AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, IBM, and Expanding Business Sustainably

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

IBM-logo
AAA-logo

Good news from the world of (at least increasingly) sustainable business growth: AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah (AAA NCNU) is expanding, and expanding (at least partially) sustainably. The company recently partnered with IBM to design and build AAA NCNU’s new energy efficient data center, in keeping with AAA’s technology requirements.

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U.S. Firm First Solar Plans to Build World’s Largest Solar Plant – in China

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The BBC recently reported good news for the typically strained environmental relations between the U.S. and China. Although the two countries are among the world’s top polluters, and although each seems to expect concessions the other isn’t willing to give (in terms of greenhouse gas legislation), a U.S. energy firm and China recently signed a huge solar power deal. Could the deal signal the turning over of a new leaf in the countries’ approaches to climate change?

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How Many Solar Panels Would It Take to Solve All Our Problems?

| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

LandArtAnswer: a lot.

According  to the Energy Information Agency, the planet uses 500 quadrillion btus of energy every year, and that number is expected to rise to 678 quadrillion in twenty years. Starting with those figures, and then a lot of back-of-an-envelope math, Land Art Generator Initiative has mapped the surface area required to provide the entire planet’s energy from the sun in 2030. They also did one for off-shore wind generation.

The end calculation was 191,817 square miles (496,805 square km) of land for solar panels, spread around the world. For wind it comes to 11,748,294 5 MW capacity turbines covering 5874147 square miles off-shore.

More Silly Math

The problem with these sorts of rough estimates is just how rough they are. As numerous comments point out, Land Art’s figures do not take into account power loss through transmission, or other inefficiencies. One way to check their math is to look at actual projects on the ground and see how they measure up to the figures being bandied about.

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Is Sustainable Farming Going Mainstream?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 3 Comments

National_Organic_Program

A recent article in Time magazine touted the need for sustainable agriculture. Calling the American food system “energy intensive,” the article predicted that “our industrial style of food production will end sooner or later.” The article also cited the consequences if American agriculture does not become sustainable: eroded farmland, antibiotic-resistant germs, and increasing health costs.

Another weekly news magazine, U.S. News & World Report, recently contained an article about sustainable agriculture. The article mentioned a study by the Technische Universitaet Muenchen which created a “new indicator model” to assess the sustainability of farms. Professor Kurt-Juergen Huelsbergen from the Organic Farming and Crop Production Systems at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen said that farmers who want to practice sustainable agriculture “need a solid basis for their decision-making.”

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Warm Glow: Biomass Serves Green Whiskey in Scotland

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday September 10th, 2009 | 1 Comment

whiskey-glassLeave it to the Scots to find ways to get energy out of whiskey.

If you like your whiskey neat or even if you don’t this is pretty neat — Helius Energy Plc and the Combination of Rothes Distillers (CoRD) formed a joint venture known as Helius CoRDe, which will build and operate a biomass energy plant using whiskey distillery by-products.

The proposed £50 million ($82.7 million) project would reduce the carbon footprint of the whiskey industry on the Scottish island of Speyside.

The plant will use whiskey distillery by-products to fuel a 7.2-megawatt GreenSwitch biomass combined heat and power  plant (CHP) and a GreenFields plant that will turn the liquid co-product of whiskey production, known as Pot Ale, into a concentrated organic fertilizer and an animal feed for use by local farmers.

Helius CoRDe will be responsible for the financing, construction and operation of the new plant. The project could save more than 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year when compared to CoRD’s current energy use, the distillers say.

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The Courts Might Be Blue But the US Open Is Thinking Green

| Wednesday September 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments

us-open-logoUnderlying the general excitement of 700,000 fans that populate the two-week 2009 US Open – Elite Athlete Eye Candy! Unseeded Player Dreams! Open Seating Options! – is the USTA’s ongoing, long-term commitment to greening its enterprise.

What’s the sweet spot? According to Rita Garza, Senior Director of Corporate Relations, USTA, “Outdoor tennis and a concern for the environment is a natural fit. We’re just making the connection.” 2009 marks year two of the center-wide greening initiative and the USTA’s operational strategy takes a strong external and internal approach in an number of obvious and behind the scenes ways.

Walking through grounds of the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center – the world’s largest outdoor tennis facility – it’s hard to miss the 500 blue recycling bins, one to partner with each conventional garbage can around the 42-acre campus.

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Responsible Jewelry: The Search for Credibility

3p Contributor | Wednesday September 9th, 2009 | 10 Comments

diamond-miningWith the failures of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), as evidenced by ongoing human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, pressure is building for mining and jewelry companies to become transparent, accountable, and fair. But will the new certification systems be credible?

At this year’s Fair Trade Diamond Conference in Las Vegas, discussion of competing certification systems was rigorous. At one table sat a representative from the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC); at another sat a representative from the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM). Both organizations are establishing vital new standards for socially responsible—or in ARM’s case Fair Trade—gems and precious metals. But their divergent approaches highlight the importance of involving local stakeholders in creating standards that are effective and credible.

RJC, a participant in the United Nations Global Compact initiative, has nearly completed its standards for certification of large-scale mining operations and is seeking input from civil society mining organizations that promote social and environmental justice. RJC standards would require sensible practices like protecting ecosystem biodiversity and ensuring that “the interests and development aspirations of affected communities are considered.”

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Health Care Debate Could Slow Passage of Climate Legislation

| Wednesday September 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment

congress

Congress’ debate over health care reform could slow the passage of climate legislation, since, practically speaking, lawmakers must choose one battle over the other for now. This lag could potentially jeopardize the success of December’s UN Climate Change Conference, the Wall Street Journal reports.

President Obama will plead his case on health care to Congress this week. Accordingly, Majority Leader (Democrat) Harry Reid has pushed deciding on the climate bill to the end of this year – a deadline that will allow Democrats to determine whether they have enough political strength left over from the health care battle to fight for the climate bill’s passage. The deadline could be pushed back even further if the health care debate drags on into the 2010 congressional midterm elections.

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Plants Need CO2, Therefore It Doesn’t Cause Global Warming?

| Wednesday September 9th, 2009 | 3 Comments

HLeightonStewardI’m sure the Internet has its fair share of wackos trying to prove that global warming is not human-made nor dangerous. But I’m going to focus on this one, because he’s just so adorable.

His reasoning: Plants Need Co2. Therefore, how could CO2 be a pollutant? In fact, he’s so emphatic about this that he named his organization just that: “Plants Need CO2”

The mission of this 501(c)(3) nonprofit? “To educate the public on the positive effects of additional atmospheric CO2 and help prevent the inadvertent negative impact to human, plant and animal life if we reduce CO2.”

Yes, we all learned in 3rd grade biology that plants breathe in CO2. This does not mean that it’s not a pollutant.

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TGIT: The Workweek Goes Green

| Wednesday September 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment

banner-green-labor-day
calendarIntroducing six reasons to say “Thank Goodness It’s Thursday.” The novel 4-day/40-hour workweek might just mean saving energy and reducing carbon emissions, alleviating traffic congestion and improving commuter health, boosting the budget and creating a happier, healthier workforce. According to a recent article from the Associated Press, the closing of Utah state offices on Fridays has resulted in a 13 percent reduction in energy use.

Over half of the state’s 24,000 executive branch employees have been working 10 hours a day, four days a week, over the course of the past year in an effort to reduce energy consumption and cut utility costs. According to the “Working 4 Utah” website, the initial projected energy reduction from the program was estimated to be 22,452 Mbtu’s, the environmental equivalent of over 600 vehicles annually. After only nine months the state of Utah had saved $1.8 million.

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Snow Leopard Packaging Fails Green Test

| Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 17 Comments

snow-leopard-package

Like millions of other Mac owners I dutifully plonked down $29 for the new Snow Leopard operating system last week. It’s a nice improvement and well worth the price. But, why in the modern world I am required to send for a physical DVD to make my installation possible has left me somewhat dumbfounded. To make matters even more hilarious, Apple sent me a cardboard box 15.6 times the size of the DVD case contained within (I did the math).

With all of Apple’s green claims, this just doesn’t compute.

They could have popped the DVD into a NetFlix style envelope, saved massively on shipping and handling and made me feel less like a wasteful chump. For that matter, the whole thing should have been downloadable.

Why, dear Apple, why?

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The 5 Stages for Achieving Innovation Through Sustainability

| Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Prahalad thumbnail“There’s no alternative to sustainable development” begins the recent Harvard Business Review article, “Why Sustainability Is Now the Key Driver of Innovation.” Sustainability and green initiatives are no longer optional contend the article’s authors — Ram Nidumolu, C.K. Prahalad and M.R. Rangaswami. Not only is the business case getting stronger, but embracing a sustainability agenda can stimulate innovation, pushing companies to rethink their operations, products and business models.

The authors studied the sustainability initiatives of 30 large companies and discovered what they describe as a “mother lode of organizational and technological innovations that yield both bottom-line and top-line returns.” From their research, they’ve developed five distinct stages of change that transforms a company from sustainability laggard to leader. Each stage has its challenges, required competencies and abundant opportunities as the authors illustrate through case study examples.

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Microfinance in the US: Will There Be a Green Focus?

Scott Cooney | Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 6 Comments

logoLeafy3Kiva.org, the world’s largest microfinance site, is so successful in part because Kiva itself is so fun, interactive, and imaginative in its presentation. They work with a host of field partners that fund small loans. People give small donations that finance these loans, and can see pictures of the businessperson, read about their idea, and decide to chip in to help that person rise above poverty. It truly is an amazing ‘feel-good’ story. What may be loose change to many citizens in developed countries is truly life-blood for many in the developing world. Kiva’s giving out $1 million in loans weekly in this way, and are the #1 most trafficked microfinance site. Despite the bad economy, Kiva’s had a record year.

Kiva has recently brought this model home to the U.S. by partnering with microfinance lenders (MFL’s) such as Opportunity Fund. The loans are bigger than some of the ones we’re used to hearing stories about (i.e., a $250 loan to a vendor in Uganda looking to sun-dry mangoes so that they have goods to sell in the offseason), but otherwise, it’s still microfinance. In the first week of doing so, someone in Cambodia lent money to someone in the U.S. It was a real moment of inspiration for everyone at Kiva, according to Giovanna Masci, Microfinance Partnerships Manager for the Americas at Kiva.

But let’s talk frankly about this “feel-good” story for a moment. Do I really feel good about Joe the Plumber getting a microloan? Well, yes, sure…but what would really make this a feel-good story is if Kiva decided to focus loans to green business startups.

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Disney Spotlights Everyday Superheroes of Change

| Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 0 Comments

hollywood & green
friends-for-changeThe blogosphere’s been a-buzz the past few days about Disney’s multi-billion dollar acquisition of Marvel, but there hasn’t been much press about the million dollars in donations they’re planning as part of their “Friends for Change” initiative. In fact, though I hesitate to admit this publicly, if I hadn’t gotten sucked into The Jonas Brothers marathon on the Disney channel over the long weekend, I wouldn’t even have known about it. Granted, I’m not their target audience, but after digging deeper, it’s actually a worthwhile program that makes effective use of popular icons like Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers in making kids and teens aware of the important issues facing our planet in a memorable way.

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Goodwill: A People Recovery Enterprise

3p Contributor | Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

banner-green-labor-dayGoodwillBy James David, Communications Manager, Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties

While people around the world generally think about Goodwill in terms of our retail stores, we think of Goodwill as a value recovery enterprise, or in other words, one huge recycling center. As our retails stores demonstrate, we offer up people’s unwanted or discarded goods, and recover their value. Similarly, we take society’s unwanted or discarded people, and help them recover, and for many of them, discover, their value through training and work.

The people portion of the triple bottom line, which we too have embraced as our mission, is at the heart of every retail transaction, every material or financial donation, and every pound of goods we divert from landfill. Goodwill’s participants have been discarded by society due to substance abuse or addiction, incarceration, and seemingly insurmountable barriers to employment. These are people who are desperately in need of training and education, which we work hard to provide for them through the programs we offer.

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