Before delving into the issues associated with USBGC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building system, a disclaimer might be warranted. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who opposes the idea that buildings should be more efficient, have less environmental impact and be better for society. Though LEED has the potential to achieve these goals, there are still issues that prevent the system from being more than a de facto standard. Users of the LEED program have complained about confusing documentation requirements, underestimated costs and a lack of hard science backing the consensus driven process. It is important to note, however, that the LEED system is evolving and updates in LEED version 3.0 reflect some of concerns expressed by critics, like a greater emphasis on energy and water, as well as ongoing reporting requirements, but problems still persist.Click to continue reading »
Photo Credit: Metropolis Magazine and Envision
LEED-Certified “green buildings” consume less energy, require fewer resources to build, and generate less waste than conventional buildings. Oh, and they have higher market value. And did I mention their occupants are happier, healthier, and sometimes even smarter?
That’s not some hippie propaganda. Those are all findings from well-documented studies including a (lengthy) one from the GSA—the “landlord” of most non-DoD government property.
According to Ashley Katz, Manager of Communications for the USGBC, “green buildings save 30-50% of energy, 35% of CO2 emissions, 40% of water and 70% of solid waste.”
So where is the controversy?Click to continue reading »
When I first heard the word “biochar,” it didn’t exactly conjure notions of sustainability, clean energy, or economic viability. The word’s syllables, strung together, sounded more like a reference to some sort of eco-firewood. Close, but no cigar: turns out biochar is a relatively carbon neutral technology that could hold its own in the biofuel market. Is this a concept too good to be true?Click to continue reading »
Apparently, home really is where the heart is – even when it comes to Congress’ distribution of energy research funds. When Energy Secretary Steven Chu proposed a plan for creating eight “innovation hubs” (i.e. clean technology research centers), Congressmen overwhelmingly favored earmarking funds for research schools in their home regions. The earmarking has many critics up in arms: should the allocation of big-time government funding for big-time energy research be based (as they perceive) on allocators’ favorite schools or locations?Click to continue reading »
Poor FIJI water. Ever since Pablo’s infamous “true cost” article almost three years ago, the company has scrambled to re-invent its image in the eyes of the environmentally conscious. Although many of their efforts have been PR plays, they’ve made some praiseworthy changes. Now, in classic style, Mother Jones Magazine has leveled the accusation that not only is drinking FIJI still an environmental absurdity, it’s also helping to prop up a nasty military dictatorship. Yikes.
The week of August 17th, I’ll be participating with others in a discussion about this issue on Mother Jones’ website – Here’s the link to the discussion. Also, here are some thoughts…Click to continue reading »
Before Katrina, New Orleans was known more for the free-wheeling atmosphere of its streets than the free-thinking of its business leaders. The economy was largely controlled by manufacturers and the oil and gas industries, with a business culture that valued seniority and lineage over raw talent. In stark contrast to that commercial stodginess was the city’s intrinsic creative energy — something any visitor can feel the moment they set foot there.
It took the tragedy of the hurricane, which killed hundreds, and caused billions in damage, to loosen the grip of the old way of doing business. Now, entrepreneurs, including clean technology companies, are sprouting up like mushrooms after the rain, supported by a new host of organizations designed to reinvent the way business is done in New Orleans, and in the process help the Big Easy become a world class city again.Click to continue reading »
Last Day for 30% Discount for Triple Pundit Readers
“A bridge is about to open up in the market at the intersection of money and meaning that will make things easier and safer for people who want to make their investments consistent with their values,” according to Kevin Jones, lead convener of the upcoming Social Capital Markets (SOCAP09) conference in San Francisco.
The bridge he’s referring to is GIIRS (for Global Impact Investing Rating System), a new investor system built through the collaboration of leading foundations, social investment funds, rating agencies and consultants. The demand for solid social investment opportunities is growing rapidly among high net worth investors, family offices and institutional wealth managers. GIIRS is expected to address this pent-up demand by letting these new style investors compare and measure the kind of social and environmental impact they can expect from their investments and donations.
The GIIRS rating system will be explained in more detail on September 2 at the SOCAP09 conference. The system is ready and has been in trials for a while. In fact, some of these large institutional investments could be announced at SOCAP09.Click to continue reading »
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.Click to continue reading »
The 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.”Click to continue reading »
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.Click to continue reading »
Tesco, 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?Click to continue reading »
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.Click to continue reading »
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?Click to continue reading »
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.Click to continue reading »