many would-be entrepreneurs (one of the entrepreneurs we spoke to called Tekes the “Finnish rainmaker”), and in turn this easy access to funding makes it pretty easy for game changing technologies to have a shot at reaching the mainstream.

Here are four interesting startups we learned about during my visit to Finland last week:

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Money Talks: Cash Prizes Spur Innovation

Steve Puma | Monday December 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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In the glorious Past Before Television, adventurous men and women gained fame and fortune by testing their skills in competitions designed to expand the limits of human knowledge and innovation. Several organizations are bringing back this kind of “innovation prize” in a big way, with competitions designed to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges, and expand its horizons beyond terrestrial limits.

One of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in history was the result of a prize offered by the British government in the 18th century. At that time, many ships were being lost due to the inaccuracies involved in calculating their longitude at sea. The previous method, dead reckoning, introduced greater errors the farther the ship got from a known point, usually ending in loss of life and heated discussions about the velocity of various types of swallows. The British Parliament offered the modern equivalent of $4.56 million for a solution to the Longitude Problem.

One of the potential solutions to the problem required invention of a marine chronometer of such high accuracy that even Sir Issac Newton doubted that it could be created. But, in 1730, clockmaker John Harrison set himself to the task, and effectively solved the multiple problems of corrosion, temperature, humidity and durability within five years, (although it took him another thirty to collect his prize) a task which has been compared to the landing of men on the moon in the 1960s.

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McDonald’s Gets Green…In Its Logo

| Monday December 7th, 2009 | 4 Comments

mcdonalds

McDonald’s is doing things a little backwards. Usually, how it works is: companies go green, and then change their logo to reflect these new, sustainable practices.

But McDonald’s Europe has decided to go ahead and make that logo switch first. An Associated Press article reports that European McDonald’s is exchanging its traditional red color for a deep hunter green in an effort to project a more environmentally friendly image.

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Electric Vehicles: The News Keeps Coming

Steve Puma | Monday December 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

In years to come, we may look back on 2009 as the year that electric vehicles became mainstream–at least as far as the media is concerned. The past few weeks have been no different as a number of organizations from all over the automotive industry made EV-related announcements. One of these organizations, the Cleantech Group, seems to be bucking the trend with its prediction that so-called Smart Mobility will overtake EVs in 2010, although AutoBlogGreen’s Sebastian Blanco disagrees, and argues that, as far as the media is concerned, 2010 will be even bigger for EV news.

Fueling the Imagination

Fxprize-logo-lg.jpgor example, just hearing the words “X-Prize” is bound to conjure up images of maverick entrepreneurs competing for millions of dollars of prize money to achieve new milestones in air and space flight. That’s exactly what the founders of the X-Prize Foundation want you to think about when you hear about the Progressive Automotive X-Prize, a new competition which focuses on environmentally-friendly automobiles instead of airplanes and rockets. As we reported in a previous article, the competition awards a $10 million dollar prize to the car that, in addition to being the winner in a series of speed and endurance trials, must achieve an effective 100 miles per gallon, have a 200 mile range, and adhere to a large number of very stringent design and safety criteria.

According to the New York Times, the new X-Prize is receiving a boost from the Federal government in the form of $5.5 million of stimulus money from the Department of Energy. This support of competition seems like a good way to promote fairness and innovation, especially since the DOE has been previously accused of stifling innovation in the automotive sector with its Advanced Technology Manufacturing Loan program.

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New Global Study: Not All Salmon Are Created Equal

| Monday December 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

sockeye-salmon-raceFood production, in aggregate, is considered to be the single largest source of environmental degradation globally. Fisheries around the world are suffering, and while the ecological impacts of this destruction could be catastrophic if not corrected, the environmental, economic and social impacts are also staggering. For concerned consumers, it’s important to think about how food was produced and transported and not just where it was produced.

A global study of salmon conducted by Dalhousie University, Ecotrust and the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology shows that sustainable food production may not be so sustainable. This three-year study points the way to sustainable salmon production and, along the way, debunks some food sustainability myths. Rather than pushing for organic or land-based production, or worrying about “food miles,” the study finds that the world can achieve greater environmental benefits by focusing on improvements to key aspects of production and distribution. The researchers chose salmon as their focus because it exemplifies important characteristics of modern food systems and offers unique opportunities for comparison.

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Kohl’s Plans Carbon Neutral (That’s Zero) Footprint Next Year

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday December 7th, 2009 | 3 Comments

kohlsKohl’s Department Stores is going all-in on carbon neutrality.

The Wisconsin company says it’s the first retailer to commit to reaching a net zero greenhouse gas emission as part of a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leader program.

It’s a bold assertion but Kohl’s appears ready to back up it with action.

It will continue to invest in projects to reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions that it emits into the atmosphere. And it wants to accomplish this net zero status by the end of 2010.

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Endgame: Understanding a Global Climate Imperative

| Monday December 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments

beach well 400

Photo Credit: Philip Blenkinsop / NOOR

More than 20 years ago, David Wirth, at the time a senior attorney at the NRDC, wrote about the imperative of climate protection in global politics. “The international community cannot afford to delay elevating the greenhouse effect to the top of the foreign-policy agenda,” Wirth wrote in Foreign Policy.

The editor’s note of Endgame, the latest installment of Dispatches, a quarterly focused on issues ranging from the environment to the economy to the war in Iraq, opens with this historical claim of the importance of environment in the world’s socio-economic discourse. Two decades ago, people were saying practically the exact same thing as we are now. Though the lexicon of Wirth and James Hansen and several other notable environmental commentators from the time has slightly shifted—now the lingo is climate change or global warming—the underlying notion is still very much intact: The way we live our lives is unsustainable.

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COP15 Begins: Here Are the Solutions We Need Now

| Monday December 7th, 2009 | 6 Comments

Today marks the start of UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, or COP15 as it’s widely known. A culmination of years of planning, months of lobbying by pressure groups such as those coordinated by TckTckTck. There’s a lot of anticipation and speculation as to what’s going to happen. Not all of it optimistic.

While the outcome of these meetings isn’t clear, one group is doing its best to offer hope, knowledge, and actions for us mere mortals. Ode Magazine has created The Solutions We Need Now, a publication it will be distributing 50,000 copies of to delegates and participants in Copenhagen. A free digital version of it is available to everybody else for a limited time here.
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It pragmatically addresses these solutions in three sections: What needs to be done; how to do it; and what you can do.

Sustainability heavyweights such as Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, Al Gore and Lester Brown weigh in here with encouraging words and big ideas, but it’s the real world examples happening globally that are intriguing:

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Hara and Sustainable Silicon Valley Announce a New Partnership

| Monday December 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

SSVHaralogo_smallSustainable Silicon Valley (SSV), a cross-sector collaboration of more than 100 leading businesses, governmental agencies and NGOs working to improve Silicon Valley’s environmental quality, and Hara, the providers of a comprehensive carbon and water footprint tool (click here to read an earlier 3P post on Hara), today announced a new partnership at SSV’s Water Summit. The partnership is aimed at helping SSV partners reduce carbon emissions, water use and waste.

SSV partners are encouraged to measure and report on sustainability efforts and resource consumption through a regional registry. With today’s announcement, SSV will be transitioning to a data collection system powered by Hara’s Environmental and Energy Management (EEM) solution.

According to the Hara web site, the EEM gives organizations “auditable transparency and control of their ‘organizational metabolism’ — the collective resources consumed and expended by an organization — including energy, water, waste, carbon and other natural resources.”

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Why “ClimateGate” Is Irrelevant to Business

| Sunday December 6th, 2009 | 79 Comments

man-bear-pigIn case you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt been aware of a fiasco which emerged in the last few weeks from the University of East Anglia in the UK concerning unprofessional bickering between climate scientists exposed by an apparent email hacker. The FOXNews crowd is calling it proof that climate change (at least the human induced kind) is a hoax perpetrated by a grand conspiracy among corrupt scientists bent on installing a global uber-government and so on and so forth… It’s therefore not the least bit coincidental that the conspiracy has emerged immediately before the COP15 talks in Copenhagen.

First things first, some of this is a really big screw up, and some of these scientists should be disciplined or fired (as well as whoever was behind the illegal hacking). But at the end of the day, the controversy only proves that some scientists, like some people, can be petty chumps who bicker and cheat. Not cool, but hardly proof that global warming is a hoax. And more importantly, hardly an argument against reducing our burning of fossil fuels and many of the other sustainability efforts 3p argues for. “ClimateGate” is 95% engineered distraction by an unfortunate part of the business community who prefer kicking and screaming to evolution.

So let me get to the point…

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TerraCycle Heads North with Kraft Canada

Tom Szaky | Sunday December 6th, 2009 | 3 Comments
Photo Courtesy of TerraCycle

Photo Courtesy of TerraCycle

The end of this year has been a return to our roots for TerraCycle in many ways. First with the opening of our first retail store a few blocks from where I first had a basement “office,” and now we’re going north to Canada–where I grew up and where we had our first major sales of product, to The Home Depot and Walmart Canada.

This new Canadian endeavor is, in fact, with Kraft–the first company with which we made a major agreement to collect branded waste in order to upcycle it into new products.  In two years, our US partnership withKraft on Capri Sun juice packs has resulted in more than 35,000 collection points, millions of pouches collected, and more than $250,000 donated to a variety of causes.

So working in Canada is just a matter of replicating what we’ve done down here in the US, in a different longitude, right? Not quite.

Canadians are not the same people as Americans, and though their land mass is quite large in relation to the US, their population is not. At just shy of 34 million people, it is a fraction of America’s more 300 million people.

Are we making a mistake launching in such a relatively smaller market? I say no.

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Original Restaurants: Promoting Independent Local Restaurants

Tori Okner | Saturday December 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments

pic.0Ever take a side road out of town and stop for a bite at a truly charming restaurant and wonder how it stays in business? How it competes with the chains? The answer may lie with a rewards program run by Original Restaurants. Just two years old, it aims, “to promote unique, local restaurants,” a mission increasingly embraced by customers and small restaurant owners across the United States.

Entrepreneur Kermit Austin witnessed firsthand the struggles independent restaurant owners faced; he worked his way through college as a busboy, waiter, and bartender. He hunted for local restaurant specials – trying to save a buck in the Tuscon restaurant scene. With a Management Information System’s degree from the University of Arizona, Austin developed expertise in web design. The relationships he developed landed him website projects, work that helped pay for his degree, and paved the foundation for future successful businesses.

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No Water No Beer: Big Issues in Beverage Companies’ Water Footprints

David Lewbin
| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 2 Comments

empty beerAt the 2nd Corporate Footprinting Conference, which took place this week in San Francisco, big brands in the beverage industry were front and center, presenting sophisticated “bleeding edge” strategies for addressing their water footprints. Water, for obvious reasons, is critical to these players, and they sent executive directors to report on their progress, challenges, and learning. Each did their dog and pony slide-ware show, speaking to the global water crisis, and how it is has become crystal clear that without water, bottom line, they have no business.

At the same time, these companies are well aware of their customer’s evolving concerns. In a late 2009 survey spanning 15 countries, water pollution and fresh water shortages were the respondents first and second most serious environmental concerns. Climate change and global warming ranked a surprisingly distant sixth. The study also revealed that the public holds water companies second only to the government in terms of their responsible for ensuring clean water.  No water/no business, combined with clear customer stakeholder attitudes as to water/beverage companies responsibilities, pushes and pulls these companies to take the lead in addressing their water impacts across their supply chain and product lifecycle.

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Business Not As Usual: Climate Action Chain Reaction And More

John Laumer | Friday December 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments
US Senator Robert Byrd

US Senator Robert Byrd

  1. All manner of dramatic actions and hyperbolic statements are being made regarding the upcoming climate meeting in Copenhagen.  No wonder industry leaders are keeping still. For a quick sampling of the latest, consider: Sen. Byrd to Big Coal: “Let’s Speak a Little More Truth.” and, Sarah Palin Issues Statement Calling for Obama to Boycott Copenhagen, Mocking Environmentalists; and, Government of Nepal Meets on Everest to Discuss Climate Change; and, Lou Dobbs Outraged That Obama’s Attending Copenhagen (Audio); and, well that’s enough of that. You see the point. Business significance: U1/C5
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Forests as Feedstocks: The Finnish Approach

| Friday December 4th, 2009 | 10 Comments
Nuuksio National Forest on the Outskirts of Helsinki

Nuuksio National Forest on the Outskirts of Helsinki

I’m on the eve of my return home to San Francisco from a lovely time in Finland.

Our wonderful hosts at Finnfacts planned a special last day for us in Nuuksio National Park where we hiked in the woods, smoked our own venison sausages over the fire, and dipped ourselves in a frozen lake and then raced into the sauna.

It was amazing. I gained a new understanding for the deep connection Finns have to the natural world. Don’t get me wrong, Metso the biomass company still has some work to do on its environmental initiatives, but on my tour today I felt like the woods would never end and I saw them as a source for fuel and life-sustaining energy in a way I haven’t ever quite before.

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