Google Ventures: From the Garage to Global Relevance

| Monday April 6th, 2009 | 3 Comments

The New Google Ventures Fund Is Good News for Clean Tech Startups

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Google is once again leading the pack, now trying its hand at VC-style investing. The search engine giant has announced it will apply its considerable resources to build innovative new business ideas through its new technology investment fund, Google Ventures. The fund is looking for entrepreneurs who are tackling problems in “creative and innovative” ways, and will target early-stage firms in the clean technology, consumer internet services, biotechnology, and healthcare sectors.
The new Venture arm expands Google’s commitment to clean tech, and follows a series of investments in various low-carbon projects by its philanthropic arm Google.org. Google.org’s clean energy investments have been primarily in the area of renewable energy and technologies that will enable widespread commercialization of plug-in electric vehicles. The new Google Venture fund will take a broader approach with the initial mission of “building great companies and generating long term financial return.” Also unlike Google.org’s philanthropic investing, the new venture fund will look for significant financial returns from its portfolio companies.

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L3C: Will the IRS favor Social Progress?

| Monday April 6th, 2009 | 13 Comments

clip_image002.gifLast month at a peace rally, I saw a woman with a sign that read “where is my social progress?” and she got me thinking…. Where is social progress if not in socially active individuals? I thought of Margret Mead’s famous quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens could change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Inspired, I decided to take a plunge into social entrepreneurship and incorporate a new kind of socially beneficial company called an “L3C.” An “L3C” is an acronym for Low-profit, Limited Liability Company. An L3C is run like a regular business and is profitable, yet unlike a standard LLC, the L3C has primary charitable goals. To date, only Vermont and Michigan have ratified the legality of the L3C business model.
My L3C formation process was very simple. I chose a name “The Regenerative Group, L3C.” I filed the Vermont Secretary of State papers stating that my company’s charter is “to develop family education and outreach programs supporting the mission, vision and values of the sustainability movement”, and I paid the $75 processing fee with a check in the mail. I thought: “that was easy,” but I was warned: before I raise start-up capital and kick up my socially beneficial operations I should wait to hear what the IRS will say about the tax implications of the new legal entity: L3C.

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Lifestyle Trash: The Latest Eco Industry

3p Contributor | Monday April 6th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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By Rebecca Greenberg
It has happened to all of us: during college, your cousin gave you his second-hand armoire, which you gratefully accepted because you were broke and didn’t care about how your place looked. But now you’ve grown up, you’re making a little money and you want to put a stylish spin on your apartment. So, what to do with the armoire? You could put it out on the corner with a sign that says “Free! Gratis!” Or you could haul it to the dump. Neither option is great, but a new alternative is becoming increasingly popular: retail salvage yards. In an effort to recycle items headed to landfills, to turn a profit and to create green-collar jobs, more and more facilities are popping up that offer an array of “salvaged design components” otherwise known as Lifestyle trash. Lifestyle trash is the cool, rusted wheel that is now the base of your coffee table. It’s the wine barrel that is serving as a planter in your backyard. It’s your deckchair that lived in a middle school classroom in its previous life. Lifestyle trash is chic and attractive for several reasons: it costs next to nothing, it saves things from being thrown away and, with a little elbow grease and some spray paint, it looks really cool.
Companies that sell lifestyle trash and other sorts of salvaged materials are appearing all over the nation. Perhaps the most notable example is Urban Ore, in Berkeley, California. Urban Ore has three acres of indoor and outdoor space that is chock-full of everything from antique toilets to computers to vintage bikes. Another fine example is Ohmega Salvage, an upscale purveyor of architectural salvage items: Victorian doors, art deco chandeliers and apothecary bottles.
From a business point of view, these lifestyle trash companies are a true example of a triple bottom line business model.

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Wattz Up with Consumption Calculators? Newer Options Have Come a Long Way

| Monday April 6th, 2009 | 3 Comments

calculator.pngWith the increasing likelihood of a federally mandated system for regulating carbon emissions (aka “cap and trade”), it is becoming apparent that businesses will soon be required to implement accounting measures to report on their emissions of greenhouse gases. A cornerstone measurement to be required in this process will be the consumption of services and products that require the use of fossil fuels.
This type of consumption tracking is entirely new to many businesses and consumers. Steps taken now to develop in-house capabilities or forming outside partnerships to account for carbon emissions will ensure the long-term success of your organization assuming the new laws come into place.

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Saturday April 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

airplane.JPG Executives Lay out the Ten Challenges to Green Corporate Travel The first-ever Green Travel Summit ended this week with a group of executives identifying the biggest obstacles to traveling greener. It’s great that they met, and kind of a bummer than they ended on such a down note. Rest assured, Jet Blue has the solution!
sidwalk%20garbage.jpg Green Biz has the Scoop on the Most Wasteful Cities in America. The report was sponsored by Nalgene, who just *might* be hoping to get some of these cities to break their Aqua Fina addiction.
lightbulb1.jpgBrussels Says “Turn Out the Lights, You Think I’m Made of Money?” Frustrated by waste from lights turned on nation-wide, Brussels considers a ban on incandescent lightbulbs. My father would be so proud of their thrift.

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How Can We Fix the Green Trust Gap?

| Saturday April 4th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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How do you tell the difference between truly eco-conscious brands and those that just fake it? It’s a hard thing to do without extensive research. According to a newly released study from branding and marketing firm BBMG, nearly one in four U.S. consumers say they have no way of knowing if a product is green or actually does what it claims–in other words, there’s a serious green trust gap between companies and consumers.
It’s not that people aren’t interested in environmentally sound products. BBMG’s study, entitled Conscious Consumer Report: Redefining Value in a New Economy, shows that 77% of Americans think they “can make a positive difference by purchasing products from socially or environmentally responsible companies.” But most people don’t trust product packaging and company advertising to guide them in the right direction. Instead, consumers look to certification seals and labels as well as ingredient lists to determine whether products are actually green.

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Rio to Construct Low-Income Homes Made from Bullets

| Saturday April 4th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Last week, Brazilian President Luiz In√°cio Lula da Silva, or Lula as he is affectionately referred to, announced a plan to build 1,000,000 homes in some of Rio de Janeiro’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Favelas, as they are called in Portuguese, are large slums that dominate the cityscapes of Rio de Janeiro, S√£o Paulo, and other major Brazilian cities. Rio’s favelas are located in some of the most picturesque parts of the city, creating a tragic juxtaposition between the rampant crime, drug trafficking, and violence that plague the slums.
Lula’s new plan is an attempt to return a bit of order to areas that have been living in chaos for generations. Most inhabitants of favelas live in makeshifts homes that would be condemned in any other part of the world, ripping off electricity and other utilities from neighbors or neighboring municipalities. The streets of the slums resultantly end up looking like tangled spider webs of multi-colored extension cords, ropes, and cables from above.
What is different about this particular project, however, is not the scope – though 1,000,000 homes may seem like a lot, it barely starts to address the needs of a country that is quickly catapulting to the top of the world’s stat sheets for both poverty and population – but the material with which the homes will be erected.
Working with British green technology incubator, Ultra Green Group, the homes will be constructed from an eco-friendly concrete that is comprised of used bullet casings.

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Renewable Energy Standard: Waking the Sleeping Giant

Nick Hodge | Friday April 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

Sleeping GiantThe benefits to cleantech companies if a renewable energy standard (RES) is passed doesn’t have to be a nuanced discussion.

The answer is simple: the benefits will be myriad. And they’re long overdue.

In fact, the idea has been mulled so long that it’s gone through two acronyms, migrating to RES from renewable portfolio standard.

Different name, same great results.

The most important thing to remember here is that an RES guarantees demand.

Take a hypothetical required soda standard (RSS), in which the government requires a certain percentage of soda sales come only from Coke, at a much higher market share than they have now.

Coke’s business would skyrocket, right? They would be guaranteed increased market share.

Welcome to the new, competitive world of renewable energy.

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With Businesses on the Brink of Bankruptcy, How Will Automakers Respond to California’s Emission Standards?

Scott Cooney | Friday April 3rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

futurecarToastForBrekkie.jpgIn January, President Obama signed an executive order asking the courts to review a Bush era ruling that stopped California from limiting carbon emissions from passenger vehicles. When the dust settles after multiple legal hoops, California and 17 other states (called the CARB states) who have signed on to California’s plan will inevitably, it seems, dictate the federal emissions standards for one very simple reason: it will cost more to produce two lines of vehicles than to just upgrade the entire line to California’s higher standards.
Historically, Detroit’s reaction has been consistent to California’s climate protection efforts throughout the years. Without ever having won a court case directly related to the controversy, Detroit has nonetheless succeeded in delaying the inevitable for many years, presumably because their business would have plummeted as a result of the stricter emissions standards. With their businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, one is forced to wonder how effective their delay tactics were, and whether, if they had instead come to the bargaining table and worked out a compromise, they would be in better shape today.
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) led a series of hearings in 2008 that demonstrably showed the Bush White House directly involved in overruling EPA officials, virtually all of whom favored the California standards. Aside from a couple of Michigan Democrats (Governor Granholm and Rep Dingell) and a few rogue Republicans (Governors Schwarzenegger and Utah Governor Huntsman), the issue has largely been decisively along party lines. The 18 states involved in the case include 16 blue states along with Utah (Huntsman’s influence) and Arizona (a swing state even in McCain elections).
And now, with the industry flailing and begging a largely Democratic congress and President for a helping hand, the story’s plot has certainly thickened.

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SustainLane Launches Green Collar Jobs Board

| Friday April 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

sustainlane.jpegThe online media company SustainLane has recently launched a Green Collar Jobs Board, offering a tool to help you navigate your way down the path of a green career. The site shows us the kind of opportunities that are emerging in today’s job climate and, usefully, how we can be best prepared to position ourselves for such opportunities.
SustainLane streamlines the green job hunt process through it’s comprehensive nationwide listings, offers great job searching and application tips, but it is also frank in sharing the difficulties that are encountered in finding and securing a green job.
Green jobs expert and managing partner at Bright Green Talent, Nick Ellis explains that we are ¨early-on in the transition to a green economy,¨ which makes job-hunting, skill profiling, and interviewing to mention a few, difficult processes to do well in a very competitive market. In the context of national (and global) economic restructuring, he shares with us the hard reality of the situation: ¨There are few green jobs available right now, and whats more, there are too few qualified candidates for these jobs.¨ But there are opportunities and with this new job board we can learn how to go after them effectively in the rapidly expanding green economy.

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The Holy Grail of Successful Marketing: Responsibility

| Friday April 3rd, 2009 | 3 Comments

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With so many companies jumping on the “do good” bandwagon, even more names have emerged for the concept itself — cause marketing, cause-related marketing, cause branding, green marketing, conscious marketing, marketing with meaning, social good marketing, social change marketing and a slew of others. Even the umbrella term of corporate social responsibility is often used interchangeably with cause marketing efforts. But in my ongoing quest for a clear and simple definition, I stumbled across the Responsible Marketing blog, and it all crystallized for me. The common thread isn’t social change or charitable giving. That’s merely the by-product of those types of initiatives.
What binds the myriad of terms is employing your marketing efforts in a way that’s responsible. And while that can mean aligning tactics with a cause, it is not limited to that description. It could also mean responsible use of dollars, reducing unnecessary print marketing materials, or pulling an offensive ad, even if the increased exposure could actually benefit the company. Distilling it further would probably be to simply call it “Ethical Marketing,” but the fact of the matter is that there still needs to be a strategic focus, and Patrick Byers, the mastermind behind the Responsible Marketing blog is committed to helping companies hone that strategy as an outward expression of their core values.

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Electric Cars for the Masses: Ford’s New Strategy

Shannon Arvizu | Friday April 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

10FusionHybrid_01_HR-1.jpgMajor carmakers are in a head-to-head race right now to offer cleaner options for consumers and fleet managers. Ford is the latest to make an announcement that it will deliver affordable electric vehicle technology at high volumes in the next few years.
At Ford’s Drive Green Media Forum in New York City on Wednesday, Nancy Gioia (Director of Sustainable Mobility) repeatedly stated, “Electrification is not an option, it is the way forward.”

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Market Reality Bites Biofuel Companies

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday April 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

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The sour economy, low oil prices, the collapse of the commodity market and flight from food-based biofuel sourcing merged into in a deadly mix.
Not that long ago ethanol and related first generation biofuels were the next big thing in alternative energy. Now this segment is in danger of becoming the next big bust.
In recent days Nova Biosource Fuels, a Houston-based refiner and marketer of ASTM quality biodiesel, filed to restructure under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. And BioFuel Energy, a Denver ethanol producer, is on the verge of a bankruptcy filing of its own.

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Happy April. Enjoy 3p’s Take on the Annual Prank

| Thursday April 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

REDIRECTING….

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BetterHumanRace.com: Surf the Web, Change the World

| Thursday April 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

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In my recent cause marketing interview with Social Actions, I highlighted the importance of making doing good as easy as possible for consumers. In an age where time is at a premium, most people can’t expend resources researching charities or dedicate a significant amount of hours volunteering or getting actively involved with causes. But that doesn’t mitigate that the desire for change still exists, so companies who offer turnkey solutions for making a difference that don’t disrupt busy schedules or require extra effort will be able to reach and motivate today’s conscious consumer.
This was the impetus behind BetterHumanRace.com, a search aggregator that leverages routine online behaviors toward doing good. By performing your search at BetterHumanRace.com, instead of Google, or using their interface to purchase Amazon products, 100% of the profit generated goes toward a variety of causes, which are voted on by users. So, users can make contributions to worthy charitable organizations simply by doing things they would normally do online. And as more people use the BetterHumanRace.com interface to complete common online tasks, that change really adds up — figuratively and literally.
Founded by husband and wife team, Ross and Lori Shanken, BetterHumanRace.com was built with the intent to give consumers a way to personally affect change without any added effort, and by building this model, Ross quickly realized that he could generate exponentially more money for causes, and hence, create greater change, through a business than he could ever donate on his own. Tapping into the collective search and buying power of consumers, BetterHumanRace.com becomes a hub for change, making charitable giving an everyday experience.

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