SolarReserve: Everything’s Better With a Little Salt

| Friday November 6th, 2009 | 3 Comments

startup-friday.jpgMRTN-HotSaltIt’s the holy grail of renewable energy: power, even when the sun don’t shine, or the wind don’t blow. Some companies are hoping advances in battery capacity will provide the answer, others are looking to flywheels, or hydrostorage. But SolarReserve, an 18-month old start-up based in Santa Monica, uses a fundamentally simpler technology: hot, hot salt.

SolarReserve’s solar power technology uses thousands of mirrors, called heliostats, to focus the sun’s energy on a tower filled with salt. The solar energy heats the salt over 1000 degrees F., turning it into a liquid, which then boils water to run a steam turbine, generating electricity.

But that’s just the half of it: SolarReserve’s plant can store that molten salt and release it to run the turbine whenever it is most cost-effective to do so — including at night, when traditional solar power is unavailable. They can do this because of the amazing heat-retention qualities of salt: 98% or higher if stored properly.

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Warrior Film-making: The Story of Free Range Studios

| Friday November 6th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Jonah Sachs and Louis Fox at Free Range Studios in Berkeley, CA

Jonah Sachs and Louis Fox at Free Range Studios in Berkeley, CA

I recently visited Free Range Studios to meet with its talented co-founder Jonah Sachs in Berkeley, California, to talk about his startup story. Free Range began 10 years ago as two guys, one laptop, one apartment, and enough creativity and change-the-world-or-bust aspirations to eventually challenge agribusiness, and our consumer lifestyle, with The Story of Stuff, The Meatrix, and countless other films and stories. If you haven’t seen these incredible web videos, which have won countless awards, I genuinely suggest taking the time to so.

From Childhood Collaboration to Warrior Film-making

After graduating with a degree in journalism, Jonah moved to Washington D.C., where he interned for NPR, then did graphic design work for a local studio for a meager 8 bucks an hour. He didn’t last long. After getting offers for freelance work for $50 an hour, he was on his own before 6 months had passed.

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How to Bring Green Weddings to the Masses

| Friday November 6th, 2009 | 12 Comments


Screen shot 2009-11-05 at 6.21.43 PMOne’s wedding is usually one of the pivotal, most memorable events in one’s life. And yet for an increasing number of people, there’s a nagging sense that things could be done differently. The wedding favors, where did they come from? Who made them? What are they made of? My choice of location, while idyllic, does it necessitate thousands of cumulative extra miles by my guests to get there? What can I do to make my event enjoyable and memorable, while not leaving a huge impact?

But there’s a confusing array of choices out there. One option is to hire a green wedding event specialist. But in this tight economy, many may want to just take care of the details themselves.

So it’s a wise move that Dream Green Weddings launched an online store that serves as a hub for just about everything but the food, photographer, and where to have it.

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SC Johnson Ahead of GHG Reduction Target

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday November 6th, 2009 | 0 Comments

scjohnsonSC Johnson, maker of a variety of household products that include Glade, Drano and Scrubbing Bubbles, says in its latest sustainability report that it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions 27 percent at its worldwide factories over the last eight years.

In the U.S., the Racine, WI, company reported a 17 percent reduction in GHG emissions since 2005. Both reduction numbers “have been met three years ahead of the company’s internal 2011 target,” it says in its 2009 Public Report, titled Responsibility=Resilience.

Those reductions are the equivalent of taking about 11,100 U.S. cars off the road for one year, the report says.

The 2009 Public Report is SC Johnson’s 18th year of reporting on sustainability objectives.

It reveals that SC Johnson is closing in on another major goal, to reduce combined air emissions, water effluents and solid waste by 50 percent by 2011. Last year it reduced waste and emissions by 40.5 percent, compared to a 2000 baseline.

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Why Attend The Cleantech Open?

Bill Roth | Friday November 6th, 2009 | 9 Comments

CTOsquarebannerHere are a few reasons I am attending The Cleantech Open on November 17, 2009 at San Francisco’s Nob Hill Masonic Center:

  • Bill Weihl, Google Green Energy Czar, is the event’s key note speaker.
  • There will be 120 of the latest clean technologies displayed in the exhibition hall.
  • You can imagine how many venture capitalists will be attending looking for their next “Google” opportunity. This is a great opportunity to meet money!

As an economist I am not a big fan of taxpayer “stimulus” funds given to technology companies selected by well-meaning and educated government officials. It has been our entrepreneurs and venture capitalists that have been America’s secret weapon in selecting the technologies we now cannot live without. In recognition that any one of the above reasons justifies going to the Cleantech Open the reason I am going is to talk with the entrepreneurs pioneering the clean technologies we need to restore jobs, our economy and the environment. The Cleantech Open will be an unbelievable opportunity to measure the entrepreneurial pulse of The Green Economic Revolution that will forever change what we buy and who we buy it from.

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Video: Al Gore Interviewed by Katie Couric

Steve Puma | Thursday November 5th, 2009 | 0 Comments

It has been three years since the release of Al Gore‘s Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”.  Yesterday, Katie Couric sat down for an exclusive interview the former Vice President in advance of the release of his new book, Our Choice.

In the interview, Mr. Gore talks about the potential impacts of climate change, the need for sustained action, the importance of reducing dependence on foreign oil, and the benefits that can be realized in the process. He also addresses questions about his most vocal climate change critics.

The following are highlights from the interview, or you can watch the full show on the CBS News website.

Clip 1: We’ve Got To Act

Al Gore speaks about the key to solving the climate crisis is having a strong grassroots consensus, and how many people are beginning to stand up.

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Xerox Aims for Carbon Neutrality and Paper Sustainability

Kathryn Siranosian | Thursday November 5th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Many Xerox products are returned for recycling and remanufacturing. Photo courtesy of Xerox Corporation.

Xerox wants to be carbon-neutral … and that’s not all.

The company also wants to:

Eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals to achieve a zero toxic footprint.

Develop a “zero waste to landfill” goal for its company-wide operations.

Insure that 100 percent of its paper, by volume, meets stringent requirements for a sustainable paper cycle.

Ambitious goals for the world’s leading document management, technology and services enterprise, wouldn’t you say? But, take a look through the 2009 Report on Global Citizenship that Xerox released on Tuesday, and you’ll see that the company is well on its way to making significant progress in each of these areas.

“We view environmental sustainability not as a cost of doing business, but as a way of doing business,” the report says. “For us, it’s an integral part of developing products, serving customers and posting profits.”

Here are a few specific highlights from the environmental sustainability portion of the report:

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3P Founder Opens Closet for Ecouterre

| Thursday November 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment

nick-aster-10 Nick takes his sustainability seriously- from his head down to his toes. He let Ecouterre take a tour of his closet and he let it all hang out. Click the link to see his labels and his adorable message tees.

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Liberty Mutual Responsibility Project Conjures Laughs AND Consciousness

| Thursday November 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment

hollywood & green
liberty-mutual-RPI haven’t been blogging too much ’round these parts lately, mostly because I’ve been busy creating the types of videos and films I’m about to feature, but Liberty Mutual’s latest short, “Good Vibrations” made me stop in my tracks so I decided to make the time to share it with all of you. (No need to thank me.)

It’s part of their Responsibility Project to get consumers to act more responsibly. Obviously, it serves an insurance company well to have responsible policy holders, but if you look deeper, you’ll realize that these messages, ensconced in entertainment, actually serve the greater good, too.

The video below had me positively riveted for the full four minutes, a mix of that awkward laughter that unexpectedly bursts out when someone trips and the cringe of the inevitable guilt that follows. It’s funny and sweet, and leaves you newly inspired to keep the karmic flow of the universe going.

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Ex-Im Bank Carbon Policy Increases Export Credit Support for Renewables

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday November 5th, 2009 | 0 Comments

greeninvestingThe Export-Import Bank of the United States has established a $250 million credit facility aimed at helping to promote and finance renewable energy exports, including solar, wind and geothermal energy products and projects.

The move this week makes Ex-Im the world’s first Export Credit Agency to fashion that kind of credit assistance and also the first to adopt an actual “carbon policy” to guide the financial support of U.S. exports “in light of climate change concerns,” the agency says.

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The Fourth Bottom Line of Sustainability: Perspective

3p Contributor | Thursday November 5th, 2009 | 0 Comments

sunshine-imageBy Steven Kenney

Concern for the triple bottom line — it’s what pushes companies to shrink their environmental footprint and make restitution for past negative impacts.  And yet, as progressive as this ideal seems, its time has already passed.  It’s time to put a fourth P alongside people, planet, and profit: perspective.

Adopting a truly future-focused perspective is the next step in sustainability.  The goal is more than securing present conditions or making amends for missteps — it’s working today to make businesses, communities, and the environment stronger with respect to tomorrow’s conditions.  The key to future sustainability is understanding the forces causing change and taking advantage of them to equip our businesses, communities and ecosystems for the future.

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The Sustainability Commons: How Corporate Data Sharing Can Advance Sustainability

3p Contributor | Thursday November 5th, 2009 | 3 Comments

statue-333By David Witzel, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Innovation Exchange

Several people pointed me to Mary Tripsas‘ post in the New York Times called “Everybody in the Pool of Green Innovation” this weekend – it really struck a chord. The article focused on two initiatives involving major corporations to share patents that protect the environment and foster new innovations. Through the Eco-Patent Commons companies like Xerox, IBM, Nokia, and Ricoh, working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, pledge to make environmentally beneficial patents available in the public domain. The Eco-Patent Commons now includes 100 patents from eleven participating companies.

Meanwhile, Creative Commons, the innovative engine behind CC licensing for content sharing, is helping launch a new initiative to increase patent-reuse called GreenXchange. Partnering with Nike and Best Buy, they have a “vision of creating an open innovation platform that promotes the creation and adoption of technologies that have the potential to solve important global or industry-wide challenges” and are using their expertise in crafting licenses and legal language to both protect patent-holder interests while enabling easy reuse.

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Barcelona Climate Talks: Waiting for America

| Wednesday November 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

road-to-copenhagenbarcelona-2009As the last round of “intersessional” climate talks before Copenhagen opened on Monday in Barcelona, all eyes were looking in the same direction they were when we left Bangkok three weeks earlier: at the United States. Without American numbers on mitigation (or emissions reductions) and finance (for developing nations to build their own clean energy economies, and also to adapt to the impacts of climate change), any real forward progress in the talks is just about impossible.

“We need a clear target from the United States in Copenhagen,” urged Yvo de Boer, who’s charged with steering this UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) process to some kind of December resolution.” “That is an essential component of the puzzle.” The problem is that the U.S. isn’t putting anything out there. At least not yet. Not while the Kerry-Boxer bill limps through Senate subcommittees back on Capitol Hill.

And that’s really where De Boer’s comment – and most criticism of the American position – is directed. Not at the negotiating team here, but towards Washington. In the U.S. delegation’s defense, their hands have been tied pretty tight. The State Department hasn’t wanted to write a check that our domestic politics can’t cash. If Kyoto taught us anything, it’s that nobody can trust the U.S. until they see what’s actually written into law. (Quick history lesson–the U.S. signed the Kyoto Protocol back in 1998; eleven years later, it still hasn’t been ratified. At least 185 countries have ratified the Protocol, from Russia to Rwanda to Australia to Iraq. Iraq!) So there’s a massive trust gap. To be a credible player going into Copenhagen, the U.S. has to show something concrete coming from the home front. Lead negotiator Jonathan Pershing has not been at all coy about the fact that he needs to bring home a treaty that will be signed and ratified. (And, yes, if all this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The story was more or less the same last month in Bangkok.)

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Climate Change Complacency on Capitol Hill

Jeff Siegel | Wednesday November 4th, 2009 | 6 Comments


Well, I can’t say I’m surprised.

Climate Change legislation on the Hill has proven to be exactly what we should have expected all along – a partisan bickering match comparable to playground scuffles I recall from my elementary school days.

On cue, the Republicans moved to boycott this week’s work session on a climate change bill, stating that they want more time to study the EPA’s economic analysis. Interestingly enough, these folks had nothing to say when the Bush Administration used the EPA as a pawn in the game of delaying serious climate change debate. But you know how it is – it’s all politics.

Certainly we saw much of this kind of behavior from the Democrats during the Bush years. It’s really not much different.

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Ford, Partners, to Focus on the “E” in EVs

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday November 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ford-illuThere are different estimates and projections regarding when, and if, electric vehicles (EVs) will transform our transportation infrastructure, but one thing seems certain: carmakers won’t be able to transform the infrastructure on their own.

Last month I attended a forum presented by Ford in which it previewed its upcoming electric vehicles—the battery electric (BEV) Transit Connect (a utility van) due in 2010, followed by BEV Focus sedan in 2011 and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) in 2012. Nancy Gioia, Ford’s director of global electrification, also provided an overview of the tooling and manufacturing systems that Ford has put into place in order to hit its production targets for EVs while also maximizing its current manufacturing models—i.e creating production lines that can be used for building vehicles with electric, hybrid or fuel-based engines.

But the real work starts where EV production ends.

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