Southface Eco Office: A Green Building that Can Prove It

| Monday August 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Photo: © 2009 Jonathan Hillyer/Atlanta

Photo: © 2009 Jonathan Hillyer/Atlanta

Talk about checking all the boxes on the green building list, literally. The recently completed Southface Eco Office has achieved Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, qualifies for Energy Star, EarthCraft Light Commercial certification and meets the 2030 Challenge launched by the non-profit group Architecture 2030. Whew, that’s impressive!

The building, located in Atlanta, Georgia, stands at three stories and encompasses 10,100 square feet and uses 84 percent less potable water and 53 percent less energy than a comparable building. Designed by Lord, Aeck & Sargent, the Eco Office was made possible by the collaboration of over 200 organizations donating their time, materials and financial resources towards the project, which not only serves as an office, but doubles as a demonstration and training facility, showcasing the possibilities for high performance buildings to reduce operating costs.

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Cost/Benefit Analysis of Walking?

| Monday August 24th, 2009 | 8 Comments

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One of the most cited reasons for choosing to live in an urban environment is “walkability.” A walkable city gives residents the ability to get around on foot and provides places to walk to, like shopping areas, transit stops and schools. A compact, walkable neighborhood encourages healthier lifestyles, protects the environment and saves energy by reducing our dependence on cars. Furthermore, they create a sense of community and generate stakeholder involvement around community related initiatives. Not only does living in a walkable community make personal economic sense, but it makes economic sense on a larger scale as well. In the current housing slump, homes located in walkable communities are more likely to hold their value and may even appreciate once the recession ends. These benefits and economic indicators prompt the question, would you pay more for walkability? If so, do the costs justify the benefits?

A key principle of smart growth is the development of walkable communities, but another goal is to make homes in metropolitan regions affordable and accessible to jobs and essential services. Families in search of their piece of the American Dream increasingly must drive farther and farther into the exurbs to find homes with mortgages they can afford. A report released on August 18th shows that home buyers are paying more for homes in neighborhoods where you can get around without wheels. The study, conducted by CEOs for Cities, explores the connection between home values and walkability, as measured by the Walk Score algorithm. The report looked at 94,000 real-estate transactions in 15 markets across the country. Researchers found that in 13 of the markets, housing values were higher in more walkable neighborhoods. Data showed these “walkable” community houses commanded $4,000 to $34,000 more than those in communities with average walkability.

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The Business of Compost: Recovering Organic Waste

Wes Muir | Monday August 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

CompostBy Wes Muir, Director, Communications, Waste Management

Americans love food. You can’t drive more than a few blocks in any town without passing by a restaurant, fast food joint or grocery store. And after each meal or snack, we also throw out much of our uneaten food. Those scraps that don’t end up in the mouth of a family pet are instead sent to the family trash can.

These food scraps, along with leaf, yard and wood wastes, which emit carbon when they decompose, are known as organic waste. Organic waste accounts for about two-thirds of the total solid waste stream in the U.S., yet it is also often forgotten when considering practices like reducing, reusing and recycling waste. If you take a look at your own trash can right now, more than likely you’ll find that much of it contains organic waste.

Food scraps, in particular, are the single largest part of the municipal solid waste stream by weight. In 2007, nearly 12.5 percent of the total waste generated in the U.S. included food leftovers. An even more sobering statistic shows that only about three percent of food waste was recovered. Fortunately, alleviating the amount of food waste we trash can be a simple process, both at home and with the help of local municipalities.

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Is ExxonMobil a Green Company?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday August 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

200px-Exxon_logo.svgForbes Magazine recently picked Exxon Mobil Corp as its “Green Company of the Year.” Forbes praised Exxon for putting “$600 million into algae farms that would turn sunlight into automotive fuel,” and for the company’s increased drilling for natural gas. Exxon has almost completed a $30 billion project to “develop the world’s biggest natural gas field” in Qatar. When completed, the project in Qatar will make Exxon the world’s biggest producer of natural gas by a company that is not government controlled.

Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded oil and natural gas company, pled guilty in a Denver federal court to killing migratory birds in five states. Exxon agreed to pay $600,000, $400,000 in fines and $200,000 in community service payments, and has already spent over $2.5 million to create a plan to prevent bird deaths at its facilities. Most of the birds died from exposure to hydrocarbons) in uncovered natural gas well reserve pits and waste water storage facilities.

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Bon Appétit Management Company: Leading the Way on Sustainable Food

| Monday August 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

sus food2By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

What do Reed College, the University of San Francisco and Oberlin College have in common? They all recently received an “A” grade for their food and recycling efforts from the College Sustainability Report Card.

And behind their success is not Sustainable Food for Dummies nor Cliff Notes. Supporting their food programs is Bon Appétit Management Company, a caterer based in Palo Alto, California, with a deep commitment and track record of leadership in the field of sustainable food. While they serve large corporate clients, including Google and EBay, they also have a long list of education food service clients.

Large institutional buyers have the purchasing power to help shift the food system in a more sustainable direction. And a partner like Bon Appétit can help make the shift easier.

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Cluetrain 2.0 at SXSW – Can You Help?

| Sunday August 23rd, 2009 | 5 Comments

SXSWPanelPicker-lgEvery March in Austin the South by Southwest Interactive Media conference kicks off. The event attracts thought leaders on a wide spectrum of technology, mostly digital. Think of it as junior TED conference with a lot more twittering. Despite implications that readers of 3P might find obvious, sustainability and business have always been secondary threads to the ‘gee whiz’ factor of the latest Drupal theme.

A number of worthy panel propositions at next years’ conference aim to bring the sustainability conversation more prominence where it needs to be. Three of them involve 3P contributors Nick Aster, Ryan Mickle & Gennefer Snowfield as well as 3P friend and ally Rob Reed (aka Max Gladwell).

As a key part of the selection process, SXSW takes community voting into account – that’s where you come in. Without further ado, please take a minute to vote for these panels if you have a few minutes:

1) Cluetrain 2.0: Environment, Society, Economy
2) Can Social Media Change Global Consciousness?
3) Putting a Fork in the 30 Second Spot

If you are planning to be in Austin next March, please let us know via a comment below and we’ll get you on the list for other sustainability-focused events we’re working on. We would love to see you there.

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The U.S. Capitol’s New Energy Efficient Hat (Maybe)

| Saturday August 22nd, 2009 | 3 Comments

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If lighting is the jewelry of a piece of architecture, the U.S. Capitol may soon be dressing to impress – if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has her way. Pelosi is seeking to illuminate the Capitol dome with energy efficient lighting, making it a literal, physical example of environmental responsibility.

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The Good Entrepreneur – Catalyzing Change by Supporting Good Ideas

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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idea-lightbulb-b&wFor The Good Entrepreneur contest, the notion that an idea can change the world is not an idealistic daydream; it is one of the contest’s motivating forces. The Good Entrepreneur is designed to help green startups with triple bottom line ideas realize those ideas, thereby promoting environmental and economic growth as well as entrepreneurialism. In doing so, the contest also highlights and rewards the inspiration, innovation, and practically inherent in green startups’ development processes. However, while the quantitative impact of implementing contestants’ ideas is important, perhaps even more significant are the contest’s greater implications for the long-term sustainability movement.

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The Little Lunchbox That Could

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 4 Comments

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When I was younger, the most difficult thing to get a kid to do was eat brussel sprouts. And even when Peter claimed to like them on the Brady Bunch, it was still a tough sell. So, imagine how difficult it is to get kids to eat healthy nowadays, or more importantly, get them to recycle and pay attention to the environment. Well, Goodbyn, a new eco-start up, aims to do just that with a creative lunchbox that organizes lunch in ways that invite healthy preparation and is fun for kids!

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Samasource: Planting Seeds for Fair Trade Outsourcing

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday August 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Chirayath (right) and trainees in Dadaab.

Chirayath and trainees in Dadaab.

Increasingly, organizations that work toward ending poverty in underdeveloped parts of the world are basing their efforts on teaching skills and providing tools for those populations in need–rather than providing them with aid, such as food or other resources. It’s the whole teach-a-man-to-fish principle, and it appears to be catching on in governmental aid efforts, if the $20 billion food security plan that President Obama announced at last week’s G8 meetings in Italy is an indication. This plan is designed to provide seeds and other tools that can be used to help not just feed but sustain the world’s poor.

Samasource, a Bay Area startup, is taking a similar tack, which is spelled out quite clearly in its guiding mission: give work, not aid. But whereas similar organizations focus on building out the agricultural or transportation infrastructures in places such as Africa (Kickstart International and Zambikes/Bamboosero are great examples), Samasource is focused on linking people with computer-based work.

Though it is a non-profit, Samasource works as a bridge between profit-based, socially-responsible companies and marginalized people in countries such as Africa and throughout Asia, linking them with Internet-based work. Samasource screens and then provides training and project management tools to small businesses and nonprofit training centers in the poorest parts of the world. It then connects them with US clients interested in outsourcing computer work.

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Clean Tech Open: The Top Three Green Challenges for Start-Ups

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Clean Tech logo-mainBy Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

I had the opportunity to be a sustainability coach to some of the Clean Tech Open semifinalists earlier this week. The Clean Tech Open is an organization of leading entrepreneurs, academics, investors and companies, working together to accelerate the development of clean technology start-ups.

In addition to getting support around marketing, finance and intellectual property issues, the Annual Business Competition provides green mentoring and sustainability workshops to help clean tech entrepreneurs integrate sustainability into their business plans.

I was one of five volunteer advisers; over the day we met with a range of start-ups in 45-minute sessions.  They gave a pitch and we then drilled down deeper into the issues associated with the environmental benefits of their product, the life cycle issues raised by manufacturing and the pitch to stakeholders.

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Used Cooking Oil and Recycled Glass Make Candles for Japanese Start-up

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Filt, a Japanese startup, puts old cooking oil to a new use: candles. The Tokyo-based company has implemented a unique process, Fast Company reports. First, it collects used cooking oil from cafés and other local sources. Then, it filters, colors, and scents the oil. Finally, it congeals the oil in containers made of recycled glass (which it finds in local recycling bins). Filt’s product line speaks for itself: who knew up-cycled products could be so… cute? Yet Filt’s approach highlights more than just an innovative re-use of a common household product. By appealing to a wider, more domestic consumer base, Filt could be making “sustainability” more of a household name, so to speak. Does the sale of products like these suggest that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those battling to take sustainability mainstream?

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Kenyan Entrepreneurs’ Bike Powered, Phone Charging Dynamo

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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(from the BBC)

(from the BBC)

In an inspiring bit of can-do from southern Africa, two electrical engineering students at Kenya’s Nairobi University have built a cellphone charger that uses energy generated from riding a bicycle.

Cellphone use in Kenya has gone from 200,000 in 2000 to 17.5 million today. But in a country with intermittant electricity, Kenyans routinely pay the equivalent of $2 to charge their phones — in a country with  per capita income of $1600.

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Australia Breaks its Own Record in Renewable Energy Goals

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Australia’s Parliament passed a law Thursday that set the country’s renewable energy goals for the next 11 years: the country must draw 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources (for example, sun and wind) by 2020. Reaching the 20 percent goal would allow Australia to provide enough clean energy to power all 21 million Australians’ households, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

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Plextronics: Developing Inks that Convert Sunlight into Electricity

| Friday August 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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plexcorePVink Imagine being able to “print out” solar-photovoltaic cells on to just about any type of base—from electronic gadgets and textiles to walls, windows and roofs. While there are numerous hurdles—technological and financial—to negotiate, the ability to manufacture PV cells from the readily available hydrocarbon feedstock used to make plastics would ratchet down manufacturing costs—possibly as low as $1/watt—while making scaling up production capacity that much easier and profitable, industry insiders and analysts say.

It’s hard to imagine what combination of circumstances led to the discovery of inks that conduct and convert sunlight into electricity, but pioneering companies such as Pittsburgh-based Plextronics are hot on the “organic PV” and printed electronic circuitry R&D and commercialization trail.

Based on research and development of conductive polymers originally done by Richard McCullough and spun off as a commercial enterprise from Carnegie Mellon University in 2002, Plextronics’ subsequent work is attracting more and greater interest from established, mainstream plastics, electronics and solar-PV technology providers. Yesterday, Plextronics announced that Solvay North American Investments LLC—the venture capital arm of an international, Brussels-based chemical, plastics and pharmaceutical group–led a successful, $14 million round of “Series B-1″ financing.

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