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By Leslie Caplan
Reading about throughput makes me wonder if we could approach solving product or service needs by starting at what we now call the “end” of the throughput process or “the dump.” Let’s say companies were incentivized to change how they solved consumer and social problems by a government tax or regulation that penalized or restricted companies based on the waste produced by their products. (An analogy would be the tax on cigarettes that is connected to medical costs to society of cigarette smoking, or a carbon tax.)
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Imagine your electric toothbrush, the one that’s supposed to come the closest to a dentist cleaning at home. According to an article in the Guardian this morning, the people at Nissan created an EV based on that technology.
No, the new Nissan Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) will not get those hard to reach places or remove pesky plaque. It will charge without the hassle of plugs. The charging is based on electro-magnetic field technology, using induction in the same way your Sonicare charges on its base stand.
Unemployment. Inflation. Anemic economic growth. Everywhere you turn there is bad economic news. As a business owner, this can be demoralizing as you try to survive. Luckily there are several ways you can green your profits and the environment, even in the midst of a recession.
1. Understand Your Customers Better
This technique is a surefire way in any economic climate to increase your profits. There are only three ways to make more money. Sell to new customers, increase the average transaction size of your existing customers, or have repeat customers buy more often. When profits are down, many entrepreneur’s first reaction is that they need more customers. This is actually the toughest route to make money. Acquiring a new customer does not bring profits quickly because there are acquisition costs to get the customer and then a trust building process. People repeatedly buy from businesses they trust. Therefore the easiest way to increase profits is to get existing customers to buy more often. They have already purchased from you and developed some type of trust. So how do you get your customers to buy more often? Talk to them.
Photo Source: Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program
P&G manages brands. A lot of them. In fact, you probably used one of their products before leaving for work (or whatever it is you do) today. Over 300 brands – from Duracell, Tide, Pampers, Charmin, Crest, to even Pringles – fall under the P&G banner. Now the company is successfully branding one more product: philanthropy.
Globally, more than 4,000 children die every day from diarrheal disease – more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined – simply because they lack access to clean, healthy water. P&G wants to change that fact.Click to continue reading »
Get Lean, Get Smart, and Emerge from the Downturn on Top
“Hunker down and play it safe” seems to be the mantra of many recession-battered companies, as they cut back on people, payrolls and purchases of non-essentials. Unfortunately, many of the green programs that may have gotten funded in good times are now finding themselves in this “non-essential” category. That’s exactly the wrong approach, argues Andrew Winston, the green business evangelist, in his new book Green Recovery, a follow-up to his 2006 Green to Gold.
In Green Recovery, Winston offers a compelling case for why the recession is the perfect time to use a green strategy to get lean, get smart and innovate your way forward. With success stories from industry leaders as examples – companies like Boeing, Disney, DuPont, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, and Wal-Mart – the book offers a four-point roadmap for using green initiatives to drive business performance during the downturn:
· Get lean: generate immediate bottom-line savings by reducing energy use and waste.
* Get smart: use value-chain data to cut costs, reduce risks, and focus innovation efforts.
* Get creative: pose heretical questions that force you to find solutions to tomorrow’s challenges today.
* Get engaged: give employees ownership of environmental goals and the tools to act on them.
I recently had a chance to speak with Andrew Winston about his work and his latest book.
Part of achieving energy efficiency is using good insulation. The definition of good insulation, from an environmental stand-point, should include insulation made from recycled materials that does not contain chemical irritants like formaldehyde. Three companies make products that fit my definition of good insulation: Bonded Logic Inc., Ecovative Design, and GreenFibers.
Bonded Logic Inc. takes people’s used pair of jeans and makes insulation out of them. The company’s UltraTouch insulation line does not contain chemical irritants, and is made from 85 percent recycled textile waste taken from landfills. UltraTouch is treated with a non-toxic mineral, Borate, which acts as a fire and mildew retardant. During UltraTouch’s manufacturing process, “minimal amounts of energy are used,” according to the company’s website. All scraps are re-used, so there is almost zero waste.
Los Angeles’ ambitious plan to replace coal-powered electricity with renewable energy by 2020 will be met, in part, by opening city-owned land in the historic Owens Valley to solar power, according to Deputy Mayor for Energy and the Environment David Freeman.
For anyone familiar with LA’s history, this news could not be more ironic: the Owens Valley was the site of the “California Water Wars,” a 100-year old conflict between valley residents and the city over a different precious resource: water.
Over 17,000 solar and renewable energy specialists were in San Francisco last week attending the Intersolar North America Conference, with over 25 conference tracks, 170 speakers and about 500 exhibitors at Moscone West Exhibit Hall.
Among the issues on the public policy side was the recognition that changing global and national economics have impacted the solar industry, both photovoltaics and thin film, as well as large solar thermal plants. In the past, emphasis has been on the high cost of silicon and other basic materials used in the industry. Within the past year, solar module prices have been driven down by a combination of decreased demand, and oversupply of feedstock silicon.
One of the drivers of the decrease in demand was the lack of monitoring interconnections under the Spanish Feed-In Tariff which led to over 2.5 GW of solar installations in 2008, far more than the expected cap of 900MW. This led to a deep reduction in the cap to 500 MW in 2009, and 400MW is anticipated in future years. Combined with the weak markets in the US, China, and elsewhere, this has led to an oversupply in the market, and dramatic decreases in the price of silicon and silicon-based modules.Click to continue reading »
There are vacations and then there are travels and they are not, I would venture, the same. People vacation when they want to lie on beaches or ride roller coasters or take bus tours. Traveling is about going somewhere new rather than just being somewhere. In his travelogue Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck wrote “…we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here’s the rub: you can’t exactly plan a transcendent experience. You can, however, plan a unique experience that’s off the beaten vacation path. And as the growing trend in voluntouring (volunteering combined with traveling) indicates, people are becoming less interested in taking trips and more interested in trips that take them. At the same time, they are realizing that philanthropy can be more meaningful that just sending a check to a worthy cause.
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Hollywood isn’t the first thing you’d think of when it comes to being green. From elaborate productions that zap thousands of watts of energy to excessive on-set food trays that leave behind mountains of waste, one would guess the mecca of entertainment creates more of a drain on our natural resources than preserves them. I was on a shoot once that made Marie Antionette’s dessert table seem like a small town bake sale and lights that made me feel like I was about to be interrogated or probed by aliens. True story.
In fact, if anything, Hollywood is the pinnacle of excess, right down to the millions upon millions of pages of screenplays that get tossed in the trash on a daily basis. But Daniel Riser, founder of Greenwriter.org wants to change all that. And tackling Tinseltown is just the beginning.
In 2008, Texas Instruments (TI) saved $5.1 million through reducing energy use by 5% and water consumption by over 7%. As a result, TI reduced its worldwide carbon footprint to 2.07 million metric tons of CO2, which represents a 2.8% reduction in the company’s worldwide carbon footprint.
The company’s 2008 Corporate Social Responsibility Report outlines the 159 distinct initiatives that were undertaken to realize the company-wide savings. Entitled, “Building a Better Future,” the new report organizes the company’s environmental performance into eight categories including air quality, climate change, energy use, alternative transportation, water use, materials usage & recycling, sustainable site policies and principles.
However, the most captivating elements of the report are the environmental performance highlights.
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“I bought my motorcycle at Best Buy,” is a sentence I bet you never thought you’d utter. And yet, that may be exactly what you do in the near future, if you were to buy an Enertia electric motorcycle from Brammo.
Along with the comic book sound effect name, Brammo has put a lot of thought into this bike. And they have answers for the questions people may have about them. Like the fact that regular motorcycles are already a lot more efficient then automobiles. True, twice as efficient, they acknowledge. And up to 15 times the emissions of them as well. That’s something I’d never heard before.
Addressing the deeper question of evenly comparing the environmental impact, they mention that on the gasoline based side, there’s the transport of the fuel to stations, and on the electric based side, there’s the emissions of the possibly coal and nuclear powered facility on the other end. I can appreciate their going beyond merely saying the vehicle itself has no emissions, end of story.
So how do they compare?
By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact
No matter how you feel about carbon offsets, if the The American Clean Energy and Security Act becomes law, offsets, both domestic and international, will be a central component.
According to Carbon Positive:
The US cap and trade bill currently stands to deliver a huge stimulus to the clean energy and forest carbon sectors in North America and in the developing world. Whatever final form the scheme takes, it will produce the world’s biggest single carbon market from 2012, eclipsing the EU ETS. And it’s already clear generous international carbon offset provisions and linkages with other national emissions trading schemes will ensure the carbon market spreads well beyond U.S. borders. This is particularly so for the emerging avoided deforestation, or REDD, sector.Click to continue reading »
Earlier this week, Walmart announced their plans to unveil a new sustainability index that will grade various suppliers and products by a range of environmental and sustainable factors. The move will allow consumers to easily discern the sustainability of one product over another. Walmart, the nation’s largest retail giant, has had its fair share of criticism over the years, but is taking sustainability more seriously these days. It has even sought the guidance of Yvon Chouinard, environmental advocate and founder of the gear and clothing company Patagonia.
The unlikely pair have been working closely on establishing criteria for sustainable clothing, which is difficult given there’s not enough organic cotton in the world to supply Walmart’s needs. The goal is to stop the idea of consuming-discarding. Chouinard is determined to help companies like Walmart change they way they think about our resources. But you won’t find him simply resting on the promise of sustainability. Why? Because there is no such thing.
Aluminum as a substitute for glass bottles has been inching its way into the consumer experience in the last few years, most notably in the US in the form of beer bottles from Anheuser-Busch and Iron City Beer, a popular regional brand founded in Pittsburgh. Coca-cola has also announced plans to roll out aluminum bottles in this country, though only in limited venues.
Now Rexam, one of the world’s largest consumer packaging companies, has developed a lighter, resealable aluminum bottle that it hopes will replace glass bottles for many beverages, including wine.