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I am a strong believer in the fair trade business model. The notion that producers, especially those in developing countries, should be paid a fair price for their labor and expertise seems both obvious and necessary. By manufacturing and exporting products that are designed and made traditionally, fair trade suppliers are empowered to profit from their skills. LOHAS consumers in Europe and America love buying fair trade products, because it makes them feel good about their purchasing power.
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Increasing interest in the plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs) and full electric vehicle (EVs) industry is breeding attention for another industry, too: batteries. A glut of start-ups have popped up in recent years to take advantage of the market–Boston Power, A123 and ZPower, to name a few–and put their own spin on the traditional lithium-ion battery. I recently had the chance to talk to the CEO and VP of Business Development of Imara, one of the up-and-coming li-ion battery manufacturers, to find out what makes the company different from its competitors. Click to continue reading »
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Or: How I stopped worrying about greenwashing and learned to love EPDs
You have a product and you want to tell the world how great it is. But what if you want to make claims that it’s better than the competition? How can you do so without being slammed for greenwashing? Even in these early days of green marketing, already more than one company has fallen into that trap, resulting in considerable backlash.
Consider Cotton USA, with their claim that industrial cotton production is sustainable – even though it is an intensely petroleum and chemically-driven monoculture. Chevron’s “Will You Join Us” campaign is considered to be another big violator – the tagline itself rings patently false to anyone semi-aware of any oil company’s carbon credentials. So, how can you launch a sustainability marketing campaign and avoid the pitfalls of a greenwashing backlash?
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In Thomas Friedman‘s 2005 book, “The World is Flat,” he argues that globalization has created a new global economic era, fundamentally different than the business world of even a decade earlier. Just a few years later, in his newest book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded” Friedman describes another era: the Energy-Climate Era.
The evolution from the first book to the second demonstrates the global trend from financial-bottom-line thinking to the sustainable-economy imperative, and this paradigm shift requires business leaders to intrinsically rethink their companies.
Friedman claimed the realities of a “flat world” affected every business decision and any business leader ignored these realities at their peril. In a world constrained by climate change and energy limits, those business decisions need to be examined again. Let’s explore the new realities with the most prominent decisions of the Era of Globalization: outsourced manufacturing from the United States to foreign countries.
The wonder of the Internet – its ability to provide both instant and constant access to data – is merging with our electricity meters and with the appliances inside our homes as the vision of the new, improved, smart grid comes into focus. But, just as with the dawn of the Internet, the smart meter – a key component of the smart grid – might usher in a whole host of privacy problems and data land mines.
That’s the finding of Joshua Pennell and Michael Davis, president and senior security consultant, respectively, for computer security firm IOActive. The pair have published an article in energy industry publication Energy Pulse describing their findings on the security protections – or lack thereof – being built into smart meters (also known as advanced metering infrastructure, AMI meters).
They claim that IOActive researchers have been able to hack into smart meters and found that they could manipulate them in a number of ways that are representative of major weaknesses in hardware design. “Vulnerabilities in the smart grid could cause utilities to lose system control of their metering infrastructure to unauthorized third parties, exposing them to fraud, extortion attempts, lawsuits, widespread system interruption, massive blackouts or worse,” they note in the article.
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If there’s a need for flashing warning lights at school crossings, pedestrian walkways, freeway off-ramps, train and wildlife crossings, Solar Traffic Controls LLC has it covered.
The Tempe, AZ company is using the Smart Relay technology developed by IDEC Corporation in the development and design of a host of “reliable and affordable solutions for advance traffic systems,” says Joe Wise, STC’s president.
Since its start by Wise in 2001, the company has provided solar-powered traffic control systems to city, state and federal transportation agencies; police, firefighting and public works departments; facility maintenance and plant safety industries.
It’s hard to believe that, until the 1990′s, Dubai was little more than a desert tent city. A brief history of what is perhaps the world’s least sustainable metropolis: electricity arrived in the 1950′s, oil was discovered in the 1960′s, the population tripled in the 1970′s, trade and labor laws loosened in the 1980′s, and petrodollars sponsored the building boom of the 1990′s. The Burj Al Arab, the world’s only “seven-star” resort, ushered Dubai onto the worldstage in 1994. An unbelievable amount of oil money (it is said the the United Arab Emirates sit on 10% of the world’s oil reserves) coupled with the desire to define Dubai as the “Mecca” of international tourism has quickly created a huge, sprawling, fantastical, over-the-top playground for the rich and powerful. Dubai was once famous for its architectural windcatchers, natural Persian ventilation systems from the 18th century that functioned as pre-industrial solar chimneys. Now it is famous for supertall skyscrapers, manmade islands and indoor ski resorts. Click to continue reading »
Adding more corn-based ethanol into gasoline will create a higher demand for corn, which will raise the price of corn. In short, it’s a recipe for disaster, according to three recent studies. A study by Advanced Economics Solutions concluded that corn prices “will be much higher and more volatile” if corn-based ethanol production increases. If corn acreage “does not grow significantly” more than half of the corn crop in the U.S. “will be diverted from food and feed to fuel if corn ethanol production grows to 22.1 billion gallons.”Click to continue reading »
At some point you just have to ask yourself, what is it that these politicians are getting to push nuclear energy so hard?
Last week, House Republicans called for a hundred new nuclear power plants to be built in the next two decades. They say that this is part of the legislation they’re backing because it’s better than what the Democrats are offering. Click to continue reading »
With an eye for sustainability, I would not have been particularly impressed if not for a small display explaining what can only be described as a genius Triple Bottom Line idea way before its time – the Wobo bottle of the early 1960s.
Let me explain… Click to continue reading »
In it’s Electric Power Monthly report released Monday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that non-hydro renewable energy expansion continues to clip along with double-digit growth.
Compared with the first quarter of 2008, the EIA reports that electrical generation from all renewable sources increased 7.2% in the first quarter of 2009, accounting for 10% of the nation’s electricity production. Conventional hydro power increased 4.6% while all other sources of renewables (biomass, wind, geothermal, and solar) rose by 12.4%
In just the month of March ’09 alone, renewables accounted for 10.9% of net electrical generation in the U.S. (conventional hydro providing 6.9% of that total and all other renewable sources about 4%). Of particular note is wind power, with net generation some 38.5% higher in March ’09 than in March ’08
Conversely, use of coal and natural gas has plummeted, while nuclear power generation remaining essentially stagnant. Net electrical generation from all sources dropped 4.3% in March ’09 compared with March ’08, the eighth consecutive month of decline when compared with the same calendar month of the previous year. Coal generation dropped 15.3%.
“Apologists for the nuclear and fossil fuel industries persist in trying to mislead the public by repeatedly spreading the myth that renewables account for only a tiny fraction of U.S. electricity production,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “However, the hard numbers document the continuing dramatic growth in renewable energy’s already-significant contribution to the nation’s electricity supply – a contribution that will eventually leave coal and nuclear behind in the dust.”
As a blogger, I get a lot of oversized proclamations crossing my desk, so of course I was curious when I learned Coca-Cola had created PlantBottle, made from 30% plant materials, yet still recyclable with the regular PET plastic used for the majority of beverage containers out there on the market today.
I had questions about it and I imagine you would too, so I spoke with Scott Vitters, Director, Sustainable Packaging at Coca Cola to find out more.
Why not 100% plant based? Others have done that successfully for years now, why the foot dragging? It turns out this is no foot dragging, but a rather pragmatic, holistic view of the business ecosystem. If you create a completely green product, but it has limited applications and isn’t worth anything in the post consumer market, then it’s a failure, in many ways. Many biopolymer (fully plant based) bottles can’t handle carbonated or hot beverages, Vitters shared.
In Coca-Cola’s case, they understand that it’s not about focusing on greening one single aspect of a product and going for the publicity. This often results in a product that then compromises in some other aspect.
There’s a show out there called, “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” Some of you may have heard of it, many others perhaps not. It’s a reality TV show on NBC that features B-list celebrities, like Lou Diamond Phillips, two Baldwin brothers, and America’s favorite power couple from MTV’s The Hills.
It’s a spinoff of a British/Australian reality TV show that has a very similar tenor to Big Brother. Yet, this one has one very big difference. The celebrities are competing for charities.
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California: where the sun always shines except when it doesn’t, it’s implementing a tax-credit bond program specifically designed to fund renewable energy projects.
Another in the long line of the cumbersomely named “alphabet soup programs” that the state seems to love, CREBs, or clean renewable energy bonds, was jump-started by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer this week with the sale of $20 million of these bonds to install solar panels in 70 California Department of Transportation facilities.
California’s Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (yep that’s CAEATFA) sold the tax-credit bonds last week on behalf of Caltrans. They’ll have a 1.45 percent interest rate over the 15-year term of the bonds.