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.
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.
This is not likely to be the first you’ve heard this, but if you’re a modern-day Rip Van Winkle and just woke up from a nap you began in 1999, you’d better brace yourself – maybe grab a cup of coffee. The news? It was tough going for entrepreneurs looking for funding in 2009. Really tough, in fact. With just 43 IPOs in 2008 and 63 in 2009, down from 272 in 2007 and 486 in 1999, the Initial Public Offering is now a long shot exit strategy for new ventures. That fact, along with the general economic malaise and continued tightening of credit markets, is giving VCs pause before diving into new ventures. The days of $300 million pets.com investments are over.
Clean tech investment took its share of bruises in the downturn, but as Ira Ehrenpreis, the Conference Chair for the Clean Tech Investor Summit said in his opening remarks to a filled hall in Palm Springs on Wednesday, we should not be viewing clean tech “through the myopic lens of our current concerns.” Instead, he said, clean tech is about the next 100 years. It is the focal point for solving the world’s energy problems, for providing clean air and a stable atmosphere, and for lifting most of the population of the planet out of poverty.
A funny thing happened on the way to the great Himalayan glacier meltdown. It turns out that that yes, the glaciers are receding at an alarming clip as a result of global warming, but reports of their demise by 2035 apparently were greatly exaggerated.
In an interview earlier this week with Agence France-Presse, a glaciologist who contributed to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) four-volume Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, described the mistake in the report as huge and said he had notified his colleagues of it in late 2006, months before its publication.
The controversy focuses on a brief reference in the second volume of the massive report that said the probability of glaciers in the Himalayas “disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high.”
The loss of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 would take two or three times the highest expected rate of global warming, explained Georg Kaser of the Geography Institute at Austria’s University of Innsbruck.
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th, caused not only a tremendous loss of life, but considerable damage to the nation’s infrastructure. As people around the world watch the heart-wrenching images coming out of the earthquake ravaged nation, donations are pouring in.
But getting aid into Haiti has been a slow-going process, especially when the lines of communication are interrupted. Communication is critical in getting humanitarian aid, services and information into the disaster area.
But despite the overwhelming obstacles and destruction, Haiti does have one bright spot – the sun. Besides food, water, shelter and medical supplies, solar-powered devices are also being distributed – many of which will have long lasting benefits beyond the immediate crisis. Solar lighting, water purification systems, mobile phones, laptops and even Audio Bibles powered by the sun, are all being donated.
Nedbank Group, one of South Africa’s largest banks, and the U.S.-based Wildlife Works Inc. (WWI), an apparel company that assists conservation efforts in Kenya, signed a multi-million dollar agreement on a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project in Kenya. Nedbank will acquire Voluntary Emission Reductions (VERs) through WWI to offset its carbon footprint.
The goal of WWI’s REDD project in Kenya is to avoid deforestation of the Kasigau Corridor in the Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary. The project is validated by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), and awarded gold level approval under the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance’s (CCBA) forestry protection standard.
Scott Brown, the new Senator from Massachusetts who was elected last night, made the greenhouse gas cap and trade bill a key plank in his campaign. As Democrats in the US try to figure out what happened, a number of people are asking whether the push for a cap and trade bill (which was positioned as a giant tax by Brown) is a strategic mistake by Democrats.
Here’s a short video of Scott Brown talking about the cap and trade bill forwarded to me by Jesse Jenkins.
Here’s another one where Brown focuses on cap and trade as a jobs killer as he tours a brewery.
Here’s the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters for Martha Coakley, which speaks about how Coakley’s election connects to the COP15 event that was happening at the time and how she’s been a strong advocate of environmental regulation. But right now, do people want regulations or jobs?
Clearly it wasn’t just Coakley’s support of cap and trade that doomed her campaign. A lackluster vision, a stubborn refusal to debate Brown, numerous gaffes and the momentum in the country all worked against her candidacy.
But the question Democrats should be asking right now is about their national strategy for climate change. The question is not whether there should be a carbon cap, but what is the best sequence of legislative steps to respond to climate change. As I’ve advocated with my colleagues since co-founding the Apollo Alliance five years ago, innovation, investment and job creation remain the best framework for promoting a robust response to the climate change threat. As the Breakthrough Institute has convincingly argued, it’s more important to make clean energy cheap than to make fossil fuels expensive. In a period with a stagnant economy and high unemployment, it’s more effective to advocate for investment in job-creating energy infrastructure and R&D.
The carbon cap, while critically important, should not be the key element of the legislation that’s being proposed right now. The carbon cap is a necessary part of the “rules of the game”, but what’s essential is that the US and other countries invest now in lowering the cost of clean energy so that countries can scale up their energy production to meet rising demand. How should this change the Democrats’ strategy? Promote a large job-creating clean energy investment as part of the stimulus. Pass that now. Then move on to passing a carbon cap. With the momentum heading against any climate change bill, it’s critical that we kickstart the innovation required to build a clean energy economy now, even if it takes a little while to get the rules past that will guarantee success.
Create a 21st Century Energy Technology Deployment Fund to invest $30 billion annually to accelerate the deployment of promising clean energy technologies, achieve economies of scale to drive down costs, and harness America’s vast renewable energy reserves. The primary focus of this strategy should be to drive down real production costs by providing increased and consistent demand for early-stage clean energy technologies that accelerates economies of scale, learning curves, and reductions in the real, unsubsidized costs of each technology. Targeted incentives can make clean energy technology profitable and catalyze American businesses and entrepreneurs.”
It’s not time to be despondent, nor is it time to jump off the cliff for one legislative climate change response. It’s time to react to events at hand and seize the clean energy victories we can. In the end it will be financing, infrastructure, and radical innovations in clean energy that will bring prices down. Making fossil fuels expensive through a complicated cap and trade system is one way of incenting change . Investing in clean energy directly is another way. And it’s the right path to pursue right now.
As a child, one of my favorite nighttime stories was Virginia Lee Burton’s classic, The Little House. The book follows the life of a tiny house in the countryside that gradually gets swallowed up by an encroaching nearby city. All the things the little house loves about its life in the country-the birds, the grass, the sun and the moon-disappear once the sidewalks and skyscrapers take over. In the end, a passer by recognizes the little house and transports it back to the country where it lives happily ever after.
Every home has a story. But who gets to tell this story? Is the story documented and, more importantly, how is it told? What was once a tale of four walls and a roof has evolved into a complex system of purposefully integrated components designed to minimize impact and maximize efficiency. The true power of homes’ story lies in its ability to successfully transfer knowledge to future residents. The rationale behind south facing windows, how the energy meter works, and why the greywater system is more efficient than a traditional sprinkler system may be perfectly clear to the architect or original owner, but unless the story resonates with the new occupants, these advancements will rest idle and eventually work against the home.
Ed Note: Voting is now closed. We’ll tally things up and have a wrap up post for you mid-day Monday.
Earlier this month, we ran a post in which we asked you to nominate the CEOs who are doing the most to advance principals of sustainability in their companies. And nominate you did–we received more than 50 nominations via comments to the post and many more through Twitter and other means. The men and women you suggested represent a great breadth of organizations, from huge companies to small firms that are pioneers in sustainability, to early stage entrepreneurial enterprises. The shear number of nominees is encouraging, and they’re all examples of how leadership is advancing the business of sustainability. I consider these nominations to be proof that a Green Economic Revolution is occurring, and that it is building a path for the restoration of our jobs, economy and environment.
Project H Design is a collective of designers who believe in the power of good design to change the world. Founded last year by architect and designer (and former Inhabitat.com managing editor) Emily Pilloton, the non-profit will kick off it its Design Revolution Road Show in February. During this tour, the crew will haul an Airstream trailer carrying an exhibit that features 40 different products aimed at addressing specific–and often humanitarian–issues, such as the need to easily transport and purify water, or the need for effective, low-cost eyeglasses.
The tour will hit 12 US states and 25 high schools and university design programs and was sprung from Pilloton’s book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People, which was published late last year.
The Cleantech Group announced Wednesday that San Francisco-based startup DotUI has developed a unique way to influence consumer energy usage behavior, by combining real-time energy management software and hardware with digital picture frames and a “fun” interface.
I first encountered DotUI and its Founder/CEO, Ishak Kang, at the Green:NET 2009 Conference, where Kang presented his vision of user interfaces–which are independent of their respective devices, following the user as he or she moved from one device to another. The presumption is that much useful technology goes unused because the user interfaces are difficult to learn. At the time, I wasn’t completely sure how this vision would translate into a viable product in the cleantech market, but it sure sounded interesting.
The company’s first offering, called the Nudgee, includes a wireless touch-screen digital picture frame device, which displays real-time energy usage data collected from “a universal gateway and electrical sub-meter. Gas, water, and air quality meters are optional.”
According to the article: “the company…is taking a fun approach, allowing users to see how much energy is being consumed, with updated images and content from friends and family, and utilizing social networking sites such as Facebook, instead of a dashboard approach other companies are pursuing.”
There has always been a significant amount of prestige and pride associated with creating the world’s tallest building as skyscrapers represent a spectacular display of money, power and hubris. Given the sneaky tricks used by architects to add a couple of inches to the top, it can be somewhat difficult to assess which building truly deserves to be labeled the tallest in the world. The completion of the Burj Dubai, however, has made that decision a lot easier. Finished in December 2009, it took the title of “world’s tallest building” by the mere fact that it is really big.
Standing at 2,717 feet tall, it is more than 1,000 feet taller than its nearest competitor, the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan. Its success, though, is not as sweet as many had hoped given the fact that its arrival coincides with a debt crisis in Dubai. Its property market has crumbled and this once booming city is now in the midst of a cold, economic winter.
Phenotype Tower by Chris Chalmers of BIOS Collective www.biosarch.org The virtues of Social Capital have been extolled by urbanists from Jane Jacobs in the 1950's, to Robert Putnum's more recent Bowling Alone. The last sixty years has seen plenty of progressive planners, architects, and environmentalists advocating for the re-creation of tight-knit residential communities with the power to counter everything from sprawl to obesity, loneliness to dependence on foreign oil. I count myself among those that believe in the power of localism and community—and I've seen this power manifest. Twice.
by Kurt McCulloch
When I was 18 years old, I voluntarily sequestered myself for nine-months on a narrow strip of rugged volcanic coastline on a tiny island in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. For almost a year, I worked, slept, ate, and socialized inside an area bounded by mountains and the sea. Everything was within a two hour walk, and I became a member of a fully integrated community where I was working as a volunteer teacher. Sure, I got a little island fever, but I also bore witness to the groundedness of people that are truly of a place to a depth my westernized mind still struggles to fathom.
Fast forward to 2009, San Francisco, my family and friends scattered across the globe. In contrast to life in Vanuatu my life is socially complex and spatially fragmented and, as many of us do in this web2.0 world, I use digital networks to stitch some of the pieces back together—my world a patchwork landscape of times and places viewed through digital windows. While San Francisco is one of the densest cities in the country, my social network is none-the-less-diffuse. I’m relatively untethered, another transplant walking down the sidewalk with the taletale white earbuds plugged into the sides of my head—I’m sure I’m not alone in my loneliness. And I’m convinced it has something to do with the places we call home.
“Great concepts and great vision are not enough to make an impact. Designers must recognize the challenges around implementation and deliver comprehensive prototypes with clear implementation plans.”
-Tim Brown – Designing for Social Impact
Grand visions of a breakthrough product. A service experience that will change the world. A video game that is immersive, entertaining and educational. Who doesn’t want to be involved in creating something along those lines? Coming from a background in design research, the purist, specialist side of me says to start with a clear and intimate understanding of the needs, motivations and behaviors of your users. Get that right and the rest will follow. Over the years however, experience has shown me another angle, one where the technology leads the way, not consumer behaviour. In fact, Donald Norman has recently published an article stating that design research is great for improvement but useless for innovation, while Steve Portigal provides a thoughtful reframing away from the term innovation and more to the identification of opportunity areas. It is here that I see ‘the gap’, the area that we as individuals in the MBA in Design Strategy program will find ourselves living.
Adobe Systems is yet another company that has jumped on the alternative power energy bandwagon. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Adobe Systems has installed 20 Windspire vertical axis turbines atop the parking garage of its LEED certified office complex.
While the feasibility of placing wind turbines in urban areas was once problematic, new integrated systems have made it possible for wind energy to be used in cities and residential areas.
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