The Branding Case for Offset-Inclusive Carbon Management

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 30th, 2010 | 5 Comments

By Neil Braun, CEO, The CarbonNeutral Company

As US companies transition to a low carbon economy, carbon management represents a new and fundamental challenge for business. How companies respond to this challenge has become a strategic issue that can build or destroy brands and reputations.

If companies take on this challenge, carbon management presents an opportunity to deliver immediate business value. Even with a lack of clear international agreements and definitive US federal regulations, the business drivers for taking action on emissions reduction are only strengthening. What may initially appear to be a costly headache can become the cornerstone of CSR plans and a way to win customer loyalty.

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100% Renewable Energy “Achievable” for Europe by 2050: Study

| Tuesday March 30th, 2010 | 2 Comments

A new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) argues that Europe and North Africa can achieve complete independence from fossil fuels by 2050, and that all the technologies necessary for such a transformation are already in place.

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the European Climate Forum all contributed to the report, which was released Friday.

The report’s Executive Summary, which was made available online (PDF), provides a detailed road map of how such a monumental transformation could occur. Central to achieving the goal of decarbonization of Europe’s power supply is the creation of a continent-wide smart electrical grid.

Similar goals have been outlined for the US, where the relatively balkanized and out-moded electric grid is one hurdle to the expansion of renewable energy here.

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Kaiser Permanente Powering 15 California Facilities with Solar Power

Leon Kaye | Tuesday March 30th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Whatever your take is on the health care reform package that Congress recently passed, the fact remains that the health care industry will only grow over the next several years.  With as many as 30 million more customers enrolling in health insurance plans, the need for health care practitioners and facilities like hospitals will only increase.  And with more health care facilities, there will be heightened demand for energy.  With that in mind, Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, which has 8.6 million customers in 9 states, today announced that it is addressing its surging need for energy by installing 15 megawatts of solar power, spreading the project across 15 facilities across California by the summer of 2011.

Kaiser’s power purchase agreement (PPA) with Recurrent Energy involves installing solar panels on hospitals, medical offices, and other facilities.  According to Kaiser, the Recurrent deal is the first step in reaching its goal of having 25% of its energy requirements generated from renewable sources by 2020.  Kathy Gerwig, a Kaiser Vice President and its Environment Stewardship Officer, expects the company to pay the same rates as if they were buying the same amount of electricity from local grids–or even less.

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Report: Environmental Cost of Corporations in the Trillions

RP Siegel | Tuesday March 30th, 2010 | 0 Comments

A recent UN study by the British consulting firm Trucost, as reported in the Guardian, assessed the environmental impact that the three thousand top global corporations inflict. The study clocked this impact at a cost of $2.2 trillion dollars–a sum greater than the national budgets of all but seven countries in the world and approximately one-third of the total profits of the companies included in the study for the year 2008.

The study was commissioned by Principles for Responsible Investment, an investor initiative in partnership with UNEP Finance Initiative and the UN Global Compact.

The full report is scheduled to be published this summer. Some preliminary findings just released show the cost impact of the ten biggest sectors as follows (in $US billions):

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HP and Best Buy on Best, Worst Company Lists at the Same Time

| Monday March 29th, 2010 | 7 Comments

They were the worst of companies, they were the best of companies.

Hewlett Packard and Best Buy have managed to get themselves on at least two “top companies” lists at the same time. The problem is, the lists rate diametrically opposed qualities.

Both companies were “good” enough in 2009 to get on the Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies list. And yet both were also “bad” enough to make it into the Consumerist’s 2010 Worst Company in America tournament.

HP was also number one on Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s (CR) 100 Best Corporate Citizens List, an even more widely watched industry measure.

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Geoengineering Conference Contemplates Worst Case Scenario

| Monday March 29th, 2010 | 4 Comments

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. When it comes to global warming, some scientists are taking those words to heart.

The Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies held last week brought together some 175 scientists from around the world to discuss research into geoengineering, the deliberate manipulation of the environment to slow or stop global warming.

The conference, held in Monterey, Calif., was convened not to discuss specific methods of geoengineering but rather how scientists and governments should proceed with research and experiments.

The stakes are high, because any experiment that alters the climate could have unintended consequences. As Dr. Michael MacCracken, chair of the Scientific Organizing Committee pointed out, global warming itself is a form of (unintentional) geoengineering.

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China Blistering Past US in Green Investment

Leon Kaye | Monday March 29th, 2010 | 2 Comments

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a study showing that for the first time, China is leading the United States in green technology investment.  Considering that China is four times the size of US, the study may not be surprising, but the pace at which Chinese investment has increased is certainly shocking.  Five years ago, the Chinese had only invested about US $2.5 billion in green and clean technologies.  But in 2009, that figure had soared to US $34.6 billion, almost twice that of the United States, which lagged at US $18.6.

The Pew study found that countries with strong and clear national policies, mandated clean energy quotas, prioritized loans for renewable energy projects and a carbon market, were leaders in the green technology revolution.  Hence Germany, Brazil, Spain, the UK, and China have the largest clean energy industries when measured as a percentage of their economies.  Countries without such a policy framework are falling behind:  Japan, Australia, and the United States fall into this group.  So when using renewable energies’ percentage of a national economy, China comes in third. And the United States?  A laggardly eleventh.

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How Non-Profits Are Using Social Marketing To Promote Energy Conservation

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday March 29th, 2010 | 0 Comments

An article published recently by Environmental Leader highlights how utilities and governments are using the “power of applying social marketing strategies” to change people’s “attitudes and behaviors” about energy conservation. Non-profit organizations are also using social marketing to spread the word about energy conservation. Project Porchlight, mentioned in the article, is an example. The non-profit organization defines itself as a “a grassroots energy efficiency program that encourages people to switch from old fashioned incandescent light bulbs to new energy efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.”

Stuart Hickox founded Project Porchlight in the summer of 2004 after he researched energy-efficient refrigerators on the Energy Star website, and discovered the following statistic: If every Canadian household replaced one incandescent light bulb with a CFL bulb, the reduction in pollution would be the equivalent of taking 66,000 cars off the road. Hickox asked himself, “How hard can it be to get everyone to change one light bulb?”

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When Green Buildings Go Brown

3p Contributor | Monday March 29th, 2010 | 3 Comments

By Kelly Caffarelli, President The Home Depot Foundation

The scene is finally becoming pretty familiar:  the owner of a building is surrounded by the architects, engineers and contractors, perhaps a few local politicians, when the plaque on a new green building is unveiled.  The local news might report that this is the first [pick a type of building: home, bank, hospital, fire station, etc.] to reach this level of green certification [silver, gold, platinum or whatever] and touts how much lower the utility bills will be and how much healthier the people will be.

There’s no doubt about it – high-performing green buildings have come a long way and everyone who has been involved in the process of bringing the dreams and designs to reality has truly accomplished something worthy of applause.

But what happens after the ribbon cutting, when everyone has moved in and the building starts to be worked and lived in and needs maintenance?  That’s when seemingly simple things – changing light bulbs and air filters or repainting a room – can begin to have a huge impact on the building’s green status.  If CFLs are replaced with incandescent bulbs…if the dirty filters either aren’t changed at all or are swapped for the cheap ones…and if the room is painted with a great new color, but the paint contains VOCs, the building’s energy efficiency, cost effectiveness and air quality can be significantly degraded.

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How to Be a Good Manager: Guide for the 21st Century

3p Contributor | Monday March 29th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Dean Gualco

In the years following the end of World War II, managers were held in high regard and esteem by those in the political, economic, and social circles of our country.  Employees felt a sense of trust in their managers and managers a sense of duty to their employees. That feeling has largely dissipated.  An increasing number of books, magazine articles, and newspaper columns have been written denigrating the managerial profession and blaming the average manager for the distrust in our political institutions, the collapse of our economic system, and the stresses in our social compositions. This is not a fair assessment, and it is not accurate perception.

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WAGES Creates Clean, Green Livelihoods; Looking to Scale

| Monday March 29th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Read Evelin's story wagescooperatives.org/stories

Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security, also known as WAGES, builds worker-owned businesses with the goal of creating “healthy, dignified jobs for low-income women.”  I’m intrigued by WAGES because it is one of very few models I’ve encountered that truly meets the people-planet-profit trifecta of a triple bottom line business.  Entrepreneurs, take note.

Launched in 1995, WAGES is a “small but mighty” non-profit, as executive director Hilary Abell describes it.  With eight staff members, WAGES launches and supports women-owned cooperative housecleaning businesses.   It’s launched five to date and each one is run with utmost consideration to the worker-owners’ health, utilizing exclusively eco-friendly non-toxic cleaning products.  And all profit goes straight back to the workers.   Lo and behold, women working in WAGES co-ops are doubling and tripling their incomes. They earn an average of $13/hour, $4 more per hour than before joining, and most have full work schedules and health insurance.   WAGES’ studies have found that household income rises 70% for women who join.  In one example, workers received an average of $1900 in year-end profit sharing.

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Energy Star Skewered by Congressional Audit

| Sunday March 28th, 2010 | 0 Comments

A covert investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that Energy Star, the EPA’s 18-year-old energy efficiency program, will put its seal of approval on just about anything — as long as the necessary paperwork is filled out.

A phony “gasoline powered alarm clock” submitted by investigators was approved as Energy Star compliant, along with a “room air cleaner” that an accompanying photo showed was actually a space heater with a feather duster glued to the top. In one case, Energy Star certified a non-existent computer monitor a mere 30 minutes after the GAO submitted paperwork.

The GAO concluded that “Energy Star is for the most part a self-certification program vulnerable to fraud and abuse.” See the full report here.

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Floating to History: Recyclable Plastiki on its Way

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday March 26th, 2010 | 5 Comments

A boat made out of more than 12,000 used plastic water bottles is on its way to Sydney, Australia, proving several points along way: That it can be done; that trash can be useful; and that the huge swath of plastic trash and other debris known as the Eastern Garbage Patch should never happen again.

And assuming the trip is successful, David de Rothschild’s Plastiki – a 60-foot catamaran made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles – could also launch a new approach to boat-building, sans fiberglass.

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Zero Baggage Eliminates the Need for Checked Luggage

| Friday March 26th, 2010 | 7 Comments

ban-startup-friday

It’s a dream that’s probably flitted through everyone’s mind at some point: to travel completely baggage-free.

The problem of course, for those of us unable to afford a new wardrobe for each destination, is what to wear when you get there. Zero Baggage hopes to provide the answer.

The startup has concocted a service for travelers that provides them with the clothes and other essentials they need at their final destination. Users simply fill in an online virtual suitcase, the contents of which will be waiting in their hotel room when they arrive. Items are used but clean and well-maintained, new or one-use only.

Weight saved by eliminating checked luggage can be converted into carbon credits which can be spent on various treats. The service hopes to be up and running in November.

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Lights Out at K-Mart and Sears For Earth Hour: Who Else?

Leon Kaye | Friday March 26th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Led by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), the fifth annual Earth Hour 2010 takes place tomorrow, March 27, from 8:30pm to 9:30pm local time, around the world.  During this hour, at least 1 billion people will shut off their lights in showing their concern over climate change.  Since its inception in 2006, Earth Hour has grown–or rather, dimmed?–as many iconic structures from the Empire State Building to Egypt’s pyramids at Giza will flip the switch and go dark.  Earth Hour’s supporters expect even more cooperation this year, as corporations such as Wells Fargo and IKEA promise to shut off their lights at many of their locations.  One corporate leader in the effort to shut off all those lights on Saturday night is Sears Holdings Corporation, which runs Sears and K-Mart stores from its Chicago headquarters.

According to Michael Brown, Sears Holdings’ sustainability project manager, Sears and Kmart stores nationwide will participate in this initiative by turning off all non-essential lighting during Earth Hour, including every other television and most computer monitors.  The stores will remain open, with just enough light to make it safe for shoppers.  By shutting off lights at all of its stores, Sears Holdings anticipates saving 80,000 kilowatt hours, or enough energy to power almost eight American homes for a year.  Since 2006, Brown and his colleagues have worked with managers and employees throughout all levels of the company in reducing its energy consumption by 20%, saving about 1 billion kilowatt hours.  Brown stated that most of the energy reduction was through lighting retrofits, along with an emphasis on educating store managers and their associates on tactics for conserving energy.

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