Masuelli Bikes: Framing Sustainable Bikes with Bamboo

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday August 14th, 2009 | 9 Comments

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The Masuelli brothers and there wares, in the park.

The Masuelli brothers and there wares, in the park.

If you happen to find yourself in San Francisco this weekend, and furthermore, if you find yourself in Dolores Park, you are likely to see Nicolas and Danilo Masuelli. And you are likely to notice their bikes. The pair are a couple months into a new venture: designing, building and selling bike frames made of bamboo.

San Francisco hipster street cred: Check. Sustainable building materials: Check. Smart, cheap marketing (sitting around in the park all day with their bikes): Check. These two are onto something.

Nicolas Masuelli, an industrial engineer by trade, learned about working with bamboo during a government internship in Argentina before moving to California. He taught his brother Danilo the bike-building process, they hung out a Masuelli Bikes shingle and the pair started fabbing the bikes about two months ago. They source the bamboo and nearly all of the bike parts, including hemp roping to connect the bamboo sections, locally.

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An Innovative Social Business Model Based on…T-Shirts?

| Friday August 14th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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OneTribe social enterprise TShirt

OneTribe social enterprise TShirt

T-shirts have long been used as a mechanism of expression. Your favorite band. Your life stance. An obscure quote. That you’re a brand whore. But beyond that, what good are they?

Sure, you can buy an organic cotton one, or perhaps bamboo, soy, or any of the other options. Great, but still a small and perhaps abstract feeling gesture, when you’re just one person. Made by fair trade labor? A step forward, but it’s still this nebulous idea, a benefit that sounds good but doesn’t have a personally identifiable aspect to it.

OneTribe has arrived on the scene, with quite a different offer.

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EcoBlue Cubes Make Nearly Waterless Urinals Possible

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday August 14th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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ojgphsThe bathroom consumes a lot of water. The average public urinal washes a gallon of water down with each flush, and on average, uses over 10,000 gallons of water a year. A small invention called the EcoBlue Cube is said to eliminate 99% of the need to flush a urinal. A two inch square, the cube is made up of “beneficial bacteria” that digest waste and eliminate odor. One cube lasts for about 1,400 uses or one to three weeks. Two flushes at the end of the day are all that is needed to replace the urinal with fresh water.

Founder and CEO of EcoBlue, Damian Cox said, “Rather than create expensive technologies to generate new water, the best approach is to conserve the assets we already have. That way the money is better spent and it creates incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs and inventors.”

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Colorado Solar Systems Provider Pioneers Ethics-Driven Business Model

| Friday August 14th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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namaste10.56kwsolar The stunningly rapid growth of digital communications networks and media convergence has made message-spinning and media saturation relatively easy, and cost-effective. It’s also made it relatively easy to mislead, even deceive, outsiders, the public, even employees and yourself. It’s good to see thought leaders and practitioners in business, politics and civil society push for greater transparency and accountability, along with independent, unbiased access, feedback and widespread public dissemination of information.

“Going green” has fast become a linchpin for public relations and advertising campaigns. That’s led to a lot of what’s come to be known as “greenwash.” While there’s certainly a lot of it out there, it appears certain that there really are a growing number of businesses–large and small–that are honestly and sincerely committed to ethically-driven business strategies and models based on the triple bottom line.

Boulder, Colorado-based Namasté Solar looks like a case in point. Founded in 2004, its ranks are chock full of impressively experienced people with a diversity of backgrounds who are apparently intent on building a company that does good in terms of people, planet and profit. Evidence to date indicates that Namasté’s ethically-driven business model is working, and working very well. The company was one of 14 in Colorado to earn a spot on the latest Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing companies in the US. Revenue has risen 2,243% between 2005 and 2008 to reach $14.5 million.

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Tesco Terminates Trash—But What’s Green About 5000 Tons of Wasted Meat?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday August 13th, 2009 | 2 Comments

meatTesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, is now diverting 100 percent of waste produced by its entire UK business away from landfill—beating its deadline for the milestone by nearly a year. (Take that, Wal-Mart.) But the news is not all rainbows and flowers to animal rights groups and environmentalists.

One of the ways that the retailer has terminated its trash is by sending meat that has passed its freshness date to a converter that generates fuel from the food, which then goes back into the national grid as electricity. “At present,” says the company’s press release, “5,000 tonnes of waste meat generate c. 2,500 mega watt hours of renewable electricity.”

OK, great, but why does Tesco generate 5,000 tons of waste meat? Assuming that’s an annual figure, each of the 2,282* Tesco stores in the UK would be trashing about 2 tons of meat each year (the largest stores would generate much more than small corner outlets). Sure, generating power is a better use of the waste meat than tossing it into landfills (where it will continue to produce methane, which may or may not be captured), but the animals that created those 5000 tons of meat took a tremendous amount of energy and water to raise and what about all the greenhouse gasses, including methane, that went into their production?

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BBC Accused of Wasting Public Money – on Bottled Water

| Thursday August 13th, 2009 | 2 Comments

bbc-sign

A recent headline caught my attention: “BBC accused of wasting £406,000 of public money a year on bottled water.” Apparently, the UK news agency is having trouble proving the legitimacy of its (unsustainable) bottled water consumption and spending.

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Tesla – Electric Car Manufacturer – Makes a Profit! But What Are the Greater Implications?

| Thursday August 13th, 2009 | 5 Comments

tesla-roadster

This month, Tesla motors (a high-profile U.S. electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer) accomplished the incredibly difficult (for any auto maker nowadays): it made a profit! A $1 million profit, to be exact – a quick turnaround from Tesla’s near-collapse of last year. On top of being a sign of vitality for the auto industry, this profit is considered, by BusinessGreen.com anyway, to be a huge achievement for the sustainability movement: it could signal the commercial viability of the EV sector. While I agree Tesla’s profit is grounds for a big “woo hoo,” I wonder if such conclusions on its implications for the greater EV sector are a bit jumped-to. If I treated two leukemia-positive cats with the same medicine (one cat being prone to the disease and the other not), and the not-prone cat recovered, could I reasonably assume my medicine could conquer feline leukemia in both types?

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Dow Corning CEO on Clean Energy Summit

3p Contributor | Thursday August 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

The following is a guest post by Dr. Stephanie Burns, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Dow Corning Corporation:

This week, I have the privilege of being part of a day-long National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas that will bring together high-level industry leaders, scientists, policy experts, and public officials—all of whom agree that the success of America’s energy future depends directly on building a strong pool of people who have the skills and expertise to manufacture and implement the energy technologies of tomorrow.

Renewable energy has the potential to create thousands of new, quality American jobs. I know firsthand that America’s manufacturing future and the creation of new jobs are inexorably linked to the energy transformation that is occurring throughout our nation right now.

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How EDF Harnesses Market Power

Greg Andeck | Wednesday August 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment

walmart-truckGreg Andeck manages Corporate Partnerships for the EDF Innovation Exchange, a dynamic global network facilitating the widespread adoption of environmental innovation in business. The EDF Innovation Exchange is also a 3P sponsor.

At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we look for market based solutions to environmental problems. As the guy in charge of managing our partnership pipeline process, I’m constantly on the lookout for new win-win environmental and business solutions we can pioneer with companies. I’m often asked how we identify the companies that we partner with. And increasingly the word I use is LEVERAGE.

Examples of Leverage
We didn’t partner with FedEx just because it was a big company; we partnered with it because it has 36% market share in the package delivery industry. This meant that it was in a prime position to leverage its supply chain – in this case to build the first ever hybrid delivery truck (see Marc Gunther’s recent post).

Similarly, EDF has two project managers in Bentonville not because Walmart is the second largest US company by revenue, but because it has 71% market share in big box retailers and 17% grocery share. For some of its suppliers, Walmart represents a third of their business or more. They’re not going to do everything that Walmart asks them to do, but they’ll sure try. They can’t afford not to.  The most highly visible example of this was Walmart’s effort to drive the detergent business towards a concentrated, less resource intensive product.  Nearly every large retailer now offers a similar product.

Although both of these examples focus on influencing a company’s suppliers, the same can be true in the opposite direction –  leveraging a company’s size to offer customers environmental solutions.  We worked with one of the largest fleet management companies – PHH Arval – to develop the first-of-its-kind service that helps large companies with car fleets reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  All of PHH Arval’s major competitors now advertise a greenhouse gas management program.

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BMW to Produce Electric Cars – But Under a Separate Brand

| Wednesday August 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment

bmw-project-i-carBMW is working a line of electric vehicles (EVs) to be included in its “Project i” series, a sub-brand of BMW. “Project i” vehicles may even have a separate, non-BMW faceplate. According to an Environmental Leader report, BMW parallels its separating of the energy efficient brands from more mainstream ones to its distinguishing of its premium fast cars (labeled “M” instead of “BMW”) and its face-plating of the Mini and Rolls Royce brands. In other words, the separation puts the EVs in something of a “specialty” class of vehicles. But is BMW seeking to have its cake and eat it too: jumping on the EV-manufacturing bandwagon without alienating consumers who are not on-board with sustainable transportation?

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Seattle To Vote On Plastic Bag Tax

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday August 12th, 2009 | 7 Comments

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Seattle residents will vote on a 20 cent plastic bag tax on August 18. The tax would affect grocery, drug, and convenience stores. Small businesses, those with revenue under $1 million, would keep the entire 20 cent fee. Bigger businesses would keep five cents, with 15 cents going to Seattle Public Utilities to pay for implementing and overseeing the program, plus provide free reusable bags to low income families, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters.

Last summer the Seattle City Council voted for the 20 cent tax, but the Coalition to Stop Seattle Bag Tax collected enough signatures to put the measure on the August 2009 ballot. The Coalition received the majority of its funding ($1.4 million) from the Progressive Bag Affiliates (PBA) of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). ACC members include Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, and plastic-bag manufacturers.

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Companies Vie for Control of .Eco Web Domain – Good Idea or Can of Worms?

| Tuesday August 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

green-questionmark-manThe emergence of several “green” top level domains (TLDs), including DotGreen (.green) and Dot Eco (.eco), have created quite a stir among many sustainability proponents. (Check out the comments on a previous .eco Triple Pundit article , a Living Green article, and another Triple Pundit piece to see some of their opinions.) It doesn’t appear, though, that this skepticism is shared by several groups that matter most. The BBC reports that at least two environmental groups – including the original .eco creators (backed, incidentally, by former U.S. vice president Al Gore) and a Canadian group called Big Room, are vying for control of the .eco domain. Are these companies on the cutting edge, or are they toying with a can of worms?

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Taking Cues from Birds to Green the Airline Industry

| Tuesday August 11th, 2009 | 23 Comments
Three airlines fly in formation to increase fuel efficiency

Three airliners fly in formation to increase fuel efficiency

Stanford University research group takes biomimicry to whole new heights

At this summer’s Airbus “Fly Your Ideas” competition, an international call for sustainability innovation in the airline industry, one Australian team of graduate students walked away with the first place cash prize of 30,000 euros for a green passenger cabin concept. Derived from castor oil, their bio-composite cabin is an attempt to reduce dependency on non-renewable resources in the construction of airplane interiors.

While the majority of the finalists at the competition—including the winner—focused on materials and biofuels to offer eco-friendly alternatives to flight travel, one team garnered a significant amount of head-turning by looking at how planes fly. A team of doctoral students from the Aeronautics and Astronautics program at Stanford University conceptualized a way for commercial planes to save fuel by flying in formation. “In principle, the idea of flying aircraft in formation is the same as for migrating birds,” said Tristan Flanzer, one of the team members. “While in formation, birds experience lower drag and therefore can fly further. Aircrafts can take advantage of the same principles to reduce their drag.”

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Chinese and North Carolinian Energy Companies to Pick Each Others’ Brains

| Tuesday August 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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North Carolina is on the move, from a renewable energy perspective. In the past several days, it has worked toward signing a technology-exchange agreement with China (and toward limiting the construction of industrial-sized windmills – a renewable energy quagmire, it seems). The Duke-China pact has gained significant international attention, as it is the first such agreement between the two countries and, hopefully, a step in the right direction for a successful UN climate change agreement (set for 2012). (The U.S. and China are the world’s leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions.)

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Making Dirty Ports Cleaner: Flywheels Store Electricity from Freight

| Tuesday August 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments
(courtesy Greentech Media)

(courtesy Greentech Media)

Greentech Media has an interesting article about Vycon Energy, which has cut diesel consumption at ports by 30% on average by installing power-capturing flywheels on the heavy cranes used to lift shipping containers.

It takes up to 300 kilowatts of electricity (about sixty times the demand of a typical household) to lift a container off a container ship. Due to their extreme power usage, ports typically have their own highly polluting diesel-powered generators. All that dirty electricity is expended to lift cargo, but when it is lowered, the motors simply run backwards, generating heat, but not much else – until Vycon’s systems came along.

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