Back to the Future: The Binishell Returns

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 17 Comments

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binishell-palmspringsIf the drawing to the right looks like something out of the Jetsons, you’re not far from the truth.

It’s a schematic of a home to be built in Palm Springs this winter made out of Binishells, self-supporting concrete shells erected in hours using only air pressure. The technology was invented by architect Dante Bini in the 1960s, and received widespread attention in the era of Buckminster Fuller and Saarinen’s swooping TWA terminal.

Now, Dante and his son Nicolo hope to re-introduce the Binishell as an efficient, low-cost and low-carbon building technology to a world strapped for resources and concerned about pollution.

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Plastic “Temple of Trash”—Upcycling, the Arts, and Making the Case for Sustainability

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

temple-of-trash “What will future generations think of us when they uncover our landfill waste?” The question is just one of many that have inspired artists, including Salig Design, to create art out of up-cycled plastic bottles. Last year, Salig Design created the Temple of Trash (in Rotterdam, Netherlands) constructed of 100 tons of PET bottles pressed into bales. While the Temple is no longer standing, it was a visual representation of what sustainable business proponents already believe: that waste and overconsumption is not inconsequential. Pieces like these also highlight the role of artists in raising awareness about the importance of global sustainability.

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REI’s Annual Stewardship Report: Recycling Versus Carbon Neutrality?

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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The 2008 stewardship report of Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) proves that recycling and carbon-neutrality don’t necessarily go hand in hand – and that growing businesses may face additional challenges in becoming or remaining sustainable. The report indicates that while REI is on track for meeting its zero-waste-to-landfill goal by 2020, it also fell short of its greenhouse gas goals last year, with emissions rising by 11 percent.

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Startup Manna Energy Seeks to Use Carbon Offsets to Provide Drinking Water for Rwanda

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Manna Energy, a Houston, Texas-based water technology startup, is seeking to put carbon offsets to an innovative and life-saving use: providing water – sustainably – for Rwandan communities. In addition to addressing the country’s interrelated problems of water shortage, climate change, and non-sustainable development, Manna Energy is making the case for sustainable growth in developing countries.

Manna’s Rwanda Natural Energy Project is still in-progress. When complete, it will provide clean, drinkable water for more than 250,000 teachers, students, and staff at more than 400 secondary schools throughout Rwanda, GreenBiz.com reports. It will do so sustainably, replacing traditional water-purification techniques at those schools (typically, boiling water by burning wood, thus creating carbon emissions) with green water treatment plants, which will purify water using gravity filtration and solar power. In addition, the Project will also employ a workforce in Rwanda and utilize local materials, thereby supporting local economic growth and stability.

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Iceland’s Financial Woes – Economy, Sustainability, and Safe Growth

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

iceland-flag Iceland’s financial history – and its current (disastrous) state of affairs – is proof that faster and bigger isn’t always better – faster economic growth, bigger banks, or quicker wealth accumulation. According to a Vanity Fair report, Iceland is massively bankrupt, its currency valueless, its debt 850 percent of its G.D.P., and its people desperate for food and funds. Iceland went bankrupt due largely to its uncontrolled growth earlier in the decade. While the story itself is both sad and intriguing, could it also have implications for the dynamics of sustainable business growth?

Iceland’s economic problems began, ironically, when its three biggest banks’ sought substantial and unparalleled growth. Although the country is about the size of Kentucky, and these banks had assets of just a few billion dollars (about 100 percent of Iceland’s G.D.P.), the banks succeeded (at first). Over the next three and a half years, the banks’ assets grew to over $140 billion in the most rapid expansion of a banking system in history. Meanwhile, stock values increased nine-fold and real estate values and the average Icelandic family’s wealth threefold. The economic growth all stemmed, in one way or another, from the investment-banking industry. The country adopted global financial ambitions, which seemed to prosper – until fall of 2008.

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Planet Metrics: Helping Companies Reduce Their Risk from Embedded Carbon and Energy

| Friday September 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

Planet Metrics is a relatively new start-up with a solution to help corporations model and analyze the life cycle of carbon emissions and energy use throughout their entire supply chain, from cradle to grave. Fast Company covered the start-up  in June and called their Rapid Carbon Modeling “a potentially powerful tool.”

What makes Planet Metrics stand out from the crowd of carbon management tools? For one thing, they secured $2.3 million in Series A funding from angel investors and Draper Fisher Jurvetson about nine months ago. They also are working with several large clients, including Method, an environmentally-friendly cleaning product company, a large Canadian retailer and an automobile manufacturer.

The pricing of the software is not public. There is an upfront fee in addition to an annual subscription fee for continued access to the software. They are targeting larger retail, manufacturing and consumer packaged goods companies with complex supply chains, committed to getting started on addressing Scope 3, indirect emissions.

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Business Not As Usual: Chinese Environmental Activists Riot, And More.

John Laumer | Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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If you’re in the business world, here are five recent TreeHugger.com posts we think you’ll appreciate seeing.  Note the rating system introduced in this post ’roundup’ to help you grab the items  that mesh with your needs in product design, market development, and corporate management systems.  Business “criticality” (C) and “urgency” (U) are each ranked, subjectively, on a scale of 1 through 5, with 5 being the highest, and 1 the lowest. Instructions on how to put the rankings  to use are at the bottom of this post.

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Can a Global Company Be Local?

Tom Szaky | Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 1 Comment

tesco-bagGlobalization has long gotten a bad rap. And for good reason. So many companies arrogantly decide that, one way or another, what they create will become what people desire, unaltered, in countries around the world. And in many cases, it’s worked, homogenizing cultures, at least on an aesthetic level, with no real benefit to the people on an economic or environmental level. It’s largely pop culture crap that ends up adding to landfills when done.

What if globalization could be flipped on its head, taking a business model and localizing it wherever it is, glocalizing if you will? That’s what we’re attempting to do with our upcoming launch in the UK in September together with Kraft UK. Customizing a business to be culturally sensitive and appropriate in other countries is nothing new, but what might be new is to what depth it’s being done here.

On a surface level, we are replicating what we’ve succeeded in doing here in the US – collecting waste with the help of the public and companies, and upcycling it into both product packaging as is, repurposed, and entirely new executions by turning layers of material into sewable fabric.

But things differ vastly from there.

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The Wild, Wild (Green) West

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Filmmaker David Dibble checks his Super 8 mm camera during a film festival promo shoot in Hanford. <em>Photo credit: Hanford Sentinel</em>

Filmmaker David Dibble checks his Super 8 mm camera on during a film festival promo shoot in Hanford.

Recently I covered the launch of the Going Green Film Festival, spotlighting sustainable cinema and filmmaking practices that preserve and protect the environment. The first of its kind, it’s shining a light on Green Hollywood, and bringing this important category to the foreground, right down to their advertising. Literally.

Building on the festival’s slogan of “Rethink, Replenish, Recommit,” David Dibble, an LA-based filmmaker and his crew are re-enacting the wild, wild west. With an eco-conscious marshal. “It’s a typical high-noon Clint Eastwood situation, where you’ve got a marshal and a bad guy’s coming into town,” Dibble said. But in this town, the outlaws recycle.

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Is the Customer Always Right? Yes, When it Comes to Sustainability.

Greg Andeck | Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

people-QOTSAGreg 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.

The world’s leading companies all conduct extensive research to determine what their customers want and how they want it.  Whether they hire firms like Synovate or Millward Brown, or do consumer research in-house, companies know the value of crafting products that fit their customers’ needs and desires.

This is why it’s so perplexing that companies don’t do the same when developing substantive sustainability strategies.  All too often, companies launch campaigns that are later accused of greenwashing or limit their efforts to indirect efficiency improvements, when it’s their core product that really needs the greening.  It turns out that by paying more attention to their customers, companies can unlock solutions for true environmental innovation and get richly rewarded for doing so.

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San Francisco’s New Composting Law: Six Weeks and Counting

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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In about six weeks, composting will be more than just typical in San Francisco; it will be mandated by law as well. Under a new law, the city’s residents and businesses must compost all food scraps or risk paying fines. But according to a recent SF Gate article, although the law has yet to be implemented, San Franciscans are already rising to the challenge, composting 15 percent more material than they did just a few months ago.

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AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, IBM, and Expanding Business Sustainably

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Good news from the world of (at least increasingly) sustainable business growth: AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah (AAA NCNU) is expanding, and expanding (at least partially) sustainably. The company recently partnered with IBM to design and build AAA NCNU’s new energy efficient data center, in keeping with AAA’s technology requirements.

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U.S. Firm First Solar Plans to Build World’s Largest Solar Plant – in China

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The BBC recently reported good news for the typically strained environmental relations between the U.S. and China. Although the two countries are among the world’s top polluters, and although each seems to expect concessions the other isn’t willing to give (in terms of greenhouse gas legislation), a U.S. energy firm and China recently signed a huge solar power deal. Could the deal signal the turning over of a new leaf in the countries’ approaches to climate change?

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How Many Solar Panels Would It Take to Solve All Our Problems?

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

LandArtAnswer: a lot.

According  to the Energy Information Agency, the planet uses 500 quadrillion btus of energy every year, and that number is expected to rise to 678 quadrillion in twenty years. Starting with those figures, and then a lot of back-of-an-envelope math, Land Art Generator Initiative has mapped the surface area required to provide the entire planet’s energy from the sun in 2030. They also did one for off-shore wind generation.

The end calculation was 191,817 square miles (496,805 square km) of land for solar panels, spread around the world. For wind it comes to 11,748,294 5 MW capacity turbines covering 5874147 square miles off-shore.

More Silly Math

The problem with these sorts of rough estimates is just how rough they are. As numerous comments point out, Land Art’s figures do not take into account power loss through transmission, or other inefficiencies. One way to check their math is to look at actual projects on the ground and see how they measure up to the figures being bandied about.

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Is Sustainable Farming Going Mainstream?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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A recent article in Time magazine touted the need for sustainable agriculture. Calling the American food system “energy intensive,” the article predicted that “our industrial style of food production will end sooner or later.” The article also cited the consequences if American agriculture does not become sustainable: eroded farmland, antibiotic-resistant germs, and increasing health costs.

Another weekly news magazine, U.S. News & World Report, recently contained an article about sustainable agriculture. The article mentioned a study by the Technische Universitaet Muenchen which created a “new indicator model” to assess the sustainability of farms. Professor Kurt-Juergen Huelsbergen from the Organic Farming and Crop Production Systems at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen said that farmers who want to practice sustainable agriculture “need a solid basis for their decision-making.”

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