B Corps Win Healthy Tax Break in Landmark Law

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

a_bcorp_logo_posB Lab, the force behind a new business sector designation—called the B Corporation—which recognizes companies that meet a set of social, environmental and institutional benchmarks for sustainability, is facing a Herculean effort. The work won’t be in convincing people that business can be a positive force for social change—there are already 240 companies in 28 states (representing more than 50 industries) that have become B Corps, and I’m sure that number will continue to grow. The bigger task will be in lobbying for legislation, on a state-by-state basis, to recognize and provide incentives to B Corporations.

And that effort got an important boost today: The Philadelphia City Council voted unanimously to pass a bill that creates a new sustainable business tax credit for certified sustainable businesses located in the City of Philadelphia. For tax years 2012 through 2017, 25 eligible businesses shall receive a tax credit of $4,000 to be used against the gross receipts portion of the business privilege tax.  Companies can be classified as certified sustainable businesses once they are certified as B Corporations.

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The Importance of Being Earnest About Biomass

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 7 Comments
Finnish Bioenergy Power Plant

Finnish Bioenergy Power Plant

Metso Corporation is pretty confident in its green cred. The Finnish company calls itself “a global supplier of sustainable technology and services” and in a press visit today the company’s VP of strategic development, Michael Hoven, and communications manager, Sanna Rahikainen, when asked if they considered Metso a green company, said it was. They said they don’t greenwash and are proud of what they were doing for the environment.

Unfortunately  the devil is in the details, and Metso has a way to go before this blogger would feel comfortable calling it a truly sustainable business.

The key to Metso’s self-proclaimed environmental credentials is its production of biomass boilers to replace those powered by coal and other fossil fuels. It’s true that biomass has the potential to be an energy source that is superior to fossil fuels from an environmental standpoint. There are at least three keys in my mind to ensuring that biomass is a real sustainable solution:

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Chevy Volt: Where’s My Test Drive?

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 9 Comments
A lucky test driver

A rare non-celebrity test driver

I would like to announce a major scandal surrounding the highly anticipated Chevrolet Volt “extended range” electric vehicle: there is only one available for test drives.

Last night, this reporter showed up early for a minor press junket on the sidelines of the LA Auto Show in hopes of getting a spot on the test-drive list, only to find out there were no spots available.

This, despite the fact that the Volt was sitting undriven in a parking lot across the street the entire time. Apparently, the vehicle was saving itself for a pair of B-list eco-friendly celebrities who were running late.

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The Importance of Being Earnest at COP 15

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 5 Comments

COP15_LOGO_A_SIf it’s all about the money, and it usually is, then the future financial landscape for cleantech development hinges on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change conference as essentially as the meeting’s long-term impacts on environmental policy.

There will be impacts whether or not binding and comprehensive agreements on emission reductions are cobbled in Copenhagen, and that’s especially true for green investors.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the United Kingdom research and consulting firm, future investments in clean technology are heavily dependent on the outcome of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Private sector money interests are waiting to see what targets world leaders will commit to, along with what mitigation actions developing countries will take.

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San Diego Convention Center: Committed to Green Events

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

convention_centerThe trade show industry is second only to the construction industry in the amount of waste it generates. If you have ever attended or exhibited at a trade show, you have seen the amount of waste and energy consumed first hand…it is everywhere. Very little about the trade show industry seems efficient. Though companies need to make their products and services known in the green arena, participating in trade shows that don’t include eco-friendly practices seems counter intuitive. Trade shows represent what is good for business but what is bad for the planet. The waste produced from a typical show includes excessive paper handouts that aren’t recycled, countless plastic bottles thrown in the trash, unsustainable promotional items, garbage from packing materials and unregulated energy usage, not to mention the carbon emissions associated with travel to and from the show.

Many trade show organizers simply don’t have enough eco-friendly options when it comes to venues. Hopefully, convention centers and other trade show venues will take a cue from San Diego and realize that a commitment to sustainable practices is good for the planet and very good for business. Their sustainable efforts include waste minimization, energy efficiency, water conservation, food composting, environmental purchasing, donating reusable goods and all-around environmental leadership.

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L.A. Auto Show Award for Greenest Car: 2010 Ford Fusion

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

10FusionHybridThe 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid was awarded the “Most Environmentally Progressive Car of the Year” by “blogazine” Earth, Wind & Power (EWP) at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday. This award is in addition to its other recent accolades, including Car and Driver’s “10Best” cars for 2010 and the Motor Trend 2010 Car of the Year Award. The car also got the highest customer satisfaction rating of any Ford vehicle, ever.

So…what is so awesome about the Fusion? Fuel economy. The Ford Fusion Hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city. Ford reports that this is “70 percent better than comparable non-hybrid models and 8 mpg better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid.”

The Fusion also has a unique “eco-gauge” digital dashboard designed to teach drivers how to increase energy efficiency by following cues that leverage the car’s features.  For example, through strategic braking and steady acceleration, drivers can increase the amount of electricity used from regenerative braking. When drivers maximize their eco-performance, a digital tree on the readout grows leaves.

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What Is an Emerging Market Anyways?

| Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 2 Comments


By David Abraham

“Don’t use a cookie cutter approach when evaluating emerging economies,” warned Dr. Jahangir Boroumand, professor at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.  His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Paolo Prochno, also of Smith, during the kick-off event for the newly formed Emerging Markets Club at the school.

The task of defining an emerging market is tricky, if not outright impossible.  Just consider the following examples.  A few years ago, “emerging” countries were those that had taken on overwhelming levels of debt (think the Latin American crisis of the 1980s).  But today, that framework would include Greece, Italy, the US, and Iceland.  In years past, North-South capital flows dominated development discussions.  However, that trend is quickly changing as nations like Brazil and China trade directly with one another – even using their own currencies for transactions!  Formerly, industrialized countries entered developing markets for cheap labor and/or natural resources.  But even this characterization is becoming outdated.  Many companies now operate in emerging nations to gain knowledge.  This was particularly true in Brazil when American automakers tried to lean how to build small cars efficiently and profitably.  Finally, multi-nationals are now based in places well beyond North America and Western Europe employing thousands of people throughout the world – think Samsung and Tata.

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Book Review: The (True) Price of a Bargain

Frank Marquardt | Thursday December 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

Price of a BargainOn the way to visit a friend Thanksgiving weekend my car broke down, and I found myself at a Pep Boys in Rohnert Park, CA, wandering a vast parking lot. Big Box superstores stretched from one end to another: A Home Depot and Wal-Mart. In between, like an isthmus, was Pep Boys, Dollar Tree, and a discount beauty supply store. Islands at the parking lot’s entry housed fast food restaurants: an Arby’s (offering a $1 value menu), Burger King (offering a $1 double cheeseburger), and Chili’s, where I sat waiting the outcome of a battery test, eating smoked chicken tacos that would upset my stomach for an afternoon.

There not far from wine country, right off the 101, I had found myself stranded in the heart of the bargain, one of many that dot the American landscape: a coincidence of global circumstances linked by cheap hydrocarbons, global logistics networks, and the exploitation of global price differentials among wage-earners and for materials that feeds a consumer economy running up massive debts, both financial and environmental.

At least, that’s how I understood the situation after reading Gordon Laird’s impressively reported new book, The Price of a Bargain: The Quest for Cheap and the Death of Globilization.

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Careers in Wind Farm Development: Real Estate Manager

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

wind farmThis is the third article in a seven part series on careers in wind farm development. The first, second, third, and fourth parts can be viewed here.

Wind turbines are frequently sited on parcels where the wind rights are leased from the landowner. A long-term contract must be created that covers many aspects of the project, such as compensation, placement of turbines, access roads, and the location of electric collection and transmission systems. Financial institutions and title companies also have an interest in the wind energy development agreement as it impacts mortgaged property. Communicating and organizing such matters typically falls under the role of the real estate manager.

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U.S. Solar Panel Capacity to Grow by 50 Percent Annually: Report

| Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

phoenix-first-solar-panels-photo2536Installed solar panel capacity in the United States will grow by 48-50 percent or more each year for the next three years, according to a new report from GTM Research, the research arm of Greentech Media.

By 2012, PV capacity in the U.S. could surpass Germany, the current global leader.

The predict growth, extrapolated from research into the 16 largest state markets, represents not only a major expansion of clean solar energy, but over $6.1 billion in investments per year and the creation of 50,000 jobs, according to the report.

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Poor Nations’ Emissions Driven by Exports to Rich Nations

| Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

CHINA_-_TOY_FACTORY“It’s not fair.”

That, in two words and a contraction, is the developing world’s argument for why it shouldn’t have to make the same reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as rich developed countries. So what if China is now the world’s biggest emitter of GHGs? It’s the developed countries that emitted most of the world’s pollution, historically speaking, churning out plumes of greenhouse gases over centuries of industrialization.

Well now China, India and other developing countries have more ammo for their argument. A new paper from Nature Geosciences shows that much of the developing world’s emissions comes from making stuff for the developed world and its carbon-fat consumers.

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Ford Teams Up with Detroit University to Retrain Engineers for Electric Cars

| Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

ford-ev-engineer-photo-1Alas, Detroit. With the collapse of the American automotive industry, there’s just too much bad news associated with the Motor City these days.

Some good news, then: the Ford Motor Company, the only Big Three automaker to avoid bankruptcy, recently announced a partnership with the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) School of Engineering to retrain traditional automotive engineers in the development of electric cars.

UDM’s new “Advanced Electric Vehicle Program,” a graduate-level curriculum focused on electric and hybrid vehicle engineering, will have 125 Ford engineers as its first group of students.

“The era of electric vehicles is here and it’s critical that we meet this technology challenge by retraining our engineers with a broad range of new skills and competencies,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of Global Product Development, in an announcement about the program.

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Minnesota Startup Uses Moss — Yes, Moss — to Keep Pools Clean

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 3 Comments

CWS Clump-of-Moss_220Moss. We’ve all seen it growing in bogs, on tree trunks, and in-between cracks in the sidewalk.

But, did you ever think that this common plant could potentially revolutionize an entire industry?

Enter David Knighton, MD, co-founder and CEO of the Minnesota-based startup, Creative Water Solutions. Knighton, a physician, inventor and entrepreneur–who also happens to be an amateur pilot–was flying a plane to northern Minnesota when he noticed the lakes becoming clearer and cleaner as he traveled northward. Earlier, he had read an article about how moss was used to treat wounds in World War I. It all got him to thinking:

Could the sphagnum moss that’s native throughout northern Minnesota be responsible for keeping the lakes so crystal clear? And, if so, could it do the same for pools and spas?

Eight years and $4 million later, Knighton believes the answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes.”

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China’s Carbon Intensity Management Proposal: The Numbers

Bill Roth | Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 2 Comments

green chinaChina and the U.S. have now announced commitments to manage emissions prior to the Copenhagen Summit. This is hugely significant since these two countries contribute approximately 55% of the entire world’s CO2 emissions.

But each country’s respective path for addressing CO2 emissions are significantly divergent. President Obama publicly committed to a reduction of CO2 emissions of approximately 17% by 2020. That is approximately 1 million metric tons annually in CO2 emissions, which is more than the entire annual CO2 emissions of Germany.

China, however, has only committed to a reduction in “carbon intensity” which means it will reduce emissions as a percentage of its annual Gross Domestic Product (GNP).

The following is a “back of the table cloth” calculation on what this means: The World Bank estimates that China’s GNP in 2009 increased by 9% and they are on track for a similar increase in 2010. So China’s carbon intensity management would have to achieve approximately an ANNUAL 9% carbon intensity reduction in CO2 emissions to maintain the status quo if its annual economy grows at 9%. What this means is that even if China were to immediately achieve a 17% reduction in CO2 emissions matching President Obama’s 2020 goal it would only take a few years at China’s recent GNP growth to overwhelm this reduction result and return China to annually increasing its CO2 emissions.

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Labor and Agricultural Sustainability: Sister Issues

3p Contributor | Wednesday December 2nd, 2009 | 4 Comments

farm-guyThis is the sixth post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read past posts, click here.

By Carolina Fojo

A “City Girl” in Sustainable Ag…?

Driving through Illinois with my friend, I excitedly point out the window and ask, “What’s that?” A combine, he responds. A few minutes later: “Oooh, look—is that another combine?” No, that’s a tractor. He laughs and tells me I’m a city girl. I stare wide-eyed out the window as if I’ve never seen a field of corn in my life, and I feel like a kid learning her colors for the first time.

As the East Coast Fellow for Bon Appétit Management Company, I am currently working hard to combat problems of social justice and promote sustainability in the food system, with a special emphasis on agriculture.

Uh, excuse me—you might politely interject—but… why exactly are you working in agriculture when you only recently laid your eyes on your first combine?

…A fair question, to be sure. The answer, however, is quite simple: I’m in food and ag because of labor issues and worker rights.

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