Panel Discussion Tomorrow: Economic Realities of Sustainable Business

Scott Cooney | Wednesday May 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments

anderson_ray.jpgTriple Pundit’s good friends at Sustainable Industries are hosting a panel discussion tomorrow, May 7, at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, focusing on the economic realities of working in the sustainability sphere during this economic downturn. From everything I’ve gleaned so far, the mood will be one of cautious optimism as Ray Anderson, rock star green entrepreneur, takes center stage.

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Living Homes: Bringing Green Building Closer to the Average American

| Wednesday May 6th, 2009 | 1 Comment

prefab modern housingThere are tons of innovative green buildings out there these days, but so often, things on their websites stop at the ooh ah design and green trickery. What about what it’s like to be in one of these places? In something I’ve not seen previously, Living Homes shows exactly that, with a time lapse view of an entire day, light filling the place nearly the whole time, due to well placed windows.
And the kicker? They’re prefab modular homes. As I said to a friend, “Who would have thought the words sexy and modular home would ever be within 2 miles of each other?”
Their first home, built and done in 8 hours on April 13th, was also the first LEED Platinum certified home in the nation. Steve Glenn, the founder of Living Homes, lives in it, as he said, “eating our own dogfood” (Using their own products, so to speak).
All thinking, design and execution is guided by what they call “Z6″: Essentially, aiming to have zero impact, before, during, and after living in one of their homes. They’re aware it’s generally not possible to have no impact, but if you look at their thinking around reaching for that goal, it’s no marketing ploy.

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What Is the Best Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday May 6th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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When President Obama released his budget, he included a “cap-and-refund” proposal that strictly limits greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and would auction emissions permits to large companies. The price of fossil-fuel based energy will increase. However, Obama’s plan also includes giving refunds to taxpayers which will come from the auctions.
Seventy percent of state regulators surveyed by Deloitte in March and April believe electricity costs will go up next year. Eighty percent believe Obama’s proposed cap and trade system will increase electricity costs in their state. Over half (53.3 percent) believe the public would pay as much as five percent in increased rates to reduce GHG emissions. Only 16.7 percent believe the public would accept a 10 percent rate increase, and 23.3 percent believe the public would not support any rate increase.

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Consumerist.com Gives Sustainable Business a Kick in the Pants

| Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Service starts with an “S.” So does Sustainability.
Coincidence? I think not.

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Consumerist.com, long regarded for its snarky commentary on business practices and marketing, has launched their annual “Worst Company in America” battle royale, whittling down from 32 companies to four, one of whom will be awarded this inauspicious honor. Among those vying for the title are Bank of America, Comcast, Ticketmaster, and AIG. At first blush, there aren’t really any surprises there. In one corner, you have AIG and Bank of America who have become surreptitiously synonymous with exorbitant compensation packages, reckless management, and of course, the dreaded tax payer bailouts. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ticketmaster and Comcast bring us monster monopolies where service is overlooked as customers are forced to deal with their “only game in town” mentality. Ever tried to get a live agent on the phone at Ticketmaster? You’d be more likely to get swine flu than a helpful customer service representative. And while Comcast has attempted to improve their notoriously poor customer service with their @comcastcares account on Twitter, Frank Eliason is just one man up against the 50 trillion* new users since Ashton Kutcher and Oprah joined the party. Probably not going to make a dent in transforming their image with the masses. You’d have better luck actually getting that wire transfer of a hundred million dollars from the Prince of Nigeria.
*may not be an actual stat

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Microfinance: Real Stimulus. No Bailouts Necessary.

3p Contributor | Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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The following is a short post from Opportunity Fund Founder and CEO, Eric Weaver. Opportunity Fund is producing an event that we at 3p are very excited about called Microfinance California, on May 28th at Stanford. If you have the chance, come join us at the event, which promises to deliver some great discussions on the future of lending to California’s entrepreneurs who aren’t receiving access to the capital they need to get their businesses off the ground.
With the economy still reeling and federal stimulus dollars yet to hit the street, the work we do at Opportunity Fund is more important than it has ever been before. If you doubt the power of microfinance to provide fast and effective stimulus, consider these facts:

  • Very small businesses are a major source of quality, sustainable jobs in the Bay Area and in recent years have been the only source of job growth.
  • From 2001 to 2006, very small businesses (fewer than 19 employees) were the only size businesses in the Bay Area to create jobs – with an average 4.7% increase in employment.
  • Microenterprises with 4 or fewer employees experienced an 11.3% increase in jobs.
  • Businesses with 20 employees or more reduced their employment by an average of 8.67% during the same period.

Opportunity Fund and other microfinance institutions have proven their ability to help these job-creating businesses grow. Our borrowers, for instance, have an 85% survival rate two years after receiving a loan from us. Even better, our loans are being repaid and we are in no need of a bailout. Because microfinance isn’t about bubbles, excessive leverage or opaque financial products. It’s about old fashioned hard work and faith in our fellow human beings.

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UL Plugging Into Green Products

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment

ULE_logo.jpgLook around you. Unless you’re reading this on a laptop in a tent high in the mountains (lucky you), you can probably find the Underwriter Laboratories’ UL symbol on a nearby electrical product. That ubiquitous little logo conveys to consumers that the product they’re about to plug into a wall socket meets its safety standards. But soon, you may also see a new UL logo, one that will certify that the product meets basic standards for efficiency, renewable materials, sustainable design and other metrics. It’s part of an effort UL rolled out earlier this year, called UL Environment.
UL’s motivation in creating the UL Environment label is to help consumers see through the fog of competing eco-labels in the marketplace. Since UL is such a well-known standards organization, it expect its UL environment label will help ease consumers’ concerns and confusion surrounding what products can walk their green talk.

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Going Green Today Whips Your Saggy Sustainability Butt into Shape

Steve Puma | Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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There are a lot of websites attempting to make the world more “green” by changing individual behavior. These companies use a number of different methods to accomplish this, such as carbon footprint calculators (CarbonFund.org), simulation games (ClimateCulture.com) or mapping tools (LocalHarvest.org). They all have one thing in common: they require the user to keep using them, to keep coming back.
Making your life more eco-efficient is kind of like losing weight: you have to stay motivated until you start to see results. If you are not seeing results, you are likely to get discouraged and eat the next doughnut that comes along. When that happens, you need someone to remind you to get back on track. When it comes to sustainability, Going Green Today wants to be your personal sustainability coach.

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Will China Initiate a Carbon Tax?

| Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments

china_energy.jpg China’s Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Environmental Protection have requested research from a regional think-tank to develop preliminary proposals for a national carbon tax. The proposals, which are due for publication within the month, may one day become a part of the Chinese government’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
International governments have pressed Beijing to implement legislation to curtail their carbon dioxide emissions and the Chinese response has typically been a call for rich countries to lead by example in the development of CO2 regulation schemes. With the possibility of a US cap-and-trade regime being approved later this year, the Chinese government’s request for research on carbon tax policies may indicate that China will head off in it’s own direction.

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Is This Really 21st Century Energy?

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 4 Comments

head-in-the-sand.jpgA couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a group called the Institute for 21st Century Energy. With a pretty catchy title, a subhead reading, “An Affiliate Of The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce” and a “.org” attached to the end of the URL, this organization created the illusion of being a legitimate, objective source of information for those seeking to learn more about potential energy solutions in the U.S. And the organization’s “About Us” section starts off with some pretty strong and convincing wording too. Take a look…
“To secure America’s long-term energy security, America must reexamine outdated and entrenched positions, become better informed about the sources of our fuel and power, and make judgments based on facts, sound science, and good American common sense.”
We couldn’t agree more.
And that’s why we’re highly skeptical of the Institute for 21st Century Energy.

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The Energy-Water Nexus

Nick Hodge | Monday May 4th, 2009 | 5 Comments

We know there’s an energy problem. We know there’s a water problem.

But perhaps less well-known is that we have an energy-water problem. It’s called the energy-water nexus, and it has serious implications for policymakers, investors, and businesses of all types.

In fact, water forms a nexus with most industries.

For example, it takes 37 gallons of water to grow, package, and ship enough coffee to make one cup. A hamburger requires about 634 gallons to make it to your stomach.

But the dependence is particularly acute in the energy-water nexus.

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Community Organizing and the Free-Rider Problem

| Monday May 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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As a community organizer, I am all too familiar with the free rider problem and with economically rational ways to circumvent it. Under the right conditions it’s not as daunting as it first appears.
I’ve seen two classical ways around the free rider problem. The first is democracy- everyone makes a decision to invest collectively and then contributions are mandatory (ie taxes.) The second involves punishment, in a multi-stage game free riders can be punished for their actions, creating a an incentive for everyone to chip in.

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Ford Point and the Greening of an Industrial Relic

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday May 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Business and political leaders in the East Bay – the region that lies east of the San Francisco Bay and encompasses a number of towns including Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville and Richmond – are working to make this region “the Silicon Valley of the green economy.” Buoyed by alternative fuels research and other clean-tech advances coming out of UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and by the work of Van Jones and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland in advancing green collar job opportunities, the area is starting to grow into that moniker. And tucked away behind the Chevron refinery in Richmond sits Ford Point, a massive former Ford manufacturing plant that now houses two of the East Bay’s thriving green businesses: SunPower and Vetrazzo.
The acclaimed architect Albert Kahn, who pioneered window-rich building designs in an effort to infuse manufacturing facilities with natural light, designed Ford Point. It opened in 1931 as Ford’s west coast Model-A production plant. The facility had a number of other uses – including manufacturing military vehicles during World War II – until it closed in 1956. It sat dormant for decades, a relic of America’s domestic manufacturing legacy, until 2004 when Orton Development purchased the 517,000 square-foot behemoth, that sits on 26.5 acres.

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Tri-State Energy Looks to Solar as it “Rethinks” Coal

| Monday May 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Tri-State Energy has a lot of ground to cover. The Denver-based energy co-op is responsible for generating baseload power to 1.4 million end users across a 250,000-square-mile service area over 5,200 miles of transmission lines covering Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and New Mexico. Coal obviously plays a big part in delivering all that energy. But things are changing for the power cooperative.

The power wholesaler recently announced a partnership with First Solar to build the Cimmaron Solar Project, a 30 megawatt PV solar facility in northeast New Mexico. Once completed in late 2010 (the plant will come online in phases starting in September of 2010) the 500,000 panel Cimmaron project will be the largest of any power co-op in the world, and one of the largest commercial scale plants of any utility anywhere. Tri-State will enter into a 25-year power purchase agreement to purchase all the power generated from the plant, scalable in 10mW “chunks.”

Formed in the 1950′s on the Rural Electrification Administration model for rural hydropower distribution in early 20th century, Tri-State doesn’t sell power directly to end-users, but to the 44 retail power districts and co-ops for which it serves. The structure of the power co-op mandates a “bottom up” approach according to Lee Boughey, manager of communications and public affairs for Tri-State. Thus, emerging policy trends, renewable energy portfolio standards, and a changing climate calls for Tri-State to reassess its energy resource plans for the future.

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Governor Sarah Palin Rejects Federal Funding for Renewable Energy

| Monday May 4th, 2009 | 6 Comments

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Alaska governor Sarah Palin has rejected $28.6 million dollars in federal stimulus money for Alaska’s State Energy Program. However, Gov. Palin did accept all other federal stimulus money that her state is eligible for ($930 million). Palin’s rejection of the funds is founded in her opposition to strengthening state building codes and making energy efficiency and renewable energy top priorities when spending the money.
Although other governors have voiced opposition to the stimulus package, Gov. Palin is the only governor who has not signed a letter of reassurance to Steven Chu (US Energy Secretary) that her state intends to accept the funds and will comply with the policies associated with the money for state energy departments.

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Events This Week – Social, Networking, and More

| Monday May 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Attention San Francisco & Chicago: Three Triple Pundit sponsored events are coming up this week which you might want to get on your radar if you’re in the Bay Area or Chicagoland.
Firstly, everyone’s favorite green networking event, green drinks, is taking place on Tuesday, May 5th (yes, we’ll be interjecting some cinco de mayo fun in) at the Minna St. Gallery in San Francisco (111 Minna at 5:30pm). It’s a lighthearted social affair and a great time to hear about what we’ve got planned for the rest of the year. RSVP via facebook, it’s FREE. Email us if you’d like a 3p rep at a green drinks in your area.
Secondly – Our friends at Sustainable Industries are putting together another phenomenal breakfast forum on Thursday the 7th at the Regis Hotel in San Francisco. It’s a $75 event, but having been to their last one I can tell you it’s more than worth it. The legendary Ray Anderson will be keynoting along with other great panelists. Register here.
Finally – Join us in Chicago on Saturday, May 9th for the inaugural Climate Cycle bicycle ride along Chicago’s lakefront. We’ll be dusting off the winter blues and kicking off spring in Chicago with a proper bike ride to benefit Chicago area schools’ education on alternative energy and raising money for solar installations. It’s not too late to register, or email your friends in Chicago!

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