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When Rick Wagoner, CEO of GM, was asked what it would mean if the U.S. automotive industry failed, while appearing before Congress last week, he responded, “the cost would be catastrophic in jobs lost, income lost, government tax revenue lost, and a huge blow to consumer and business confidence.”
Robert Mardelli, CEO of Chrysler, told Business Week, “It’s one thing to lose a company. What we’re dealing with is the loss of an industry. I think you will see a ripple effect that will be unprecedented.”
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Green Building Retrofitting: How do you promote green building when building, green or not, has ground to a halt? You take green to the existing building stock. Existing green builders and young green retrofit companies are emerging at a time when national, state and local governments are embracing programs to promote energy efficiency and green retrofitting.
The LA auto show put on it’s best face for the media this week, briefly touching on the realities and drama happening out there in the real world, carefully omitting any mention of an auto industry bailout, then for the most part quickly turning on the fireworks, flash, and future with cars such as the Honda FC Sport (pictured) the monstrous Volkswagen-Red Bull Baja Race Touareg TDI Trophy Truck, and the Braille Battery Nissan Altima sports hybrid.
Concept cars and green race cars are fine, but what does this do for you, now? Not much. Here’s what I came across that shows the most promise to green both what and how you drive: Click to continue reading »
Top 8 Cheap Greens
No round up this week would be complete without some discussion of the ways to go green and save money at the same time. Luckily, a lot of sustainable options are also easy on the wallet. Going green can even save a company money, if you know how to do it! Or so I reminded my boss when the layoff rumors started this week.
Soda Cans Get New Lease on LifeWe now have a better reason to love Aluminum (much revered by recycling aficionados for its ease recyclability and ability to become new cans). The Aluminum Association announced a commitment to a 75% recovery rate for it’s products by 2015. Start stockpiling those Diet Coke cans!
Wifi goes Solar
In December, a company will begin selling solar powered wifi routers. Perfect for being plugged in, but, yet, still off the grid.
United goes Low Tech, Saves 1,600 Gallons of Fuel
No, no, the savings didn’t come from lightening the flight by requiring passengers to fly commando. The flight used old school gas savings techniques like continuous decent, priority clearance for landing and real time fuel use data. These simple steps saved 33,000 pounds of carbon emissions. Maybe now they’ll let me bring my liquids on board.
UPS Scorns Paper Labels
UPS looked at all those cardboard boxes and said, we don’t need no stinking labels! Comes up with a system to print right on the boxes. The elimination of paper labels will save an estimated 1,338 tons of paper each year, in addition to saving UPS money on paper, ink, and operational costs. Brilliant.
Green Building Estimated to hit $140 Billion by 2013
Demand for green buildings will translate into an additional $140 billion in new construction by 2013, says a report from McGraw-Hill Construction company. This represents a tripling of expenditures from current levels. If you’re going to build it, build it right.
Finally, here at 3P, we were busy covering a solar company who wants to buy a piece of GM, Environmental solutions to economic problems: tips for Obama’s first 100 days, and, just in time for the holidays, Top 5 Ways to Host a Green Event
The X PRIZE Foundation, well known for its $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for building and launching a spacecraft to push the limits of space travel, is aiming to take on energy and the environment next through it’s “Crazy Green Idea” Contest. Rather than designing the contest in a vacuum, the foundation has decided to unleash the wisdom of the crowds by offering $25,000 to submitter of the best idea via YouTube video.
Unfortunately, the crowd wasn’t so wise, due to the limited publicity received by the contest. X PRIZE received and considered a mere 133 videos, from which it selected 3 finalists. Believe it or not, only one idea, proposed by a team of MIT graduate students, addresses climate change directly. One finalist’s idea is a ridiculous suggestion to replace the grid power system with “off the grid” independent power generation systems for homes, powered by solar, wind, geothermal, and “a motor.” Another focuses on environmentally friendly batteries, or “ultra capacitors.” Finally, only one idea addresses climate change with the suggestion that the next X PRIZE be devoted to drastically reducing home energy consumption.
Watch all three videos below and vote on best idea for the Energy and Environment X PRIZE:
Reduce Home Energy Usage
This is the only idea that addresses the pressing issue of climate change, as Governor Schwarzenegger issues his executive orders to prepare California for rising seas. The team suggests that the competition reward the community that can most drastically reduce its energy consumption. The brilliance in the idea is that while it could have attacked energy consumption-reducing technology, it focuses on consumer behavior, which indirectly impacts technology through demand.
Friday’s second session at the Net Impact North America conference was Cleantech Venture Capital Investing. After having interviewed two of the three panelists prior to the conference (posts are here and here), the panel itself was an opportunity to think more deeply about the lessons offered by some of the most experienced players in the cleantech sector. The panelists were three managing directors at Philadelphia-based VC firms: from left to right, Joyce Ferris, David Lincoln, and Tucker Twitmyer. The moderator, Clint Wilder, is at the far right.
The panel started off with the standard “What is cleantech?” question, which the audience and panelists all clearly dreaded. Joyce stepped up to the plate, however, with a very succinct answer that seemed to surprise everyone present: “Cleantech is any technology that reduces natural resource consumption.” I’ll take that over Wikipedia’s definition any day.
With climate change, energy resources and energy security prominent in people¬¥s minds, multinational oil industry pioneer and leader Royal Dutch Shell in recent months has been engaging the media and those interested in a series of live Web-based dialogues, the “Shell Dialogues” series.
The latest, which took place yesterday, was led by Bj√∂rn Edlund, VP of communications. It addressed an important issue: how corporations, and organizations in general, are “Communicating Sustainability.” It’s certainly a topic Triple Pundit, as a journalistic venture, has a strong interest in, not to mention its broader relevance in an era of message spinning, media barrages and information saturation.
The live Web chat was prefaced with access to a video and text transcript introducing the subject that also included Edlund and his team engaging a panel of industry and non-profit experts on the issue. The panel discussion brought together folks active in the advertising, media and environmental/wildlife conservation fields, including Christopher Graham of the Advertising Standards Authority, Lynette Thorstensen of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Mark Lee, CEO of SustainAbility,and the IUCN’s Dennis Hosack.
GreenerBuildings.com released its 2008 Green Building Impact Report yesterday, the first comprehensive evaluation of the real and verifiable environmental improvements of LEED design and construction.
The report is filled with figures measuring the amount of emissions reductions or the impacts of indoor environmental quality, but for the more the casual observer, what’s more interesting is the tepid tone the report takes.
“Our findings are both encouraging and cautionary,” said GreenerBuildings.com Executive Editor Rob Watson in a GreenBiz article yesterday. “Overall, we believe that LEED buildings are making a major impact in reducing the overall environmental footprint of individual structures. However, significant additional progress is necessary if LEED is to contribute in meaningful way to reducing the environmental footprint of buildings in the U.S. and worldwide.”
This is fantastic news – and another sign that the stars are aligning for some serious sustainability-oriented policy changes to take place in Washington…
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Automakers’ closest friend kicked out of chairmanship
It’s the end of an era — Michigan Democrat John Dingell has been officially toppled from his post as head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In a secret ballot, Dingell was voted out by the Democrats 137-122 and replaced with Rep. Henry Waxman, a notable critic and aggressive investigator of the Bush Administration as chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
The vote is a victory for environmentalists… Dingell was…a consistent (opponent) of tighter fuel efficiency [CAFE] standards for automobiles.
Renewable Energy Over Your Head: One Block off the Grid Makes Solar Power Possible, Hundreds of Roofs at a Time
1Block off the Grid, an initiative powered by a model of community purchasing, aims to help the masses reduce their carbon footprint through affordable residential renewable energy products. By negotiating pricing with vendors, expensive — and often complicated to implement — environmental technologies and solutions become accessible to the participating group members, making widespread change possible on a grand scale. And with the education and logistical support available through the power of the 1BOG community, anyone can begin living a sustainable lifestyle.
Founded by Sylvia Ventura, Dan Barahona and Dave Llorens, 1BOG was built on what they affectionately refer to as the “Clean Living Trifecta,” focusing on the primary barriers to clean energy living:
COST: Community pricing leads to significant cost savings, making sustainable living as affordable as it is critical for the environment.
COMPLEXITY: Education on both the technology and processes helps consumers understand the mechanics of sustainable living so that they can easily adopt it in their everyday lives.
COMMUNITY: Focusing on local communities helps foster growth by identifying key ambassadors within each area who can spread the word and promote sustainable living that is suitable for each market that 1BOG enters, and offers built-in support through their appointed Field Organizers.
You know times have changed when a German solar energy company is offering to throw General Motors a bone and shell out $1.26 billion for one of its subsidiaries.
German solar powerhouse, SolarWorld issued a press release yesterday, stating that the company plans to bid on four German production facilities and Opel’s Ruesselsheim development center and headquarters. (Opel is a German automaker that was acquired by GM in 1929, and continues to operate as a subsidiary) The company wants to make this Europe’s first true “green” auto company. Here’s what SolarWorld representatives had to say about their plans:
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“With the restructuring of the product pallet, the traditional German auto builder would offer in future especially electric and hybrid automobiles and the newest technology combining extended-range electric and combustion motors highly efficiently.”
In the last two years a silent revolution has taken place in the US wine industry. Thousands and thousands of California’s wineries have switched to sustainable practices. But most of the efforts are self monitored and it’s difficult to work out from labels which wines are really organic.
The easiest advice to people on the lookout for eco friendly wine that’s drinkable is to buy biodynamic wine. The wine is certified by a third party and most of the bottles have a tiny logo on their labels indicating it’s biodynamically produced. However, the number of biodynamic vineyards is dwarfed by the organic businesses. And this is where it gets confusing. Ask anyone what the difference is between an organic and a biodynamic wine and the chances that you get a correct answer are low.
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A year ago GenGreenLife.com launched as a social network site with listings of environmentally friendly businesses. It claims to be the “largest database of sustainable living resources, larger than any other website online.” Presently, it contains over 25,000 listings covering all 50 states and 350 cities. According to a September 8, 2008 press release, it is an “online community that makes local sustainable living easy for conscious consumers everywhere.”
Among GenGreenLife’s listings are over 15,000 recycling facilities, alternative transportation options, and cooperatives. The site also has a directory of over 9,000 eco-friendly businesses with an interactive map. It boasts that it has the largest green job board in the U.S., and the largest green events calendar.
It seems that the word “sustainable,” or variants thereof, is never far away these days. It’s been on the minds and lips of scientists, environmentalists, environmentally conscious politicians, policy advocates and “green” public relations agencies for many years now.
More recently, it’s been rising to the “top of the charts” on the agendas of corporate executives as the potentially staggering costs of climate change and energy security become more evident – and not only in terms of dollars and cents. Add to the mix the establishment of local, regional, national and international climate change mitigation and renewable energy requirements and programs and it’s increasingly clear that corporate executives ignore the issue of “sustainability” at their own growing risk.
But pinning down a definition of “sustainability” is a thorny task. Its meaning varies and depends on who’s speaking and who’s listening. With all the attention and hype, as well as resources, “going green” has attracted, it’s important to establish clear definitions of fundamental terms, and to be able to wade through all the claims and promises of “sustainability” being made today – in other words to wade through them and determine what is “greenwash” and what is not.
Multinational oil and gas companies have as large a vested interest in the energy and sustainability debate as anyone. Earlier today, the corporate communications team of one of the oil industry’s pioneering, and still largest, private multinationals – Shell–hosted a live Web chat on the issue, one that was accompanied by introductory video and text transcripts in which a variety of professionals from a variety of fields voiced their opinions about greenwash, the do’s and don’ts of corporate media campaigns to do with “sustainability,” just what is or isn’t meant by it, and how to deliver on the promise.