The Free Design Clinic is an ad hoc group of architects and creative professionals providing pro bono services to non profits, small businesses, and communities in the Bay Area. The Clinic is an extension of a course run by the UC Berekely Extension program entitled “Architecture as Activism.” According to the site, the six week-long clinic is a “chance for the Architectural profession to walk-the-walk and actively engage with its community.” Non-profits, shelters, SROs, and small business owners can come on a drop-in basis and receive free sustainable design consultation from the instructor and the 15 professionals involved in the clinic. Though the course has already started and the enrollment is full, it looks like they are still looking for more clients to work with. If you are a small business, start-up, or non-profit in the Bay Area, check out the Free Design Clinic’s website for more info.
Why should sustainability change agents care about executive sponsorship? Because as sustainable business matures, those of us working in sustainability will find that after eco-efficiency, the next great step will come by leveraging sustainability on a strategic level to truly transform our businesses. Just like the Internet before it, sustainability will grow beyond its roots to become much broader, mission-driven, and transformative. And at that point, sustainability change agents won’t just be dealing with light bulbs or solar panels, but driving true strategic change. In numerous benchmarking studies on the critical success factors to implementing successful strategic change, active and visible executive sponsorship heads the list. With sustainability, the need for strong executive sponsorship is enormous. In any large organization, some people at every level of the organization will be unconvinced that sustainability is affordable, or view such efforts as simply “greenwashing.” A well-placed, articulate and influential sponsor has the unique ability to both motivate and compel these people to support your efforts, especially as you transition from the operational to strategic realm. The executive sponsor leading the effort needs to be a passionate advocate, believing that sustainability is an imperative – an imperative based on a powerful business case. The sooner you can find a strong executive sponsor, the better positioned you will be for taking sustainability to a strategic level. Click to continue reading »
Most of us are unaware that we are religious fundamentalists – market fundamentalists… in the “religion” of traditional economics. The values of the current economic system are rarely in question of us operating in the global economic system. Many of us rarely consider whether or not concepts of limitless growth, ruthless competition, more stuff and other “fundamentals” of today’s business environment are even up for question. And most of us don’t think twice when we hear that, according to modern economic thinking, that our primarly role in society is limited to a role “consumers” – mere functionaries in vast economic machine for the “growth” and the accumulation of money. And to boot, when we hear the growth of the economy we may not consider what is growing, and at what cost. More? Always good? At what cost?
By Wes Muir, Director, Communications, Waste Management Just this week, TV land will witness a dramatic change in the way it operates. As of Friday, June 12, all television stations will make the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, leaving many outdated television sets in the dust. But trashing these old TVs doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go to waste. With all broadcast signals available in digital format only, there’s no longer use for your analog television. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) estimates that 95 percent of unused analog TVs will be sold, donated or recycled following the DTV transition. Many of these are expected to enter the typical waste stream, i.e. left on the curb for your garbage man to collect.
I came upon an interesting contraption on the exhibit floor at Waste Expo this week: a solar-powered trash compactor. It’s the brainchild of Needham, Mass.-based Big Belly Solar and uses a 30-watt solar panel that charges a battery that in turn compacts trash as it accumulates inside the bin. Waste Management recently partnered with Big Belly to distribute the bins in the places it operates in North America, and they are already being used by many schools, parks departments and zoos around the country – in fact Philadelphia is installing 500 of the compactors on its streets as part of its Greenworks project. The bin contains an electronic eye that spans the top of the 32-gallon barrel inside the unit. Once enough material accumulates to block the beam, it triggers the compactor to engage, using 1250 pounds of force to ram the trash into the barrel. In total, the barrel can hold roughly 150 gallons of compacted waste. Also, the unit contains a small display that shows when the barrel is nearly full and when it is completely full. A wireless link to the municipality allows dispatchers to send trucks to the cans only when they are full.
Incorporated in September 2006, San Diego’s Helix Wind is looking to leverage the novel design of its growing line of vertical axis wind turbines to secure a place in the rapidly growing market for small wind systems. Less efficient than their horizontal axis counterparts, vertical axis wind turbines are nonetheless gaining credibility across a wide range of applications and sites, from densely populated urban areas to rural and remote installations. Aesthetic, rugged and practical with a small physical footprint, it’s the proprietary, helical design of the company’s small-scale VAWTs–which maximize surface area and capture wind blowing from any direction–that enable them to make the most of light, as well as strong and variable wind conditions, according to the company. Interest in the company’s products is surging. Management announced two contracts so far this month, its first two production runs have sold out, and it’s sitting on an order backlog of $11.3 million, with forward sales of 4,500 units spread over the next few years. Click to continue reading »
Other than a rock concert, there are few events that drain resources or produce more excess waste than conferences. From packing materials to elaborate displays to overflowing amounts of swag-stuffed goodie bags among throngs of people, trash accumulates in epic proportions. This is one of the reasons Gary Survis started Go Green Displays, focused on eco-friendly exhibits from booths to lighting to banners and everything in between. Click to continue reading »
OpenBrands is a new start-up that makes brand monitoring on Twitter a “social sport.” It has the potential to make the random stream of Twitter’s chatter far more readable and produce powerful data about what people really think of companies, ideas, and brands. This is exactly the kind of information one needs to judge the sustainability merits (or any merits for that matter) of any given company or brand. Open Brands isn’t the first company to try and make sense of brand reputation via the internet. A few years ago, Saatchi and Saatchi published a fascinating website about brands called “hierarchy of respect is then developed based entirely on that social data and conversation ensued between participants. Google’s Zeitgeist automatically allows one to monitor the frequency with which search terms are typed into Google. For example, the spread of the flu can be tracked across the globe as sick people use Google to find relief. The same technology can be applied to brand monitoring, giving companies the tools to see when their brand becomes a heated topic. Click to continue reading »
Along with the fiddle, big hair, and American Idol/pop music rejects, Country music relies on the persistent theme of recollecting the “good ol’ days.” That time when things were simpler and ugly modern-day slang terms like “anthropogenic global warming” and “mountain-top coal removal” didn’t exist. And nobody loves country more than Southeasterners (a.k.a. Southerners). Among some Southerners there exists a “Good ol’ boy” mentality. There are many definitions for what a “Good ol’ boy” is, but I think Waylon Jennings summed it up best when he sang, “Just the good ol’ boys, wouldn’t change if they could. “Good ol’ boys are perfectly happy with the way things are in the South, including how they get their energy. Click to continue reading »
There are few things that set me cringing more quickly that the sight and sound of some poor guy with a smoking gas motor on his back blowing leaves around on the sidewalk. In fact, I’d put the gas powered leaf blower up there with car alarms as one of humanity’s worst inventions. Lawn mowers, chainsaws, and other landscaping contraptions are not a whole lot better, either for the sanity of one’s neighbors, nor for people’s health – one leaf blower can emit as much pollution as 80 cars. (See EPA PDF here) The good news is that not only are many electric, and (gasp) hand-powered lawn care alternatives available, but they are growing in popularity. So much so, that entrepreneurs like Clean Air Lawn Care are moving in to make successful businesses out of specializing in a cleaner, more sane approach to classic suburban lawn maintenance ritual.
In continuing to foster and showcase the greatest innovators out there today, TED recently featured Kevin Surace, the CEO of Serious Materials, discussing his company’s new clean, recyclable, and energy-efficient drywall. Surace suggests that building green means more than just having green roofs or using solar panels, but addressing the construction industry’s large footprint with the essential building blocks of buildings themselves.
Two men and their company, Ecovative Design, think it’s a good idea to insulate the walls of your house with mushrooms. Seriously.
Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre have developed a strong, low-cost biomaterial called Greensulate that has the potential to replace the expensive and ecologically-harmful Styrofoam and plastics used in wall insulation, packaging and other products.
Another potential Greensulate application: Wind turbine blades and auto-body panels. They last month added a Popular Science Invention Award to their growing trophy case for their efforts. In April the start-up based in Troy received the Rising Star award from the Center of Economic Growth. The award is for its outstanding achievements as a start-up company whose venture is showing long-term promise.
I love so many Indian exports, I barely know where to start: bollywood films, bhangra music, glass bangles, gold earrings, multicolored silk, chana masala, chai tea and mango lassi to name a few. Among these exotic indulgences, my favorite is Indian food. Basmati rice is perfectly sticky and light, the sauce on chicken tikka masala is completely delicious. But the true story behind these cultural and artisanal exports is rather dark and complicated.
Thirteen percent – more than 30 million tons – of the municipal solid waste collected in 2007 was food waste. This comes from our homes and from restaurants, of course, and from food production facilities. Right now, around 3 of that 13 percent is diverted from landfills and used for other purposes – most often for composting. These are among the many food facts I gleaned from an educational session called “Food Waste: Compost, Digest or Other Use?” at Waste Expo, a solid waste industry conference held this week in Las Vegas. Two things are clear: food that lands in landfills is food wasted, but just what to do with all those food scraps is a matter of a debate. Broadly, food can be turned into one of two things: energy or compost. Sometimes it is turned into both. Last summer, Jen wrote a post about how food waste is turned into compost and energy by Northern California’s Jepson Organics . And just east of San Francisco, the East Bay Municipal Utility District – like many other waste water treatment plants around the country – use anaerobic digesters to convert the methane formed during the digestion process of food and biosolid waste (poop, basically) into renewable energy.
Thoughts from Seth Bauer Presented at Sustainable Brands ‚Äò09 Greenwashing is nearly impossible to avoid. No matter how credible, clear and consistent your message, someone can always find a flaw in your marketing claims. The media that monitor green claims serve an important function, protecting consumers from deceptive marketing practices. But with so much focus in the media on exposing misleading or exaggerated green claims, many companies are discouraged from pursuing legitimate, green product innovation. And for those who do, many remain silent for fear of the dreaded greenwashing label. This apprehension has resulted in “green muting” according to Seth Bauer in his presentation “Thoughts For Companies on the Verge of Doing the Right Thing” given at the Sustainable Brands ’09 conference. He encouraged the audience of brand builders not to hold back. Continue to innovate and continue to develop green marketing messages. But by learning the common greenwashing traps, and by understanding there is no perfect green product, you can learn to “greenwash better” making your messaging as credible as possible.
Online: Aug 5 Kimberly-Clark & Greenpeace The chat will cover topics such as how K-C and Greenpeace resolved their differences five years ago, what they've achieved since, how their relationship thrives, and where the two are moving next. Register here.
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