Cleantech Investment to Inoculate American Economy

Nick Hodge | Monday February 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The cleantech is industry is still forging ahead even as broad economic indicators skid to 11-year lows.

Despite dismal stock valuations in the sector, cleantech deals are still being done at the private equity and venture levels, and Congressional support for the industry is stronger than ever. Certainly this fledgling industry still has many milestones to reach, as all indicators point to robust growth in all segments of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

But with so many grim financial headlines breaking everyday, our instincts generally direct us to dismiss good news like this; surely one industry can’t be succeeding as so many others fail.

To satiate our curiosity, I think it’s perfectly alright to look this gift horse in the mouth.

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Nuclear Energy: Pros and Cons

| Monday February 23rd, 2009 | 202 Comments

There is no perfect energy source. Each and every one has its own advantages and compromises. This series will explore the pros and cons of various energy sources.  Learn about other forms of energy generation here.

nuclear_power_plant.pngNuclear power is once again considered a prominent alternative, despite the disregard it was met with in the 1970s. This is because it’s now being touted as a more environmentally beneficial solution since it emits far fewer greenhouse gases during electricity generation than coal or other traditional power plants.

It is widely accepted as a somewhat dangerous, potentially problematic, but manageable source of generating electricity. Radiation isn’t easily dealt with, especially in nuclear waste and maintenance materials, and expensive solutions are needed to contain, control, and shield both people and the environment from its harm.

The dialogue about using nuclear power – and expanding it – centers on weighing these risks against the rewards, as well as the risks inherent in other forms of power generation. These are just some of the issues involved.

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DoggyNetwork.com: Starting Up Socially Aware

| Monday February 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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As doing business becomes more socially conscious, a new breed of entrepreneur is emerging. One who is committed to giving back, and who has built philanthropy directly into the business model — even before the first cent has been made. DoggyNetwork.com, co-founded by Ricky Paredes, is launching with their earnings already earmarked for causes dedicated to animal safety and welfare. A percentage of every sale will be donated to charities dedicated to improving the lives of pets through adoption, prevention of cruelty to animals, and education about how to care for animals in a humane way. Ricky believes it’s important to honor the relationships people have with their pets, and wants to help dog lovers everywhere contribute to creating solutions for the critical issues facing animals today. “There’s no point being successful if you can’t do good with it,” says Ricky, and that’s a spirit that will drive a society built on collective consciousness where change is our main form of currency.

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Risk, Recession, and the Future of Green Markets

3p Contributor | Friday February 20th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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By Rick Bunch, Managing Director, The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan
Sustainable business strategy experts, from economists to NGO executives, tend to agree that the market, and its myriad financial instruments and exchanges, is a powerful force for change when it comes to sustainable business practices. Cap-and-trade policy is high on the Obama administration’s list of environmental priorities, and in recent years, carbon trading markets, alternative energy investment firms and unique “green” financial products like weather derivatives have emerged to redefine the relationship between green strategy and greenbacks.
Amidst this change is an unprecedented level of uncertainly, combined with dismal performance within financial markets. With Wall Street in crisis, what is happening in the newly created environmental markets? And how will those markets change the way companies execute sustainability strategy in the future?
The short answer is, a lot. Green markets and related financial products have continued to thrive, although their growth has been dampened by the global slowdown. The regulatory/political landscape is shifting, and with that shift brings the likelihood of an auction-based cap-and-trade system for carbon being implemented in the near term. With political support for sustainability, demand for corporate transparency and enthusiasm for market-based solutions to climate change at an all-time high, it stands to reason that this should be the Golden Age of Green Markets.
Our research at the Erb Institute tells us that, yes, green financial markets and instruments are strong, but they are also complicated, and without close monitoring and smart regulation, these innovative tools for corporate sustainability risk the same fate as their traditional counterparts.

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Off the Rack and Into the Trash: The UK Tries to Turn the Tide of Clothes

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday February 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Of all the things we consume, clothing seems among the most environmentally benign. But given the frequency with which trends change and the low costs of many fashions–the ultra-cheap frocks from stores such as Forever 21 and H&M are often referred to as “disposable fashion”–it’s not surprising that garments represent a growing percentage of the waste stream.
In mid-December, UK’s The Times reported that of the two million tons of clothes purchased in that country each year, about 74 percent end up in landfills. The article goes on to explain how the proliferation of cheap clothing is impacting charities such as Salvation Army and Oxfam that rely on second-hand clothing sales but are now drowning in cheap togs because they can no longer compete on price with fast-food-like fashions sold in malls. It also discusses how the flood of quickly-disposed-of garments are changing business dynamics of the clothing textile recycling industry in the UK (which sells used clothes into developing countries but is now competing with cheap, new clothes from China). The article also noted that the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) was developing a “sustainable clothing roadmap” to try to reduce the environmental impact of clothing production. The agency introduced this roadmap this week during London’s Fashion Week.
It’s a little early, of course, to know if the roadmap can actually push the fashion industry stakeholders to transform the industry, but its scope is comprehensive in that is addresses the industry’s environmental, social and ethical impacts.

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Waste-2-Energy: Plasma Melting Cuts Out the Landfill

| Friday February 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

lunapic-123512660647425.jpgOne way municipalities around the US are jumping on the clean technology/renewable energy train is by building landfill gas-to-electricity systems. Making use of the methane emitted from decaying trash in landfills to generate power and heat looks like a win-win situation: rather than emitting the off-gas into the atmosphere it’s used to produce a clean form of energy.
A number of start-up ventures are looking to take the idea further. Rather than dumping trash in landfills and capturing the methane that’s produced, they’re looking to process and recycle streams and batches of whatever kind of waste and turn it directly into clean forms of energy and other useful products.
The CEO of one such company, Jeffrey E. Surma of InEnTec, got on the Web in an hour-long chat yesterday hosted by the Greenopolis clean tech social network to discuss their technology and its prospects.

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Darryl Siry Dispels the Dichotomies of For-Profit Philanthropy

| Friday February 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Darryl Siry is a clean tech advisor, change strategist, and conscious entrepreneur who is passionate about the environment and committed to social good. Currently a senior analyst for Peppercom, a strategic communications firm, he has successfully developed and implemented philanthropic programs that continue to thrive today. He was recently CMO for Tesla Motors, the electric car company, and prior to that was CMO for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Darryl blogs at www.darrylsiry.com and can be reached at djsiry@gmail.com.

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Cone Inc. Sheds Light on the Cause Marketing Conundrum

| Friday February 20th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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causebranding_charms.jpgAnyone who’s heavily immersed Cause Marketing, is already well aware of Cone Inc., and it’s virtually impossible to perform a search on the topic without inevitably returning several results with Cone’s many research studies or commentary. They have spent the past 28 years advising businesses and nonprofits on effective cause engagement, and are without question, one of the leaders in the space.
The pioneers behind blockbuster cause campaigns such as the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women and Procter & Gamble’s Live Learn and Thrive, among others, Cone knows what it takes to develop, implement, and maintain programs that are aligned with core business objectives and designed to make a difference. In fact, cause impact is built right into the strategy for all of the programs that Cone devises, ensuring that they are both profitable and world changing.
So, I reached out to Casey Brennan, Insights Coordinator at Cone, to share some of their recent market findings, as well as offer insights and examples of the companies doing it effectively and some of the key ingredients of success.

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Who Is Responsible for a Better World? Government, Corporations or Us?

Tom Szaky | Thursday February 19th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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Here is a continuation of a conversation I am having with a friend, Melissa, in the CSR department of a major US consumer product good company.
The question that we have been grappling is one of responsibility. While the finger can be pointed at everyone, who really is in charge? Government, Corporations or us? Please join our dialogue as the point of this post is not to theorize about the answer, but to start the discussion. Here’s what Melissa had to say:

I can’t help but notice how we overwhelmingly blame corporations or government for our growing environmental problems while forgetting our responsibility as consumers. Sure, corporations produce a lot of stuff we don’t need in unsustainable ways, but we buy it! Yes, government could up the ante on environmental regulation, preservation and funding; but if we don’t tell legislators what we want and hold them accountable, we can’t expect much.
Accepting responsibility isn’t a sacrifice, but freedom and empowerment – the realization that we have a choice and aren’t helpless pawns.

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Bringing New Spin to Advertising: Billboard Wind Turbines Could Power 1.5 Million Homes

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday February 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

seahawk-pacwind.jpgThere’s a windmill on the corner of my block. It helps power a new home that also relies on solar and other renewable energy. But I don’t often see it revolving, and when it is spinning, the blades emit a low drone that I wonder if those living immediately around the house can hear. I also worry, perhaps irrationally, that it will claim the lives of innocent birdlife in my hood. PacWind, a California-based wind energy company founded in 1998, has an answer to these worries. It makes wind turbines (shown here) that use vertical blades, are visible to birds and can operate even in winds that would be too high or too low to make conventional windmills work effectively, according to the company.
PacWind garnered some attention late last year after Jay Leno installed a PacWind turbine to help power his 17,000-foot garage (that’s the size garage he needs for his, like, 5 million cars). And Ricoh, the Japanese maker of copiers and camera, is installing a billboard in Times Square that is lit by lights powered 95% by PacWind turbines (and 5% by solar).
And on Wednesday PacWind got a lift through a deal with WePower, another California startup that has been involved with PacWind since late last year when the two companies began a partnership through which WePower would manufacture up to 500,000 of PacWind’s vertical axis windmills annually (and handle many of business needs, such as managing tax incentives, energy rebates and carbon credits). This week, WePower has announced it has also purchased PacWind’s patented and proprietary wind energy technologies.

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Freelock Computing: Open Source Altruism

| Thursday February 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Freelock Computing, an open source consulting firm, was built on the same premise as open source itself. Tapping into the open source community to find the ideal solutions for clients, Freelock is in the business of sharing. They share their skills, their knowledge, their network — and even their salaries — with a pay it forward approach that benefits everyone. For John Locke, founder, it’s about spreading the wealth where his company, customer, causes and planet all profit. And that’s a life hack worth installing.

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Unthinkable No More: Business and Environmental Champions in Profitable Partnership

| Wednesday February 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

lunapic-123497118874532.jpg Adaptability is an essential attribute in today’s rapidly changing and increasingly difficult economic times. Back in the mid- to late ’80s, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. LP made fortunes, and stirred up more than a bit of controversy, as a pioneering private equity firm and master of the leveraged buyout. Times have changed, and KKR is looking to change with them.
KKR’s attempt at corporate evolution involves making some strange bedfellows. Since May 2008, the firm has been working with the Environmental Defense Fund to develop and test a set of analytic tools and metrics capable of enabling companies in its portfolio to measure and improve their environmental performance. Applying them at three KKR companies yielded $16.4 million in savings and avoided more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions last year, the organizations announced today.
With energy security, greenhouse gas emissions and corporate social responsibility prominent in the public mind and high up on government agendas, the EDF-KKR partnership is indicative of a growing trend that’s increasingly bringing together champions of business and the environment in alliances that would have been practically unthinkable not so long ago.

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Sun, Wind, and Now Waves & Tides Fuel Growth at Iberdrola

| Wednesday February 18th, 2009 | 1 Comment

lunapic-123489646052600.pngSpain’s Iberdrola Renovables is among a growing crop of EU companies leading the drive to develop renewable power projects and new technology. The company last week released a strong performance report for 2008 with results that highlight how new legislation at the EU, national, and local levels is working hand-in-glove with private sector companies’ efforts to reshape power markets and industry across the 27-member bloc of nations.
European companies have taken the lead when it comes to developing wind, solar and marine power projects and technology, not only within the EU, but increasingly in the US and other markets around the world.
Iberdrola is well set to take advantage of the renewable energy and clean technology incentives and support included in the US’s latest economic stimulus package. It’s already the second-largest operator of wind farms in the States. More than 40% of the projects it’s looking to develop are located here. PPM Energy, its US energy subsidiary, commissioned the 223.6-megawatt Klondike III wind farm Oregon this past March. Another five wind farms capable of generating as much as 460-megawatts of electrical power came on-line in December alone.

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Better World Books Creates Better World Through Triple Bottom Line

| Wednesday February 18th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Xavier%20Helgesen.png With all this talk about the “triple bottom line,” I have found very few companies who have actually achieved such a thing. Better World Books is one of the few. And I had the privilege of interviewing co-founder Xavier Helgesen to get the scoop. Triple bottom line refers to an organization which considers its impact in terms of people, planet, and profit – or social, environmental, and financial returns.
Better World Books is a for-profit online bookstore founded in 2002 by college students looking to support themselves upon graduation. Better World Books is a B Corporation, meaning it is responsible to not only shareholders but to stakeholders for creating social and environmental as well as economic value. The company gathers inventory through library and school book drives and shares its revenues with hand-selected literacy and education programs as well as libraries world-wide.
People: Supporting Literacy Initiatives Around the World
To date, Better World Books raised over $5 million for its non-profit partners and libraries. About 7% of revenues are channeled directly back to these programs, which include Room To Read and Books For Africa. Xavier Helgesen explained: “People will buy about $20 billion worth of books in the US alone this year. And if we can channel just part of that money to funding literacy programs, we can make a huge dent in the fact that 1 out of 7 people in the world cannot read.”
Not only do these programs receive a portion of revenues, but a new program will provide stock options for Better World Books’ partners, “so they are actually going to begin…to receive an equity stake in the company…so not only are they getting checks from us in the short term based on funds raised, but in the long term, they will actually own a part of the company,” Helgesen told me.

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Spheric Technologies: Web Consulting Brainiacs with Big Hearts

| Wednesday February 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Spheric Technologies is a web consulting firm specializing in WIC and Ruby on Rails, but what sets them apart is not their technical expertise and all around geekery, it’s their overarching commitment to the three C’s – Customer, Culture, and Consciousness. It’s fueled by a unique understanding of what their clients, employees — and even the world — needs, and a genuine desire to help fulfill them. And they do it through unparalleled customer service, a perk-driven atmosphere that rewards team members in innovative ways, and a social responsibility platform that is exemplified through every interaction. Their efforts are the embodiment of who they are vs. what they do, and as such, each charitable initiative is a reflection of their philanthropic spirit.

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