Industrial designer Virginia Gardiner has designed not just a new toilet, but a new closed-loop management system that will allow individuals to, basically, recycle their poop. Yeah, I just said that. But give her idea a few minutes of your attention, because it’s really not as gnarly as it sounds. A student of the Design London school at Imperial College in London, Gardiner has made a prototypical waterless toilet, called the LooWatt, that is part of a closed-loop energy management concept. It also uses no energy and converts human waste into a commodity. The idea is pretty simple. It starts with a person making a deposit into the toilet. Rather than flushing that organic waste into a sewage system, the person turns a crank that pushes the material into a receptacle lined with a carbon-rich, biodegradable film. The portal into this receptacle is sealed shut once the crank is turned completely and the waste disappears into the tank. (Thus, no odor lingers around the loo.) Click to continue reading »
Friday was a historic day for the United States with the passage of our first comprehensive climate change bill. While some criticize the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) authored by representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) for falling furiously short of what we need, and what President Obama promised during his campaign, all is not lost. That may sound like twisted logic, but I’m hopeful because even if Congress passes this watered down legislation, I think there will be many areas where the market will step in to pick up the slack. Regulation is important – and don’t get me wrong, if we fumble on this cap-and-trade bill, we’ll be facing an even greater challenge – but business solutions to climate change need to come from all angles, and there are many factors that influence the market, not just federal policy. And this is where I hold hope. We’re seeing these market signals in several different aspects of business: insurance, financial markets, energy prices, marketing and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting. Here are some examples: Click to continue reading »
By Max Dunn Ray Anderson was 60 and retired from the weight of making next quarter’s numbers when he was able to breathe, look around, and ask: “What’s next? What legacy to do I want to leave for my daughters?” That is when he got the sustainability “spear in the chest”. However, Ray’s case was pretty unique. While some other businesses like Wal-Mart, Ford and Xerox are making some moves towards sustainability, we are not likely to see a wave of businesses spontaneously adopt sustainability until something momentous happens. And what form will that momentous sustainability spear take? Climate change? Probably not.
More and more businesses are increasing their awareness of water use by conducting audits to better understand their use and to establish more efficient routines. This makes us vulnerable to higher water costs as water scarcity becomes an issue. Reducing your water consumption now will decrease immediate costs and will lead to an increase in future profits. Determining your organization’s water footprint not only allows you to track your corporate sustainability indicators, it serves as a stepping stone for calculating and reducing your product’s water footprint as well.
“It’s amusing to me that you are studying Sustainability now in the US because here in Belgium we’ve been working on it for 30 years” So we were introduced to the Ecover way by Concept Manager Peter Malaise at the beginning of a tour of the Ecover factory in Malle, Belgium. Malaise easily rivals the eco-rockstars we look to in the US for best in class sustainable manufacturing. Think of him as Ray Anderson with a handlebar mustache and a brain full of Chemistry, Philosophy, and Flemish. He knows his stuff and he was eager to show the 3P team how he’d integrated sustainably business practices into every decision he’d made for the company in his 15 years on the team. We spent over 4 hours with him learning about the Ecover process and the history of the company:
Supply Chain: Ecover products are produced onsite and we breathed easily as we toured the facility since all the product inputs pass extensive toxic screening. If it doesn’t kill algae, it won’t kill you. It smelled great in there! The company has utilized supply chain management over the years to encourage its suppliers to utilize more environmentally friendly practices in their own manufacturing. Any Ecover supplier must agree to comply with a 17 page stakeholder engagement contract before getting business with Ecover. Further, the manufactuing process is externally audited under ISO 14001.
There are a few legitimate reasons to drink bottled water. You might live somewhere where the water is unsafe, such as Sierra Leone. You might have some kind of piping problem in your building or neighborhood. Or you might be in the middle of a road trip and in a hurry. But for the most part, bottled water’s success as an industry seems to be driven by branding and powerful marketing.
There will always be a market for specialty waters like Evian and Pellegrino (which I confess to enjoying on occasion with my Ravioli) but the mass market brands, most of which are actually filtered tap water, are a relatively new and hugely growing phenomenon with consumers.
But here’s an idea: maybe the problem is branding? The government of Venice, Italy seems to think so. They’ve re-branded their tap water with the name “Acqua Veritas,” given branded carafes to city residents, and embarked on a celebrity filled advertising campaign. Genio!
Last week, Cone Inc., the leader in cause branding, research and innovation, in partnership with Intangible Business, unveiled their latest study,”‘The Nonprofit Power Brand 100,” marking a departure from more traditional financially-valuated rankings. This first-of-its-kind research explores the unique relationship between nonprofit brand image and financial performance, and revealed that some organizations may be leaving millions of dollars in potential unearned revenue on the table. This proprietary new brand valuation is aimed at providing nonprofits with the information – and inspiration – they need to make their brands work harder. “Through this valuation, we want to help nonprofits better understand how to protect and evolve their brands to generate as much revenue as possible,” says Alison DaSilva, Executive Vice President of Knowledge Leadership and Insights at Cone. “Valuing their brands gives them a license to demonstrate to companies and other partners that there is an established and justified cost to aligning with their organization.”
Sustainable Brands 09: Triple Pundit’s Ryan Mickle Offers Top Brand Stories By some estimates the average American encounters up to 3000 brand and advertising messages per day, not to mention the stack of emails, text messages, phone calls, Facebook pokes, and Tweets. With this daily barrage of data, how do we filter out and choose the relevant bits, the ones we care to interact with? More and more this filter is about trust, relationship and authenticity, according to Triple Pundit’s Ryan Mickle, in his presentation at the recent Sustainable Brands 09 conference. What does this mean for brand building and telling great brand stories? Relationship-powered filters mean companies must connect with their customers through honest and authentic communication in order to stand out from the data overload, and this should be the basis for the stories that businesses tell. Here is a sample of Ryan’s picks for some successful (and some not so successful) brand builders and the lessons they can teach us.
I had the pleasure of meeting Reem Rahim, Numi Organic Tea co-founder at the Sustainable Brands conference recently. We got into an interesting conversation about tea bags, sustainable packaging and corn-based compostable products. I followed up with her and her Director of Operations to learn more about their efforts to develop more sustainable packaging.
First comes the tea
First full disclosure. As I write this morning, I am sipping on my Numi Jasmine Green tea. Honestly, I fell in love with this tea for the taste and knew little about the company nor their commitment to sustainability. But a closer look at the box tells a clear story. The tea itself is certified organic with no added flavor. I have always admired the wonderful aroma of their jasmine tea, which in part comes from the fact that it is scented with organic white Jasmine flowers! It is Fair Trade Certified, ensuring that workers were provided a fair wage.
The Waxman-Markey climate bill (HR 2454), passed in the U.S. House of Representatives today, is hailed by many as the most important piece of climate change legislation ever. Yet it’s still receiving a surprising amount of opposition from environmentalists, mostly for it’s plentiful polluter permits, weak renewable electricity goals, and low carbon emission reduction targets . Greenpeace outright rejects the bill, claiming that it “sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets” and warning that “We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.” Friends of the Earth also warns against the bill, saying that in its current form, Waxman-Markey could actually increase the risks of climate change. But I still think the bill should be passed in the Senate. Here’s why.
The generation of most electricity produces enormous amounts of heat which is typically wasted – literally up the chimney. Cogeneration – or “Combined Heat and Power” – systems make use of this otherwise wasted heat to warm buildings. Much of Manhattan is heated this way courtesy of several con-edison plants in the vicinity. It’s a brilliant solution to improve energy efficiency in an urban area, but doesn’t work so well in less urban areas. There, people typically rely on their own natural gas furnaces to heat their homes. But what if you could reverse the cogeneration idea? Imagine taking an already efficient gas furnace and generating a home’s electricity directly from it, while it heats? That’s the reality that Marathon Engine has in store for the North American market today. While not quite a start-up (they’ve been selling units in Europe for 5 years), the company’s “EcoPower MicroCHP” units look set to sell well, despite, or perhaps because of the economy downturn.
Skyline Solar hopes to achieve grid parity within the next 18 months. According to research by Clean Edge, solar power and conventional electricity sources will reach a “crossover” point by 2015. In other words, electricity from the sun will be cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels. Today’s peak solar price of 15-32 cents/kWh is expected to decline to 8-12 cents/kWh by the year 2015.* (The current national average is 9.8 cents/kWh. Check your state here.) Achieving this “grid parity” – a price at which renewable and conventional sources are comparable – has been a primary goal of solar since its inception. Click to continue reading »
Editor’s note: Correction, the city of San Jose will be processing yard and food waste, not human waste, as was originally reported.
For San Jose residents, “going green” may soon be as easy as, well, using the toilet. The city has revealed a plan to convert human waste (“biosolids”) into biogas and fertilizer using a cutting-edge organics-to-energy biogas system, thereby producing approximately 900,000 gallons of biogas, as well as high-quality compost, per 150,000 metric tons of flushables. The system would increase waste diversion, reduce emissions, decrease the city’s independence on imported energy, and build its green job market.
Due for a vote on the House floor today, H.R. 2454, the marked up climate change bill proposed by Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey Jr. (D-MA), fails woefully in terms of meeting the CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets climate change scientists are pushing for. Not to mention failing to lay the foundation for transitioning to a less polluting, low carbon energy and industrial infrastructure, according to environmental group Friends of the Earth. Initially watered down in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″ has been weakened further in broader House negotiations as its sponsors have seen fit to acquiesce to the demands of House Democrats pushing for additional changes favorable to the oil and coal industries in order to increase its likelihood of passage. Click to continue reading »
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