California Clean Tech Open 2009: Catalyzing Innovation

| Monday March 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment

CCTO%202009.pngNow in its fourth year, the California Clean Tech Open (CCTO) is set to hold its launch event this coming Thursday, March 19, 2009. Touted as an “innovation catalyst” for new ideas and businesses in clean tech, the CCTO is one of the more successful incubator-type events of its kind and a must-see for anyone in the sector.

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Catapult Design: Engineering Humanity

| Monday March 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The concept of for-profit philanthropy does not center solely around revenue-generating entities. Part of the schema is a transformational approach to business whereby funds are re-allocated toward the greater good. This includes non-profit companies whose services are geared specifically toward social innovations that are helping to alleviate some of the biggest issues facing our world.
Catapult Design is a non-profit design consultancy that provides engineering and implementation support to organizations in need of technologies or products capable of igniting social change. To achieve that, they leverage partnerships with for-profit companies that have the capacity to bring their solutions to scale, and then their product development, in-country implementation and evaluation services are sold for a fee negotiated on a client-by-client basis. By creating a sustainable flow of funds through for-profit alliances, grants and donations, they can provide services to those who would otherwise not be able to afford them, and in doing so, engineer the systems and processes to positively impact human-centered activities that help people and nations thrive. Catapult Design is doing more than just drafting blueprints — they’re architecting a better world.

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Revolution in a Bottle: How TerraCycle Redefines Green Business

Tom Szaky | Monday March 16th, 2009 | 4 Comments

szaky-book.jpgMy book, Revolution in a Bottle, hit the streets this week. It is a quick read that is meant to flow more like a novel, less like a business book. It follows the story of TerraCycle from our beginnings in my dorm room, shoveling maggot filled organic waste to creating products we sold to Wal-Mart and other major big box retailers, getting sued by Scotts and creating “sponsored waste” programs to upcycle branded waste. It also offers insights on how we approach media and pursue new opportunities. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:
While it has not always led to the “right” decision, I have learned that I must always trust my gut. Sometimes this has led to hiring people without requisite experience but who have turned out to be gems as they developed their art. In some cases, I’ve opened doors to people and situations that have been problematic, but through each adverse experience, the company grew stronger. As one pathway we were pursuing became blocked or looked less promising, another would always open. As I think over the roller coaster of TerraCycle’s early history, I can see that it would have been impossible to predict or plan how to develop TerraCycle to the place where it stands today. The trick was to be ever vigilant in seeking opportunities, and to be ready to jump on them if they felt right inside and consistent with core mission, even before they could be well thought out. And, I have learned, by picking up the shovel (when we made our first years’ batches of worm poop), to actually working the iron and sewing machine as we made our first prototype upcycled materials and bags, that I could ground an idea in real time, and shortcut speculation about hypotheticals.

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Appalachia: How Energy Efficiency Could Help Transform the Land of “Clean Coal”

| Monday March 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments

appalachia.jpgWith the presidential inauguration complete, the energy industry is perched on the edge of its seat, awaiting what many think could be nothing less than a transformation. Obama’s inaugural address included a prominent mention of energy and he’s made some significant commitments in recent weeks. It even seems as though Congress wants to put up the money, with $54B of the proposed stimulus package directed towards energy.
While government willingness is a necessary first step, this money must be channeled to where it will make the most difference in order to create meaningful results. Enter the Appalachian Regional Commision and its upcoming report, Energy Efficiency in Appalachia. Written by the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA), the report provides a mix of policy proposals and supporting data that map out a potential energy future for Appalachia.

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Renewable Energy Program Stimulates Growth & Sustainable Business Activity in Peru

| Monday March 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Peru.jpg Renewable energy programs are blossoming throughout Latin America as the continent strives to meet basic living standards for many remotely located communities. From the southern tips of Patagonia to northern Mexico it is possible to find research activities and programs focused upon energy provision; anything from solar initiatives, wind technologies, and hyrdo-power projects. Such projects are leading to the creation of more efficient logistic systems, energizing remote communities and creating unprecedented business opportunities throughout Latin America.
One project in particular calls our attention. It is last year’s winners of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Sasakawa Prize: the NGO Project Action’s hydro-power program, which brings clean power to the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes region. Since 1992 the organization has installed over 47 micro hydro-electric systems within the region that propel water to create energy. The technology has been adapted from larger scale hydro-schemes to introduce micro energy stations.
This Peruvian model is recognized as an innovative technology that is sustainable and potentially replicable in other remote communities around the world where hydro electrical potential exists. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said that NGO Practical Action is “showing tremendous leadership in bringing clean energy to remote communities in Peru, and in doing so [is] setting further examples of the energy alternatives available to the developing but also the developed world.”

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Zappos: Can a Corporate Mission be Happiness?

| Sunday March 15th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Zappos‘ CEO Tony Hsieh delivered yesterday’s keynote speech at the SXSW interactive media conference to a packed and enthusiastic crowd of techies and new media mavens. The company has long embraced web technology for obvious reasons (they’re an online store): They have a popular set of topical blogs, and a wildly active Twitter presence used for company updates, customer service, and even internal communication among employees.
However, the most impressive part of Tony’s presentation yesterday was his emphasis on the company’s commitment to customer service, and ultimate corporate mission: nothing less ambitious than achieving that most elusive of metaphysical desires, happiness.

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Van Jones’ Last Unvetted Speech

| Sunday March 15th, 2009 | 5 Comments

van-jones%202.jpgI had the privilege of attending what Van Jones called his “last unvetted speech” last night. Van spoke to a crowd of friends of the Presidio School of Management at a private event attended by about 200 people. He had to leave the venue early to go home and pack – he’s got a red eye Sunday night and he reports for duty Monday morning at the White House in his new role as Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. This is a crowd that that regards him as a hero – he received a standing ovation before he even opened his mouth.
On the one hand, his message is something those of us that are in the sustainability movement have heard a million times before: there is an enormous challenge ahead, we need systemic change, and we have the tools to make it happen. It’s a speech I could give in my sleep if I were that charismatic, but alas, charm like that seems to come along once or twice in a generation. At one point in the speech, hallway chatter filtered into the venue and with a snap of his wrist and a wave of his finger, Jones sent an audience member to quiet them down. When the person left, I assumed that it was a member of his staff, and only upon the gentleman’s return from his duty did I realize it was my Capital Markets TA. When Van Jones speaks, people listen, gladly. He told us his best hope was that the “green MBA” would become obsolete because there won’t be any MBA programs that teach people to do things that are mean and stupid – and of course we lapped it up.

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Saturday March 14th, 2009 | 0 Comments

att-logo-parental.jpgAT&T Makes Major Commitment to Clean its Fleet It will invest more than a half-billion dollars over the next decade to purchase more than 15,000 alternative-fueled vehicles — 8,000 vans powered by compressed natural gas, and another 7,100 hybrid passenger cars. The telecommunications giant estimates that the new vehicles will save 49 million gallons of gasoline and reduce carbon emissions by 211,000 metric tons over the 10-year deployment period — equivalent to removing the emissions from more than 38,600 traditional passenger vehicles for a year. Joel Makower has a great analysis of the story behind the scenes.
wind-farm.jpgWind Energy 15 years from Grid Parity The elephant in the room of renewable development is that the cost per kwh is more expensive than the electricity that is currently produced. Not any more! This new study estimates that wind will be at grid parity cost in just 15 years. There might be hope for us yet!
3d_apple_logo_102.jpgApple Stores Ditch Plastic Bags Apple the Granny Smith decided to go one step greener and eliminate plastic bags from their retail stores. Instead they are offering to hold merchandise at stores until customers are ready to pick it up or assist customers with carrying large purchases to their cars.
20070409_dow_logo_18.jpgDow Urges 100% Packaging Recyclability Dow Chemical Co. is challenging other firms in the packaging supply chain to convert to recyclables. Yes, this is kind of a cop-out from actual commitments to urge ones competitors to reach a certain standard. However, this is still an important move because one company can’t increase it’s recyclability in a vacuum without risking the loss of its marketability due to increased costs. By releasing a challenge to its competitors, Dow shifts the conversation.

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Business Week vs. The White House?

| Saturday March 14th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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When was the last time you read Business Week? As print media publications continue to fall like dinosaurs, I can’t help but liken their demise to the the decline of an old way of thinking about business – the all or nothing, single bottom line, us vs. those hippies way of thinking.
We’ve been getting Business Week at the 3P office and I opened up a copy this afternoon. The issue in question reports basic news for the most part but gets bizarre if you start to read more deeply. Call it Rush Limbaugh mixed with USA Today.
A great example is this week’s examination of presidential proposals and their impact on industry (using charts to make the information displayed seem official and well researched). That’s all well and good, and I’d love to hear it if The Economist wrote it. Business Week has chosen to title their graph Business vs. the White House.” Bring on the inflammation!

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You2Gov: Politics With a Purpose

| Friday March 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Most cause marketing discussions center around marketing the company, product, or service that has partnered with a non-profit organization. Few focus on nonprofits marketing themselves as a means to gain awareness for their cause. And fewer still, discuss how causes can rally support from a government standpoint.
But, for many nonprofits, this is a critical element to keep their organizations running and generate the aid they need to affect change. You2Gov.org, a platform designed to connect users with Elected Officials and political representatives under the rubric of open government, has created social software that allows groups to tap into community affiliations with a fully automated system for managing fundraising, marketing, and operational activities. Their goal is to offer users a front end forum for bringing political, social, and environmental issues to light and back end management tools for transforming that exposure into organized tasks for making a difference. And with the ability to track your progress against a set of clearly defined objectives, that impact is measurable — and repeatable.
I spoke with Alan Silberberg, Founder, to learn more about his vision, and while political power may never fully be in the hands of the people, You2Gov appoints everyone a delegate of their own destiny, and levels the playing field to bring Capitol Hill down to the community level.

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Trucks Delivering Fewer Emissions as Fleets Slowly Turn Greener

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday March 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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I hear the heavy, rattling engines many times each day, moving past, and sometimes stopping at, my home office. FedEx, UPS, the US Postal Service, and even my community-supported agriculture service use those big, boxy delivery trucks (also referred to as vocational trucks or package trucks). They are ubiquitous urban denizens, they are driven relentlessly all day long, they make tons of stops, and spend much of their lives idling. All of these factors add up to make them major fuel hogs. But that’s starting to change, as a growing number of fleet owners, including, most recently, AT&T, are turning to alternative fuel and hybrid delivery trucks. Meanwhile, more truck makers are jumping onboard.
The EPA’s office of transportation and air quality and Eaton, makers of hydraulic systems for truck engines partnered with the United Parcel Service late last year to test a new hybrid technology designed through a collaboration between Eaton and the EPA’s fuel-emissions lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The system was designed to capitalize on how often delivery trucks start and stop during the course of a day. The motor converts pressure from the hydraulic fluid into rotating power for the wheels. It also stores energy from braking and uses it in acceleration.

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Are Green Jobs Good Paying Jobs?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday March 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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During an address to Congress last month, President Obama said, “To truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.” In other words, we need a “green” economy. However, will the jobs created by the greening of the economy be “good” jobs?
The pay rate for green jobs varies, according to a recently released study, High Road or Low Road: Job Quality in the New Green Economy by Good Jobs First. The pay rates at many wind and solar manufacturing plants is lower than wages at other manufacturing industries. However, some companies pay decent wages, such as a plant in Salem, Oregon where average hourly wage is $22, or a recycling plant in San Francisco where workers start at $20 an hour.

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Is H2O the new CO2?

| Thursday March 12th, 2009 | 3 Comments

faucet.jpgWhen it comes to urgent environmental crises, water is clearly in a class of its own. Few other issues have the same far-reaching impact on human health and well-being, economic sustainability, or national security. After all, you can live without oil; you can’t live without water. So it’s no surprise that many of the latest environmental campaigns along with a growing media debate are posing the question, “Is water the new carbon?”
Up to this point, oil and resulting C02 emissions have gotten most of the attention, but many experts warn that declining water supply and failing water infrastructure globally may soon become the world’s next major crisis if meaningful action isn’t taken soon.

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Will the Nuclear Renaissance Be Postponed?

Jeff Siegel | Thursday March 12th, 2009 | 6 Comments

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Since 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received applications for 17 new nuclear reactor operating licenses, and now estimates that it will get a total of 22 applications for 33 reactors by the end of 2010.
Nuclear advocates have seen this as a sort of validation of the industry’s potential growth. After all, it’s been more than 30 years since a nuclear power plant was even built in the U.S. But thanks to the current state of the economy, excitement over new nuclear development has become dampened.

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Disney Goes Green*

| Thursday March 12th, 2009 | 4 Comments


The Walt Disney Company has announced medium and long-term energy and environmental goals, with big plans to reduce emissions and waste, and cut electricity and fuel use. The announcements were part of the company’s 2008 CSR Report, which included a GHG inventory, plus analysis of waste and water usage. The company first began taking stock of its total emissions in 2007 using the World Research Institute’s GHG Protocol, with 2006 offering the first figures available. Aggregate emissions that year, from fuel and electricity use plus refrigerant leaks, totaled a whopping 1.84 million metric tons of CO2e.
While Disney emphasizes a long history of environmental stewardship – citing their endangered species conservation efforts with the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, themes in such films as Pocahontas, and more – the company also wants to seize any opportunity to strengthen their bond with customers and make their company “a more desirable place to work.”

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