Double Helix Uses DNA to Track Timber, Fight Illegal Logging

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Think of it as CSI for the timber industry.

Singapore-based Double Helix Tracking Technologies (DHTT) uses DNA tests to verify the origins of timber. Essentially, it’s the same technology that’s used in forensics and paternity testing –only DHTT has adapted it specifically for wood.

“What we’ve done is to develop a very creative solution that builds upon existing scientific techniques and applies them to an old-fashioned industry,” explains Darren Thomas, managing director at DHTT.

But, why does wood have to be scrutinized so carefully?

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Plastic Made With Wheat Straw Cuts Ford’s Petroleum Use

Richard Levangie | Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Wheat-Straw-ford-bioplasticFor years, Ford has been experimenting with materials to cut its petroleum use, and the 2010 Ford Flex will showcase the latest fruits of its labor. The Flex’s third-row storage bin will have a 20 percent wheat straw-based plastic content.

While the change may seem small, it will cut manufacturing petroleum by 10 tons and CO2 emissions by 15 tons, and cut the storage bin’s weight by 10 percent — thereby saving the end consumer a small amount of fuel, as well. Similarly, in late September, Ford announced that it is now using soy-based foam in seat cushions and backs and interior roof covers, a change that saved 750 tons of petroleum in the manufacturing process. The soy foam is also 25 percent lighter than petroleum foam.

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What To Do With Paper Waste That’s Not Recyclable?

Scott Cooney | Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments

cooney1-trashMost paper waste is recyclable.  The margin may not be terrific on recycled paper products, except for clean white office paper, but it is usually sufficient to create secondary markets for most paper waste.

The problem arises, however, when that paper is contaminated with food or for some other reason is not recyclable (pizza boxes anyone?).  Not only does this potentially contaminate other paper that may be recyclable, but it creates a waste management challenge to municipalities.

So besides using it for campfire kindle, what can we do with it?

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Capitalizing On Sustainability: Partnership Capital Growth

Frank Marquardt | Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

partnership-capital-growthWall Street’s spectacular implosion in 2008—illustrated by the failure and subsequent sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan and, soon thereafter, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the government’s spectacular bailout soured many on Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe.

But investment banks don’t just trade credit-default swaps and collateralized debt obligations. They also help companies raise capital—often taking shares in companies themselves—while providing sector-specific expertise. Their backing makes it possible for industries like technology to flourish.

They will also play a role in the expansion of the sustainable economy.

Enter the Boutique Investment Bank

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Organized Crime Mixed Up in Environmental Initiatives — Again

| Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Godfather_croppedAs goes the financial markets, so go the renewable energy markets. If there’s an opportunity to make a buck, or in this case, a euro, by ripping people off, rest assured, someone will do it.

In the latest case, two Italian businessmen are accused of involvement in a scheme to collect public subsidies for wind power by building sham wind farms. A two year investigation, dubbed “Gone With the Wind” by Italian anti-fraud police, culminated Tuesday with the arrest of Oreste Vigorito, head of the IVPC energy company and president of Italy’s National Association of Wind Energy, and Vito Nicastri, a Sicilian business associate on allegations of defrauding the government of millions in subsidies, according to the Financial Times.

Anti-mafia investigators in Sicily, where some of the wind farms are located, have launched a parallel investigation.

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Recession Provides Opportunities For Land Conservation

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 4 Comments


The housing market collapse presented land conservation trusts with the opportunity to purchase land slated for development. As a study by the Land Trust Alliance puts it, “land trusts are attractive buyers (to banks) because they don’t require further infrastructure investments.”

Land trusts all over the country are taking advantage of those opportunities. In Northern California, several land trusts acquired parcels this year. The Trust for Public Land bought chaparral-covered land for $4 million that was going to be bulldozed. The Peninsula Open Space trust paid $16 million in June for the 966-acre Rancho San Vicente, a former cattle ranch. The Ranch was slated to have 300 units and 16 large estates built.

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Is There a Generational Failure on Climate Change? Not Yet.

3p Contributor | Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments

earth-daysBy Eban Goodstein, Director of The Bard Center for Environmental Policy

I have attended a lot of college climate change talks lately by 50+ year old white guy experts. They all feature a curious line directed at the students: “Our generation screwed up; we are sorry to leave you this mess, but it’s going to be your job to fix it”.

There’s a problem with that logic. In fact, it’s our 50+ generation that currently has all the power, and we don’t look to be letting it go for the next couple of decades. The only way to transform the planet will be a generational partnership, with folks our age laying a solid foundation for the revolution in technology and consciousness that will indeed be the life work of today’s college and graduate students.

A tragic generational failure – and lots of success too—is illustrated in a beautiful new film by Robert Stone, called Earth Days. The movie follows the lives of a handful of 70+ environmental warriors, primarily Stewart Udall, Stewart Brand, and Denis Hayes. Stone documents the creation of the environmental movement in the 1960s’, sparked by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb; the movement’s symphonic arrival on Earth Day 1970, orchestrated by an intense and charismatic Hayes; and the phenomenal legislative success early in the decade, in which the we see the sunny (but still creepy) side of Nixon—with Tricky Dick signing the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts, NEPA, and creating the EPA, all in the space of a dizzying two years.

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Greenbuild 2009 – The Three P’s in Action

3p Contributor | Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 1 Comment


By Amy Berry

I recently returned from the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) 2009 Greenbuild Expo in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference boasted more than 28,000 attendees and more than 1800 exhibitors. Former Vice President Al Gore gave the keynote speech as leaders of the green building world converged to discuss the future of building and the impact this community of architects, designers, builders, project managers and corporate sustainability managers can have on mother earth’s future. Attendees snacked on organic appetizers and drank from compostable plastic cups. Student volunteers filled the convention center excited, to be able to participate in the event, and in exchange spent their time sorting attendees’ garbage into the appropriate recycling, composting or trash bins.

As one of those 1800 exhibitors (we had a full Windspire wind turbine up in our booth) I spent the majority of the show on the expo hall floor. The energy on the floor was described as electric, engaging and awesome by those tweeting with the hashtag #Greenbuild and by some of the more than 100 media in attendance. If you believe that smarter buildings that use less energy and water are a real solution to global warming, this was the place to see and be seen. The USGBC must be applauded for educating so many on real solutions to the global climate crisis.

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Coming Up: Sustainable Industries Economic Forum with Paul Hawken

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments


If you haven’t heard Paul Hawken speak lately, and you happen to be in the Bay Area this week, now is a good time to put it on your to-do list.

Our friends at Sustainable Industries are putting together another phenomenal breakfast forum on Thursday the 19th at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. It’s a $75 event, and having been to the last one I can tell you it’s more than worth it for the speeches as well as the panel that follows. In addition to the legendary Paul Hawken, Colin Wiel will moderate a panel featuring Lisa Michelle Galley of Galley Eco Capital, Phil Williams from Webcor, Matt Cheney from Renewable Ventures, and Peter Rumsey of Rumsey Engineers. Register online here.

If you’re not in the Bay Area, consider some other upcoming locations here. Or stay tuned to 3p for a write-up later in the week.

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Green Building supports 7.9 Million U.S. Jobs

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment


I’m not typically one to debate the merits of green jobs because I see the value of green job creation every single day.

Sure, there are a number of studies out there that question the validity of some green jobs or seek to find a more precise definition of what a green job is. And this is all relevant stuff.

But there are also studies that I have to call out as being nothing more than politically-charged rhetoric.

Like the “7 Myths About Green Jobs” study that came out earlier this year.

I won’t get into the nuts and bolts, but despite what seemed like an honest approach to a valid question: How do special interest groups calculate how many green jobs new energy policies would create? I quickly found myself reading what hinted at some questionable intentions hiding behind the guise of academic research.

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Syfy Creates a “Sanctuary” for Kids

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

hollywood & green
S4K_logoThere are few things more influential than entertainment, and the ability for characters (and the celebs who portray them) to drive retail consumption and inform pop culture. Every generation has spawned a myriad of fads from Farah Fawcett’s feathered bangs to Jennifer Aniston’s signature “Rachel” haircut to iPods, mobile apps, the vampire craze and Ashton Kutcher’s popularization of Twitter. Even Mad Men’s 60s style has infiltrated the Gap and Banana Republic, along with Brooks Brothers’ limited edition suit (which is absolutely gorgeous, by the way).

While these are superficial elements, what’s powerful about trends is that they spark conversations, evoke emotions, and make a memorable mark on the individuals who embrace them. And I’ve often said that this same process can be replicated by harnessing the power of entertainment for social good, which is exactly what SyFy’s television series, Sanctuary, is doing with their new endeavor, “Sanctuary For Kids” (S4K), a call back to their tagline, “Sanctuary For All.” According to the website, the mission of Sanctuary for Kids is “to improve the lives of children around the world who need protection and are in crisis – those who are exploited, dispossessed and threatened.”

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EV Tech Center Abuzz Over an Electrified Future

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments
Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Electric vehicles and the changes they promise to bring to our transportation infrastructure are making lots of headlines these days, but to Ed Kjaer, the director of Electric Vehicle Tech Center, EVs are old hat.

Kjaer drives an electric Toyota RAV-4 every day. He’s logged 83,000 miles on the rig, which he drives to Southern California Edison’s Pomona facility, home of the EV Tech Center. And when he gets to work, it’s all EV, all the time. It’s clear from talking to Kjaer that he’s an EV advocate. But EV technology is about more than just zero-emission vehicles. It’s about a new approach to energy management and storage.

Step inside the EV Tech Center and the first thing you’ll notice, aside from shiny new electric concept cars from the likes of Ford and other carmakers, is an electrical buzz—similar to the buzz you’ll hear walking past power lines in a rain storm. Must be all those power and battery systems that researchers in the lab are putting through their paces. Of particular focus, not surprisingly, are banks of automotive grade lithium-ion batteries.

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Careers in Wind Farm Development: Project Developer

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 10 Comments

wind farm developmentWind energy capacity in the U.S. grew by 8,358 MW last year, an impressive 50 percent jump in total capacity. This trend was accompanied by a 35 percent increase in jobs in the industry. Unlike trends in many industries, career opportunities are expected to expand, as wind power plays a key role in President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable energy production within three years, renewable portfolio standards are met, and stimulus funding is utilized.

Currently about 7 million households are powered by wind energy and 85,000 people were employed by the wind energy industry, up from 50,000 the previous year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. These jobs are very diverse, and include turbine manufacturing, wind farm development, wind farm construction, and turbine maintenance.

Developing an industrial-scale wind farm requires a team of people with a variety of abilities. This seven part series will examine the skills needed achieve this feat. The first job we will explore in this series is project developer.

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SolarCity CEO Says Solar Installation Biz Splitting into Big Guys and Little Guys

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 5 Comments

SolarCity_Lyndon RivecroppedSolarcity CEO Lyndon Rive said in an interview Friday that he is seeing a growing market schism between the thousands of small, local solar panel installers and a “half a dozen or so” national players that can provide “a trusted brand focusing on scale and services.”

Rise of the Brand Names

Solarcity, which the 32-year old Rive co-founded in 2006, has grown to be one of the leading solar panel installers in California, and perhaps the most recognizable solar installation company in the country.

The solar panel industry is still one where success is measured in the thousands of customers, not millions or billions, however, and despite its high-profile status in the news media, solar installers are still in a very niche business.

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Spacing Out on Solar Energy

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

jaxaP-022-0015-15495Solar power satellites are the yin to the yang of Ronald Reagan’s 1980s Star Wars fantasy, and almost as old. Scientists for decades have explored the potential of using space-based solar cells to beam power to the Earth.

It’s an idea with very long legs, as they say, but now the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has gone beyond whimsy by actually signing up several major collaborators to launch a giant one-gigawatt space solar power satellite into space. The players are huge – Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric and Sharp – and the bucks that JAXA has indicated it will invest in the project are also huge, $21 billion worth of huge.

The plan, according to various recent news reports including London’s Telegraph, is to have the test version of the Space Solar Power System launched in 2020. The final system would go operational in 2030. The station would send down power by laser or microwave.

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