Waste Expo Part II: Waste Management Intros Solar Compactors to Crush Collection Costs

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday June 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment

startup-friday.jpgbig-belly-no-bubble.jpgI came upon an interesting contraption on the exhibit floor at Waste Expo this week: a solar-powered trash compactor. It’s the brainchild of Needham, Mass.-based Big Belly Solar and uses a 30-watt solar panel that charges a battery that in turn compacts trash as it accumulates inside the bin. Waste Management recently partnered with Big Belly to distribute the bins in the places it operates in North America, and they are already being used by many schools, parks departments and zoos around the country – in fact Philadelphia is installing 500 of the compactors on its streets as part of its Greenworks project.
The bin contains an electronic eye that spans the top of the 32-gallon barrel inside the unit. Once enough material accumulates to block the beam, it triggers the compactor to engage, using 1250 pounds of force to ram the trash into the barrel. In total, the barrel can hold roughly 150 gallons of compacted waste. Also, the unit contains a small display that shows when the barrel is nearly full and when it is completely full. A wireless link to the municipality allows dispatchers to send trucks to the cans only when they are full.

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Small Wind Innovators: San Diego’s Helix Wind

| Friday June 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Incorporated in September 2006, San Diego’s Helix Wind is looking to leverage the novel design of its growing line of vertical axis wind turbines to secure a place in the rapidly growing market for small wind systems. Less efficient than their horizontal axis counterparts, vertical axis wind turbines are nonetheless gaining credibility across a wide range of applications and sites, from densely populated urban areas to rural and remote installations.
Aesthetic, rugged and practical with a small physical footprint, it’s the proprietary, helical design of the company’s small-scale VAWTs–which maximize surface area and capture wind blowing from any direction–that enable them to make the most of light, as well as strong and variable wind conditions, according to the company.
Interest in the company’s products is surging. Management announced two contracts so far this month, its first two production runs have sold out, and it’s sitting on an order backlog of $11.3 million, with forward sales of 4,500 units spread over the next few years.

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Go Green Displays: Sustainability AND Style

| Friday June 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Other than a rock concert, there are few events that drain resources or produce more excess waste than conferences. From packing materials to elaborate displays to overflowing amounts of swag-stuffed goodie bags among throngs of people, trash accumulates in epic proportions. This is one of the reasons Gary Survis started Go Green Displays, focused on eco-friendly exhibits from booths to lighting to banners and everything in between.

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Lovemarks Meets Google Zeitgeist: OpenBrands

| Friday June 12th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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OpenBrands is a new start-up that makes brand monitoring on Twitter a “social sport.” It has the potential to make the random stream of Twitter’s chatter far more readable and produce powerful data about what people really think of companies, ideas, and brands. This is exactly the kind of information one needs to judge the sustainability merits (or any merits for that matter) of any given company or brand.
Open Brands isn’t the first company to try and make sense of brand reputation via the internet. A few years ago, Saatchi and Saatchi published a fascinating website about brands called “hierarchy of respect is then developed based entirely on that social data and conversation ensued between participants.
Google’s Zeitgeist automatically allows one to monitor the frequency with which search terms are typed into Google. For example, the spread of the flu can be tracked across the globe as sick people use Google to find relief. The same technology can be applied to brand monitoring, giving companies the tools to see when their brand becomes a heated topic.

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Renewable Energy and the Good Ol’ Boy: Perception vs. Reality

Chris Kaiser | Friday June 12th, 2009 | 11 Comments

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Along with the fiddle, big hair, and American Idol/pop music rejects, Country music relies on the persistent theme of recollecting the “good ol’ days.” That time when things were simpler and ugly modern-day slang terms like “anthropogenic global warming” and “mountain-top coal removal” didn’t exist. And nobody loves country more than Southeasterners (a.k.a. Southerners).
Among some Southerners there exists a “Good ol’ boy” mentality. There are many definitions for what a “Good ol’ boy” is, but I think Waylon Jennings summed it up best when he sang, “Just the good ol’ boys, wouldn’t change if they could. “Good ol’ boys are perfectly happy with the way things are in the South, including how they get their energy.

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Clean Air Lawn Care: No More Gas Blowers

| Friday June 12th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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There are few things that set me cringing more quickly that the sight and sound of some poor guy with a smoking gas motor on his back blowing leaves around on the sidewalk. In fact, I’d put the gas powered leaf blower up there with car alarms as one of humanity’s worst inventions. Lawn mowers, chainsaws, and other landscaping contraptions are not a whole lot better, either for the sanity of one’s neighbors, nor for people’s health – one leaf blower can emit as much pollution as 80 cars. (See EPA PDF here)
The good news is that not only are many electric, and (gasp) hand-powered lawn care alternatives available, but they are growing in popularity. So much so, that entrepreneurs like Clean Air Lawn Care are moving in to make successful businesses out of specializing in a cleaner, more sane approach to classic suburban lawn maintenance ritual.

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Green Building Material Maker on Breakthrough Sustainable Drywall

| Friday June 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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In continuing to foster and showcase the greatest innovators out there today, TED recently featured Kevin Surace, the CEO of Serious Materials, discussing his company’s new clean, recyclable, and energy-efficient drywall. Surace suggests that building green means more than just having green roofs or using solar panels, but addressing the construction industry’s large footprint with the essential building blocks of buildings themselves.

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Mushroom-Based Insulation Could Also Influence Packaging

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday June 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Two men and their company, Ecovative Design, think it’s a good idea to insulate the walls of your house with mushrooms. Seriously.

Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre have developed a strong, low-cost biomaterial called Greensulate that has the potential to replace the expensive and ecologically-harmful Styrofoam and plastics used in wall insulation, packaging and other products.

Another potential Greensulate application: Wind turbine blades and auto-body panels. They last month added a Popular Science Invention Award to their growing trophy case for their efforts.
In April the start-up based in Troy received the Rising Star award from the Center of Economic Growth. The award is for its outstanding achievements as a start-up company whose venture is showing long-term promise.

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India’s Agricultural Industry: Causing a Loss of Biodiversity?

| Friday June 12th, 2009 | 9 Comments

alphonso mango I love so many Indian exports, I barely know where to start: bollywood films, bhangra music, glass bangles, gold earrings, multicolored silk, chana masala, chai tea and mango lassi to name a few. Among these exotic indulgences, my favorite is Indian food. Basmati rice is perfectly sticky and light, the sauce on chicken tikka masala is completely delicious. But the true story behind these cultural and artisanal exports is rather dark and complicated.

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Waste Expo Part I: Food Fight Over Food Waste

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday June 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Thirteen percent – more than 30 million tons – of the municipal solid waste collected in 2007 was food waste. This comes from our homes and from restaurants, of course, and from food production facilities. Right now, around 3 of that 13 percent is diverted from landfills and used for other purposes – most often for composting.
These are among the many food facts I gleaned from an educational session called “Food Waste: Compost, Digest or Other Use?” at Waste Expo, a solid waste industry conference held this week in Las Vegas. Two things are clear: food that lands in landfills is food wasted, but just what to do with all those food scraps is a matter of a debate.
Broadly, food can be turned into one of two things: energy or compost. Sometimes it is turned into both. Last summer, Jen wrote a post about how food waste is turned into compost and energy by Northern California’s Jepson Organics . And just east of San Francisco, the East Bay Municipal Utility District – like many other waste water treatment plants around the country – use anaerobic digesters to convert the methane formed during the digestion process of food and biosolid waste (poop, basically) into renewable energy.

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How to Greenwash Better

| Thursday June 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Thoughts from Seth Bauer Presented at Sustainable Brands ‘09
Sus%20Brands%2009.jpgGreenwashing is nearly impossible to avoid. No matter how credible, clear and consistent your message, someone can always find a flaw in your marketing claims. The media that monitor green claims serve an important function, protecting consumers from deceptive marketing practices. But with so much focus in the media on exposing misleading or exaggerated green claims, many companies are discouraged from pursuing legitimate, green product innovation. And for those who do, many remain silent for fear of the dreaded greenwashing label.
This apprehension has resulted in “green muting” according to Seth Bauer in his presentation “Thoughts For Companies on the Verge of Doing the Right Thing” given at the Sustainable Brands ’09 conference. He encouraged the audience of brand builders not to hold back. Continue to innovate and continue to develop green marketing messages. But by learning the common greenwashing traps, and by understanding there is no perfect green product, you can learn to “greenwash better” making your messaging as credible as possible.

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Michael Pollan: “Pay Farmers to Fulfill Interests of Public”

| Thursday June 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Fora.tv features a great talk by Michael Pollan last month discussing farm subsidies, climate change, and the Waxman-Markey bill’s detrimental lack of addressing agriculture. Check out the video below.

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What Are the Main Trends in Green IT?

| Thursday June 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Building upon my recent article, “Growing a Green IT Strategy,” this follow-up post provides a detailed presentation of the emerging trends and leading practices within the growing field of sustainable business practices for information technology professionals.
As indicated by the 2009 Worldwide Green IT Report, 45% of surveyed IT professionals have already implemented Green IT initiatives. Consequentially, certain practices have been established as “go-to” measures to reduce costs and minimize the environmental impact of computing operations while others are emerging with solid momentum.

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Bloomberg vs. Newsom: The Debate Over Green Building

| Thursday June 11th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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You may remember when Triple Pundit ran a short article last month about the green transformation of New York City’s Empire State Building. To refresh your memory, the Empire State Building was built during the Great Depression in the 1930’s, and became an icon for progress, technology and American industry. Today the building is still iconic, but is has also become symbolic of New York City’s unbelievable consumption of energy and the fact that buildings contribute almost 80% towards the city’s total Greenhouse Gas emissions.
In April, the owners of the building announced a major undertaking: the Empire State Building is going green and earning back its previous reputation for modernity and technological progress. The project will cost $25 million, but the investment will be recouped by savings on energy bills within 5 years. The fifth floor of the building is being turned into an on-site “factory” where the original windows will be taken for thermal-resistant glazing. The radiators will all be altered to ensure that heat stays trapped in the building, rather than being released into NYC.
The most notable detail about the revamp plan is the fact that the city is investing in making efficiency improvements to an older building, rather than tearing it down and building something new and flashy. It begs the question- what makes a bigger impact? Erecting huge, inspirational and iconic buildings that scream “sustainable progress” from their living rooftops? Or investing time and money into existing buildings to make them more environmentally efficient?
San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newsom might like to weigh in on this question.

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Only as Strong as Your Weakest Link

| Wednesday June 10th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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By Marie Perriard
All economic production depends on our scarce natural resources and we can apply insights from physics and ecology to help us examine our economic system.1 As resources are depleted, waste is generated, and the continuous loop regenerates itself as long as 1) throughput is within capacity of the system and 2) the scale of the economy is relative to the size of the ecosystem. This “steady-state” economy strives for balance because, otherwise, growth beyond its limits will lead to instability and destruction of the very ecosystem that supports all economic production.

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