Ice Sculptures, Greenpeace, and Melting Away Obstacles

| Sunday August 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment

greenpeace-ice-sculptures-chinaGreenpeace is at it again – this time using symbolism to highlight the impact of impending water shortages. The activist network placed 100 ice sculptures (depicting children) at the Temple of Earth in Beijing Friday – the spot where Chinese emperors used to pray for well-being and bountiful harvests. Greenpeace also placed ice sculptures in New Delhi, India. (According to Greenpeace’s website, China and India, which together account for a third of the world’s population, have per-capita water resources far below the global average.) In addition to the immediate issues of water supplies and human welfare, the gesture highlights several far-reaching implications: the quagmire involved in establishing a global consensus on sustainability.

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Setting Sustainability Standards for Green Clothiers

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday August 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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So you eat certified-free-range poultry in your Platinum LEED home and you wash the dishes in your Energy Star compliant dishwasher. Fine. But is that a sustainable sweater you’re wearing? If a new organization called Labeling Ecologically Approved Fabrics (LEAF) gets its way, you might someday be able to prove it.

LEAF‘s goal is to establish a labeling program in the US and a system of standards and third-party testing that fabric and apparel manufacturers will use to verify that the fabrics and materials used in the creation of their products were sustainability sourced, that they were manufactured in an environmentally responsible manner and that that fair labor practices were used in the manufacturing facilities.

In an interview with Sustainable Life Media, LEAF’s creator Elinor Averyt says her hope is the that LEAF will become what the USDA is to food ratings and what LEED is for green buildings.

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Green Stimulus Funding for Small Businesses: DOE Offers $37M

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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green_moneyIt is not so easy navigating the various pots of green stimulus funding.  Especially if you are a start-up or small business.

Clean energy small businesses (500 employees or less) take note—the Department of Energy (DOE) deadline is fast approaching (September 4th) for small business stimulus grants for clean energy research and development projects.

DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs target U.S. companies with fewer than 500 employees, with the goal of investigating ideas for clean energy technologies that appear to have commercial potential.

About $8.5 million is expected to be available for new projects, which are designated as “Phase I” awards. Successful applicants may receive up to $150,000 for a Phase I grant, which gives awardees six months to demonstrate the feasibility of their ideas. Most of the remaining funds will go towards “Phase II” grants of up to $1 million to support the principal research and development of clean energy concepts developed under previous Phase I awards. The competition for the Phase II grants will be opened at a later date.

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Replacing Diesel: Renewables Power Off-Grid Cellular Base Stations

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 6 Comments

lunapic-125143551851394 A new generation of wireless broadband network technologies is spreading around the world with WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) and the cellular industry’s LTE (Long-Term Evolution). And that’s led hordes of people rushing to buy the latest generation of smartphones, handheld devices, netbooks and laptops.

Advances in wireless networking has also boosted telecommunications companies capacity to connect all the world’s billions to a network, cellular networks especially. And that’s meant building infrastructure, more specifically, a lot more cellular base stations. In the last few years the number of cellular base stations worldwide has skyrocketed from the hundreds of thousands to the multiple millions, according to Scottsdale-based research firm In-Stat.

All to the well and good it seems, well almost. While many of these base stations are connected to an electricity grid, an already large and still fast-growing number aren’t. And off-grid base stations have traditionally been powered by running diesel generators 24×7. That means they’re pumping CO2, NOx and SO2 into the atmosphere all day, every day. That’s opened up a nice-sized window of opportunity for providers of small-scale, off-grid renewable power technology and systems.

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AT&T: Aligning Business and Sustainability Strategy

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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ATT_CSR_imageI ask a simple gut-check question when reading a sustainability report:  “What does [insert “green” initiative here] have to do with this company’s operations?” The connection should be obvious.

While “One Million Acts of Green” are admirable, it makes more sense to inventory impacts and make reductions where they matter most.  (Can I leave my AC running while I go to the store as long as I take a reusable bag?)

Consumers are less likely to respond if corporate sustainability efforts don’t tell a coherent story. AT&T’s latest Citizenship & Sustainability Report reads like a “how to” manual for creating business value through an effective sustainability strategy.

AT&T has clearly taken a look at their core business operations, identified high-impact areas, and committed to making reductions where they mattered most.

When I interviewed Beth Shiroishi, AT&T’s Assistant VP for Citizenship & Corporate Responsibility, I was amazed by both the length of her title and her breadth of knowledge about the company.

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Natural Gas: “Bridge Fuel” or Renewable Energy Killer?

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Natural gas is often portrayed as a “bridge fuel,” providing a lower-carbon alternative to coal while zero-carbon technologies, wind and solar primarily, scale up capacity and, hopefully, lower their price.

In the long term this may be accurate, but in the short term there’s a different possibility: cheap natural gas will stymie growth in wind and solar by providing a “second best” solution to meeting green house gas reduction benchmarks. In the process, the United States could find itself addicted to a new fossil fuel, delaying the much-needed switch to renewable energy.

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Cake Mix Startup Nora Naturals® Offers All-Natural Alternatives to Betty, Duncan, and Others

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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I have a confession: when it comes to cooking with all-natural foods, I’m not terribly picky. As long as I don’t perceive a food to have pesticides sprayed all over it, I’m pretty content to eat it. And, without much rhyme or reason, if a product comes in a can or a box, I usually feel no need to buy its (usually more expensive) all-natural alternative. However, I recently came across a product line that could change my mind: Naturally Nora® desserts, a line of all-natural boxed cake mixes. Naturally Nora® products have so many standout features I almost couldn’t not make the switch. However, a few issues could hold me back (and other consumers, I imagine): hype, price, and taste. What is the cost-benefit analysis here, and what is its relevance to the larger all-natural food market?

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Can Junk Mail Ever Be Considered Sustainable? Possibly

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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Picture 5Junk Mail. It’s a bad thing, all around, right? Forests worth of paper, tons of emissions delivering it, and 98%+ of the time, ignored. What good can possibly come from it?

Hang on a minute. Dukky has something different to offer, which may just make junk, er, direct mail an increasingly efficient thing, for all involved. And it comes from a completely unexpected source:

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No Impact Man: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Colin_Banner[1]There is No Impact Man the blog. There is No Impact Man the book.

And coming soon to a theater near you, there is No Impact Man the documentary, the chronicles of an “extreme” one-year experiment to answer the question, “Is it possible to have a good life without wasting so much?”

The clip drew me in—Colin Beavan, a writer for Business Week, decides to completely eliminate his personal impact on the environment for the next year.

The No Impact Project means eating vegetarian, buying only local food and turning off the refrigerator. It also means no elevators, no television, no cars, buses, or airplanes, no toxic cleaning products, no electricity, no material consumption and no garbage.

Hard enough for one single person,  but complicated by the fact that he and his family live in Manhattan.

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Detroit: The Next Agrarian Paradise?

| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 9 Comments

Many people have all but written off the once booming “Motor City.” With a poverty rate of 32 percent and a population that has shrunk from 2 million to under 900,000, the auto capital of the world has become our nation’s most depressed metropolis. Today, as more and more people flee the city, it becomes harder to imagine what the future holds. Now having reached a bottom, Detroit has the opportunity to experience the same kind of revitalization that is slowly taking hold in New Orleans, which aims to be a clean, green model for the nation. Both cities experienced life-altering disasters. Hurricane Katrina, which killed thousands, decimated New Orleans in 2005 and the death of the auto industry, ruined the lives of many and left Detroit unrecognizable. The unlikely sister cities became ghost towns as long time residents fled homes and businesses in search of higher ground and greener pastures.

But before we entirely write off Detroit as an environmental wasteland, let’s look again, and try to imagine the possibilities.

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What’s So Special About Windspire Wind Turbines?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday August 28th, 2009 | 5 Comments

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windspire-turbineWindspire wind turbines were present at President Obama’s inauguration festivities. The 30 foot tall and four foot wide wind turbines generate power when the wind blows against vertical airfoils, which is then converted to AC electricity. Each wind turbine produces about 2,000 kilowatt (KW) hours per year in 12 mph average winds, and includes wireless monitoring software so power production can be checked. The turbines are different than most as they are not a propeller based system, but feature “a uniquely narrow sleek design that harnesses power from the wind by spinning smoothly on its own center pole.”

Founded in 2005 in Reno, Nevada, Mariah Power launched its Windspire wind turbines last year. A Michigan plant began producing the wind turbines in April. The Windspire wind turbines were labeled the “Best of What’s New in 08” by Popular Science Magazine, and featured on the television show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and 20/20.

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Europe Leads the Way on Waste-to-Energy

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

NPCGasCogenPlantMore evidence that Europe is advancing more rapidly than other regions on the environmental front: It is the largest waste-to-energy plants market in the world, with well-developed infrastructure and more than 429 such incinerator facilities, according the London research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

A new analysis from Frost, trenchantly titled European Waste to Energy Plants Market, also finds that this market earned revenue of 3.1 billion euros ($4.4 billion) last year.

The European Union’s push to shift away from landfills through its Landfill Directive “has indirectly helped the waste-to-energy business,” the report says. It has resulted in the planning and commissioning of many waste-to-energy plants over the last five years.

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U.S. Plans Subsidies for Energy Efficient Appliances

| Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

refridgerator-openThe US government is in the process of forming a new program designed to boost struggling home appliance manufacturers and retailers (and the environment) by spurring cautious consumers to buy energy efficient models. The program will reward consumers who buy qualifying Energy Star models of appliances (refrigerators, washing machines, etc…), hopefully increasing sales while reducing harm to the environment.

According to a report by the Baltimore Sun , the federal government has set aside $300 million in stimulus money, which it will give to states. Each state will develop its own reward program. Maryland, for example, which will receive $5.4 million dollars, is working with its utility companies already running appliance rebate programs to develop the new program. The government is encouraging states to include heating and cooling appliances and water heaters in the rebate system. All states must submit their plans to federal officials by October 15, and rebate money could be available by the end of this year or early next year.

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Climate Change, Carbon Trading, and Thievery – Crooks Give “Carbon Capital” New Meaning

| Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 6 Comments

thief-with-money-bags-cartoonApparently, the carbon trading market – which has grown to more than $100 billion, the Washington Post reports – is attracting more than just businesses seeking viable ways to manage their CO2 emissions. Crooks, too, are drawn to carbon permit trading, as evidenced by last Wednesday’s arrest by British customs agents of nine people in the London area suspected of a £38 million ($63 million) “carousel” carbon permit fraud. (This was the first carbon scam British Customs has uncovered.) What are the implications of this development on sustainability and business?

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Why a Food Delivery Company Replaced Shrink Wrap With Rubber Bands

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday August 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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U.S. Foodservice-Fort Mill replaced its clear plastic wrap, or shrink wrap, with rubber bands in all its food product deliveries. The company has reduced its use of shrink wrap in its Fort Mill operations by 11 percent and saved almost $8,000. U.S. Food Service is one of the largest food delivery companies with over 43,000 national, private label and signature brands and over 250,000 customers.

The rubber bands used are not the average type, according to Dan Harris, President of U.S. Foodservice-Fort Mill. “They are about 1/16 inch thick and can stretch to fit around a pallet up to 4 feet by 4 feet. While we can’t replace shrink wrap in every situation, the decrease in plastic wrap use has been significant, amounting to reductions of more than 100,000 pounds of wrap per year.”


(image from Aero Rubber company)

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