GE: Bringing Good Things (Like Smarter Appliances and New Jobs) to Life

| Friday December 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

gewasherdryer_2For those of you that have always dreamed of living like the Jetsons, you’ll soon get your chance. General Electric (GE) announced on December 14, 2009 that it will begin manufacturing high-end energy efficient front-load washers and dryers at its Appliance Park facility in Louisville, Kentucky, beginning in 2012. Referred to as “smart” appliances, they have the ability to talk to other appliances and communicate with the electricity grid. Production of the laundry units is the second new product platform to be introduced in Louisville this year. The first was the GE Hybrid Water Heater, which is GE’s first commercially available smart-grid enabled product. Slated for production in mid-2011, the hybrid water heaters will save consumers approximately $320 annually.

These products take energy efficiency one step further at a time when many Americans are facing increasing electricity costs, while still experiencing the hardships of the recession. Given the fact that about half of a typical home’s electricity consumption goes to power appliances, lighting, and water heating, smarter appliances will save families money and shrink their personal carbon footprint. For most utilities, electricity demand peaks between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., when people come home from work, cook dinner, wash clothes, run the dishwasher and flick on their big screen televisions.

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Bling Nation: Eliminating Paper in Transactions

Bill Roth | Friday December 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments

green blingA favorite aspect of my consulting practice is when I receive an invitation to sit in a room with entrepreneurs starting businesses that they believe will produce an iPhone app, or even that they’ll become the next Google. I had just such an opportunity at the Venture Summit, Silicon Valley hosted by Always On. What I saw was “bling” and more!

Bling Nation is a start up company with a remarkable smart technology that could replace credit and debit cards with cell phones. The solution eliminates paper in the purchase process by providing cell-phone-toting consumers with a digital receipt, sent to their phones. How many times a day do we buy something and get handed a piece of paper that we immediately toss into the trash? For that reason alone I like this sustainable technology solution.

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Engaging Employees in Sustainability

3p Contributor | Friday December 18th, 2009 | 5 Comments

engageBy Kelly Flores, Kanal Consulting

It’s quite possible that if you don’t have a sustainability program in your company, you probably do and just don’t know about it yet.  In the process of conducting a recent study with 25 leading companies to identify best practices in sustainability, we discovered many formal, established sustainability programs originated from “grassroots” employee efforts unknown to senior executives.

Today, employees want to work for organizations that reflect their values, and respect their concerns about environmental and social responsibility (ESR).  The days of “The Organization Man” are long gone.  If companies want to retain the best and brightest employees, they must consider how to better align their values and interests with their employees.  And ESR is not just for tree-huggers anymore.  As humanity faces the global impact of climate change and the growing loss of our natural resources, individuals are looking to their own lives to see how they can make a difference, at home and at work.


So what should companies do? Leading organizations are harnessing their employees’ energy by first identifying who and where they are in the organization. Setting up brown-bag lunches, carrying out internal surveys, or organizing town-hall type meetings can help to gauge interest and coordinate early participation. Employees in common groups and departments can be identified and official “green teams” established to begin to consider issues together. Supporting managers and executive sponsors can also be identified at this time and formally assigned to create guidance and foster communication among groups.

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Got Manure? You’ve Got Renewable Energy

3p Contributor | Friday December 18th, 2009 | 8 Comments

dairy-powerBy Ryan Young, Blu Skye Sustainability Consulting

There is no need to wait millions of years for deceased organisms to compress into fossil fuels to burn.  Forget about how the wind doesn’t always blow hard enough to move wind turbines, or that the sun doesn’t shine on solar panels at night.  A typical U.S. dairy cow is a renewable energy machine, producing 150 pounds of “fuel” in the form of manure…every single day.  There are no intermittency issues as there can be with wind and solar; as one dairy farmer said to me: “cows crap 24 hours a day.”

The U.S. dairy industry produces a staggering amount of manure every day, to the tune of 167 million gallons of manure from some 9.3 million cows.  That is enough manure to fill 250 Olympic size swimming pools every day of the year, generated by a population of cows that is more than three times the number of people in Chicago.  (This is definitely something to impress your friends with the next time you they ask you to pass the milk for their coffee.)

If not properly managed, this large amount of manure can present a big environmental problem.  For example, when stored manure decomposes in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic decomposition) it releases methane, a nasty greenhouse gas with more than 21 times the potency of carbon dioxide.  Due to the large volume of manure generated and the potency of methane, dairy manure is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the entire U.S. dairy industry supply chain (21%).  This dwarfs some of the usual suspects such as processing/manufacturing (7%), transportation/distribution (3%) and retail refrigeration (3%).

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Opinion: Slavery, Carbon, Economics and the Ties that Bind Us

3p Contributor | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 10 Comments


slaveryBy Lee Barken, IT practice leader at Haskell & White, LLP

With the gathering of more than 130 world leaders in Copenhagen this week, the issue of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is taking center stage.  GHG has become the burden that no one country can unilaterally cure, but every person on the planet has a vested interest in addressing.

Cap and trade, along with other policy measures, have stirred a great deal of controversy–as they should.  Decisions to significantly alter the fabric of commerce and daily life should not be taken lightly.  Rigorous debate is essential and should be welcomed.

However, even the most ardent climate skeptic acknowledges that finite resources such as oil and other fossil fuels won’t last forever.  As such, the debate seems to be evolving into a question of when and not if.  In other words, is this a problem that needs to be tackled in the next five years?  Or, do we have 100 years to figure it out?

Bold Action

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COP15 & Schwarzenegger: “We Are The Climanators”

3p Contributor | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments


arnold-solarBy Eban Goodstein, Director of The Bard Center for Environmental Policy

Copenhagen, at an extraordinary confluence in human history. Amidst grey skies, wet snow, bureaucratic chaos, street protests, and warm Danish hospitality, delegates and observers share an understanding. The outcome of these meetings will profoundly impact every human being who will ever walk the face of the planet from now until the end of time. Each of us knows we have only a few years to initiate sharp pollution cuts, before the window for climate stabilization shuts on our future, forever.

The heavy cloud of failure hangs over COP15. The tired conference poster sessions, booth displays and trade shows carry little interest.

The certain outcome of these meetings will be—another meeting. No matter how strong the final agreement that emerges Friday, COP15 will not be enough. Indeed, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s main pledge yesterday, as he pushed for continued sub-national, California-style action, was, “I’ll be back.”

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An Open Letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Jeff Siegel | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments


U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently told reporters that we should caution against blaming biofuels for higher food prices, stating that the food versus fuel debate is based on the assumption that where we are today remains static relative to production.

Vilsack went on to say he’s convinced that within 10 years, with just seed technology, we can produce a 100 bushel increase in yields.

Now, the food versus fuel debate is a tough one — there’s just too much special interest involved, on both sides of the debate, to get much in the way of objective data. So it’s hard to take a position on this one.

However, we still need some clarification on a few other issues before we start cheering 100 bushel increases in yields.

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Deloitte to Offer Training on Sustainability Measurement and Reporting

| Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 4 Comments

metricsDeloitteDeloitte, the firm originally known for its accounting and audit services, has begun to integrate sustainability into its core business functions, including strategy, consulting and tax services. It also recently launched the Center for Sustainability Performance (CSP) to provide on-site client training, research and development, with a focus on corporate sustainability measurement and reporting.

The CSP just announced a new training, Sustainability Measurement and Reporting: Tools, Methods, and Metrics, a two-day workshop on January 14, 2010 in Waltham, MA, led by Mark W. McElroy, director of research at Deloitte’s CSP.

Deloitte has coined the term Sustainability Management” (SM) as a new and credible management function that is here to stay. And as we know, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

The goal of the workshop is to help make sense of the range of tools, methods, and metrics currently available for measuring and reporting sustainability, as well as new solutions just over the horizon.

REGISTER BY JAN. 7th for a discounted price of $1,195.

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The Austra-Mexican Lightbulb Solution to Global Warming

| Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

cflmexicoaustraliaAn Australian company is giving away 30 million compact fluorescent light bulbs to Mexican households in hopes of reaping big rewards in the international carbon credit markets.

Cool nrg, an environmental consulting firm with an anti-poverty focus, is using a framework set up by the 1997 Kyoto Protocols, called the Clean Development Mechanism, to generate carbon credits from the Mexican light bulb handout. The credits can then be sold on carbon trading markets for a profit.

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Big Business’ Climate Conundrum: Lead, Follow, Or Obstruct

3p Contributor | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Grist, and is re-posted with permission.

By Jonathan Hiskes, Grist Staff Writer

Is that government out front, or big business? Photo Credit: iStockphoto (with permission from Grist)

Photo Credit: iStockphoto (with permission from Grist)

COPENHAGEN—The most popular American CEO here these two weeks, at least among other business leaders, has been Duke Energy chief Jim Rogers. Which doesn’t make much sense, as Duke generates most of its electricity from coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Consider Rogers’ own confession: “Of all the companies in the U.S., we [Duke Energy] have the third-largest carbon footprint,” he said at a press briefing last Thursday. “Of all the companies in the world, we’re number 12. If we were one of the 192 countries of the United Nations, we’d rank 41st.”

That’s a gutsy admission to make at a climate-change conference. Such directness, plus Rogers’ North Carolina charm, helps explain the warm receptions he’s received at well-attended business gathering over the last few days. He’s been speaking about his unlikely role as an advocate for a national cap-and-trade bill and his optimism that more American businesses will come around on the issue.

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Los Angeles: The New Electric Car Launchpad?

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

electric-vehicle-charging-station-sign_large_imageThe unthinkable has happened. Los Angeles plans on resurrecting the city’s 400 abandoned electric vehicle charging stations that have been collecting dust for the past nine years, and to also add one hundred more, its mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, announced early this month at the LA Auto Show. In addition, the city plans to offer incentives of up to $2000 each for the first 5000 residential customers to install home chargers for their plug-in vehicles. To top it all off, the city has earmarked $6 million to purchase its own electric fleet.

This plan is intended to attract battery and charging station manufacturers to Los Angeles. The city hopes to generate green jobs, lure clean tech investors, reduce pollution, and reduce oil consumption.

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Is the Next Industrial Revolution On the Horizon?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Last week’s edition of Newsweek featured an article titled “The Next Industrial Revolution.” The piece contained an interview with five executives: Ian Chesire, CEO of Kingfisher; Noel Morrin, VP for sustainability and green construction at Skanska; James Smith, chairman of Shell U.K.; Reinoldo Poernbacher, CEO of Klabin S.A; and Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland. Speaking about retrofitting houses, James Smith said, “There is a set of technologies that can actually solve our problem.” That is true for many problems humanity is facing today, including climate change.

As Smith put it, “What we have got to be now is economically viable so that industry can get them out of the laboratory and operating on an industrial scale, and that means putting a price on carbon and getting the carbon market working.” One idea mentioned in a Los Angeles Times 2008 article for putting products in the hands of consumers is to lease machines. The article cites car sharing as an example. The article also mentions “dematerializing economic activity” something that is needed, and uses Netflix offering online movies as an example of this.

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“Social Response Capitalism” Bruce Piasecki’s Surprising Solution

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment


Reading through Bruce Piasecki’s The Surprising Solution–an updated version of his book World Inc–gives you a glimpse into the future. The future Piasecki paints is one where a new form of capitalism has replaced that which grew out of the Industrial Revolution. He calls the new form of capitalism, “social response capitalism” (SRC).  As he writes in his book, “…social history has reached a point that tips us up toward a better world.” The need for better products and corporate transparency are driving us toward SRC.

The transition from the old form of capitalism to SRC will be accomplished through what Piasecki terms the S Frontier. He defines it as the need for companies to “develop and continue to refine the business art of innovation for social needs. The drivers in the S Frontier are:

  1. The swiftness of new global market information
  2. The severity of some of the leading social problems before us
  3. The need for Social Response Capitalists
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Toyota Now Wants to Be Your Electric Car Company, Too

| Wednesday December 16th, 2009 | 13 Comments

plug-in-prius-610After leading the hybrid car market with its best-selling Prius, Toyota declined, quite publicly, to join the rush into all electric and plug-in electric vehicles.

Now, it would seem the world’s largest automaker is having a change of heart. In an announcement this week, Toyota said it planned to offer “several tens of thousands” of the plug-in version of the Prius, beginning in 2012.

The difference between a plug-in hybrid and a standard hybrid is the plug-in has a larger battery pack capable of propelling the car on its own for a certain distance. In the case of the plug-in Prius, the range is 14.5 miles (23.4 km).

Toyota has made the case that barriers to adoption of electric cars, including range anxiety and the cost and weight of batteries, make wide-spread adoption unlikely. In fact, the company has, or had until recently, put its hopes for the future on hydrogen fuel cells, which have fewer technological barriers, and thus the more logical next-gen power source.

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New Study: How Soon Can We Expect Wide Benefits from Plug-In Hybrids?

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday December 16th, 2009 | 0 Comments

plug-in-hybrid-car-phevWith GM’s Volt and Toyota’s Plug-In Prius coming to the market within the next two years, how soon can we expect plug-in hybrids to deliver on their social and ecological benefits? A new study by the National Academy of Sciences projects significant fuel savings and emissions reductions by 2030.

Is this soon enough? Some say this is a pessimistic, though realistic scenario. I believe, however, that the study makes some flawed assumptions and that it is still too early to predict market acceptance behavior.

According to the study, the main reason we should not expect significant penetration of plug-in hybrid vehicles before 2030 is the price differential. A plug-in hybrid with a 10-mile all electric range, such as the Toyota Plug-In Prius, is expected to add $6000 to the sticker price. A plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile all electric range, such as GM’s Volt, is expected to add $18,000 to the sticker price. Given current fuel prices and government support, the study projects 13 million plug-in hybrids by 2030 (out of 300 million vehicles).

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