I had the pleasure of meeting Reem Rahim, Numi Organic Tea co-founder at the Sustainable Brands conference recently. We got into an interesting conversation about tea bags, sustainable packaging and corn-based compostable products. I followed up with her and her Director of Operations to learn more about their efforts to develop more sustainable packaging.
First comes the tea
First full disclosure. As I write this morning, I am sipping on my Numi Jasmine Green tea. Honestly, I fell in love with this tea for the taste and knew little about the company nor their commitment to sustainability. But a closer look at the box tells a clear story. The tea itself is certified organic with no added flavor. I have always admired the wonderful aroma of their jasmine tea, which in part comes from the fact that it is scented with organic white Jasmine flowers! It is Fair Trade Certified, ensuring that workers were provided a fair wage.
The Waxman-Markey climate bill (HR 2454), passed in the U.S. House of Representatives today, is hailed by many as the most important piece of climate change legislation ever. Yet it’s still receiving a surprising amount of opposition from environmentalists, mostly for it’s plentiful polluter permits, weak renewable electricity goals, and low carbon emission reduction targets . Greenpeace outright rejects the bill, claiming that it “sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets” and warning that “We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.” Friends of the Earth also warns against the bill, saying that in its current form, Waxman-Markey could actually increase the risks of climate change. But I still think the bill should be passed in the Senate. Here’s why.
The generation of most electricity produces enormous amounts of heat which is typically wasted – literally up the chimney. Cogeneration – or “Combined Heat and Power” – systems make use of this otherwise wasted heat to warm buildings. Much of Manhattan is heated this way courtesy of several con-edison plants in the vicinity. It’s a brilliant solution to improve energy efficiency in an urban area, but doesn’t work so well in less urban areas. There, people typically rely on their own natural gas furnaces to heat their homes. But what if you could reverse the cogeneration idea? Imagine taking an already efficient gas furnace and generating a home’s electricity directly from it, while it heats? That’s the reality that Marathon Engine has in store for the North American market today. While not quite a start-up (they’ve been selling units in Europe for 5 years), the company’s “EcoPower MicroCHP” units look set to sell well, despite, or perhaps because of the economy downturn.
Skyline Solar hopes to achieve grid parity within the next 18 months. According to research by Clean Edge, solar power and conventional electricity sources will reach a “crossover” point by 2015. In other words, electricity from the sun will be cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels. Today’s peak solar price of 15-32 cents/kWh is expected to decline to 8-12 cents/kWh by the year 2015.* (The current national average is 9.8 cents/kWh. Check your state here.) Achieving this “grid parity” – a price at which renewable and conventional sources are comparable – has been a primary goal of solar since its inception. Click to continue reading »
Editor’s note: Correction, the city of San Jose will be processing yard and food waste, not human waste, as was originally reported.
For San Jose residents, “going green” may soon be as easy as, well, using the toilet. The city has revealed a plan to convert human waste (“biosolids”) into biogas and fertilizer using a cutting-edge organics-to-energy biogas system, thereby producing approximately 900,000 gallons of biogas, as well as high-quality compost, per 150,000 metric tons of flushables. The system would increase waste diversion, reduce emissions, decrease the city’s independence on imported energy, and build its green job market.
Due for a vote on the House floor today, H.R. 2454, the marked up climate change bill proposed by Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey Jr. (D-MA), fails woefully in terms of meeting the CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets climate change scientists are pushing for. Not to mention failing to lay the foundation for transitioning to a less polluting, low carbon energy and industrial infrastructure, according to environmental group Friends of the Earth. Initially watered down in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″ has been weakened further in broader House negotiations as its sponsors have seen fit to acquiesce to the demands of House Democrats pushing for additional changes favorable to the oil and coal industries in order to increase its likelihood of passage. Click to continue reading »
Putting a price on carbon will drive investment into cost-saving, energy-saving technologies, and will create the next wave of jobs in the new energy economy
The letter, dubbed the “We Can Lead” campaign, is part of a broader effort lending support for passage of the legislation, even in the face of unprecedented lobbying from vested interests opposed to the bill (or any real action at all on climate and sustainable energy).
Among the more visionary and, for that matter, realistic companies pushing back against the enormous lobbying effort include Nike, Starbucks, HP, Duke Energy, PG&E, and Levi-Strauss (see Deborah Fleischer’s post for more about the companies involved).
“Launching a real Green Revolution in America would be the best way to support the ‚ÄòGreen Revolution’ in Iran.”
Thomas Friedman had an interesting idea in his op-ed yesterday morning: The US should impose an immediate “Freedom Tax” of $1 per gallon on all gasoline. By putting economic pressure on oil producing regions, the US could potentially gain leverage on key Middle Eastern regions, in particular Iran, where both the current unrest as well as its nuclear program pose concern for the Obama administration. According to him, the tax will result in three large and quantifiable results: 1) It would stimulate more investment in renewable energy now. 2) It would stimulate more consumer demand for the energy-efficient vehicles that the reborn General Motors and Chrysler are supposed to make. 3) It would reduce our oil imports in a way that would surely affect the global price and weaken every petro-dictator. Click to continue reading »
This week, the blogosphere was a buzz with the launch of Alice.com, a direct-to-consumer start-up committed to helping you never run out of toilet paper again. And a whole bunch of other consumer packaged good items that are always a hassle to run out to the store for. From Tech Crunch to Mashable to Venture Beat, and just about every other blog in my Google Reader, the new Alice.com brand was splattered all over the news. But I had the advantage of knowing (read: being a complete and total fan of) Rebecca Thorman, a brilliant writer, observer and Gen Y entrepreneur who just happens to be the in-house marketing superhero at Alice.com. And yes, a Gen Xer can be a fan of a Gen Yer. About a month ago, she got my attention (yet again). But this time, not for her no-holds-barred insights on social media or masterfully poignant posts; it was for a cause marketing campaign she was running as part of the pre-launch efforts for Alice.com. So, rather than tout all of the benefits of the service that the tech set have already duplicated ten times over covered, I decided to chat with Rebecca about the cause marketing initiative and Alice.com’s plans to bake social good and consciousness into their ongoing plans. Hey, I write a cause marketing series – what did you expect? Click to continue reading »
When Tod Arbogast, Dell’s Director of Sustainability, was interviewing for his current position, he posed a question to Michael Dell, the iconic namesake of the PC giant: “If I got this job, what would you expect of me first and foremost?” Dell replied, simply and profoundly: “Courage.”
Arbogast needed courage to carry forward issues that may be controversial, tough, and without the widest support both in the technology sector and within Dell itself. These days, Arbogast leads a small, yet surprisingly effective team. Last month, the technology research firm TBRI ranked Dell #1 in its inaugural Corporate Sustainability Index Benchmark Report, a study measuring the CSR initiatives of technology and computing companies.
Wednesday marked the start of the Virtual Energy Forum, billed as the World’s Largest Online Energy Conference. I was lucky enough to catch Amory Lovins’ web-cast, which he presented from Sweden where he was attending the 2009 Tallberg Forum. The Virtual Energy Forum’s presentations are in the video archives and you can view them for free once you register. The idea of a forum that requires no travel and very little resources is extremely sustainable!
A quick search on Triple Pundit yields many hits for “Amory”, but if you don’t know who the “energy-efficient design” genius behind the Rocky Mountain Institute is, then please do yourself a favor and start researching him. Not only do some of the biggest companies in the world seek out his advice, but so do entire nations. The thing I like most about Amory is that his advice is so simple and obvious, yet I’m always amazed at how so few people are following what he is preaching. As he said at the beginning of the web-cast, RMI is filled with “practitioners, not theorists”. He doesn’t seek out wild, hair-brained schemes, but simply implements efficient design principles!
As individuals, we want to do the right thing – but as businesses, we are challenged by the need to be profitable. The goal of sustainability is to accomplish both: to improve profitability today, while not compromising the environmental and social constraints of the future. As discussed in a previous post, Doing the right thing in business: Are you doing it right?, businesses must treat sustainability as a strategic opportunity, and move beyond eco-efficiency to achieve this greater goal. Here’s how you can get started… Click to continue reading »
Company energy management programs are becoming a bottom-line necessity for corporations’ financial viability, social responsibility and environmental sustainability, according to the research and consulting firm Aberdeen Group. And sustainability as an essential element in return on investment is increasingly on the minds of the suits sitting in the executive suite, but there’s still a ways to go on that score. Energy management as a concept began as a cost-saving initiative, “but is now starting to become a strategic part of the company’s larger corporate social responsibility program,” says Aberdeen in a recent report, Energy Management, Driving Value in Industrial Environments.
A massively ambitious clean power project is underway in North Africa. The German insurance giant, Munich Re, announced last week that they are currently recruiting several European mega-investors to fund a project called Desertec. The project will build solar farms across North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt. Desertec will use a method called concentrating solar power, or C.S.P., which consists of huge mirrors that generate steam to power turbines. The turbines generate electricity, which will then be sent back to Europe via high-voltage direct current cables. Click to continue reading »
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