SoCap09 Day 1: Attendance Tops 1,000

| Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

logo61709Judging by the attendance this year at the Social Capital Markets 09 conference in San Francisco, there is no doubt the buzz around social enterprise and social investing is gaining momentum. The conference began yesterday with attendance well exceeding last year’s turnout of 650.  Over 1,000 participants from 32 countries have registered this year, representing a mix non-profits and for-profits, investors and entrepreneurs, all with a variety of interests, backgrounds and social missions. The conference runs through Thursday and includes over 150 speakers, 40 panel sessions, and a full “unconference” day on Thursday, where participants set the agenda.

SoCap convener Kevin Jones began the conference by welcoming all in attendance and introducing the keynote speaker, Sonal Shah, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation.  “First it’s notable that we now have an Office of Social Innovation,” commented Ms. Shah, assuring the audience that the government now recognizes the importance of the social sector in addressing our most pressing social problems. She went on to describe her Office’s goal of creating a context in which socially innovative entrepreneurs can succeed.

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Surprise! Sigg Bottles Did Contain BPA After All.

| Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 | 11 Comments

More articles on the controversy surrounding bottled water can be found here!

sigghonest2A bottle full of BPA-laden tears. That’s what I’ve cried for you, Sigg. You have let me down. To think, you were my proud symbol of healthy environmentalism. You represented anti-plastic bottled water as I filled and refilled you every day at the tap. Now I am filled and refilled with shame for you and your company’s non-transparent ways.

I’m not so mad that your lining did in fact contain the reproductive health problem-causing BPA (the main reason consumers like me made an effort to avoid plastic in the first place), it’s that you lied. Perhaps the BPA in your lining does not leach into the liquid contained by your bottles, but your web of lies has leached into the consumer’s conscious. Good luck talking your way out of this one.

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EU: Ban on Harmful AC Chemicals in Autos Starts Now

| Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

The European Union has proved that it means business when it comes to banishing climate-damaging chemicals in cars. On Tuesday, the EU refused to grant a delay, requested by auto makers, on a recent ban on certain vehicle air conditioner chemicals, Reuters reports.

In 2006, the EU decided that, starting in 2011, it would ban the use of fluorinated chemicals that significantly warm the climate when released into the atmosphere. The move highlights the emerging green refrigerant market, and that market’s struggle to overcome the existing not-so-green one.

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TckTckTck: Big Deal Around Hopes for a Big Climate Deal

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

OxfamEastAsia_Bangkok2Let’s all start counting down with TckTckTck in preparation for what promises to be a seminal event in achieving, at some point sooner rather than later in our lifetimes, a binding global agreement on climate change.

Maybe it’s too soon or already too late; maybe there are too many naysayers and “yes, buts” poised for action out there; maybe there are too many well-heeled political and corporate self-interests hard at work to expect anything really meaningful to come from the United Nations Climate Change Conference that starts Dec. 7 in Copenhagen.

But this is one confab that can’t be allowed to come and go without a major effort to stem the climate change tide. It might be a last-ditch effort. The forces on the side of getting real and getting something real done have banded together under the TckTckTck banner.

TckTckTck officials kicked-off its 100 days countdown to Copenhagen campaign last weekend.

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Are You Smarter Than a Chicken? And Other Green Business Wisdom From Gil Friend

Scott Cooney | Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

GFriend2_000The Truth About Green Business, a new book by Gil Friend, founder and CEO of Natural Logic hit bookstores this month just as the nation grapples with a down economy and the prospect of cost cuts that are threatening many green initiatives at the nation’s largest companies.  The timing couldn’t be better.  In the book, Friend systematically dispels the myth that green costs more.

Friend spoke last week at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco to promote the book.  Friend has a fascinating history, including working with Coca-Cola, Hewlett Packard, Levi-Strauss, Williams-Sonoma and others on their sustainability initiatives.  He spent some time with Buckminster Fuller’s organization as a youth, coming up with creative ways to solve some of society’s most challenging problems.  That exercise taught him that reverse engineering is often easier than traditional approaches when it comes to large social change.  “Sort of makes the impossibilities disappear,” says Friend.

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Green Grades 2009: FedEx Office and Office Depot Score High on Paper

| Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

paper-grades

The Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics just released Green Grades 2009—a report card on paper practices of the office supply sector. Environmentally responsible purchasing of paper is easy, and large purchasers are making greener purchasing decisions, helping to build markets for recycled post-consumer paper while at the same time protecting the world’s forests, endangered wildlife, water quality and indigenous communities.

Easy as One, Two, Three

The report outlines three easy steps to green your paper purchasing:

  1. Minimize use of paper.
  2. Avoid paper from Endangered Forests and other controversial sources.
  3. Choose paper with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content and with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for the remaining content.

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Better Place Battery Swapping Moving On Up to Tokyo

| Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments


Better Place
, the ambitious electric vehicle infrastructure start-up, has won funding from the Japanese government to outfit electric powered taxis with “swappable” battery technology. Better Place will partner with Nihon Kotsu, Tokyo’s largest taxi company, and Tokyo R&D Co., an automotive engineering company, to retrofit pre-existing electric vehicles with swappable batteries and build a site to swap out the cars’ batteries.

The deal is the first commercial application of Better Place’s battery swapping technology after the success of a demonstration project in Yokohama. The taxi project is slated to begin in January 2010.

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London Leads the Way With Green Business Website

Andy Greene | Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

If you have a business that wants to go green, one your first questions is probably, “How exactly do I go green?” You are not alone. Many businesses, especially small businesses, do not have the time or resources to find green product manufacturers, set up relationships, and inspect the manufacturers’ eco-friendly policies. So whether you want to purchase a portable solar panel to provide power to your business or reduce your business waste, you may seem adrift at sea.

Government To The Rescue?

This is where the City of London (England that is) has come to the rescue of London businesses. Mayor Boris Johnson, using 3 million pounds from the London Development Agency, has created a green procurement service called Green Procurement Code. This unique service is web based and allows businesses to search for products that have been screened for being eco-friendly.

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Socap09: Takeaways and Key Questions on Social Enterprise From Day 1

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 3 Comments

Socap09The opening day of Socap09 brought many rich discussions, which left me with a few nuggets of advice and even more unresolved questions.

A few tidbits of wisdom from panelists and presenters:

1. The sustainability revolution is not on par with the dot com bubble, but rather on par with the industrial revolution. This will be great retrofit of our lives… Everything we’ve ever created was created wrong. We need those all those crazy ideas. ~ Steve Newcomb, Virgance, The Future of Social Innovation on the Web

2. If your idea isn’t twice as good as the next guy’s, contemplate joining another venture you really respect. ~ Premal Shah, Kiva.org, The Future of Social Innovation on the Web

3. Don’t give up on your venture.
Change.org has been four years in the making. ~Ben Rattray, Change.org, The Future of Social Innovation on the Web

4. Impact measurement is critical, but difficult
– resist the temptation to track everything that can be measured. Focus on a few key impact metrics. ~Sara Olsen and Brett Galimidi, SVT Group, Impact Management Workshop

5. Invest in what works.
~Sonal Shah, White House Office of Social Innovation, Keynote

Today’s panels surfaced many fundamental questions that need to be addressed as we work to align financial, social, and environmental incentives.

1. What is government’s role in the social capital marketplace? How can every day citizens push forward the work of the government and more particularly the Office of Social Innovation?

2. Do we want to engage traditional investment firms in the social capital space or not? Steve Newcomb pointed out the absence of tier 1 venture capital firms at Socap, and proclaimed that we’ll have succeeded once we see those firms attending and investing in the space. A colleague of mine proclaimed exactly the opposite – we will have failed if traditional venture capital firms are investing in the space and expecting a 10x return, as we ought to be reinventing the meaning of investment.

3. Is it better to work together and come to consensus or work heads down and push forward your own idea or venture? Should we be running fast and alone or together and not so fast?

4. Are we producing too many entrepreneurs or do we need to generate as many entrepreneurs with good ideas (which may fail or succeed) as possible?

What’s your take?

Look for more from me tomorrow on Day 2 of Socap.

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The Ultimate in Eating Local–Backyard Chickens!

Scott Cooney | Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

465448 cover.inddWhen the University of Chicago undertook an assessment of the global warming caused by our diets, they found exactly what many vegetarian activists have been telling us about for many years, and that is that being vegetarian is the new Prius. Eating local, they found, was a mere 4 percent of the carbon footprint in our food, whereas the growth and production accounted for 83% of the total.  The United Nations confirmed this in a report last month:  “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”  Much of this has to do with the fact that methane gas (a, ahem, by-product of animal agriculture) has 18-24 times the capacity for warming the planet than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide, upon which much of our legislative efforts have focused.

But not all meat, and not all production methods are created equal.  Rob Ludlow, co-author of Raising Chickens for Dummies, owns the website BackyardChickens.com.  The site has been featured in some pretty high-profile places:  the New York Times, Economist Magazine, and now, for Pete’s Sake, TRIPLE PUNDIT!  Full disclosure, Rob is a friend of mine who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Regardless, the concept of localizing food is a terrific step toward lowering your carbon footprint.  Localizing it to your backyard is the ultimate in local.  And of course, chicken raised humanely and the eggs that they produce have a far lower carbon footprint than beef and pork.

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News Break: EPA Draft Ruling Could Shield Small Business From Limits on CO2 Emissions

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

limiting CO2The EPA today sent a draft ruling to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that would likely limit greenhouse gas emissions regulations only to large industrial sources, thus shielding small business from any forthcoming limits on emissions.

With the expected formal release of an endangerment finding (pdf) from the EPA declaring CO2 a pollutant, the current rule under the Clean Air Act would require that industrial sources emitting more than 250 tons or more a year of a regulated pollutant install the “best available control technologies” to limit emissions.

Today’s submission to the OMB  could limit “strict permitting requirement to industrial sources of more than 25,000 ton a year of carbon dioxide equivalent,”  says a report just released by GreenWire.com (subscription).

“Putting this rule in place deflates a lot of the political rhetoric about regulating CO2,” said David Bookbinder of the Sierra Club.

For more on the story, see Daniel Kessler’s report on Treehugger.

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Fall’s New Fashion Trend: Plastic Bottles

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Anvil Knitwear Launches New T-Shirt Made From Recycled PET Bottles

AnvilSustainableYesterday, Anvil Knitwear announced the launch of its newest line of eco-friendly apparel: A t-shirt made from plastic bottles. No, this is not some misguided homage to Zoolander’s Dereliqute campaign, but rather an interesting attempt to promote plastic recycling and the conversion to industrial organic cotton farming.

Called the AnvilSustainable, each tee uses approximately three 20-ounce recycled plastic bottles, and the cotton utlized comes from farms that are in the three-year process of transitioning to organic. According to the company, using recycled plastic is also cheaper than using new polyester, so Anvil can pass the savings onto consumers.

“Buying a shirt made with cotton in conversion is a great way to support farmers making the switch, and encourage more to do the same,” said Anthony Corsano, Anvil’s CEO.

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Choose the Best Sustainability Consultant for Your Company

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 8 Comments


We all know what we need to do to make our companies more environmentally friendly: use less energy, water, and paper, travel less and make less garbage. But yeah, it’s easier said than done especially if you’re in a carbon intensive business like manufacturing or energy production. What’s the company without a lot of time or expertise to do? Well, hire someone, of course! Who do you hire, and how do you know what to look for? Here’s the lowdown on the biggest and smallest players in the newest consulting game and how to separate the wheat from the formerly-unemployed-newly-rebranded “Sustainability Consultant.”

First, you need to know what you are looking for. Different consultants have different kinds of expertise:

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Consumers Backlash Against Ban on Incandescent Light Bulbs

| Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 19 Comments

Light Bulb Ban A monumental ban on incandescent bulbs went into effect today throughout the European Union, marking a significant milestone in policy regarding consumer habits as a way to combat our collective impact on climate change.

It’s been long understood that compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are significantly more energy efficient, and while there will be a roughly three year grace period to completely phase out those non-CFL bulbs that have already been fabricated from the market, according to the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, this new ban could cut the average UK’s household by 37 Pounds (approximately $60) and save 135 kg (approximately 298 lbs.) of CO2 emissions each year.

What is notable, however, isn’t the potentially huge environmental impact this ban will have, but the large amount of resistance it is receiving.

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Gardens Grow Up: Are Vertical Landscapes the New Green Roofs?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday September 1st, 2009 | 5 Comments

Even if you’re not a gardener or urban planner, you’ve likely heard a thing or two about vertical gardens and/or vertical farming recently. From applications that are purely aesthetic, to those aimed at greening buildings and cleaning air in urban environments, or sustainably increasing agricultural output in urban settings, there is a steady buzz around the notion that one does not need a horizontal substrate to grow things.

Proponents argue that there’s no reason to limit the exterior greenspace on a building to its rooftop. And that vertical farming would bring food production closer to urban centers while avoiding the problems that floods and droughts cause traditional farms.

Others say all this anti-gravity planting is growing in the wrong direction. Back in July of 2008, Adam Stein asked readers of his TerraPass blog: “How is this not the dumbest idea ever?” He points to the high cost of urban real estate, the complexity of the proposed farms and the comparatively larger positive impact of other approaches to our environmental woes, such as carbon pricing, as reasons for his opposition.

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