The Plastic Bag: To Re-Use or Not to Re-Use

Tom Szaky | Tuesday October 7th, 2008 | 7 Comments

chipsahoy_tote.jpg The Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating piece a couple of weeks ago on the emergence of the reusable bag as the go-to green choice of retailers nationwide – and the eco-disaster these bags represent.
A lot of leading retailers offer reusable bags – they’re the hip new green thing to be doing… and some municipalities (San Francisco) and retailers (Ikea) have taken the initiative to forbid the use of the ubiquitous “disposable” plastic bag.
But at what cost?
Most reusable bags are usually comprised of a percentage of reused content – meaning that most of those reusable bags are using mostly virgin material. And, because reusable bags are designed to be sturdier, they require more raw material and can require up to 28 times as much energy.
Furthermore, the severity of environmental impact of plastic bags has been disputed (while I personally disagree with this argue it is important to mention.) A recent Newsweek article quotes Rob Krebs from the American Chemistry Council, “Only 4 to 5 percent of all fossil fuels produce all the plastics annually consumed in the U.S. Now, 29 percent of those plastics are used in packaging. So if you follow the reasoning, 29 percent of 5 percent of all fossil fuels is about 1.5 percent. So plastic bags are a minuscule percent of our resources,” a statistic that environmental groups do not refute.

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ClimatePULSE: Top 5 Clean Technologies

| Tuesday October 7th, 2008 | 1 Comment

deepstream-johanna-ward-wardourpublishing460.jpgThis week in ClimatePULSE we take a look at some of the most promising clean technology solutions. And now that the enthusiasm regarding corn-ethanol has (rightfully) faded, what better time to do so? While this list is far from exhaustive, it should provide some insight into (hopefully) safe bets within the clean tech sector. We have chosen to profile 5 companies considered to have high potential. So, let’s get started…

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What is a Conservation Entrepreneur?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday October 7th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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The Wildlife Conservation Network describes a conservation entrepreneur as someone who demonstrates “the spirit of entrepreneurship in launching innovative projects to protect endangered species.” WCN identifies the qualities of a conservation entrepreneur as someone who dares to try new strategies to save endangered wildlife, creates new ways to save endangered wildlife, empowers local stakeholders, and maximizes the value of every dollar invested in conservation.
WCN Founder Charles Knowles said that the organization’s core mission is to use the “Silicon Valley model” to fund people who work in wildlife conservation, and be their “eyes and ears in the U.S.” According to Knowles, WCN set up their model so that 100 of a donor’s money ends up in the hands of wildlife conservationists.

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Is There a Green Upside to the Economic Meltdown?

| Tuesday October 7th, 2008 | 3 Comments

Wall_Street_Sign.jpgThe economic meltdown could be good news for the area of clean energy investing, according to Steven Fraser, a senior lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the recently published “Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace.” Fraser believes that backlash to the recent economic crisis will result in a new era of enlightened regulation and investment akin to Roosevelt’s New Deal, which helped America climb out of the Great Depression. Fraser offered these opinions in a recent interview on WHYY’s Fresh Air program.
In the interview, Fraser said he felt “very confident” that “real anger at Wall Street” will result in better regulation and more oversight of commercial and investment banking. The steady deregulation of these sectors over the past 25 years has created an “orgy of speculation” and brought us to the current crisis. The future of our economy will depend on rebuilding our infrastructure and a shift to new forms of clean energy, according to Fraser. Any overhaul of our banking and investment sectors should move capital into these areas and away from highly leveraged speculation.

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UK Creates Dept. of Energy and Climate Change

Sarah Lozanova | Monday October 6th, 2008 | 0 Comments

wind_turbines_field_small.jpgAs part of Prime Minister Gordan’s reshuffle, a new department was created that is likely to boost growth in the renewable energy industry, while addressing climate change.
The UK is a country that is particularly vulnerable to the affects of climate change and has identified it as an issue of vital national importance. The EU’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 could reduce the severity of this predicament, but requires significant action. As an attempt to bridge the gap between energy strategy and climate change policy, the UK has created a new department.
Energy and climate change were two topics previously addressed by separate teams. “Combining them may help identify both synergies and trade-offs, but we must avoid either one becoming subordinate to the other,” said Dr Neil Bentley, the CBI director of business environment.”
“The new department puts climate change where it belongs, with its own seat at the cabinet table,” said Stephen Hale, Director of the think-tank the Green Alliance.
Ed Miliband was named head of the new department. He is the younger brother of David Miliband, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

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AlwaysOn Going Green 2008 WrapUp: Bridging Green’s Great Divide

| Monday October 6th, 2008 | 4 Comments

always-on.gifThere remains a distinct disconnect between the Green Movement and Clean Tech. One is rooted in Berkeley, the other Silicon Valley (interesting how close they are in proximity…what is it about the Bay Area?). Somehow, though both groups are clearly trying to bring about a massive shift in our society, towards sustainability and natural systems, the two groups remain distant and distinct. Many reasons for the gap exist, though any attempt to diagnose would have to begin with a discussion of stereotypes: green is for hippies, yippies and yuppies; clean is for VCs, IPOs and the NYSE (I was going to say I-banks, but I’m not sure those still exist).
I appreciate that there are impressive young business minds in the green movement, guys like Tom Szaky of Terracycle and Ben Brown of MakeMeSustainable, to name a couple, and some world-leading scientists and non-profit directors like Paul Hawken and Amory Lovins, there is also a scarcity of true, business-bred, white-hairs. Yes, there are converts from big business who have come on board (Ray Anderson, John Doerr, Jonathon Greenblatt) to great effect, the majority of companies that are truly green are run on a shoestring by young, passionate visionaries. Clean Tech, on the other hand, is well funded, resource heavy and guided by middle-aged, highly experienced business people who had formerly run other large, conventional companies.

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Green Exchange Marketplace Aims at Becoming the Largest Green Business Community in the U.S.

Thomas Schueneman | Monday October 6th, 2008 | 2 Comments

The GreenExchange plans on being the largest green business community in the countryBrothers David and Doug Baum founded Baum Development LLC, in Chicago in 1989. In 1991 they started Baum Realty Group. Baum Development has received numerous awards including seven Chicago Association of Realtor Good Neighbor Awards and a Preservation Excellence Award from the city of Chicago for their work in adaptive reuse and historic preservation.

The Green Exchange building as its first incarnation.There latest project brings the past and future together with Green Exchange, a business community devoted to the triple bottom line combining a virtual and community of socially-minded entrepreneurs along with a real-world community of retail and office space housed in a nearly century-old industrial building that once served as headquarters for the Vassar Swiss Underwear Company.

The building reincarnated as the Green ExchangeThe Baum brothers and their team are nearly complete in retrofitting the grand old 272,000–square-foot structure into the LEED Platinum certified home for more than 100 businesses offering a “unique collection of leading edge products and services to the environmentally conscientious consumer.”

 

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Sustainable Agriculture in practice: the benefits of grass-fed cattle and beef

| Saturday October 4th, 2008 | 3 Comments

whitten-homestead-fieldsA.jpg Environmentalists have long derided the methods that have come to be standard practice for American ranchers and farmers. Over-reliant on water, fossil fuels, large equipment, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides – many of them fossil fuel intensive in their own right – livestock and crop production contributes a surprisingly large portion of our greenhouse gas emissions, and are also large contributors to water pollution, land degradation and habitat destruction.
As populations and urban areas have grown and spread, and debates over land and water rights, usage, volume and quality become increasingly contentious, growing numbers of farmers and ranchers are looking to more sustainable, organic farming and ranching supported by community supported agriculture and environmentally and socially conscious consumers.
Rooted deeply in the land they work and communities they live in, Western ranchers such as the husband and wife team of George Whitten and Julie Sullivan are breaking the mold by crossing the environmental-agricultural picket lines by creating a new agricultural mindset and toolkit that melds principles including social and ecological, as well as economic, sustainability.

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Financial Meltdown. Sinking Economy. Is the Green Revolution in Business Dead?

| Saturday October 4th, 2008 | 0 Comments

green-business.jpgIt’s fair to say that, over the past few years, companies across all industries have begun to invest in the green revolution. These investments have come in many forms – from solar installations to design of more efficient delivery routes to development of new green products. To be sure, in most cases the initiatives have been undertaken due to promises of eventual cost savings as well as tangential benefits such as positive PR. But they have been investments nevertheless. In other words, resources have been put towards the initiative with the belief that there would be a payout down the road.
Historically, when the economy takes a turn for the worse – especially when credit tightens – we tend to see investments dry up. So it’s fair to ask the question: what will happen to the green revolution in business as the economy tightens? Will companies pause in their efforts, and will we see a corresponding slowdown in progress towards greener processes and products? Or will the changing economic conditions provide new opportunities for business to continue down the path that we’ve been on for the past few years?

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San Francisco Moves Ahead With Electric Vehicle Initiative

Justin Sternberg | Friday October 3rd, 2008 | 0 Comments

sf5559.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is on a roll with initiatives aimed at placing the city at the forefront of urban sustainability. At a press conference on Tuesday, September 30, the mayor discussed his commitment to “actionable implementation,” something he said was currently lacking at the state and federal levels. Under his leadership, Newsom believes San Francisco is well positioned to demonstrate the economic benefits of an integrated clean energy economy.

One project spearheaded by the mayor is San Francisco’s electric vehicle (EV) policy, which includes cities across the greater Bay Area. SF recently closed its request for information (RFI) and is reviewing 19 responses ranging from electric motorcycles to solicited input from Better Place, the Palo Alto firm working with Israel and Denmark to implement a statewide EV infrastructure. In conjunction with technology options, the city is addressing adoption incentives and infrastructure requirements. One example currently under consideration is complimentary charging stations located throughout the city that supply clean power from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, courtesy the San Francisco Public Utility Commission.

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In the age of financial meltdown, does sustainability matter?

| Friday October 3rd, 2008 | 5 Comments

meltdown.jpgI was in the UK at a CIO workshop last week (post coming up), and missed a lot of the on -going maneuvering on the part of both political parties here in the US. It made me think about sustainability market drivers (again; yes, I need a life…), and whether we have turned the corner from sustainability as a ‘vitamin’ (nice to have), or an ‘aspirin’ (critical need).
Right now, I would guess that most people (consumers) and many corporations are focusing on very tactical and survival -based activities, such as cost control and risk / exposure management. Where sustainability programs are already established, there is probably little impact from the financial crisis, in terms of potential termination, cancellation, etc.
But where sustainability initiatives are being considered or reviewed, I would venture that many will be put on hold for the time being, as corporations sort through on – going programs and rank and prioritize those that are truly ‘mission critical’ for short term goals.
But there may be a silver lining.

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West Coast Green Charrette Puts The Wheels on The Road

| Friday October 3rd, 2008 | 0 Comments


Sustainability oriented conferences can typically be counted on to deliver compacted learning, immersion into the forefront of thought innovation, and strategic networking. Hopefully, and especially true with this year’s West Coast Green, it will impart a palpable renewal of inspiration for and dedication to doing the good work that is so needed in the world. Yet, they can also leave one feeling left a bit short on impact; a worthy investment into capabilities and possibilities yes, but a concrete impact no. Until now. The ‚ÄòCommunity and Development Design Charrette’ chartered new territory in harnessing the power of thought leaders across diverse skill sets and geographic location, under one roof, to participate in a group process to produce a positive contribution to a local and real need.
The subject matter was West Oakland, CA, the epitome of a challenging case study in economic, social, and environmental justice. One in five children have asthma. Schools look more like prisons than places of learning and development. There are many liquor stores and fast food restaurants, yet there is one bank and no grocery store. This is in an area of 20,000 people, 45% of which have no high school education. West Oakland abuts one of the globe’s busiest ports and absorbs its constant activity of noise, exhaust, and toxins.

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Friday October 3rd, 2008 | 0 Comments

clean%20tech.pngWhat does the Economic Crisis Mean for Clean Tech? Eco-Geek covers the topic on everyone’s mind (besides the fact that you can’t afford to retire until 82). Yesterday, 3p’s Tom Schueneman found that it ain’t so bad

temecula-wine-tours.jpgWineries Going Green But You Just Don’t Know It… Vineyards worry that oenophiles too concerned with red or white to consider other colors.

sun.gifSF Mayor Challenges 1500 Businesses to Go Solar He’s just looking for a legacy to beat the Governator’s old Hydrogen Highway. But with 170 MwH up for grabs on the city’s roofs, we’ll take it.
google-3oct2001.gifGoogle Has the Answers as Usual Google.org offers up plan to move US off fossil fuels by 2030. It’s your usual solar, wind and geothermal. Google, please come clean my bathroom if you have so much free time.
hamburger.jpgHamburger Limits Needed to Combat Climate Change Limiting ourselves to a mere three hamburgers a week was deemed necessary by a report this week, in order to keep food-related greenhouse gas emissions from rising. The report calls for regulation to change eating habits. As if Weightwatchers weren’t restrictive enough.
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Xerox Unveils Erasable Paper
No, no. Not with an eraser, it’s a chemical thing! Within 24 hours the paper erases itself and can be used again. Shady CFOs line up in droves.

“Strategies for a Green Economy” Released, Discussed Smartly Joel Makower’s new book was released this week, and he discusses his focus on “the challenges of the green marketplace, especially the dysfunctional conversation taking place between companies and their employees, suppliers, customers, and regulators, as well with the media and Wall Street, or what’s left of it.” over on greenbiz.com. While I haven’t read it, he makes it sounds pretty cool. And it’s been 14 years since his last one, so he’s probably got a lot of good stuff saved up to say.
Finally, here at 3p we covered totally interesting topics like schemes to incentivize cycling, the fact that cutting emissions in CA will be good for the economy, and the miracle of the coconut.

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Green Challenge Showcase: Boston Public Health Commission

3p Contributor | Thursday October 2nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

Net Impact, a group of future and current leaders who use business to create positive change invited student and professional members to compete in the annual Net Impact Green Challenge. The task: to use their business skills to reduce their organization’s environmental footprint. Jonoathan Sherman helped create a “Green Committee” of the Boston Public Health Commission. Here is his story:
The “Green Committee” of the Boston Public Health Commission was started in the winter of 07-08′ by several people, in an agency of 1200 employees, who had a few ideas about how to make the Commission a more environmentally-friendly operation. Now with over 20 members, 3 subcommittees, and numerous ongoing projects, the Green Committee has quickly grown from an upstart to a successful working group making real impacts across the Commission. Our success has happened for several reasons. First, no matter what industry one is in, now is the right time for environmental considerations to take a place in the forefront – so our timing was good. Second, the Green Committee was, and still is, open to anyone in the Commission to join at anytime. The more people we have, and from more departments and hierarchy, equals the more leverage we have when implementing a project.

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3rd Quarter Shows Another Record for Venture Capital Funding of Clean Tech Start-ups

Thomas Schueneman | Wednesday October 1st, 2008 | 0 Comments

Clean tech investment breaks record for 3rd quarter of 2008Amid all the gnashing of teeth, high-drama, suspended presidential campaigns, and general ensuing panic over the economic crisis of late, the San Francisco Chronicle reports today that clean tech startups raised a record $2.6 billion in venture capital in the 3rd quarter.

Of that amount, 42% went to California companies, and two-thirds to firms within the United States.

To date, $6.6 billion has been raised so far this year, more than in all of 2007. Investment increased by 17% over the 2nd quarter of ‘08 and by 37% over the 3rd quarter of ‘07.

While that is great news, clean tech is by no means immune from the Big Bear.

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