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There are few things that set me cringing more quickly that the sight and sound of some poor guy with a smoking gas motor on his back blowing leaves around on the sidewalk. In fact, I’d put the gas powered leaf blower up there with car alarms as one of humanity’s worst inventions. Lawn mowers, chainsaws, and other landscaping contraptions are not a whole lot better, either for the sanity of one’s neighbors, nor for people’s health – one leaf blower can emit as much pollution as 80 cars. (See EPA PDF here)
The good news is that not only are many electric, and (gasp) hand-powered lawn care alternatives available, but they are growing in popularity. So much so, that entrepreneurs like Clean Air Lawn Care are moving in to make successful businesses out of specializing in a cleaner, more sane approach to classic suburban lawn maintenance ritual.
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In continuing to foster and showcase the greatest innovators out there today, TED recently featured Kevin Surace, the CEO of Serious Materials, discussing his company’s new clean, recyclable, and energy-efficient drywall. Surace suggests that building green means more than just having green roofs or using solar panels, but addressing the construction industry’s large footprint with the essential building blocks of buildings themselves.
Two men and their company, Ecovative Design, think it’s a good idea to insulate the walls of your house with mushrooms. Seriously.
Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre have developed a strong, low-cost biomaterial called Greensulate that has the potential to replace the expensive and ecologically-harmful Styrofoam and plastics used in wall insulation, packaging and other products.
Another potential Greensulate application: Wind turbine blades and auto-body panels. They last month added a Popular Science Invention Award to their growing trophy case for their efforts.
In April the start-up based in Troy received the Rising Star award from the Center of Economic Growth. The award is for its outstanding achievements as a start-up company whose venture is showing long-term promise.
I love so many Indian exports, I barely know where to start: bollywood films, bhangra music, glass bangles, gold earrings, multicolored silk, chana masala, chai tea and mango lassi to name a few. Among these exotic indulgences, my favorite is Indian food. Basmati rice is perfectly sticky and light, the sauce on chicken tikka masala is completely delicious. But the true story behind these cultural and artisanal exports is rather dark and complicated.Click to continue reading »
Thirteen percent – more than 30 million tons – of the municipal solid waste collected in 2007 was food waste. This comes from our homes and from restaurants, of course, and from food production facilities. Right now, around 3 of that 13 percent is diverted from landfills and used for other purposes – most often for composting.
These are among the many food facts I gleaned from an educational session called “Food Waste: Compost, Digest or Other Use?” at Waste Expo, a solid waste industry conference held this week in Las Vegas. Two things are clear: food that lands in landfills is food wasted, but just what to do with all those food scraps is a matter of a debate.
Broadly, food can be turned into one of two things: energy or compost. Sometimes it is turned into both. Last summer, Jen wrote a post about how food waste is turned into compost and energy by Northern California’s Jepson Organics . And just east of San Francisco, the East Bay Municipal Utility District – like many other waste water treatment plants around the country – use anaerobic digesters to convert the methane formed during the digestion process of food and biosolid waste (poop, basically) into renewable energy.
Thoughts from Seth Bauer Presented at Sustainable Brands ‚Äò09
Greenwashing is nearly impossible to avoid. No matter how credible, clear and consistent your message, someone can always find a flaw in your marketing claims. The media that monitor green claims serve an important function, protecting consumers from deceptive marketing practices. But with so much focus in the media on exposing misleading or exaggerated green claims, many companies are discouraged from pursuing legitimate, green product innovation. And for those who do, many remain silent for fear of the dreaded greenwashing label.
This apprehension has resulted in “green muting” according to Seth Bauer in his presentation “Thoughts For Companies on the Verge of Doing the Right Thing” given at the Sustainable Brands ’09 conference. He encouraged the audience of brand builders not to hold back. Continue to innovate and continue to develop green marketing messages. But by learning the common greenwashing traps, and by understanding there is no perfect green product, you can learn to “greenwash better” making your messaging as credible as possible.
Building upon my recent article, “Growing a Green IT Strategy,” this follow-up post provides a detailed presentation of the emerging trends and leading practices within the growing field of sustainable business practices for information technology professionals.
As indicated by the 2009 Worldwide Green IT Report, 45% of surveyed IT professionals have already implemented Green IT initiatives. Consequentially, certain practices have been established as “go-to” measures to reduce costs and minimize the environmental impact of computing operations while others are emerging with solid momentum. Click to continue reading »
You may remember when Triple Pundit ran a short article last month about the green transformation of New York City’s Empire State Building. To refresh your memory, the Empire State Building was built during the Great Depression in the 1930′s, and became an icon for progress, technology and American industry. Today the building is still iconic, but is has also become symbolic of New York City’s unbelievable consumption of energy and the fact that buildings contribute almost 80% towards the city’s total Greenhouse Gas emissions.
In April, the owners of the building announced a major undertaking: the Empire State Building is going green and earning back its previous reputation for modernity and technological progress. The project will cost $25 million, but the investment will be recouped by savings on energy bills within 5 years. The fifth floor of the building is being turned into an on-site “factory” where the original windows will be taken for thermal-resistant glazing. The radiators will all be altered to ensure that heat stays trapped in the building, rather than being released into NYC.
The most notable detail about the revamp plan is the fact that the city is investing in making efficiency improvements to an older building, rather than tearing it down and building something new and flashy. It begs the question- what makes a bigger impact? Erecting huge, inspirational and iconic buildings that scream “sustainable progress” from their living rooftops? Or investing time and money into existing buildings to make them more environmentally efficient?
San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newsom might like to weigh in on this question. Click to continue reading »
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By Marie Perriard
All economic production depends on our scarce natural resources and we can apply insights from physics and ecology to help us examine our economic system.1 As resources are depleted, waste is generated, and the continuous loop regenerates itself as long as 1) throughput is within capacity of the system and 2) the scale of the economy is relative to the size of the ecosystem. This “steady-state” economy strives for balance because, otherwise, growth beyond its limits will lead to instability and destruction of the very ecosystem that supports all economic production.
It’s no secret that Microsoft is often on my list as examples of big corporations still wrapped in an old way of thinking under the guise of faux consciousness. And I haven’t been overly impressed with Microsoft’s innovation platform or social responsibility efforts… until now. With the launch of their new decision engine (and the hefty 7-figure advertising budget that goes with it), bada BING, they finally seem to be getting it. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
At first I was skeptical of an ad spend in the multi-millions to promote Bing, but now that they’re using a sizable portion of it to give back, Mr. Gates is starting to sway me. Plus, their integration with video and entertainment experiences also hints at things to come. Could the pocket-protector wearing PC geek protecting his piggy bank finally be re-emerging as the charismatic captain of the football team with the coolness factor and a philanthropic spirit? Click to continue reading »
Thirteen years after a case was filed against Shell Oil for being complicit in the executions of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Nigerian social and environmental activists, the oil major earlier this week settled out of court just as the case was set to go to trial. Shell will pay $15.5 million, including $5 million into a trust for the benefit of communities in Nigeria’s Ogoni territory where the activists lived.
Social and environmental justice organizations including Friends of the Earth have been steadfast in their coverage and activism in support of the Nigerian plaintiffs. While they’re hailing the out of court settlement as a success, they continue to seek to raise public awareness, alarm and action to counter ongoing and prevent future human rights and environmental abuses in West Africa as new discoveries and relative political stability have set the stage for a regional “oil rush.” Click to continue reading »
It’s no secret that the very existence of “big box” stores that plant themselves in giant parking lots to bring cheaply manufactured goods from third-world countries to America (and around the world) is unsustainable. However, with its almost 8,000 stores, 2 million associates, over 100,000 suppliers and 200 million customers, any step in the right direction from the world’s biggest corporation has a huge influence. And Walmart has been making some definite steps in the right direction.
Walmart’s environmental goals are clear: “To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell products that sustain our resources and the environment.”
So how close is Walmart to achieving these goals? I’m glad you asked. I have just the place for you to find out: Walmart’s 2009 Sustainability Report, released this week. Walmart has made some impressive leading environmental moves in some areas while also falling short in others.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Gwen Ruta, the vice president of corporate partnerships at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), commented on the latest from Walmart on EDF’s Innovation Exchange blog. Click to continue reading »
Currently, carbon emissions from IT and communication technologies represent 2% of global CO2 output, which puts information technology (IT) on par with the aviation industry in terms of carbon pollution. With an average increase in emissions of roughly 12% per year, IT has become the fastest growing industry for contributing to the carbon content in our Earth’s atmosphere. However, where consumption is highest, you can also typically find the greatest opportunities to conserve.
Businesses of all sizes are starting to turn to their IT departments for strategies to reduce their carbon footprint while also improving services and cutting costs. Being identified as one of the most successful arenas to adopt efficiencies and to improve services through sustainability strategies, corporate IT departments are now enabled to emerge as the green thought leaders within their companies. Click to continue reading »
People, when asked, generally want to do the right thing. But outside their own desire and a vague sense of “you should,” how much and how fast do people change their behavior when it comes shopping? For many, not fast enough.
How can that change?
One promising answer is Ecounit, one of the top 10 startups featured in last week’s New Venture Exchange at the Sustainable Brands Conference.
Ecounit is building on a simple, well thought out premise: Most stores want to save money on operations. Most want to make their customers happy and make more money. Ecounit’s first project seems to be helping them do all of these, well.