U.S. Plans Subsidies for Energy Efficient Appliances

| Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

refridgerator-openThe US government is in the process of forming a new program designed to boost struggling home appliance manufacturers and retailers (and the environment) by spurring cautious consumers to buy energy efficient models. The program will reward consumers who buy qualifying Energy Star models of appliances (refrigerators, washing machines, etc…), hopefully increasing sales while reducing harm to the environment.

According to a report by the Baltimore Sun , the federal government has set aside $300 million in stimulus money, which it will give to states. Each state will develop its own reward program. Maryland, for example, which will receive $5.4 million dollars, is working with its utility companies already running appliance rebate programs to develop the new program. The government is encouraging states to include heating and cooling appliances and water heaters in the rebate system. All states must submit their plans to federal officials by October 15, and rebate money could be available by the end of this year or early next year.

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Climate Change, Carbon Trading, and Thievery – Crooks Give “Carbon Capital” New Meaning

| Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 6 Comments

thief-with-money-bags-cartoonApparently, the carbon trading market – which has grown to more than $100 billion, the Washington Post reports – is attracting more than just businesses seeking viable ways to manage their CO2 emissions. Crooks, too, are drawn to carbon permit trading, as evidenced by last Wednesday’s arrest by British customs agents of nine people in the London area suspected of a £38 million ($63 million) “carousel” carbon permit fraud. (This was the first carbon scam British Customs has uncovered.) What are the implications of this development on sustainability and business?

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Why a Food Delivery Company Replaced Shrink Wrap With Rubber Bands

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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U.S. Foodservice-Fort Mill replaced its clear plastic wrap, or shrink wrap, with rubber bands in all its food product deliveries. The company has reduced its use of shrink wrap in its Fort Mill operations by 11 percent and saved almost $8,000. U.S. Food Service is one of the largest food delivery companies with over 43,000 national, private label and signature brands and over 250,000 customers.

The rubber bands used are not the average type, according to Dan Harris, President of U.S. Foodservice-Fort Mill. “They are about 1/16 inch thick and can stretch to fit around a pallet up to 4 feet by 4 feet. While we can’t replace shrink wrap in every situation, the decrease in plastic wrap use has been significant, amounting to reductions of more than 100,000 pounds of wrap per year.”


(image from Aero Rubber company)

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Should Renewable Energy Equipment Be Made in the US?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

13_30_32_thumbLast week, the U.S. Energy and Treasury Departments launched a tax credit program for renewable energy equipment manufacturing. The $2.3 billion for the program comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), better known as the stimulus. The tax credits will offset 30 percent of the cost of setting up factories domestically.

There are critics who think it is foolish to compete against China. “Setting up a plant in an oversupplied market is just not a very sensible thing to do,” said Jenny Chase, a lead solar analyst for the British research group New Energy Finance. Chase think that it would be better to “accept that we’re going to buy cheap panels from China, then make jobs in putting them up.”

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Green Software Unconference Wrap Up

3p Contributor | Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

green-unconferenceBy Shripal Shah

Last week I had some fascinating conversations with folks at the Green Software Unconference held at Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. This event, which brought various folks from both inside and outside the software industry, showcased a growing interest in creating new software solutions that have an ecologically minded purpose.

Right now, Green Software is loosely defined as any sort of software application that can help lessen our impact on the environment. These include monitoring systems that achieve operational efficiency within an organization, more complex information management, or data integration and business intelligence applications that assist businesses in becoming more sustainable.

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EPA Kicks Off Bloggers’ Roundable with Safe “Back to School” Feature

| Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 3 Comments
Maria consoles the Von Trapp children

Maria consoles the Von Trapp children

When the notice landed in my inbox that the EPA would be holding regular green bloggers roundtables, I was stoked. A chance to engage with one of the world’s biggest government agencies dedicated to environmental protection? How cool!

The e-mail included a list of suggested topics they planned to cover: sustainable design, solar energy, indoor air quality,
testing your home for radon, sun protection, and alt fuels. It also called for requests for other topic ideas. I suggested: reducing water toxicity and air pollution in the manufacturing process, cradle to cradle production and implications of new carbon legislation for businesses.

So I was a bit bummed when the invitation to the kick-off event arrived. How to Lessen the Impact of Back to School Shopping. While this isn’t directly in the 3P sphere, I figured I would attend just to support their new efforts. I know it’s a bit scary for a big government organization to interact with bloggers and I know they have to start somewhere.

Sadly, the roundtable  was just about as groundbreaking as it’s title suggests. It covered such topics as the importance of reusing last year’s school supplies and buying in bulk. Nevertheless I don’t want to be too critical here, because I sure am excited about the possibility that regular briefings such as these could become a frequent occurrence. I just hope they become a bit more relevant!

[UPDATE] Suzanne Ackerman from the EPA contacted me to let me know she was reading. She wanted me to let the readers know that the listing of future roundtables can be found here if any bloggers are interested in attending future events. She also welcomes your ideas and requests for inclusion via twitter @suzack777. Yay Suzanne!

So I turn to you, readers, if you could talk to an EPA expert, what would you want to talk about?

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Unilever’s Ambient Ice Cream and Global Warming

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 3 Comments

d1024popsicle-frozen-drink-posters

UPDATE: Unilever has denied the claim that it’s developing a room temperature ice cream. Given all the buzz this story has created, it seems like a good idea for the next R&D cycle!

Chances are you’re an ice cream fan. Maybe you even consider yourself the real emperor of ice cream or at least an expert on its tasty and sensual proclivities. Maybe you love your mate more than chocolate ice cream itself, or maybe it’s a close call but you’ll never admit it either way.

Perhaps you don’t know that one multinational company, Unilever, makes most of the world’s favorite ice cream brands. Brands like Klondike, Good Humor, Breyers and Popsicle. Even Ben & Jerry’s resides in the Unilever stable. The company is the world’s largest ice cream producer.

So when its scientists pursue warm ice cream as a way to address global warming, we should take notice: dessert could become more guilt-free for everyone. They are developing a low-carbon product that would be sold at room temperature and then frozen at home.

It seems like an excellent idea, one that would take the added cost of storing, handling and shipping ice cream in its traditional frozen state out of the equation at the manufacturer’s end of the supply chain. If it’s produced, sold and shipped at room temperature then some of those costly and energy-intensive factors have melted away.

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From Enron Speechwriting to Anti-Climate Action: Robert Bradley’s “American Energy Alliance”

| Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 5 Comments

robert-bradley-enron

If you’re like me, the title of this post alone got your blood at least a degree closer to the boiling point. Unfortunately, the story only gets worse. The ambiguously titled “American Energy Alliance,” one of numerous anti-energy reform groups cropping up lately, is the brainchild of ex-Enron speechwriter Robert Bradley. I guess there is life after Enron…. Yet I hope, for the well-being of the sustainable business movement, that Bradley’s newfound hobby is short-lived, or at least unsuccessful.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Seeks Global Warming Trial

| Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 5 Comments

gavel

A recent Los Angeles Times headline could easily appear in the News of the Weird: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce Seeks Trial on Global Warming.” Absurd? Yes. A business-environment intersection we’d rather not see? Yes. True? Yes: in hopes of preventing potentially sweeping limits on emissions, the Chamber is pushing the EPA to try the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

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Desertec Solar Power Project Gains Steam, Critics

| Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

saharaskull2As the international Saharan solar initiative Desertec moves forward, a fleet of critics have appeared, who were apparently not invited to the heavily covered inaugural press conference July 13th.

In terms of progress, Desertec can report that some Saharan governments have already expressed interest in the project. Said Mouline, head of Morocco’s renewable energy agency, said his country has identified sites for the network of solar thermal plants that would generate electrical power to be shared between Africa and Europe, according to a Reuters article.

Morocco imports 96% of its energy, a heavy burden on the developing nation. “We would be generating enough power for us, and for export, for the next 100 years,” said Mouline.

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Free SOCAP09 Impact Management Workshop Hosted by SVT Group

| Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 0 Comments

socap-big-bannerCOCAPlogo1SOCAP09 is being held in San Francisco September 1-3. And if the $1,195 registration fee is beyond your budget, but you are interested in intersection of money and meaning, don’t miss the free pre-conference workshop being offered on Sept 1st by  SVT Group. Both SOCAP09 registrants and non-registrants are welcome.

SVT Group

I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Sara Olsen, founder of Social Venture Technology Group. She has led the firm to become a world leader specializing in the development of frameworks for measuring the value of intangibles, and communicating this value in terms practical for entrepreneurs, managers and investors. Most recently Sara worked with the Environmental Investment Advisor to CalPERS, Environmental Capital Group, to design and pilot the Environmental Performance Reporting System used in its $1Bn environmental technology private equity portfolio; and has teamed with HIP Investor to develop and launch the Human Impact + Profit (HIP) Framework for investors, publicly-listed corporations and other institutions.

Impact Measurement Workshop

The target audience for the workshop is leaders from companies, NGOs, foundations and investors in charge of allocating funds who want a better understanding of the tools available to measure and quantify the positive social, economic and environmental impacts of their investments.

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FMI Sustainability Summit: Only 5,000 Days to Get It Right

| Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Sustain-Summit-Logo-PNGImage Source: Food Marketing Institute

Last week, I presented at a Sustainability Summit for the Food Marketing Institute, an industry trade group representing 3/4 all the food sold in the United States.

Joel Makower, founder of GreenBiz.com, delivered the keynote address with a bold call to action:  We have just 5,000 days to prevent irreversible global catastrophe. (Actually, since his first article about the topic, we are down to 4,844 days.)

After the conference, I am optimistically concerned. I am concerned that we have big environmental and social challenges to confront.  And I am optimistic we can do it.

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Mexico City Bans Non-Biodegradable Plastic Shopping Bags

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday August 26th, 2009 | 6 Comments

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Last week non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags were officially banned in Mexico City, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere to ban plastic bags. In March, Mexico City’s local assembly passed a law requiring stores in the world’s 11th largest city to provide biodegradable bags. There is a one-year grace period before authorities will impose sanctions. The grace period gives merchants time to come up with alternatives and for plastic bag producers to convert their factories.

“The challenge as always is how the law is applied,” said Beatriz Bugeda, the head of Citizen Observers of Environmental Vigilance. “You go to the markets and they put every fruit in a plastic bag. You can leave with 20 or 30 bags. More than waiting for penalties, I think the challenge is convincing citizens to change their habits. We have to go back to our grandmothers’ habits.”

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UN Scientist Claims 350 PPM Is New Magic Number

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday August 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Prolific writer and environmentalist 350Bill McKibben is heading a group of advocates that are rallying around an aggressive goal of capping the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million–based on findings of (civilly disobedient) climatologist James Hansen. The group, 350.org, is gearing up for an international “Day of Climate Action” on October 24, aimed at spreading the message that if humans aren’t able to bring the carbon level down to 350 ppm (from its current 390) then, well, we’re screwed. And now the 350 movement has received an important, personal endorsement from Rajendra Pachauri, the U.N’s top climate scientist.

In an interview with Agence France Presse reporter Marlowe Hood, Pachauri said his chairmanship with the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) precludes him from making an official endorsement of the 350 ppm goal. However, he did say “as a human being I am fully supportive of that goal. What is happening, and what is likely to happen, convinces me that the world must be really ambitious and very determined at moving toward a 350 target.”

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Labor Market Dynamics: Recession Impacts Men More Than Women

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday August 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Many of the industries that have been hardest hit by the economic crisis are male dominated.  Construction and manufacturing are two prime examples.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 247,000 jobs were lost in the US during July, including 76,000 construction and 52,000 manufacturing jobs.

The male unemployment rate is now 9.8%, while the female rate is 7.5% in the US.  This trend is also seen in parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark.

As some male dominated industries lose jobs, some female dominated industries have gained jobs.  In the health care industry, 81% of the workers are female.  During July, 20,000 jobs were gained in this industry.

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