The struggle to establish guidelines by which the world will cut greenhouse gas emissions continues. The newest development? China should, according to statements made Monday by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, have to invest more definitively in environmental protection measures. In other words, China will, should Locke’s plan come to fruition, have to “pay” to decrease greenhouse gasses.Click to continue reading »
Austin Energy, Austin’s municipal power utility, was the first in the nation to give consumers the option of buying green-powered electricity. And as recently as last year the city’s green power program, called GreenChoice, was number one in the nation, in terms of sales.
This year, 99% of the city’s allotment of green power remains unsold, even after seven months on the market, according to the Austin Statesman. The reasons for the abrupt failure of the GreenChoice program serves as a warning to other green power programs nationwide, as well as a case study in how, with renewable energy, sometimes when you win, you still lose.
Before I knew what “green washing” was, I knew what “green dry cleaning” was. I felt guilty every time I didn’t utilize the eco-friendly clothes-washing experts. After all, their methods were touted by so many sustainability proponents. However, as more and more supposedly “green” businesses are busted for green washing, a query is warranted: is green dry cleaning really just green washing?
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently reported that a number of self-proclaimed “green dry cleaners” may be just green washers in, ahem, a cotton plant’s clothing. The WSJ studied several companies that have “greened” themselves by eliminating use of a hazardous liquid solvent called perchloroethylene, or “perc.”
The solvent is a no-go for any truly eco-friendly dry cleaner: It is described as a “hazardous air pollutant” and a “probable human carcinogen” by the Clean Air Act and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, respectively. The Environmental Protection Agency is requiring cleaners located in residential buildings to phase out their perc use, and some states have passed to-be-instated bans on the solvent. (Dry cleaning industry reps say these claims are founded on inconclusive research.)
Ikea’s slogan is “low prices but not at any price.” Ikea is known for its cheap furniture that customers have to put together at home. A recent article in The Atlantic asked (about Ikea), “Can we afford to keep shopping at places where an item’s price reflects only a fraction of its societal costs?” One of the biggest societal costs is environmental. As Boston University professor Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, puts it, Ikea relies “on consumers to carry huge costs for the company.”
Ikea is the third-largest purchaser of wood in the world, behind Home Depot and Lowe’s. Ikea gets most of its wood from Russia and China. In 2007, a senior Ikea staff member told the Washington Post that only 30 percent of the wood it purchases is from China. The same year the Post ran an expose on illegal timber that quoted a Chinese factory sales manager, who said, “Ikea will provide some guidance, such as a list of endangered species we can’t use, but they never send people to supervise the purchasing. Basically, they just let us pick what wood we want.”
Israeli start-up ETV Motors is testing what it hopes will be the future of the hybrid electric automobile. The car, yet to be named, does not have an internal combustion engine like many hybrid vehicles. Instead, the Israeli hybrid has an electric engine (in the rear of the vehicle) that is comprised of two primary parts: a super-capacity (high density) battery and micro-jet turbine engine.
The 4.7-volt lithium battery will exceed the voltage of existing lithium-ion batteries, which typically have just 3.2 volts. By allowing for longer driving distances with a smaller battery, the high voltage is expected to increase the vehicle’s longevity.
Clever Englishmen and women have devised the world’s newest carbon calculator. Using streaming data from the agencies responsible for maintaining the UK’s power grid, RealtimeCarbon.org adjusts the carbon footprint of each kiloWatt hour of juice every five minutes.
While there are a plethora of carbon calculators out there, Real Time Carbon is the first to adjust to energy use fluctuations during the day. When carbon output is above average, the website announces a “carbon alert” in the form of a little blinking red button on the site.
Chalk up another victory for sustainable business practices worldwide. Mars, Inc., the world’s largest candy maker, announced today a commitment to purchase 100,000 tons of UTZ Certified cocoa annually by 2020. The creator of M&Ms plans to use only sustainably produced cocoa by that date.
Mars has been feeling pressure to go sustainable in its UK market, where there is more interest in sustainable food than the US. Cadbury, a direct competitor, will have the Fairtrade Certified label on its Dairy Milk Chocolate bar by the end of the summer.
On a recent trip to Uvita, Costa Rica, I picked up a flyer offering a tour of Finca Carolina, an organic farm, plus birding, a hike to a waterfall on the property, and organic refreshments for $30 per person. As an advocate of sustainable food, I buy organic, local food to support these kinds of farms (in addition to the health and taste benefits, of course). This tour seemed like a really neat twist on the traditional ecotourism business model and a way to vote with my dollars to further support organic agriculture, so I decided to find out what it was like to run an organic farm in the tropics.
The tour started with “refrescos”, a snack of locally grown plantains, beans, and avocado, served with a delicious salad of tropical greens I had never seen before and a juice drink made with starfruit. The scenery was amazing, as the farm blended into the sprawling jungle behind it. We saw a handful of colorful tropical birds as we ate, and identifying them with my Birds of Costa Rica book turned out to be an effort in futility. How can there be 42 different bright yellow, blue, green, and red birds with curved beaks?! Costa Rica is home to more species of birds than the U.S. and Canada combined, despite the fact that geographically, it is about the size of Kentucky.
“Buying green” – a complicated task for most consumers – can be particularly hairy for antique lovers. The considerations necessary in the green purchasing of antiques (i.e. what a product is constructed of, how it was transported during and after manufacturing, whether it is re-usable or recyclable, and whether [and how] it will be disposed of) is complicated by the fact that antiques were, by definition, manufactured before formal “sustainability” efforts existed, and by the fact that many collectors will travel to Timbuktu and back to obtain hard-to-find items, thus creating quite the carbon footprint. On the other hand, antiques are reused almost endlessly, crafted for durability, and do not require new manufacturing. What is the eco-minded antique enthusiast to make of his dilemma?Click to continue reading »
Follow @TheChildFund to Donate Gifts to Kids Around the World
Nonprofits have had much success harnessing the power of the social web (specifically, Twitter) in generating awareness for their causes and motivating action. From Stacey Monk’s Tweetsgiving initiative to the multi-location Twestivals, and countless campaigns in between, Twitter has become a viable cause marketing channel for building communities around important social issues and causes. To tap into this viral mecca in promoting their new name, Child Fund International created an online giving program where all users have to do is follow them on Twitter to help children in need.
SOCAP09 Sponsor nComputing Taps Unused Computer Resources
Making better use of existing resources is one of the canons of Sustainability. And one of the greatest untapped resources happens to be sitting on your desk. A typical PC running standard office applications like email, word processing and web browsing uses less than 5% of it’s processing power, which means 95% of this resource is wasted.
SOCAP09 sponsor nComputing is harnessing this vast, untapped resource. The Silicon Valley-based company has developed a unique software solution based on virtualization technology that creates virtual independent desktops inside one Windows or Linux PC allowing a single PC to be shared by many users.
The nComputing solution can reduce computer deployment costs up to 75%, not to mention the huge savings in energy costs, and is attracting attention from businesses all over the world. But perhaps the most important beneficiaries of this disruptive technology are schools, non-profits and developing economies that can now obtain low cost computing solutions that were previously out of reach.
Changemakers, a non-profit organization, chose three winners for its collaborative competition Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored the competition. The three winners were SRREOSHI (India), Ag√™ncia Mandalla DHSA (Brazil), and Uganda Rural development and Training Programme. Each winner received $5,000.
SRREOSHI works on women’s land rights in the Indian state of West Bengal. Women are denied access to land in West Bengal so the agency works with local government bodies to “ensure their participation in the work through sustained advocacy efforts.” Their efforts include helping start seed banks, nurseries, and grain golas in order to “ensure sustainability.”
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By Leslie Caplan
Reading about throughput makes me wonder if we could approach solving product or service needs by starting at what we now call the “end” of the throughput process or “the dump.” Let’s say companies were incentivized to change how they solved consumer and social problems by a government tax or regulation that penalized or restricted companies based on the waste produced by their products. (An analogy would be the tax on cigarettes that is connected to medical costs to society of cigarette smoking, or a carbon tax.)
Imagine your electric toothbrush, the one that’s supposed to come the closest to a dentist cleaning at home. According to an article in the Guardian this morning, the people at Nissan created an EV based on that technology.
No, the new Nissan Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) will not get those hard to reach places or remove pesky plaque. It will charge without the hassle of plugs. The charging is based on electro-magnetic field technology, using induction in the same way your Sonicare charges on its base stand.
Unemployment. Inflation. Anemic economic growth. Everywhere you turn there is bad economic news. As a business owner, this can be demoralizing as you try to survive. Luckily there are several ways you can green your profits and the environment, even in the midst of a recession.
1. Understand Your Customers Better
This technique is a surefire way in any economic climate to increase your profits. There are only three ways to make more money. Sell to new customers, increase the average transaction size of your existing customers, or have repeat customers buy more often. When profits are down, many entrepreneur’s first reaction is that they need more customers. This is actually the toughest route to make money. Acquiring a new customer does not bring profits quickly because there are acquisition costs to get the customer and then a trust building process. People repeatedly buy from businesses they trust. Therefore the easiest way to increase profits is to get existing customers to buy more often. They have already purchased from you and developed some type of trust. So how do you get your customers to buy more often? Talk to them.