Why Monsanto Might Be a Health Risk

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday January 26th, 2010 | 3 Comments

Monsanto claims genetically modified (GMO) food is safe for consumption. Of course, a company that controls 90 percent of the U.S. seed market for soybeans and 80 percent for corn and cotton is going to defend GMO food. Monsanto is developing soybeans with extra amounts of omega-3 oils with the Solae Company, according to its website. Research published in the International Journal of Biological Science suggests the GMO food causes damage to the heart, kidney, and liver. The study looked at consumption of Monsanto corn in lab rats’ organs after 90 days. The pesticide residue, according to the study, is what causes damage.

Although the researchers admitted their study can’t be applied to all GMO crops, a Fast Company article quoted a line from the study that is hard to forget:

“Our analysis highlights that [sic] the kidneys and liver as particularly important on which [sic] to focus such research as there was a clear negative impact on the function of these organs in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just 90 days.”

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Amory Lovins: Efficiency Burns Brightest

3p Contributor | Monday January 25th, 2010 | 8 Comments

By Charles Shereda

How would you prefer to die? (choose one)
1) Climate Change
2) Oil Wars
3) Nuclear Holocaust

Amory Lovins posed this question to introduce his talk entitled, ‘Reinventing Fire: The Business-Led Transition from Oil and Coal to Efficiency and Renewables’ in the second day of the Clean Tech Investor Summit in a rain-drenched Palm Springs. Lovins, the Chairman and Chief Scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, was alluding to what he sees as a fallacy in typical conversations about addressing climate change. By casting it as a no-win situation, said Lovins, we ignore the tremendous economic opportunity available–a chance to reduce costs, spur job growth, and create competitive advantage.

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California Town Receives Rare Award for Fighting Light Pollution

| Monday January 25th, 2010 | 2 Comments

As students, we all learned about the Milky Way, Orion’s Belt, and the North Star. What would happen if these important points in our sky disappeared? In some places, they have. That’s because light pollution, the artificial glow that dims the stars, is affecting 63 percent of the world’s population. In many cities around the world, well-known constellations and meteor showers are not even visible anymore.

“The sky is fading,” a report says in Physics Today. And in one desert town in California residents are “taking back the night” as protectors of the sky, determined to keep their beautiful and starry night skies.

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French Carbon Tax Requires Tracking to Be Effective

3p Contributor | Monday January 25th, 2010 | 2 Comments

By Michael Woelk CEO of Picarro

Last Wednesday the much debated French carbon tax got a new chance at life.  The tax was struck down on Dec. 29 after the country’s highest court called the bill anti-constitutional. The concern was that the proposed bill had too many exemptions, but there are other problems with the bill that haven’t yet been raised. First and foremost, the bill does not require anyone to track carbon emissions in the ambient air–without such tracking, it is impossible to know whether the tax is working. Many companies are trying to fill this unmet need in the market place–high-powered technology startups and big companies alike say they have software that can measure carbon output. This is patently false. Software can’t see inside a smokestack or a tailpipe. And estimates are only an invitation to cheating. Witness the rash of incidents where reported emissions are vastly divergent from actual atmospheric measurements.

So I’ll lay out a new manifesto. No carbon taxation without verification. Full stop. If we put in place carbon taxes that do not measure and verify carbon emissions, then we are selling a cure that could be a super drug–or it could be snake oil. We will never know unless we put measurement infrastructure in place.

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Environmental Defense Fund Kicks Climate Corps into Overdrive

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday January 25th, 2010 | 2 Comments

What do you get when you take top MBA students who possess knowledge of sustainability and place them in companies for a summer? The answer: Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Climate Corps. (Full disclosure: we’re proud to have EDF as an affiliate here at 3p, but think the Climate Corps is a great program all on its own). On January 21, 2010, EDF began the third year of the Climate Corps program.

The Climate Corps program places MBA students in companies to develop energy efficiency plans that cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions. More than 20 corporations have signed on to host students this summer. EDF partnered with Net Impact (a network of sustainably minded business leaders) to develop a pool of over 200 applicants, meaning the companies are sure to get some strong talent on board.

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Hub Culture’s 2010 Zeitgeist Rankings

| Monday January 25th, 2010 | 0 Comments

For those of you who aren’t aware (I admit I was a bit off), the German concept of “zeitgeist” means the “spirit of the times” and generally refers to the cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual and political climate within a nation. This reminder might make understanding Hub Culture’s 2010 Zeitgeist Rankings a bit clearer.

Hub Culture is a social network that merges the online and physical environments. Each year it compiles a list of city rankings, gathered through surveys and outreach with Hub Culture members around the world, to determine where we are headed and where the action is. In developing the rankings, Hub Culture utilizes markers such as population rankings, gross domestic product (GDP) and quality of life. This year, the list seems to be strongly influenced by cities with access to resources and those that are committed to saving the planet.

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PG&E Invests $60 Million In SolarCity

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday January 25th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Last week, California utility company Pacific, Gas, & Electric (PG&E) subsidiary, Pacific Venture Capital LLC, and the solar energy provider, SolarCity announced $60 million in tax equity financing for solar installations. The investment is funded by PG&E Corporation shareholders, and is expected to allow SolarCity to install more than 1,000 additional solar systems for homes and businesses. The tax equity financing investment is the first of its kind by a utility holding company, and the first collaboration between a utility holding company and a solar power provider.

Most of the solar systems installed will be in California, but some will be installed in Arizona and Colorado. Based in Foster City, California, SolarCity serves 500 communities in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Oregon. The company plans to expand its services to five to ten more states this year.

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Top Gear Takes Innovation in a Whole New Direction

| Sunday January 24th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Host James May with some "commie" cars

I’m one of those freakzoid environmentalists with neither a car nor a television. Which is why it is all the more remarkable that I’m chuffed to bits by this British show Top Gear. The 13th season premieres on BBC America on Monday. I’m behind the times, what with the lack of television and all, but the folks at Top Gear were kind enough to send me a screener which I watched on my trusty laptop.

This show features cars that drive fast, which is drool-worthy for technically minded folks (me, I read my RSS feed during those parts), but of course it’s got 3 British hosts who pretty much make the thing with their banter, G&T mixing on camera, and celebrity guests who get to drive the cars too. The most entertaining part for me are the challenges the producers create for the hosts.

In Season 10, episode 2 the boys have to create amphibious vehicles with which to drive on land and across the English channel. It’s hilarious to see what they come up with, and (spoiler alert) how badly it all goes awry.

From a sustainability standpoint, at first I was a bit resistant to the program because it seemed as if it were all about gadget lust–on a really expensive scale. But what I’ve realized is that there is glory in the gadget sometimes, and we shouldn’t try to deny that, lest we become teetotalers that no one wants to talk to. The challenges where the hosts have to use their knowledge of all the moving parts to complete an asinine task remind me of the potential for problem solving that exists when one combines knowledge and passion with a healthy dose of humor and gin. Watch as the gang tests the limits of American muscle cars on the Bonneville salt flats:

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New Laser Phosphor Displays (LPDs) Consume Up To 75 Percent Less Energy Than Plasma, LCD Systems

Kathryn Siranosian | Friday January 22nd, 2010 | 4 Comments

ban-startup-friday

Move over plasma and LCD display systems.

New, improved HD technology is on its way to the marketplace.

Prysm, a privately held company based in San Jose, spent the last five years developing an innovative technology called Laser Phosphor Display (LPD), and according to Roger Hajjar, Prysm CTO and co-founder, this new LPD technology has the potential to revolutionize the electronics industry and replace every other high-definition screen on the market, including plasma, LED, LCD, and DLP.

In short, LPD is a new category of large format displays, he says. It offers freeform flexibility, scalability, long-lasting performance and incredibly high quality image resolution–from near or far distances and any viewing angle.

What’s more, Hajjar points out that new LPD technology also has the lowest cost of ownership and smallest carbon footprint of any large format display currently on the market. For example, LPD display systems:

  • are manufactured without toxic or regulated materials.
  • can be end-of-life recycled without concern for toxic or regulated materials.
  • consume up to 75 percent less energy than other video wall or HDTV technology.
  • run “cooler” than other HD systems and so do not require additional air conditioning/ventilation.

To put LPD’s energy savings in perspective, Hajjar explains that some businesses now spend up to $1 million each year to power large LED video walls. LPD technology can bring those costs down to $50,000. How? Because an LPD system consumes fewer watts per display than a standard home light bulb –that’s less than 100 watts per square meter, he says. In addition, an LPD display does not require additional air conditioning or ventilation systems.

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Environmental + Film Festival Does Not Have to Equal Drudgery. Wild & Scenic Proves It.

| Friday January 22nd, 2010 | 4 Comments

Coach Vanessa at Wild & Scenic Film FestivalI recently had the pleasure of attending the 9th edition of the Wild & Scenic film festival, America’s largest environmental film festival, organized and hosted by SYRCL, in the tiny but vibrant town of Nevada City, California.

Through these events, SYRCL has made people across the nation aware of its fight to preserve the Yuba–a river mostly unknown outside the local region. And even if you didn’t know that SYRCL stands for South Yuba River Conservation League,  the group’s new logo, prominently featuring a leaping salmon, makes it even more clear, quickly.

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“Dr. IM” Brings You Healthcare, Via Texts and PayPal

| Friday January 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-friday

Image Source: BrooklynPaper.com

Dubbed “Dr. IM,” Jay Parkinson is re-imagining healthcare with a 21st century toolkit. Up until recently, Parkinson had no office, no secretary, and for all intents and purposes, did not fit the image of the doctor. That’s because he is not the typical doctor.

Parkinson started Hello Health with partner, Nat Findlay, in a coffee shop in New York City in late 2007 because he was disillusioned by the traditional healthcare system. Through Hello Health, patients can connect with Dr. Parkinson via social networks, video chat, or even by text message. He doesn’t work directly with insurance companies; clients pay for consultations via PayPal.

His quality and standards of care are considered on par with other home-visiting, or “concierge,” doctors. Yet, Parkinson’s Web 2.0 version speaks to a new generation—a generation that values the interconnectedness of community—offering a new way of keeping people well.

Now, Hello Health has expanded beyond Parkinson. It is a growing community, a team of doctors, staff members, and even patients working together to redefine what it means to be healthy in this day and age. Check out the video below of Parkinson from a recent PopTech conference.

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Fair Trade Sports Looks to Play in Fair Trade, Eco-Friendly Game

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday January 22nd, 2010 | 5 Comments

ban-startup-friday

Some fair trade products, such as coffee or handicrafts, have become very common—and in fact, consumers have come to expect fair trade choices when shopping in the grocery store or certain kinds of shops. But when was the last time you watched a soccer game and wondered if the rubber in the ball was sourced from sustainably managed rubber tree forests? Or whether the uniforms were made by fairly-paid adults (and not impoverished children)? As the fair trade movement evolves, it is extending to evermore product categories—as evidenced by Fair Trade Sports.

Fair Trade Sports founder Scott James says that his company makes the first-ever line of sports balls that are certified green and certified fair trade (more on what that means later). The company, which is based on lovely Bainbridge Island in the Puget Sound, plans to donate all after-tax profits—once it starts making profits—to charities focused on kids (following the Newman’s Own business model). Until then, it plans to donate $1000 each year to Boys & Girls Club of America and Room to Read.

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DOE Annouces Award of $37 Million To Solid State Lighting Projects

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday January 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the award last week of over $37 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for solid-state lighting projects. Solid-state lighting uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) instead of incandescent bulbs. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), it has the potential to be ten times more energy efficient than incandescent lighting. Lighting accounts for 24 percent of all electricity generation, and solid-state lighting could reduce that by one-third by 2030.

The 17 projects chosen to receive ARRA funds include core technology research, product development and domestic manufacturing of solid-state lighting. This is the sixth round of DOE funds for solid-state lighting research and product development, and the first time for manufacturing. The DOE began funding solid-state lighting projects in 2000.

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Swiss Bank UBS Introduces Code of Ethics and Conduct

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday January 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

Recently Swiss bank UBS, the world’s largest private bank, announced it had introduced a new employee code of ethics and conduct. All of its 69,000 employees are required to read the code, pass a test, and sign it. “There are no exceptions,” explained the bank’s CEO, Oswald Gruebel, and Chairman Kaspar Villiger, in the preface to the code.

“Ignorance of the code, applicable laws and regulations, UBS policies or good business practices is not an acceptable justification for violation of the principles set out in the code,” they said.

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Spot Pet Treats: A Greener Way to Reward Fido

| Friday January 22nd, 2010 | 0 Comments

It is tough being a socially responsible doggie owner.  Between the necessary poo-bags, toys, food and treats, I know my personal footprint went up after I got my pooch.

But Spot Pet Care has come out with a new product, Spot Pet Treats, that makes it a bit easier to be a greener pet owner. According to its web site, the treats are “made from livestock humanely raised on sustainable US ranches.”

I had the opportunity to speak with founder Caroline Shin. She has always wanted to work with animals and after starting other successful businesses, she recently opened  Spot Pet Care, a pet groomer/store in Mill Valley, California. I’ve taken my dog there to be groomed, but never realized the store has installed state-of-the art equipment to minimize water used during baths.

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