The Economist’s 2010 Corporate Citizenship Conference

| Friday March 12th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Giving Government a Helping Hand

 How much of a role should business play in tackling global questions such as climate change, unemployment, restoring trust in the aftermath of the financial crisis and distributing international aid?  What is the nature and extent of the private sector’s responsibility in resolving these issues? At what point should corporations step alongside government and help shoulder some of the burden?  These questions, which go to the very heart of defining corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility, are some of the issues that will be discussed at the Economist’s 2010 Corporate Citizenship Conference kicking off next week.  

The conference line-up features a veritable who’s who of big names in sustainability and leading thinkers from the public sector including: Diana Taylor managing director of Wolfensohn & Co. and former president of the World Bank; US Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Seth Harris; Loews Hotels Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jonathan M. Tisch; and Steve Case, co-founder of America Online and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Revolution.  A highlight will be a conversation with President Bill Clinton who will likely provide an update on the Clinton Global Initiative.  

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Metrus Energy: Efficiency With No Up Front Costs?

Scott Cooney | Friday March 12th, 2010 | 2 Comments

As the economy as a whole remains mired in a sleepy lull, there are sectors that are red hot.  According to’s State of Green Business Report, several green industries are creating jobs, growing, and shrugging off worldwide economic slowdowns.  Among these are green building and energy efficiency.

Metrus Energy, a San Francisco startup, has positioned itself as a leader in energy efficiency projects for corporate and industrial clients, a sector that has not quite hopped on the bandwagon of energy efficiency, despite what would seem like an economic and environmental win-win scenario.  The problem, according to Metrus, is the high up-front costs associated with energy efficiency projects.  In terms of energy efficiency retrofits, homes and municipal buildings have had the benefits of a relatively low up-front cost, immediate return on investment, and immediate increase in property value.  Businesses, however, must look at quarterly earnings and decide whether a one-time charge for energy efficiency will please shareholders….or get the CEO canned.

Metrus’ approach, which has culminated in its first-ever Energy Services Agreement project on a large-scale energy efficiency retrofit with BAE Systems and Siemens, takes away the up-front cost barrier.  The result?  A savings of 1+ million kilowatt hours (kWh) annually for BAE Systems, and no up-front cost for the client.  Zero.  Take a moment to think of the potential here.  When we talk about world-changing ideas, this would have to be right up there among them. 

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Many Hospitals Now Safely Reuse ‘Single Use’ Medical Devices

Kathryn Siranosian | Friday March 12th, 2010 | 4 Comments

Health care is the second largest contributor to waste production in the United States.  (The food industry holds the dubious distinction of being the first largest contributor.) So, it’s significant that more than 25 percent of U.S. hospitals now reprocess medical devices as a way to decrease waste –and cut costs.

But, does the phrase “reprocessed medical device” make you cringe?

It shouldn’t.

After all, this isn’t a post about re-using tongue depressors or cotton swabs.

It is, by contrast, a post about a new trend among hospitals to use regulated, quality-control standards to recalibrate, clean, sterilize, remanufacture and test certain pieces of medical equipment, such as particular non-invasive items (compression sleeves, pulse oximeters, e.g.), operating room devices (trocars, harmonic scalpels, e.g.) and electrophysiology equipment (EP catheters, e.g.).

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Four Ways to Get Your Company Ready for Earth Day

| Friday March 12th, 2010 | 12 Comments

Earth Day is only six weeks away (April 22nd).  Are you ready?

While we all know that a commitment to sustainability goes beyond going green one day a year, Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to remind employees of your commitment, highlight programs and accomplishments and launch a new campaign.

Pick Something Tangible and Visible

While greening your data center, reducing packaging or cutting energy use might be your most strategic corporate initiative, Earth Day is the ideal time to focus on a tangible and visible campaign that engages employees and inspires action. Consider asking for a public commitment to take a specific action and identify clear metrics for tracking your progress.

Four campaign ideas are detailed below:

  • Adopt a “Double-Sided” Policy
  • Chuck the Cup
  • Ban Bottled Water
  • Personal Sustainability Practices
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The Story of Stuff Team Takes on Bottled Water

RP Siegel | Friday March 12th, 2010 | 5 Comments

More articles on the controversy surrounding bottled water can be found here!

For anyone trying to explain what sustainability is to a semi-curious relative or a completely out of touch co-worker, there could hardly be a better place to start than Annie Leonard’s twenty minute web video The Story of Stuff. The video features Leonard standing in front of an animated white board on which clever line drawings appear while she explains in extremely clear and simple terms the far-reaching connections between our everyday consumer choices and the manifold environmental and social justice problems that derive from them. The short video has received well over a million hits on YouTube.

Now Leonard, with the support of five leading sustainability advocacy organizations, has produced a new video, The Story of Bottled Water, which is scheduled for release on March 22nd, which happens to be World Water Day.

As in The Story of Stuff, The Story of Bottled Water, gives us a short (7 minute) behind-the-scenes look at the bottled water business and raises the question of how people in this country have been duped into buying a half a billion bottles a week of what is really nothing more than tap water for a price that is roughly two thousand times higher.

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More Solar Panels for San Jose Schools

| Friday March 12th, 2010 | 5 Comments

San Jose extended its commitment to renewable energy this week, with a ground breaking ceremony for a 3.7 MW solar project to be built at six school sites in the East Side Union High School District. The ceremony took place at Santa Teresa High School in San Jose, and was attended by district, government and business officials, as well as several student representatives.

When the six sites go online later this year, they are expected to reduce electric utility costs by more than $1.5 million in the first year, $7.6 million over five years, and provide total savings of $36 million over the life of the project.  Savings come from reduced electricity costs, and also from generous state incentives and additional revenues from the sale of renewable energy credits.  As for environmental benefits, the project is expected to reduce carbon emissions by more than 3,100 metric tons per year.

“Our schools will all benefit from these savings, especially in these tough economic times when they’re needed most,” said East Side Union High School District Interim Superintendent Dan Moser, in a press release issued Thursday. “Also, this project reduces our carbon footprint and allows us to incorporate solar into our teaching curriculum so our teachers and students can learn about renewable energy technologies firsthand.”

Through a series of workshops, the District’s teachers will learn how they can use hands-on solar kits and activity guides in the classroom to teach students about solar energy.

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Who Will Clean Up: Method or Clorox?

Leon Kaye | Friday March 12th, 2010 | 5 Comments

The competition between Method and Clorox for the title as the top “green” household cleaning products company is heating up. Packaging its household cleaners in eye-catching and often clear bottles, Method saw its sales top US $200 million in 2009. But Clorox has surged ahead: after starting its line of environmentally-friendly cleaners, Green Works, in only 2008, the company toppled Method with 42% of market share.

Clorox’s entrance into the LOHAS market dates back to fall 2007, when it acquired Burt’s Bees for US$925 million in cash. Meanwhile, the company entered into talks with the Sierra Club, which agreed to endorse the Green Works brand and allowed Clorox to place the environmental organization’s logos on the products’ bottles. Clorox gained even more favorable coverage when it chose to list each product’s ingredients on the packaging for the entire Green Works product line; though the list of chemicals in Clorox’s conventional product line are still not disclosed. Green products only accounted for 3% of the cleaning products market in 2008, but this could spike to 30% by 2013: so Clorox, with its strong brand recognition, experienced marketing professionals, and ubiquitous distribution channels, enjoys a distinct competitive advantage over Method.

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Saul’s Deli Bridges the Gap Between Traditional and Sustainable

| Friday March 12th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Et tu, Saul’s Deli?

I’ve somehow always managed to compartmentalize comfort food and sustainable/healthy food.

The latter is what I eat on a regular basis—quinoa from the organic grocery, locally grown kale from the farmers’ market—that’s my regular diet. But sometimes I want to break away from all that healthiness and enjoy a greasy, meaty Rueben.

And maybe, for those few heavenly corned beef moments, slathered in Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, I don’t want to think about where the cow came from or what he was fed or how much damage I’m doing to the planet.

But alas, I’m from Berkeley. And, like a growing population of responsible eaters, we care about stuff like that.

I grew up four blocks away from Saul’s Deli. Their matzoh ball soup was always a close second to Grandma’s, Dad’s and Aunt Kathy’s. Okay, I guess that makes it a close fourth. If I wanted latkes when it wasn’t Hannukah or gefilte fish when it wasn’t Passover, I always knew where to go.
Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt, co-owners of Saul’s Deli, are well aware of their loyal customer-base. They have always made it a priority to cater to those traditional Jewish tastes. But as the sustainable food movement becomes more and more prevalent, they also have a second priority. Or, as Adelman put it, “I wouldn’t want to sell meat that I wouldn’t eat.”

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AB32: Report Forecasts Job Losses, But Governor Says Hogwash

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday March 11th, 2010 | 0 Comments

A report from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office concludes that implementation of Assembly Bill 32, or AB32, would result in near-term job losses. But Governor Schwarzenegger isn’t buying it.

AB32, or the Global Warming Solutions Act,  was passed in 2006 and calls for reducing California’s emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. But an opposition group, which calls itself the California jobs Initiative, is petitioning to have AB32 suspended. The group (which may be funded in part by oil companies) claims that the law would cost California “up to 1.1 million jobs, cost the average family $3,857 annually, add nearly $50,000 a year to the average small business’s costs.”

Senator Dave Cogdill (R-Fresno) asked the Analyst’s Office to analyze the net impact that AB32 would have on jobs in California, so Legislative analyst Mac Taylor penned a 10-page report that attempts to do so, using the AB32 Scoping Plan—the government’s blueprint for implementation of AB32—as its research material. (The LOA report mentions that Scoping Plan is currently being revised, but moved ahead with its analysis of the current Plan.)

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Finding Ideal Clients Through Networking – Tips For Small Green Businesses

Scott Cooney | Thursday March 11th, 2010 | 0 Comments

As a marketing tool, networking is a great outlet for making “ideal” connections for small businesses.  What’s an ideal connection?  Perhaps an analogy will help elucidate the term.  You’ve probably heard the following saying:

Give a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a day.
Teach a man how to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.

For that man, his ideal connection would be a fishing instructor.  Similarly, you could consider a fruit tree.  Would you prefer to have a mango, or a mango tree?  For your business, as the analogy goes, there will be clients (fish, or fruit…), and there will be those who love you and your business and will feed you with clients for years (these are the fishing instructors or fruit trees…).

Connecting with these people is obviously going to benefit your bottom line tremendously.  But where do you even start?  How do you identify these ideal connections for your business?  How do you then connect with them?  And perhaps most importantly, how do you foster and nurture these relationships over time?

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Genomics, Next Gen Fuel Cells, Water: Parting thoughts from ECO:nomics

| Thursday March 11th, 2010 | 3 Comments


*image from Gas 2.0

The Wall Street Journal’s third annual ECO:nomics conference: Creating Environmental Capital wrapped up last week and I’m pleased to report that it delivered on the promise of frank, highly strategic, executive-level discussions. The conference will return next year; here’s hoping that we have some new energy and carbon legislation in place by then and that the focus continues to shift from risk management to more transformative approaches in which sustainability is viewed a business opportunity.

Some parting thoughts from the conference:

The potentially revolutionary
Algae that feed on carbon dioxide, using sunlight to fix the CO2 into hydrocarbons that can be refined into gas and diesel just like what comes out the pump today: can/should they be genetically engineered for enhanced productivity? BP and Exxon are placing big bets on J. Craig Venter’s work in synthetic genomics. Interviewed at the conference, this “life designer” goes beyond biomimicry and creates new organisms though the “software of life,” DNA.

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The Toxies Awards Recognize Worst Chemicals of the Year

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Thursday March 11th, 2010 | 12 Comments

Millions of people around the world tuned in to last weekend’s Academy Award show, bringing another Hollywood award season to a close. While nabbing an Oscar or Emmy is considered an honor, another lesser known red carpet event took place last weekend where winning an award is not recommended.

The Toxies were held at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on March 3, 2010.  Awards were given to Bad Actor Chemicals, chemicals and compounds found in everyday products that affect our health.  There are over 80,000 synthetic chemicals currently registered for use in the United States.  Many of those chemicals have not been adequately tested.  1,400 chemicals in use today that have been studied, have known links to cancer, birth defects and other health-related problems.

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Global Trade’s Dirty Secret: Outsourced Emissions

Leon Kaye | Thursday March 11th, 2010 | 2 Comments

The Carnegie Institution of Science released a new study this week finding that one-third of the carbon dioxide emissions developed countries release into the atmosphere result from goods and services produced outside their borders.  The report’s details are troubling:  Carnegie’s researchers estimate that 2.5 tons of CO2 per person are consumed in the United States but are produced elsewhere, and that figure spikes to 4 tons per European.  Another point that will cause considerable disagreement among global climate negotiators is Carnegie’s analysis that one-quarter of the emissions in China are actually the result of its exports to its trading partners such as the United States.

Emerging economic powers such India and China on one side, and the United States and Western Europe on the other, are finding difficulty reaching any middle ground over who is responsible for increased emissions–and who will pay for such measures.  Chinese and Indian leaders will argue that it is hypocritical for industrialized nations to insist that the Chinese and Indians invest their limited resources into decreasing emissions and greenhouse gases.  If the United States, Europe, and Japan have enjoyed increased wealth over the past century because of industrialization, why should developing countries deny economic opportunity for their citizens?

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The Chasing Arrows Recycling Logo – The Biggest Greenwash Label of Them All?

Tom Szaky | Thursday March 11th, 2010 | 6 Comments

In recent years, after the initial honeymoon of broader consumer interest in all things green, it’s now settled squarely in the space of “prove it to me.” Yet proving something’s greenness, sustainability, fair trade status, organic certification, carbon footprint has resulted in a dust storm of competing certifications, labels, very few of which are gaining traction with the public as credible or recognizable. For all they know, the company could be making it up, doing it themselves, or something similarly “greenwashy”.

And yet, right under our nose is perhaps the most deceptive label of all: the chasing arrows “recycling” symbol.

You know, the triangular shaped graphic with the number 1 to 7 inside. Much like labeling a fruit cholesterol free, it has become at best largely meaningless and at worst deceptive. What am I talking about? The fact that for the majority of categories, 3 and beyond generally, most recyclers don’t process them.

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S4 Breaks Trash Down to Component Atoms, Recombines Using Plasma

| Wednesday March 10th, 2010 | 10 Comments

Since I’ve been covering Waste Management (WM) over the past few weeks, I couldn’t pass up this most recent news. Waste Management has created a joint venture with InEnTec (introduced previously on TriplePundit), called S4 Energy Solutions LLC, which will develop, market and operate plasma gasification facilities.

Last week they announced plans to develop a plasma gasification facility at Waste Management’s Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Oregon.  At first, this facility will process medical waste and other segregated waste streams.  Prior to the joint venture, InEnTech’s technology has often been used to process chemical residuals.  If it proves cost effective, the facility may also be used to process municipal solid waste (MSW).  The result of the plasma gasification process is clean fuel and inert glass-like substance which can be used as a building material.  The facility plans to be in operation by the end of the year, creating 28 jobs in the construction phase and 16 long term “green” jobs.  Since S4 does not burn the trash, emissions “easily comply with all environmental regulations” including EPA standards according to InEnTec’s site.

How does it work?

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