The Green Grid, an IT industry consortium that is studying and seeking to standardize metrics, processes, methods and new technologies to make data centers more energy efficient, partnered last year with the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to assess the energy consumption at typical small to mid-sized data centers, set in motion energy-saving measures, and then develop a set of recommendations for energy efficiency improvements.
In the study, the EPA acted as the guinea pig—the study centered on its data center located at One Potomac Yard near Washington, DC.
By making a number of changes—many of them simple and requiring little capital, the center was able to increase its energy efficiency by 20 percent. The steps will also save the center $15,000 per year in energy costs.
We’ve all heard the good news: Improving efficiencies at your data center is a sure-fire way to cut energy costs and reduce GHG emissions.
But, let’s face it. The prospect of greening a data center can seem overwhelming. After all, data centers are complicated, unwieldy and high-tech. Even the most intrepid sustainability manager may take a look around, and be left scratching his head, wondering, “Where do we start?”
“That’s a very good question,” says Joe Parrino, Facilities Engineer of UPS’s Windward Data Center near Atlanta. “You start by getting educated and fully understanding the problem.”
That’s how they did it at Windward, one of UPS’s two largest data centers. Originally constructed in 1995, Windward monitors all of the information about the 15 million packages UPS delivers daily worldwide. Recently, Parrino led the facility through a dramatic energy makeover, a series of varied changes that cut energy consumption by 15% and reduced UPS’s CO2 emissions by 5.5 million pounds annually.
I frequently tell people I’m ‘into’ international development. I recently received a raised eyebrow at this statement, reminding me just how vague the term is. Is it sinister international globalization plans? An underground tunnel to China (finally)? When asked to describe what this means to me, I tend to go for the explanation “helping people to meet their basic needs of clean water, food, and education.”
Now, this might sound like pure humanitarian efforts, but I have a very negative impression of humanitarianism. I envision crates of food dropping to people on the ground, canned in English they do not understand nor have the can openers to open without bodily laceration. International development is the sustainable version of humanitarianism, based off the ‘Teach a Man to Fish’ life lesson #218. Rather than a crate of canned food, the international development plane might drop off a fishing pole and a fly-fishing guide that knows a few local jokes and swimming holes.
While the world seems to have growing enthusiasm for international development, the hurdles and risks associated with this work have not gone away. As social entrepreneurs are sprouting up throughout developing countries, governments of these countries are relaxing their own efforts, and becoming more dependent on these organizations to provide services in their place. Social entrepreneurs face a huge obstacle in their very existence. They exist to help improve lifestyles and meet basic needs to some of the world’s poorest. In order for an organization to consider itself ‘social’, they cannot turn too much of a profit off the very people they are trying to help. The amount of creativity required to help meet people’s needs while still fulfilling bottom line needs walks the fine line between exhilarating and exhausting.
A bad week for climateers. Several news reports out Wednesday pour cold water on imminent climate change change.
The Wall Street Journal reports “Climate Bill Likely on the Shelf for Rest of the Year.” Obviously it’s not over until the fat lady sings, but a key Democratic senator, Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said “it’s common understanding that climate-change legislation will not be brought up on the Senate floor and pass the Senate this year,” according to WSJ.
Baucus’ comment was reinforced by one from Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who told the Washington Post “I don’t see any climate bill on the table right now that I can support.”
The New York Times meanwhile gossips that at a symposium Tuesday of climate change experts and representatives from China, Brazil and other nations sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, the general consensus was that achieving a broad, global agreement at Copenhagen was “very very low,” in the words of Atul Arya of BP, the British oil company.
BTTR (as in Better) Ventures has a thing about mushrooms, while Peet’s Coffee & Tea of course has a very big thing about coffee (and tea). This unlikely duo has joined forces in a clever and delicious waste-to-food recycling venture that produces gourmet mushrooms out of coffee grounds.
Some 16 billion pounds of coffee beans are used each year, most of which eventually wind up in landfills. Cal Berkley Haas School of Business grads Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Aorara founded the company to turn one of the largest waste streams in America into sustainable local food. They do this by using coffee grounds as the substrate to grow different varieties mushrooms.
Lost in all the talk about whether or when nations and industries will have emissions targets, is the question of who, exactly, is going to measure those targets.
Without a pool of trained and certified professional GHG managers, climate change initiatives — from the United Nations Framework down to the sustainability plan for the shop around the corner — could stall.
Worse, a lack of accountability could turn the “greenhouse gas expert” into the snake oil salesman of the 21st century, peddling a dubious product whose ingredients change from one bottle to the next.
Enter the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute. The Institute provides professional training in greenhouse gas accounting and verification, primarily online, and its ultimate goal is to create a professional society for greenhouse gas accountants and verifiers, similar to the way other fields — architecture, law, medicine, accounting — have national or international certification bodies.
The Institute was launched in 2007 as a non-profit by Michael Gillenwater and Tom Baumann, two recognized experts in emissions measurement, who realized that there was an emerging need for standardization in their field.
One of the subject matters that we’ve been working on covering more often is that of healthcare. Never mind the politics, the working of hospitals, health insurers, company health programs and so-on should be deeply entwined into the conversation on sustainability.
On December 3rd, The Learning Forum is bringing together employee benefits experts, healthcare providers, health insurance executives and others who are focusing on long-term health strategies. The purpose of the meeting is to share ideas and experience on the emerging trends that link sustainability, wellness and productive workplaces.
The all day event will be held at the Institute For the Future in Palo Alto, CA and is limited in size to 20 firms to ensure a private, collegial and candid set of meetings. Attendees will include folks from Humana, the CDC, Burger King, Stanford University Hospitals, Nokia, Ascension Health, Steelcase.
By Ali Hart In the past decade, green products have infiltrated the mainstream consumer market, and I’d argue that the biggest splash has been in the “luxury green” market. When I first noticed this happening, I was appalled–I’m not a luxury brand buyer and I don’t want sustainability to be associated with “upscale and expensive.” Sustainability, after all, is supposed to be inclusive, not exclusive.
Green products were initially in the niche “health and wellness” space, and some of these products carry a “hippie” stigma (I’m from New England so bear with me, West Coasters). This stigma is related to the perception of the environmentalist movement as liberal, activist, and hippie – hardly mainstream. In order for green to hit its tipping point, it had to be more accessible to the masses–this is the job of a marketer.
At the Green Business Conference, Joey Shepp, founder of Earthsite, a boutique web design and strategy company, gave his presentation for best tips in using social media for sustainable businesses. This includes social networking, blogging, online reviews, and direct communications devices. The statistics are a bit surprising, even to someone like me who uses social media on a fairly regular basis.
Four out of five people are using social media to interact with companies.
Two thirds of people feel they can use social media to influence companies.
Twenty percent of people trust advertising, 60 percent trust editorials, and 80 percent trust reviews written by their peers.
Shepp’s advice for businesses to take advantage of these trends?
Green America‘s Green Business Conference is going on today and tomorrow in beautiful San Francisco, CA, in advance of the weekend’s Green Festival. The conference opened with a talk by Bob Johansen, author of Leaders Make the Future, and futurist with the Palo Alto based Institute for the Future.
According to Johansen, businesses today are operating in a society that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. It’s a VUCA world, in short. The Institute studies the business community and its leaders, and finds that what we want in the business community is 1) clarity for where we’re going, and 2) flexibility on how we get there. The Institute has characterized 10 leadership skillsets for living and thriving in this VUCA world and achieving these aims. These will help business leaders clarifying goals on where their business is heading, and how they can get there.
The leadership skills go from the most common and simplest to achieve, to the most complex and actualized of intangible assets:
The maker instinct: that intuition we have to ‘build something.’
Clarity: ability to see past the noise and have a vision of what the future may look like.
Constructive depolarizing: ability to calm a tense situation, reestablish broken lines of communication, and branch divergent interests together.
There are so many great things about bananas. In addition to being an important source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, they’re naturally wrapped, so companies that sell them don’t have to worry about packaging. That is, unless that company is 7-Eleven.
Last month, 7-Eleven tested a new plastic wrap to keep single bananas yellow and firm for five days (more than double the two-day shelf life for unwrapped bananas), according to an article from ABC news. This is no small matter, as the chain will sell more than 27 million bananas this year.
That means 27 million individual plastic wrappers that are entirely unnecessary. But the question is, who is the culprit here?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, for every 100 units of energy piped into a typical data center, only three are used for useful computing. These inefficiencies are the result of very low (~10 percent) utilization of the data center’s computing servers which creates intolerable heat and energy issues as well as sprawling space requirements.
To make matters worse, experts predict the number of servers to double or even triple over the next few years as a result of booming demand for Internet capacity. Fortunately, the emergence of advanced component technologies, such as multi-core processors, low-latency interconnects, and flash memory, hold the promise to transform the data center through radical improvements in performance, scalability and power consumption.
Blue Financial, a South African microfinance institution, just launched its Cashxpress product in Rwanda. The service is intended to help employed, yet low-income, individuals borrow money in emergency situations. According to the Blue Financial website, Cashexpress is unique since it will disburse unsecured loans of between 100 and 5,000 Rands ($13 to $677 USD) to existing customers who are faced with difficult financial situations, an opportunity that has thus far been the domain of loan sharks in the developing world. From press and company descriptions, Blue’s product operates similarly to payday loans common in the United States, a service that is often criticized because of the high interest payments charged to borrowers.
While microcredit continues to change lives in the developing world, it is worthwhile to consider these high interest rates. The published rate on an income generating loan from the Grameen Bank is 20%. By comparison, Americans pay around 15% on credit card debt. Of course, the proposition of lending money to people without credit histories or stable incomes involves considerable risk and microfinance companies must factor this into rate calculations. However, Kiva, the popular social giving site, recognizes that transaction costs account for a significant portion of expenses that microcredit institutions incur (Kiva, like Blue, does not post actual interest rates, an issue of transparency which may be a subject of a future post). As this field grows in size and popularity, it will be important to search for more efficient ways to deliver loans that ultimately decrease costs for customers.
David Abraham is an MBA candidate at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. He is a founder of the Emerging Markets Club at Smith which seeks to build a greater understanding of free-market opportunites in frontier markets.
A California anti-immigration group has created a multimedia ad campaign blaming immigrants for climate change and environmental degradation in California. Californians for Population Stabilization, or CAP, argues that immigrants, legal and illegal, increase their carbon footprint four-fold when they move to the US and “Americanize” their consumption habits, thus exacerbating climate problems.
According to CAP President Diane Hull, “Californians [have] made significant progress in energy conservation over the last couple of decades. However, the progress has been mitigated by massive population growth over the same period, driven by immigration and births to immigrants.” Hull continues:
This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco Libris.
Triple Pundit was thrilled to take part in the green books campaign because we love reading and we especially love reading books that have been produced in an environmentally responsible way.
We reviewed Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture, a book that lays out the public policy rationale for landscaping public lands with fruit bearing trees. Imagine if that shrub was replaced with an apple tree? It’s a pretty neat idea. Even better, this tome is printed on recycled paper.
At first glance, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with sustainable business, because the book argues for a shift in municipal policy. But Triple Pundit is a place where we love to talk about food and we’ve covered many businesses that deal with food innovation. The policy laid out in Public Produce has all the tenets of an innovative model: cost reduction, life improvement and a healthy a dose of “why haven’t I thought of that.” Author Darrin Norahl lays out all the problems with our current food production and distribution system: the dearth of affordable healthy food in the inner city and its connection to obesity; hunger; the 1500 miles the average piece of produce travels; outbreaks of food borne illness that sicken and kill people country wide and the environmental degradation associated with big ag. Then he provides an elegant solution:
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