By: Matthew Marichiba
Hunting for work recently, I happened upon an opening for Director of Renewable Energy Engineering, which sounded perfect for the ambitions of a friend of mine. (It sounded perfect for my ambitions too, but I’m several years shy of the necessary qualifications.) In hard economic times, people help each other out, so I forwarded the listing to my friend. A couple weeks later he wrote back to say, “They called me back! I’ve got a phone interview next Tuesday.” And because his background is not in renewable energy, he added “Um…I’m not exactly sure what to do next.”
Renewable energy is not my specialty either, but I do have a career in electrical engineering and a head full of systems-thinking principles from my MBA at Presidio. That’s enough for me to hold strong opinions on the subject, and I like to think that mine are the kinds of opinions that every director of renewable energy engineering needs. So I sat down to help my friend out by outlining my thoughts on the subject. What came out, I discovered, were not technology-specific details, but rather principles that apply to any technology. They seemed like the kinds of big-picture principles that everyone should know, not just aspiring renewable energy professionals, and so I reproduce my list of “Renewable Energy Principles for 2009″ here.
By: Matthew Marichiba
Seven years ago, long before NPR and Fast Company and the New York Times chronicled Homaro Cantu’s shocking reworkings of the dining experience at Moto Restaurant, in Chicago, he and his team began developing a project with what he calls game-changing technology in food delivery.
“First we have action, then we have reaction,” Cantu remarked in a recent conversation, the innovative chef appropriating centuries of metaphysical thought.
“Finally, we have a revolution followed by a new era in our society of capitalism,” he added, referring to his vision of the future of food, which, according to him, will follow triple bottom line thinking. “Welcome.”
Cantu, however, has been very tight-lipped about exactly what that project is. But as the chef that’s known for constructing elaborate sushi rolls purely on edible paper using organic, food-based inks or experimenting with liquid nitrogen and superconducters to make food levitate, it’s easy to let one’s mind wander in imagining what it could be.Click to continue reading »
ignition Reduces the Footprint of Live Events
As traditional forms of advertising decline, companies are continually looking for new ways to connect with consumers. Many are turning to live events, known also as experiential marketing, as a way to bring their brands to life. Today’s experiential events have evolved from the days of flashy PR stunts to become designed emotive experiences intended to create a lasting emotional connection between a brand and its target market. All the research suggests these designed experiences are working. Good news for the brand; bad news for the planet. These events can also be huge energy hogs and environmental disasters as far as footprint (think NASCAR).
Thankfully, many brands that are concerned about their footprint are also demanding strict green guidelines for their live events, but it’s the job of experiential marketing firms like ignition to make sure these guidelines get implemented. The Atlanta-based ignition has worked with some big sponsors and events like: Live Earth, Coke, Delta Airlines, Nokia, Earthlink, the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, and the Olympic Torch Relay to name a few. The company incorporates varied conservation and offsetting practices across all of their campaigns, and they’re currently developing the first environmental standards for their industry.
I connected with ignition at the Sustainable Brands 09 conference, and later followed up with Mike Hersom, President, to learn more about the company and their efforts to develop green standards for the experiential marketing sector.Click to continue reading »
How many Staples do you have in your neighborhood? I count three of the ubiquitous office supply stores within a 2.5-mile radius of my place. I’m about to introduce you to a man who doesn’t just provide an alternative experience to the titanic chain, but runs an incredibly successful business.
But first, let’s understand how big Staples really is. As the largest office supplier in the world and pioneer of the office superstore concept, Staples netted $23 billion in sales in 2008, or twice as much as Office Depot.
So how does one man earn a chunk of Staples’ market share by doing good and earning a profit?
I interviewed Mike Hannigan who founded Give Something Back with Sean Marx in 1991. Give Something Back is now the West Coast’s largest independent office supplier with corporate offices in three cities and 12,000 clients and 40 distribution centers nationwide. You’re reading about Give Something Back now, not because of the company’s overnight delivery or tremendous selection of recycled products, but because it donates all after-tax profits to nonprofits through a balloting system that involves its customers and employees. Based on Newman’s Own business model, Give Something Back has donated more than $4 million (80% of its accumulated profits) to nonprofit organizations in the last 18 years. In 2007, Mike and his team did $26 million in sales.Click to continue reading »
Much of the food that we eat travels across long distances before it gets to our plate. The distancing of consumer from producer has environmental, social and economic consequences and will continue to be an issue since earth’s population is now more urban than rural. Not only does food travel from coast to coast, but it also travels across borders. According to data from the USDA, in 2007 the United States imported 3.2 million metric tons of vegetables and 1.8 million metric tons of fruits from Mexico. In 2008, the United States imported about $10 billion more in food, feed and beverages than it exported and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors were only able to physically examine 1.3 percent of these imports.
The food miles associated with imports presents an environmental concern and the differences in pesticide usage and health regulations abroad, not to mention the threat of agro-terrorism, presents an alarming safety concern. Safety considerations and the recognition of environmental degradation through the relocation of resources to serve urban populations have recently inspired innovative farming schemes. Rooftop farming in urban centers is part of the growing urban agricultural movement and provides a host of social and environmental benefits including beautifying the city, producing food for inhabitants, reducing building energy costs, cooling the urban island and filtering storm water.Click to continue reading »
Universal health care has been the hot topic in the past couple of weeks. Since the climate change bill passed through the House of Representatives, focus has shifted to the health care front. Is it possible that President Obama’s proposal for universal health care could be good for the environment, but bad for your business? Let’s take a closer look at the effect on the environment.
Pros for the Environment
1. Less Paperwork – President Obama has touted universal health care’s ability to eliminate inefficiencies in the current system. This would lead to less duplicate paperwork, including insurance forms and claim approvals. Less paperwork is always a good thing for the environment. Anyone who has had to fill out HIPAA paperwork every time they go to the doctor’s office knows how much paper is wasted in a medical setting.Click to continue reading »
One of the most exciting parts of the Dwell on Design event in June was the collaboration between eBay, ecofabulous, and Reclaimed Space. The 400 square foot prefab cabin, which was designed using high quality vintage, repurposed, and restyled items found on eBay was sold on the online auction site for $75,000, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Habitat for Humanity.
Ecofabulous’ collaboration with eBay’s Green Team spotlighted the growing trend of using reclaimed, repurposed, and sustainable products to create décor that is planet friendly, beautiful, and affordable.
eBay Green Team’s Annie Lescroart answered a few questions that came from some of the visitors of the showhouse about the innovative project and the emerging business and consumer trends surrounding vintage and reclaimed materials.Click to continue reading »
At this year’s Dwell on Design, held last month in Los Angeles, Zem Joaquin shared her unique vision on the concept of garbage. Ever since Jack Johnson turned “reduce, reuse, recycle” into something you hum on your drive into work or school, people have been rethinking the notion of trash…and some more than others.
The go-to eco-expert and founder of ecofabulous, Joaquin and her team applied their very compelling approach in the Reclaimed Space Showhouse. Custom designed and built by Austin-based prefab builder, Reclaimed Space, the 400 square foot home’s interior was designed using high quality vintage, repurposed, and restyled items found on eBay and local antique stores.
Joaquin sat down at the event to field some questions on her innovative and stylish design.Click to continue reading »
American dairy farmers are facing their worst crisis since the Great Depression. The price dairy farmers are paid for milk dropped 50 percent since December. Currently farmers are receiving $11.28 per hundredweight, and it costs an estimated $17 to$18 to produce milk. Unfortunately prices are not expected to suddenly rise. According to the June Dairy Market Report by the National Milk Producers Federations, “recovery will be more gradual.”
Over 100,000 dairy cows across the U.S. have been sold to beef processors, and industry officials think over 1.5 million of the country’s 9.3 dairy cows could meet the same fate. Farm advocacy groups estimate that about 20,000 family dairy farms could be lost.Click to continue reading »
By: Matthew Marichiba
Unusual economic times call for unusual economics book reviews, right? To this end, I am writing a review of an economics textbook. Yes, a textbook, named Ecological Economics, Principles and Applications by Herman E. Daly and Joshua Farley.
As society navigates through our global economic meltdown, I keep noticing that a lot of what I read in the media is fundamentally based on the assumption of an economic return to the good times. Maybe there will be more regulations; maybe GAAP rules will be stricter; maybe we’ll have fewer or more or different automobile manufacturers. But surely we’ll get back to good ol’ growth of the economy (and how to do it forever), won’t we? Far too few writers challenge our fundamental assumptions about the economy itself– those same assumptions we used to dig ourselves into the present financial mess, not to mention the assumptions at the root of the ecological and human-rights crises that are now a daily fixture in the news.
What if some of our assumptions about the fundamental purpose and functioning of the economy were wrong? Shouldn’t we fix those old assumptions before we recreate the same “good times” that resulted in our present bad times? If the planet were unable to sustain our civilization unless we get the economy right this time, wouldn’t we have an ethical duty to reconsider some of those assumptions?Click to continue reading »
In La Cocina’s large, commercial kitchen, three women joke with each other, their laughter amplified by the room’s high ceilings and brushed steel fixtures. They carefully dust powdered sugar on a fresh batch of alfajores, pastry-style cookies filled with dulce de leche, a caramel-like filling made from heated milk. Preparing for an upcoming local farmer’s market, these women are part of one of the 22 small food businesses that work with the self-proclaimed “incubator kitchen” located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District.
Spanish for “the kitchen,” the idea for La Cocina first originated in 1999 because of the lack of affordable kitchen space in the city. It drew its inspiration from the ethnically diverse and economically vulnerable neighborhood that, according to the people at La Cocina, thrives in part due to the many small informal businesses that serve the community.
Six years later—and thanks to organizations like Arriba Juntos, The Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment, and The Women’s Foundation of California—the incubator kitchen was born out of a belief that a community of natural entrepreneurs, given the right resources, can create self-sufficient businesses that benefit themselves, their families, and the communities and places around them.Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
There are few things more powerful than that exhilarating feeling after a great movie, or the return of your favorite TV series, or an inspiring documentary. Without realizing it, you find yourself rattling off lines, and though you’ve still yet to master the whole e=mc2 thing, you’re somehow able to quote entire scenes after just one viewing. And while the fate of teen vampires in ‘Twilight’ isn’t likely to save the planet, it demonstrates how memorable entertainment can be from an education and retention standpoint. And that is probably what Chipotle Mexican Grill was banking on when they partnered with Magnolia Pictures, Participant Media and River Road Entertainment to promote the documentary, Food, Inc.
Click to continue reading »
When Gavin Newsom announced last week that the city’s new sustainable food policy calls for more urban land to be used to grow food, many residents wondered where the additional land would come from. According to Garden Fare, a new and growing business in the Bay Area, most residents don’t need to look any farther than their own front and backyards.
As more and more companies emerge with offerings of urban agriculture services, their emphasis is often largely placed on the conversion of abandoned lots and unused parking areas. What makes a company like Garden Fare unique is that they focus on converting existing ornamental lawns into edible gardens that provide ample amounts of healthy, local produce. In addition to providing easy access to healthy food, Garden Fare founder Patrick Rodysill also highlights the fact that residents see a greater return on their investments in lawn care when those lawns are being used to grow edible foods versus the more typical, non-edible plants.
It’s changing the basics, the nuts-and-bolts of our lives, that can make the biggest difference. Adding color to the clothes we wear requires many times their weight in water – as much as 600 times as much water per ounce of fabric.
Colorep, Inc., a California sustainable technology company, has patented a process known as AirDye, which dyes fabric without the use of water. The technology is about 6 years old, and the company is gradually licensing it to manufacturers of everything from swimsuits to drapes.
Depending on the fabric, and type of dyeing, AirDye uses up to 95% less water, and up to 86% less energy, contributing 84% less to global warming, according to an independent assessment requested by the company.Click to continue reading »
A new green clothing company, Green 3, is attracting attention for more than just its comfy, eco-friendly apparel. Those in-the-know have taken notice because of the company’s founders: Jim and Sandy Martin, former corporate execs at Oshkosh B’Gosh and Kohl’s, respectively. By gosh….
The pair transitioned from executive positions at two of the nation’s largest corporate clothing giants to positions in the challenging world of startup business management. Why? In part, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, because of Sandy’s interest in protecting the environment. Making organic products would allow her to remain true to her roots, so to speak: Sandy grew up on a farm and saw, firsthand, the effects of pesticide. She and Jim decided to pursue a business strategy of their own: to market stylish, high quality, organic apparel to small specialty retailers interested in new, unique items unavailable in larger chains.Click to continue reading »