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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New Book Praises Eco Barons, But What’s In a Name?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday February 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ecobarons.jpg The eco-story of 2008, it seemed, was about how the little tweaks that you and I can make to our lifestyles – biking rather than driving to work, or carrying reusable totes to the grocery store – could, in aggregate, change the world. While that premise is certainly debatable, it was repeated in practically every publication in print and online and it did help stoke the eco-consciousness of Main Street, USA. Perhaps the story of 2009 will be about iconic (and often exceedingly wealthy) figures that take their environmentalism much, much further and serve as inspiration for others who want to do the same. That is the premise of Edward Humes’ new book, “Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet” (Ecco/HarperCollins), due out next month.
Humes is a writer-at-large for Los Angeles Magazine (where he earned a Pulitzer Prize for specialized reporting) and contributes to the Huffington Post. The book profiles a number of already-prominent environmentalists, as well as some whose names won’t ring bells with most readers, such as Texan Carole Allen, who a New York Times review of the book describes as “a widowed single mother who works at the juvenile probation department in Houston [who] rallied a group of local schoolchildren around the cause of saving the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.”

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Google: Leading the Way To Smarter Home Energy Use?

| Wednesday February 18th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Google%20PowerMeter.jpg It’s been said that Google, with it’s deep interest in energy technology across many sectors, will benefit greatly from the recently passed Stimulus Bill, with $11 Billion to be invested in smart grid technology.
But it may be the public and the environment that will benefit the most. Google has recently begun testing PowerMeter, a service that they say “…will show consumers their electricity consumption in near real-time in a secure iGoogle Gadget.” Translation: You’ll be able to know what is using how much in your house, via an online tool that keeps your data private.
What difference can this make?

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Spinning the Stimulus: It’s Business as Usual on the Hill

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday February 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Now that the stimulus bill has passed, I’m surprised I haven’t seen any bumper stickers yet, declaring the ever popular propaganda mantra, “Don’t Blame Me, I (fill in the blank).” The “fill in the blank” this time around, would likely read “Didn’t Support The Stimulus.”
Spending much of the weekend reading about what was included and what wasn’t, it’s quite clear that political maneuvering certainly reared its ugly head on this one. The original House version had many flaws. The Senate-approved version stripped out some of those flaws, then added new ones or watered down necessary components. And what we’re left with today is really a bastardized version of what most voters expected.

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IAC Professionals: Business Solutions with a Conscious Bottom Line

| Tuesday February 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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IAC Professionals, an outsourcing company specializing in Accounting, Virtual Assistant and Transcription services, is committed to helping entrepreneurs and small businesses increase their bottom line. By taking over the managerial duties and operations, it allows businesses to focus on achieving goals and advancing their company vision. But it doesn’t end there. Heather Villa, Founder, believes in a partnership that fosters financial growth and goodwill. In that spirit, she has incorporated a “Giving Back” program to match contributions to a variety of causes and charitable organizations through everyday functions required to keep a business running. The beauty of the concept is that these regular business activities feed the ongoing support for charities, making mundane tasks meaningful, and creating a profit margin that’s as healthy as it is philanthropic.

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Hell Hath Frozen Over: Seventh Generation Works with Walmart

| Tuesday February 17th, 2009 | 10 Comments

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It’s official: 2009 is the beginning of a new era. Barack Obama is president, Detroit’s Big Three are on the verge of becoming the Little Two (and A Half?), and Seventh Generation – a brand synonymous with sustainable values – is doing business with Walmart. It’s no full-scale partnership – Seventh Generation products will be sold in just four pilot Walmart stores, under Walmart’s “Marketside” brand, as an experiment. But this relationship is meaningful and significant, to retailers and producers of both mainstream and green products.

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Uncle Sam Singles Out Cleantech

Nick Hodge | Monday February 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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We’ve known for a while now that the stimulus was going to be delivered with a heavy green hue.

Obama has talked for months–even during the campaign–about creating green jobs, promoting energy efficiency, and updating our embarrassing energy infrastructure.

So it’s no surprise that this massive piece of legislation, the first of his presidency, makes those and several other campaign promises a reality. But as with all federal stimuli, the taxpayer ultimately foots the bill.

Since you and hundreds of millions of other Americans are the loaners here, it’s probably prudent to see where billions of your borrowed dollars are going.

You can start by taking a peek at your new $37.5 billion energy bar tab.

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3 Labor Pitfalls in the New Green Economy

Sarah Lozanova | Monday February 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment

wind%20turbine%20manufacture.jpgOne of the most compelling concepts behind the new green economy is its ability to create jobs in the US. You certainly can’t outsource the installation of a solar system or high-efficiency windows. Industrial-scale wind turbines are enormous, thus favoring local production.
Although these concepts are true, there are some pitfalls to watch for:

1. Outsourcing Manufacturing

The US has lost 6 million manufacturing jobs in the last three decades. Many of these jobs had been stable and relatively well paying, especially for people without college degrees. These manufacturing jobs will not necessarily come back in a green economy.

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West Virginia Turns to Renewables

| Monday February 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment

lunapic-123480181115850.jpg Coal has played a major role in US history and economic development, particularly in West Virginia, which relies on coal-fired power plants for 99% of its electricity. That’s going to change, at least to some degree, if the state legislature passes Governor Joe Manchin’s proposal to institute a renewable power standard.
West Virginia’s Public Service Commission approved Chicago-based Invenergy’s plans to build a $300 million, 186-megawatt wind farm in Greenbrier County, just two days after Manchin introduced the ‘Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act’ in the state legislature. The renewable power standard would require West Virginia electric utilities to increase their reliance on renewable energy resources, including wind, solar and hydroelectric, and reach a 25% target by 2025. If the bill passes, West Virginia would become the 28th state to enact such legislation.

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Sweet Leaf Tea: A Communi-tea of Consciousness

| Monday February 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Founded by Clayton Christopher, Sweet Leaf Tea is a perfect example of a company rooted in giving back – not just through charitable efforts, but by creating a communi-tea (as they craftily term it) of customers who share the same values, and a culture that rewards and recognizes its employees for their contributions. With a strong focus on quality over cost, hand-selected ingredients and sustainable processes, they produce products that are as environmentally-friendly as they are tasty, and foster practical, ‘grandmotherly’ wisdom in the process.

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Global Warming Solutions Act Part II: Better Business Practices & Tools

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday February 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments

cans.jpgIn Part I of this two-part series, we considered California’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, which calls for a statewide greenhouse gas emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions. Its implementation is afoot. However, regulators are getting resistance from some industry groups who claim it will be too costly.
But many companies are making strides toward changing their business models not just to accommodate the pending legislation but also to pioneer better business practices. They’re also doing so to attract investments: The Carbon Disclosure Project maintains the largest corporate greenhouse gas emissions database in the world, compiled through information requests that it issues companies on behalf of potential investors. When it first started issuing these requests, in 2003, 500 companies responded. Last year that number was 3,700. Meanwhile, the pool of investors grew from 35 to 475.
In recent months we’ve seen examples of how large companies making seemingly small changes can have a major impact. Coca Cola reduced the thickness of its beverage can, for example. By late fall, the company had placed 6.5 billion of the new, lighter cans on shop shelves throughout the EU, and a report found that the new can would cut emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 78,000 tons per year as raw materials and energy used in their manufacture and transport are reduced, reported GreenBiz.com.

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Saturday February 14th, 2009 | 0 Comments

google.jpgGoogle Dips its Toe into Energy Monitoring, Says the Water Feels Great! Google continues its foray into energy, but rather than renewables, the latest focus is on energy efficiency. More specifically, Google is putting it’s coding masters to work to solve the problem of increasing the feedback for consumers and utilities about the rate at which power is being sucked from the grid. They must be feeling the economic pinch just like the rest of us, because rather than hiring all the staff they need to create a complete product, they are looking for expert partners.
corn_pic.jpg Coal Plant Switches to Biomass to Make Customers Happy“Our goal is to turn electricity into an entirely clean product that customers can consume with a good conscience, given the concerns that they have about global warming,” said Danish firm Vattenfall Vice President Hans von Uthmann in a statement. “The entire Vattenfall Group is fully engaged in changing our power plants and production methods such that we can meet the expectations that world has on us to provide clean, environmentally friendly energy.” Now, that something rotten in the state of Denmark will be the proud stench of the biogas digester.
cloud6.jpgSustainable Companies Whip Non-Susty Peers During Financial CrisisA silver lining among the dark cloudy hail ridden storm of this economic disaster! Green Biz reports that companies focused on sustainability outperformed their peers by 15% during the financial crisis.
airplane.JPGEurope Halts American and United at the Gate, Checks for Carbon TicketsAll airlines using European airports are going to be regulated under the European Emissions Trading System from January 2012. On Wednesday, the list of affected carriers was released, including the big boys in US air travel. That means even American carriers will eventually have to buy some carbon permits to comply with European Union law. Under the European system, each European Union country will be responsible for selling permits to individual airlines that use that country’s airports most frequently. The idea is to reduce the administrative burden, but it also potentially means big revenues for countries with busy airports.
cradle-01.jpgThe Aeron Chair Turns into a Cradle (or Two) The famous Hermann Miller chair has received a C2C Silver certification from McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry. The company worked hard to remove PVC from the arm pads and flame retardants from other components in order to achieve the designation. Now that’s an achievement you can sit down for.
grid.jpgExisting Energy Efficiency Measures Could Cut US Energy Consumption by 1/3So says the Rocky Mountain Institute in their new publication. The report recommends that the 40 worst-performing states in terms of energy efficiency learn from energy productivity measures implemented by the other 10 states. The top ten states, in order of productivity per kwh (I know you’re curious!) are: New York, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Colorado. RMI Report

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CICERO: Battles Against Air Pollution and Climate Change Should Merge

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday February 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Whenever I visit Los Angeles, I consider the sprawl and congestion, but also the amazing vistas and architecture, and think it must have been amazing back in the 1950s. But the book “Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles,” stands as a reminder that well before the famously smoggy 70s, the air there was already blighted. In fact, the Smogtown authors, Chip Jacobs and William Kelly, maintain a great blog on the topic.
Unless you’re a native Los Angelean with at least a few decades under your belt, you probably can’t appreciate how much air quality in the LA basin has improved since the city first started being blanketed in smog in the late 1940s.
This photo, from the Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library, shows (or rather, doesn’t show) the LA Civic Center in 1948:

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The Clean Air Act, and a general frustration over the degradation of quality of life in smog-filled areas, ushered in California’s air quality improvements. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be harder to see or capture on film, and their impacts are less immediately blatant, but the state had become the 12th largest emitter of carbon in the world when Governor Schwarzenegger signed the State’s landmark 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, in 2006.
Will climate change be harder to fight than air pollution? Maybe the better question to ask is: Why should we address the two problems separately?

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Smart Grids: It’s All About Wireless Sensor Networks

| Friday February 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

lunapic-123453900192570%282%29.jpg Those able to design and build wireless sensor networks are increasingly in demand as utilities move forward with plans to build out “smart” grid infrastructure. The abrupt downward revisions to electricity demand forecasts resulting from the financial crisis and recession have added to the already heightened uncertainty utilities have been facing due to higher than average volatility of fuel prices, greater uncertainty with regard to securing fuel supplies, and regulatory requirements calling for sharp reductions in CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions.
These factors and ongoing advances in technology have prompted utilities to find ways of incorporating the “demand side” of the electrical power market into grid management in a bid to conserve energy and improve the efficiency of their transmission networks. Wireless sensor networks are integral to their automated metering infrastructure (AMI) and smart grid plans.
Couple this with the infrastructure spending and incentives included in the Congressionally revised version of Pres. Obama’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” and companies able to design and build them look like a bright spot in an overly gloomy economic forecast.
Case in point: Mid-Atlantic utility and energy services provider Pepco Holdings (NYSE:POM) last week announced that it had chosen Redwood City-based Silver Spring Networks to provide the hardware, software and services required to build a smart grid network that the utility anticipates will eventually serve some 1.9 million customers across Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland and New Jersey.

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