What Is Needed To Mitigate Climate Change?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday September 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

180px-Grangemouth04nov06

Dr. Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University professor, spoke about the need for “building coalitions of people” to deal with climate change last week during the National Climate Seminar put on by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy. He included leveraging purchasing power as one way to build a coalition.

Climate change is occurring because economies have expanded by the cheapest means possible, according to Schneider, and that means via fossil fuels. Since the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide concentrations have increased 30 percent. In the last 130 years, global temperatures rose 0.6 degrees Celsius.

“When you are talking about planetary commons,” Schneider declared, “the ‘C’ word we need is cooperation…we have to control this [climate change] collectively.” The ‘C’ word that both politicians and businesses operate on, he added, is competition. However, Schneider did not argue that competition should be eliminated. Instead, he believes that cooperation is needed to “transition to sustainable energy systems, sustainable food systems, and share use of knowledge.” The principles of businesses need to be applied to the mitigation of climate change.

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“Perfect Flush” Retrofits Toilets for Two Level Flushing

Chris Kaiser | Wednesday September 30th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Can you spot the water saving device?

Can you spot the water saving device?

Everyone knows the trite toilet water conservation mantra involving letting yellow mellow and flushing brown down, but it’s very hard to start a piece on toilet water conservation without evoking it (plus it really helps you visualize conservation!)  But while this strategy works great at public restrooms and sports stadiums (they are going to smell “yellow” no matter what), it might not always be optimal for businesses like boutique hotels. Which is where the Perfect Flush from a company called Brondell comes into play.

The idea behind the device is so simple and commonsensical (apparently this really is a word) that it amazes me it isn’t employed more often: Why do we always use a full – number 2 -flush when majority of our porcelain visits only require a half flush (a.k.a number 1 flush)?  Wouldn’t it be great if toilets could be retrofitted to allow you to chose a half flush?

Well, now they can.

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How to Choose Your Sustainability Conferences

3p Contributor | Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 3 Comments

EasyJetBy David Witzel and Greg Andeck, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Innovation Exchange

David Witzel serves as Director and Greg Andeck is the Manager, Corporate Partnerships of 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.

Our colleague Victoria Mills recently said, with exasperation, “There used to be just a handful of sustainability conferences. We could make phone calls to a couple people and know who was doing what where. Now they are everywhere!” And it is true.  Triple Pundit alone lists seven events it is going to in the next two months. In many ways, this is a nice problem to have, as it reflects a burgeoning interest in the topic of business and the environment.

Our small EDF Corporate Partnerships team will attend 40 or more events in the next year (here’s our calendar).  Of course we track our carbon production and buy offsets, but conference costs exceed just their environmental impact. They cost us days of work time, stress on families, plus the financial burdens of registration, room and travel. On the other hand, we think attending face-to-face events is valuable.  Our work depends on partnering and coordinating with other organizations – our small team can’t have the impact we want all by ourselves. Meeting face-to-face is still an excellent way to understand common interests, build trust, and make things happen.

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New Generation Energy Offers Micro-Loans For Energy Projects

| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Boston-based non-profit New Generation Energy has launched a program to provide small businesses and community based organizations with loans of $5,000 to $100,000 for renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades.

The program adds to a small but growing pool of money available for businesses, individuals and local governments looking eager to upgrade their energy infrastructure, but unable to gain the necessary credit in today’s tough economic climate.

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Debt Free U – Social Responsibility, Debt Management, and the Long-Term Green Picture

| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

debt-burdenWhat do being socially minded, financially wise, and sustainable – and being in college – have to do with each other? A lot, as evidenced by the work of Debt Free U, a non-profit that helps college kids understand basic finance so they don’t wind up in unmanageable debt. If kids are the future, the future generation must keep sustainable business afloat, and being financially healthy is a prerequisite to keeping anything afloat. Debt Free U’s endeavors are likely to be a crucial component in the long-term viability of green business growth.

Debt Free U is a self-described “money-management resource geared toward young adults (instead of their parents), in whose hands the future of our economy rests”. The organization seeks to give youth the financial know-how necessary to manage that economy-supporting task, and it offers a number of tools toward that end. Its “CareOne” service providers – Debt Free U’s sponsors – supply exhaustive informational and interactive resources to help college kids stay in control of their finances.

One could argue that, if efforts like Debt Free U’s are successful, they will help prevent the “poverty mentality” that can lead to subsistence living (i.e. struggling to pay off one’s debt instead of envisioning and working toward a future-minded, built-to-last sustainable infrastructure). After all, having a huge debt hanging over one’s head isn’t the best energy-garnering tool.

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Hotter, Faster: New Report Slices Decades From Warming Scenarios

Richard Levangie | Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 3 Comments

parched-soilAre people in the U.S. illiterate when it comes to climate change?

Just days after Rasmussen reported that 47 percent of U.S. citizens suggested that it was OK to put the economy before climate change concerns, one of the key advisors to the German government suggested that North Americans know less about climate change than just about anyone else in the world.

Professor John Schellnhuber, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, is one of the world’s foremost climate experts. On the sidelines at a climate conference at Oxford University, he predicted that it will be several years before the U.S. will be able to get its house — or perhaps Senate — in order to join the world in cutting emissions. And until that happens, says Schellnhuber, developing countries like India and China won’t set hard emission targets. It’s a dangerous Catch-22. He’s hoping that most G20 economies will reach some measure of an agreement at Copenhagen, and the U.S. and Canada will follow in a few years time.

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The G-20’s Fossil Fuel Subsidy-Reducing Pledge: Where’s the Who, Where, When, Why, and How?

| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The G-20’s “pledge” to reduce subsidies for oil, coal, and other fossil fuels sounds more like a mumble. The group’s promise includes the “what” of the equation – a goal to reduce tax breaks and government assistance these types of fuels – it falls flat in other areas: the who, where, when, why, and how. Looks like creating immediate climate change solutions may not be a top priority for the G-20 – but does this mean it’s not a top concern for world leaders?

According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, G-20 leaders pledged a “phasing out” of fossil fuel subsidies in nebulous terms Friday, promising to phase out subsidies in the “medium term, protect subsidies for renewable energy, and guard programs designed to help poor pay for energy. However, the pledge’s numerous gray areas leave some sustainability proponents worried. It did not set a date of completion, a clear definition of what subsidies it would eliminate (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions permits), or methods of policing global compliance. (These gray areas are not surprising, nor unrealistic, according to one Triple Pundit blogger.)

While the pledge’s significance for green business is to be determined, one could speculate wildly in the meantime. It could be building block toward success at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December. It could be a smart move in the chess game against fossil fuel lobbyists working hard to secure governmental protection. Or, it could be a treading-water-type move with little to no impact….

What do you think about the G-20’s decision (or lack thereof)?

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Quitting the US Chamber of Commerce: The Newest Eco-Fad?

| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Now that a third large utility has dropped out of the US Chamber of Commerce over its stance on climate change legislation, the question arises: is this just a passing squall or the beginning of a serious public relations brouhaha?

Exelon, the country’s largest provider of gas and electricity, has joined Pacific Gas & Electric of California, and PNM Resources of New Mexico, in withdrawing from the chamber in protest over the body’s opposition to the carbon cap and trade legislation slowly working its way through Congress.

The carbon-based free lunch is over,” said CEO John Rowe, “But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible.”

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BMW Plug-In Diesel Concept Wows Europe

Richard Levangie | Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 4 Comments

bmw-vision-conceptAs concepts go, it’s quite a concept. When BMW moved its Formula 1 engineers to a program that would develop cleaner, greener automobiles, many were skeptical, but the Vision Efficientdynamics Concept (VEC) that was shown at the Frankfurt auto show this month should change a few minds. The slick design features a 356-horsepower AWD plug-in diesel-hybrid concept that can go 31 miles on battery power alone. It also has a top speed of 155 mph, can accelerate to 60 in just 4.8 seconds, and bests the Prius by emitting just 99 g of CO2 per km (while attaining 62.2 mpg).

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How Retail Giant JCPenney Lowers Environmental Impact

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Jcpenny_logoqVenerable department store chain, JCPenney installed solar power systems on four stores in California in 2008. SunPower Corporation installed the systems, and under a power purchase agreement (PPA), owns and operates them. Each system on the California stores produces 3.7 megawatts, and will avert approximately 146,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

JCPenney also installed solar power systems on five stores in New Jersey which operate with a two megawatt capacity, and meet about 25 percent of a store’s needs. The systems were installed by SunPower, with financing from Integrys Energy Services. The installations were completed last December.

In 2008, JCPenney entered into an agreement with Broadstar Wind Systems for a pilot program to install wind turbines at a 1.6 million square foot distribution center in Reno, Nevada. The distribution center will have Broadstar’s AeroCam turbines which are smaller and expected to generate energy more efficiently.

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Formula Companies Pushing Products in Third-World Countries

| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Baby formulaNew innovations are being created constantly to make everyday activities more sustainable. And yet at the same time, baby formula companies are pushing products that make life’s most sustainable activity (in every meaning of the word) less sustainable.

In addition to the huge benefit that breastfeeding has on health (including significantly reducing infant mortality), breasts and human nipples are natural and entirely reusable, not to mention completely free! Think of all the resources saved. All the shipping and packaging of formula – totally unneeded. So why are breastfeeding rates dropping, especially in developing countries such as Vietnam where it’s needed most?

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CO2 Is Green, Because We All Need CO2

| Tuesday September 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Remember the ads produced by the competitive enterprise institute touting CO2 as “life”. Well, here we go again:

It’s pretty amazing that people would spend their hard earned money producing videos like the one above. In this case it’s Houston gas man H. Leighton Steward messing with the minds of voters in Montana and New Mexico. The idea: To derail any climate change legislation currently in the Senate.

As usual, these things would be funny if you saw them in the Onion, or in a Paul Verhoeven film, but it’s not so funny when you see it dumped on people in the real world. Many business now favor climate change action – partly for common sense moral reasons, but also because action on climate change and the economic restructuring it requires represents a tremendous business opportunity. There’s even a pro-business rally in DC next week on the matter. Only a gas man with his head stuck in very oily sand could fail to see that.

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This Is Not Walmart’s Index

| Monday September 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments

1Last week Joel Makower of Greenbiz.com hosted a webinar with Rand Waddoups, Senior Director of Strategy/Sustainability from Walmart, to help put some structure to the Sustainability Index Walmart announced about ten weeks ago.

Realizing that the demands of the customer are changing, Walmart is focusing on “innovation and supply chain transparency.” Citing programs like Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles and SC Johnson’s What’s Inside, Mr. Waddoups referred to sustainability and transparency in business and product sourcing as the “new normal” in customer expectations.

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Why the G20 Is Not About Climate Change — And Shouldn’t Be

| Monday September 28th, 2009 | 3 Comments

It seems as if every gathering of more than two political leaders these days is being trumpeted as an opportunity to advance the fight against global warming, and when those said leaders go home without having secured any sort of promise or commitment on that front, the meeting is seen as a failure.

The most the G20 gathering could manage this time around on the climate front was a solemn nodding of the heads when Obama suggested that it would be a great idea if they phased out subsidies for fossil fuels. Governments spend about $300 billion a year on subsidies, and leaders said they’d like to “phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,” in a statement released after the summit was over. Not exactly a firm commitment.

Additional initiatives, such as providing aid to developing countries for renewable energy and energy efficiency separate from other aid, were kicked down the road until the next meeting of finance ministers.

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Google Pushing Solar Technology — Hard

| Monday September 28th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Frustrated with the lack of progress cutting the cost of solar thermal energy, Google, a prominent supporter of the technology, is privately working on ways to lower cost.

Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl says it is working on lowering the production cost of the mirrors that are a primary component of solar thermal power by at least a factor of two, “ideally a factor of three or four,” according to Reuters.

Weihl says Google will not be working with any other companies on the technology — an odd decision, given that Google has already invested in two solar thermal companies that use mirrors to produce power.

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