News Break: Obama Clears Path to Allow California Emissions Waiver and Set Standards for Improved Fuel Efficiency

Thomas Schueneman | Monday January 26th, 2009 | 8 Comments

President Barack Obama today signed a presidential memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency, now under the direction of Lisa Jackson, to reconsider the Bush-era refusal to grant a waiver to California and at least seventeen other states allowing them to set their own standards regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

Despite former EPA administrator Stephen Johnson initially agreeing with staff recommendations to approve the waiver, he ultimately declined to grant it at the apparent urging of the Bush/Cheney White House. The ongoing intransigence led to Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sue the Bush administration. Numerous Congressional hearings attempted – and generally failed – to force Johnson to explain his reasoning and to what extend communications from the White House and vice president Dick Cheney’s office influenced Johnson’s decision

A second presidential memoranda signed by Obama directs Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood to establish rules implementing a 2007 law the requires a 40% improvement in gas mileage for cars and light trucks by 2020. The Bush administration had failed to make any progress in writing regulation to comply with the law

Obama’s memorandum orders temporary regulations be in place by March to give automakers time to retool for vehicles sold in the 2011 model year. Final standards beyond that will be set in a separate process later this year taking into account “legal, scientific, and technological issues”.

Obama stands ready to make good on his promise to aggressively move forward on environmental issues.

As pleased and thrilled as I was to have been in Washington last week to witness Obama’s inauguration, I am even more thrilled to see him take charge on these issues. Too much time has already been wasted.

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How Is Willy Wonka Like Obama? “Strike that, Reverse it”

Nick Hodge | Monday January 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

"We have so much time, and so little to do! Strike that, reverse it."

That’s just one of Wonka’s many famous quotes in the classic 1971 film. And, if you think about it, the aphorism applies whether discussing chocolate factory tours or White House agendas.

Indeed, Barack Obama has much to do, and even less time to do it in. New policies need to be enacted that counter our current economic problems.

But before he can get to that, Mr. Obama is striking and reversing some unsavory remnants of the Bush administration’s climate policy–or lack thereof.

Whether it’s undoing what’s been done or paving a new way forward, there seems to a green tinge on most of what’s gone on in Washington since last Tuesday.

Pay careful attention, and you can see the seeds of a new energy and climate future being sewn.

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California Building Owners See Green in New Regulation

3p Contributor | Monday January 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

money-green.jpgby Adam Wiskind: The 2006 California Solar Initiative and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Bill (Senate Bill 1 and Assembly Bill 32) set goals to increase solar generated electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. The new laws have prompted the California Legislature and the Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to remove regulatory obstacles for commercial building owners to implement energy efficiency measures and install solar energy infrastructure. One of the changes extends favorable tax treatment for solar installations and allows alternative energy providers to continue to forge valuable agreements with building owners. Together the government’s recent efforts have revealed the significant opportunities for building owners to attract tenants, reduce costs, and generate cash flows in an otherwise tight real estate market. This article outlines the recent regulatory changes and the opportunities they provide for building owners.
CPUC.jpgIn September 2007 the CPUC approved an agreement to allow electrical sub-metering of commercial tenants. Prior to this decision, building owners were prohibited from charging tenants based on a tenant’s actual electricity usage. Instead, electricity bills were generally allocated on a square footage basis. A tenant who used a lot of energy might pay the same as another tenant that managed to operate more efficiently. With the new rule in place tenants can receive price signals and information about their energy usage and costs which may encourage them to participate in energy efficiency and load management programs. Building owners win in two ways. The more accurate billing allows owners to anticipate and pass on costs to tenants and it allows owners to maintain good relations with tenants who think they are being overcharged, which can happen when billing is estimated on a square foot basis. While both building owners and tenants must consent to sub-metering, an effective agreement can open discussions between parties on how to leverage alternative energy technology or behavioral change to lower overall energy bills.

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Net Impact’s 2008 Business as UNusual Guide Out Now

| Monday January 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Net Impact has always been one of my favorite “green” business organizations and their annual conference has been a highlight of many years. The organization is particularly great for MBA students or other young people who are just getting started in the arena of socially and environmentally responsible business.
Business as UNusual is an annual Net Impact publication that provides a student perspective on how different business school programs address corporate social responsibility issues. It also provides rankings that help compare programs across key criteria such as the inclusion of social and environmental themes in school curriculum and the strength of alumni networks in this emerging field – all based on various student surveys.
The 2008 edition provides what Net Impact calls “the most comprehensive overview of graduate programs to date, with profiles of over 60 global schools”. Also included is an updated section that features school standouts in individual categories such as administrative support of Net Impact themes in the curriculum, and student involvement in Net Impact activities.
So, whether you are thinking about applying to business school or you would like to see how your school compares to other programs, check out Business as UNusual: The 2008 Net Impact Student Guide to Graduate Business Programs.

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Saturday January 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

smokestacks-coal-01.jpgNorway Stumbles into Carbon Sequestration to the tune of $100mThe Norwegian city of Trondeim hopes to become the world renowned headquarters for carbon capture and storage technology. I sense a destination vacation coming on!
abu%20dhabi.jpgAbu Dhabi looks to become a Mecca of Renewable EnergyWell, it’s a different kind of mecca than the Saudis have, but enviros have been known to get swept up religious for their clean tech. I’m still debating about whether an air conditioned beach powered by renewable energy is kosher. Still seems kinda wasteful, no?
concrete.jpgKhosla shuns CCS in favor of coal-to-cement
Superstar Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla thinks carbon capture and sequestration are a waste of time and we should look toward utilizing waste C02 to make energy-intensive cement. It’s a very cool concept, one I covered back in September. You’ll note from the post way back when that Khosla is backing the inventor of the new technology.
greenworks.jpgClorox Reveals Financial Details of Relationship with Sierra Club On the one year anniversary of the launch of the Greenworks line, Clorox revealed that it gave the Sierra Club $470,000 for its endorsement of the product, a figure that is based on the sales from April-December 2008 of the Greenworks line.
walmart.jpgWal-Mart unveils Largest PV Installation in Latin America True to its “go big or go home” philosophy, Wal-Mart has built the largest solar array in Latin America With over 1,056 solar panels totaling 174 kW installed. Those damn big box stores are such energy sucks that this array will only cover 20% of the building’s energy needs.
pouring_water_c.jpg New Tool Measures Sustainability of Corporate Water UseThe Center for Sustainable Innovation (CSI) has released a new tool to measure the ecological sustainability of an organization’s water use. The tool uses local rainfall amounts, topography, and watershed boundaries and measures the rate of water renewal against the company’s water use. Next up: women with clipboards standing outside the bathroom listening to see if you flush when it’s yellow.
groceries3.jpg UK Grocer to Generate Power from Unsold Food
Under the plan, all of the unsold food from Sainsbury grocery stores will be sent to a biomass plant to be turned into electricity. The move is expected to prevent 42 tons of waste a week from landfills. Yay Sainsbury’s! I do love me some closed loop food systems.

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Remixing Mattresses – A Social Enterprise Mashup

| Friday January 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

Reusable grocery bags? Check. Thermal coffee mug? Check. For some of us, this is the extent of our eco-conscious behavior. There are those among us, however, such as the Team at Rubicon National Social Innovations, for whom this is only the beginning.
Most famous for “baking a difference” through the successful Rubicon Bakery program, Rubicon has raised the bar by systematically building double- and triple-bottom-line businesses (check out the Rubicon Landscape Services program as well) at an impressive rate. Now, though, the committed team at Rubicon has set itself an even more ambitious goal: to build a national – and scalable – social enterprise, from scratch, and show everyone that it is possible to tackle our biggest social and environmental challenges in a financially sustainable manner. Their challenge of choice: discarded mattresses.

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Can Capitalism and Corporate Consciousness Happily Co-exist?

| Friday January 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

SocialEcopreneur.jpgThis series on Cause Marketing has begun the important work of defining the distinctions between cause marketing, cause-related marketing and corporate social responsibility, revealing subtle differences of each and highlighting the short- and long-term impact of those endeavors.
But waxing philanthropic will only take us so far. Viewing these concepts in practical application to assess market penetration, consumer response, and revenue are critical in truly understanding the potential that each one has to offer. It also helps in creating a blueprint for other conscious entrepreneurs and companies who seek to effectively infuse these elements into their business practices.
While there is no ‘One Size Fits All’ approach, there are examples of companies who are doing it successfully, the common thread of which is authenticity, implementing programs that benefit the community and the environment – not just the shareholder’s dividends. While sales are a necessary outcome of these efforts, the value extends beyond the mere lining of pockets to the greater good.

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Pitching Reusable Packing – Is the RPA Missing the Point?

Tori Okner | Friday January 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

Reusable Plastic PackingObama-mania is sweeping the nation and concern for the environment, seeping into our collective conscience, is increasingly less likely to be perceived as the hobbyhorse of the liberal elite. As this surge of enthusiasm converges with recession it presents an opportunity for savvy marketing.
The reusable packaging industry, as represented by the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA), is doing just that. RPA Board Chairman Bob Klimko claims, “The time is ripe for businesses to embrace the concept of reuse and to realize its potential to help them reach their sustainability objectives while strengthening their own companies through cost savings and improved efficiencies.”
We introduced you to the RPA when they hosted an educational forum on the corporate benefits of reusable packaging. The RPA is primarily focused on packaging that “moves product from manufacturer to retailer.” With a new president at the helm, Jerry Welcome, we’re taking another look at the RPA and their efforts to promote sustainability.

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Book Review: “Slow Money”- How Current Financial Structures Wreck Soil Fertility

| Thursday January 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

slow%20money.jpgIn “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility MatteredWoody Tasch, former Chairman of Investor’s Circle, argues for a new financial system that brings money back down to earth by supporting small food enterprises (SFEs) and the local agricultural economy. In addition to myriad environmental problems in the public eye (i.e. carbon, water), Tasch introduces another in this collection of essays – depletion of soil fertility – which he links to our financial system. Our farming practices are abhorrent and strip the land of its fertility for future generations. Tasch contends that our obsession with speed and high financial returns leads to broken ecological and social relationships. “How can we allow money to accelerate endlessly, hoping that it will not accelerate commerce, erode culture, and degrade nature?” Tasch asks. We invest with a mantra of “Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later” and refuse to accept below market rate returns. This is a book about reworking business as usual to support the lifeblood of our economy – food and soil.

“Fast money does violence to the web of relations on which the health of communities and bioregions depends.
It is not enough to steer money in new directions. We must slow money down.”

Slow Money is the title of the book as well as an NGO that Tasch founded in 2008 to incite the very changes he describes in this book. This book marks the beginning of a movement. Slow money, the term, describes the “nonviolent” and “beautiful” financial structures that will support investment in “small, independent, local-first food enterprises” and therefore soil fertility. Tasch posits that “Ford + Yunus + Petrini = Slow Money;” in other words combine Henry Ford’s hatred of speculative financing and the fast money of stocks and bonds, with Muhammad Yunus’ vision of social business which develops for-profit solutions to poverty and other social problems, with Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini’s vision of “food as a tool for social change” and there you have Slow Money.
Despite our current organics craze, Tasch presents the startling figures: only 0.5% of all agricultural land in the US is organic; only $100M of the USDA’s 1997 budget of $92B went towards small or mid-sized organic farmers;and in 2007 only a small percentage of foundation capital (0.1% or $50M out of $40B) and venture capital (<$1B of $20B with organics in portfolio) went towards organics or sustainable agriculture.

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Why The Former Energy Secretary Should Keep His Mouth Shut!

Jeff Siegel | Thursday January 22nd, 2009 | 3 Comments

bodman.jpgHow appropriate it was to hear Sam Bodman, the Energy Secretary under the Bush administration, make the following statement last week in regards to Obama’s plan to double our output of renewable energy in three years….

“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult to get there in three years. I’m not saying you can’t do it. It depends on how much money you spend. We have spent a lot of money, but could you spend even more and can you throw more (government) money at it? You could. I don’t think it’s wise myself, because I think we’re spending about at the rate which makes sense.”

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Why You Should Check Out EDF’s Innovation Exchange

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

EDF.jpgThe goal of the Environmental Defense Fund (a Triple Pundit advertiser)’s Innovation Exchange is to “help companies of all shapes and sizes make green business the new business as usual.” Innovation Exchange accomplishes that goal by providing access to “valuable content, a suite of practical yet impactful tools and a dynamic online community of peers” which help companies improve their triple bottom line.
IE is a wealth of information about making a company more environmentally-friendly. Are you interested in reducing your company’s greenhouse gas emissions? IE suggests two ways to create a plan to reduce emissions: create an emissions inventory and set a reduction target. If you are interested in conserving energy, IE believes that “simple operational changes” will help, which include lighting, office equipment, and corporate fleets.

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Greening the Lunch Truck

| Wednesday January 21st, 2009 | 5 Comments

green%20truck%20lunch%20wagon.jpegWhat’s for lunch? It’s a universal question that many of us working stiffs have to figure out every day. You have a finite amount of time, and don’t want to spend it driving around, or walking far. And yet you want to eat healthy. All those criteria don’t usually come together. Until Green Truck.
Green Truck is an LA based company that has taken the iconic lunch truck concept and given it a thorough greening, from what they serve to how the serve it, even what powers their vehicles.

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Coke Leaves Out Key Details in Sustainability Claims

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday January 21st, 2009 | 2 Comments

55px-Coca-cola_50cl_white-bg.jpgCoca-Cola recently opened a new “bottle-to-bottle” recycling plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and touts the plant as the “largest one in the world.” Coinciding with the plant’s opening, the company has a marketing initiative called “Give it Back” to promote recycling. A 30 second advertisement says, “If you’ve had a Coke in the last 40 years, you’ve played a part in one of the largest beverage recycling efforts in the world.” Coca-Cola also has a $10 million marketing initiative to promote health and wellness.
Coca-Cola’s advertisements leave out some key facts concerning the company’s environmental impact and the sustainability of its products. Coca-Cola makes bottled water (Dasani water) and soft drinks. Dasani water comes packaged in plastic containers, as do many of Coca-Cola’s soft drinks. The independent think tank, the Pacific Institute (PI), estimates that “the energy used for pumping and processing, transportation, and refrigeration, brings the annual fossil fuel footprint of bottled water consumption in the United States to more than 50 million barrels of oil, equivalent-enough to run 3 million cars for one year.”

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Can A Company That Produces Bottled Water Be Sustainable?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday January 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

Earlier this month PepsiCo published its CSR report which touted its gains in human, environmental, and talent sustainability. However, the company has its own bottled water called Aquafina, “the single biggest bottled water brand.” Americans drank about 615 gallons of Aquafina in 2008, according to the social network site,
Bottled water can hardly be called sustainable or environmentally-friendly. A 2001 report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) stated that about 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to bottle 89 billion liters of water every year.

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The Obama Bounce: Wall Street Digs Cleantech

Nick Hodge | Monday January 19th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Wall Street’s earnings season is once again upon us.

Investors are paying particularly close attention this quarter in reaction to continued economic uncertainty and economic hardship. The smart money knows that this season isn’t bearing any gifts; most companies’ sales have taken recession-sized hits, and that will be reflected in the bottom line.

Concerning the cleantech stocks I watch, Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) was the first to spill the beans. The recent downturn left the company with a $608 million quarterly loss. For perspective, they made $235 million in the previous quarter.

Auto parts sales, as expected, were down a dramatic 32%. But more surprisingly, even the company’s Power Solution segment took a 32% sales hit.

The only bright spot? A nominal 4.8% drop in building efficiency sales.

Despite the horrendous financial performance, though, the stock was hardly affected.

And that’s the big story here.

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