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If you’ve been seriously bruised in the stock market lately, and your 401k is starting to look like a 201k, maybe it’s time to consider investing your money where it can do some good. The expanding area of socially responsible investing (SRI) is offering a growing selection of innovative financial products that provide both financial and social returns. Consider it much safer and certainly much more rewarding than the stock market, which is starting to resemble a night out in Vegas.
When considering SRI, you have a number of approaches, but few offer the impact of Community Investment groups that invest in areas under served by traditional financial institutions. These groups invest in nonprofits and social enterprises that are tackling critical social problems. The Calvert Foundation is one of the leaders in this area, and also an organization that is bringing the social capital market to life – connecting investors with social investment opportunities. They were one of the sponsors at the recent SoCap08 conference where I had a chance to speak with Shari Berenbach, the President & CEO.
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.
Executive Director of the non-profit Make it Right, Tom Darden, has been working closely with New Orleans officials and community leaders like Charles Allen in order to rebuild the Lower 9th Ward with eco-friendly houses. He dubs it, “the toughest redevelopment project in the country.”
As if the idea of constructing new, efficient and “green” homes in the devastated area weren’t innovative enough, the NGO’s origins are more original than most. Make it Right (MIR) was started by Brad Pitt in response to hurricane Katrina. It now has 25 employees and just completed its first 6 environmentally friendly homes built using the cradle to cradle philosophy of zero waste.
The room was packed on Friday for a panel entitled “Bringing Electric Cars to the Mass Market”. The moderator, Bill Moore, editor of EV World, set the stage with a historical perspective–did you know that Henry Ford’s wife drove an electric car?–and then launched straight into the thick of things.
Before being critical, let me just say that I really enjoyed the panel. The panelists had some excellent things to say on the topics of battery rental, lithium availability, and V2G technology. The audience was very knowledgeable and engaged and the room was filled to capacity.
Nestled somewhere in the forests of northern Patagonia, amongst dramatic Andean peaks, alpine lakes, and fiery winds could very well be the answer to our dependency on fossil fuels.
Earlier this month, Gary Strobel, a professor from Montana State University, announced a fungus that lives inside trees naturally makes a mix of hydrocarbons that bears a striking resemblance to diesel.
Hydrocarbons are chemical compounds that naturally occur in substances like crude oil, and are thought of as the basic building blocks for any type of fuel. And in recent times, as the search has expanded to find alternative fuels, the majority of attention has been placed on biofuels and ethanol.
This week in ClimatePULSE we take a look at some of the best techniques for hosting an environmentally friendly conference or event. Given the current hysteria surrounding corporate sustainability projects, the simple task of promoting your organization’s green goodwill through hosting enviro-friendly events is often overlooked. So just how do you easily conform to environmentally sound behavior? It’s quite simple. Without overlooking the importance of ditching bottled water, there are 5 simple steps your company can take to portray a green image at your next big conference or meeting. Check below for the top solutions.Click to continue reading »
Last week I attended a discussion entitled After the Election: Where is Cleantech Headed Now? hosted by TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) at their Silicon Valley headquarters. The event was moderated by Andrew Chung of Lightspeed Venture Partners with presentations by Chris Flavin of Worldwatch Institute and Dr. Dick Swanson, founder of SunPower.
Needless to say, the room was full of some very smart, visionary people with a singular focus on exploring the state of the energy sector and the potential of renewable energy to bring solutions to a beleaguered economy and stressed environment (one might say to civilization and the natural systems that support it).
In my next post we’ll look at the the main ideas of Dr. Swanson’s presentation. Here we’ll review some key points from the discussion with Chris Flavin.
Perception lags reality
Worldwatch Institute’s Chris Flavin may have summed up the entire evening in his first sentence: “Energy is at a tipping point”. It is exciting to think we live in a time of rapid transition to a new energy economy. Flavin sees the beginnings of that transition in progress and accelerating.
Based on data from the report Renewables 2007 Global Status Report by REN21 in collaboration with Worldwatch, one challenge Flavin sees is “making the fossil fuel industry believe” that renewables offer a full-scale, “baseload” alternative to oil and coal, and that it isn’t hovering somewhere off in the distant future.
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“So much has happened in the renewable energy sector during the past five years that the perceptions of some politicians and energy-sector analysts lag far behind the reality of where the renewables industry is today”, says Mohamed El-Ashry, Chair of REN21
San Francisco is the first city in the U.S. to have implemented a plastic bag ban, but there are many other cities up and down the west coast and across the nation who have enacted or are discussing similar measures (including Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, and New York). As opposed to S.F.’s ban on plastic, most cities are planning to charge a fee for use of disposable or single use bags, both plastic and paper. The fee-based approach was initially introduced in Ireland, and according to the Irish government has been successful in reducing the use of disposable bags. In the U.S. the cost of the fee will vary by city, but the norm is $0.25 per bag. This cost will be paid by the consumer at time of checkout, and a large portion of the proceeds will go towards pollution and litter cleanup efforts.
There are several stakeholders involved, most notably municipal government, retailers, bag manufacturers, and consumer groups, making for a very dynamic environment. But perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that this may be the U.S. consumer’s first direct introduction to a new concept that will soon be a staple of the U.S. economy – the factoring of externalities into the cost and price of products. For many businesses, this impending change is frightening in both its intended and unintended impacts.
This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy. John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.
I mentioned before in this blog that the gym and spa industry is one of the main buyers of sport bottles. It makes sense, sign-up for a membership, get a water bottle and t-shirt.
I also mentioned that the BPA scare pretty much halted the market for plastic gym bottles. This was an event especially felt by eco-friendly gyms, yoga studios and spas that had been using bottles as giveaway items. Many businesses gave up on plastic altogether and moved to aluminum or steel bottles.
Well the industry is fighting back with BPA free bottles especially designed for gyms – like Glass America’s 19 oz. Treadmill BPA Free Bottle – bottles designed with wide mouths and easy grips.
These new bottles also have the words “BPA free” imprinted directly on them to make sure the audience does not miss the fact these are “safe” bottles.
We will see how well these new bottle designs do. It is nice to see the industry bouncing back in this area and at the same time moving forward on green products.
For more information on BPA free bottles from Glass America please visit their website or visit us at Proformagreen.com.