“Harmless” Packaging – Something We Can All Buzz About

| Friday October 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment


HarmlessBy John Comberiate

Harmless Enough?

An up and coming low impact packaging idea comes from the British company “Harmless“.  Everyone’s received a magazine covered in a plastic bag in the mail at some point in their lives.  Everyone has shipped a delicately packed box with a fragile treasure inside meant for a close friend or relative.  So we’re all familiar with packing materials as well as the waste that goes along with disposing of them once they’ve completed their useful life.  Harmless is making that waste a little more eco-friendly.


Harmless has several options that have the ability to accommodate packing needs but the most impressive is the Harmless-Dissolve.  Similar to any magazine wrapping you’ve received in the past, the Harmless-Dissolve protects the magazine from knicks, scratches and tears from point of origin to your door.  Different though, is how you get rid of it; you just put it in water.  The Creative Review, for examples, is shipping its magazine out this month in Harmless-Dissolve and even has demonstrational pictures of it in action.

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Why Having More Won’t Make Us Happy

Gregory Wendt, CFP | Friday October 30th, 2009 | 5 Comments


money-happyAs a financial adviser, I regularly meet the “haves and have-mores.” One thing I have learned for sure: Having more does not necessarily mean having more happiness.

Barbara Walters interviewed billionaire media mogul David Geffen in a conversation published in More Than Money magazine: “She said, ‘O.K., David, now that you’re a billionaire, are you happy?’ He shot back without hesitation: ‘Barbara, anybody who believes money makes you happy doesn’t have money.'”

Of course I think to a point, money actually does buy you happiness, or at least in our society money provides the mechanism to get basic human needs met. Take someone who is truly in poverty and a bit of money will actually, truly, make that person and his/her family more happy – they’ll get food, shelter, some labor saving devices, they’ll get education, they’ll get leisure time.

What’s right is to say that after basic needs are met the marginal return of happiness per dollar declines rapidly, at some point every additional dollar means virtually nothing.

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Copenhagen and the Art of the Possible

| Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

by Kate Eyler-Werve, Senior Outreach Strategist, Saatchi & Saatchi S

Word on the street is that the Copenhagen climate change talks will not result in a treaty this year. Most of the reactions I’ve seen tend to fall into two camps: “this delay is the triumph of Evil Corporate Interests™ over the common good” and “this is a victory of economic rationality over Tree Hugging Hippies™.”  Needless to say, these are not especially useful frames. So what are we to make of this delay?

The most important thing to remember is that the world has moved from a scientific debate about whether or not climate change is happening to a policy debate about what we’re going to do about it. It may not always feel that way when polls show that Americans are getting more doubtful about the existence of climate change,  but when the Pentagon, Desmond Tutu, and the World Bank are working on the same problem that’s a good sign that action is in the offing.

Politics, however, is the art of the possible.  According to the NYT, Yvo De Boer, the Dutch diplomat who oversees the negotiations, thinks hammering out a good agreement will take at least another year: “There isn’t sufficient time to get the whole thing done. The form I would like [the session] to take is the groundwork for a ratifiable agreement next year.”

Do we have another year to burn on this? I think we do. The interests and issues around managing climate change are complicated in the extreme, and we need to get this treaty right.  Let’s take a look at some of the key issues that need untangling:


“The reality that we face is that the cause of the fundamental emissions which result in global warming are to a large extent the responsibility … of developed countries,” Alf Wills, South Africa’s top climate negotiator, according to the NYT.


If there’s one thing all the major players agree on, it’s that climate-change triggered drought, disease, and displacement will disproportionately affect the residents of the countries that contributed the least to the problem in the first place.  The leaders of developing countries are keenly aware of this injustice, and are determined not to agree to a treaty that would require them to limit their economic growth to meet CO2 reduction targets.

In fact, India and China just signed a pact to unite against a climate treaty that requires developing countries to adhere to binding emission limits. Their united front will lend serious negotiating strength to the Group of 77 developing countries who are all striving to balance their responsibilities towards creating economic growth with the imperative to mitigate climate change. However, this anti-binding cuts stance is not sitting well with developed countries.


“We don’t want to close a steel mill in Canada and import steel from China. We don’t want to close a coal- powered generating station in Ontario and then import dirty coal- fired electricity from Michigan.” Canadian Environment Minister John Baird, according to Bloomberg

China has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest emitter of CO2, with India on track to become the third largest emitter by 2015. A treaty that places no binding emissions restrictions on developing countries would not only hand a strong economic advantage to two of the biggest contributors to the problem, it also opens the door to a scenario in which rising emissions from developing countries negate all the cuts developed countries make.  That is a risk that  developed countries are unprepared to take, especially in the midst of an already painful economic downturn. This is the reason President Bush refused to push for the ratification of the Kyoto treaty, and President Obama has signaled that he may not accept a treaty that doesn’t include binding limits.


“Maldivians have lived in these islands for over 2,000 years; and we don’t want to trade paradise for an environmental refugee camp,” President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed.

A rise in world temperatures will have a net negative impact worldwide, but again some regions will be hit harder than others and most of those regions are in the developing world. So who should pay for developing nations to adapt to climate change: the governments themselves or the countries that emitted all the CO2 on their path to robust economic growth? A recent World Bank study estimates the costs for developing countries of adapting to climate change at about $100 billion per year for the next forty years, which is about twice as much as current levels of aid.  Developed countries want any aid money to be tied to binding emissions cuts in developing countries, a stance that the G77 strongly opposes.


“We’ve been taught, especially in America, that happiness will be at the end of some sort of material road, where we have lots and lots of things that we want,” Peter Whybrow, author of American Mania: When More Is Not Enough, according to Wired.

Successfully adapting to a carbon constrained world will ultimately require a shift in how we think about some of our deepest values and associations. How many of us equate a big juicy steak with celebration? How many of us see soft, air-dried toilet paper made from old growth forests as a non-negotiable comfort?  These things may seem trivial, but they are symptomatic of a strong strain in American culture of equating success with consumption. That’s a mighty hard mindset to change, and it’s a very easy one to export to other countries.  The negotiators hammering out that treaty are attuned to the willingness of the people they represent to make the changes that an effective treaty will require.

So What Can We Do?

This is quite a list of issues to untangle. In fact, I’d say that the negotiations around hammering out an effective climate change treaty are the most complicated that the international community has ever attempted. We have to get this right.  A one year delay is worth it if it results in a treaty that has the kind of buy-in to make it stick.

In the meantime, what can we do? Ultimately the responsibility for tackling climate change rests with all of us: the actions we take every day and the messages we send the leaders who are hammering out solutions at the legislative and corporate level. If you want to see a real climate treaty ratified, the most important thing you can do now is work to create powerful social movements to support action on climate change.

So tell me: what’s your PSP?

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What About the People?

| Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

people jumpingBy Brahm Ahmadi
Ecological economics is a transdisciplinary field of study that addresses the complex interconnectedness of human systems and natural ecosystems. Unlike neoclassical economics, which is preoccupied with the value-free idea of efficiency, ecological economics focuses on the economy as a subsystem of the ecosystem, and emphasizes the natural limits of our planet in relation to human social and economic systems.

It’s ironic that many of the environmental problems of today have been driven by social norms and cultural values and, yet, these factors are not central tenets of ecological economics.

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Democratization of Electricity: Are You a Public Utility?

| Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 2 Comments

rfkSPIIn typical Kennedy-esque fashion Robert Jr. delivered a liberal-environmentalist stem winder from the main stage at Solar Power International this morning, pillorying the coal and oil industries (“carbon cronies”), and calling for the “democratization” of electric power.

He was largely referring to the perceived lobbyist-led stranglehold fossil fuels have on power production. But later in the day, members of a panel on electricity regulation (“Who Will Be the Next Regulator?”) cited Kennedy’s speech to refer to what is happening as more and more individuals, businesses, and organizations install solar panels on their property, generate their own electricity, and sell the excess back to the local utility.

The question that arises is this: if these companies are generating electricity, are they utilities?

If you have rooftop solar panels, are you an utility?

The answer for individuals is almost certainly not. For companies who sell and maintain solar panels, or rent space on rooftops to install their own, the answer is maybe, sort of, hopefully not, but possibly eventually.

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EDF Climate Corps Makes the Business Case for Energy Efficiency Investments

Kathryn Siranosian | Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

thermostat fun
Energy efficiency. It’s the cheapest, fastest, and cleanest energy resource available to your business today.

Sure, rooftop solar panels and on-site wind turbines may seem like the epitome of ultra-green chic right now. But, whatever energy efficiency lacks in “glitz,” it more than makes up for in bottom-line benefits. It’s simple: reducing your company’s energy consumption is a sure-fire way to cut costs and lower your GHG emissions, as well.

Need proof? Take a look at the outcomes recently reported by the Environmental Defense Fund’s 2009 Climate Corps.

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Organic Farming and the Future of Food

3p Contributor | Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 7 Comments

By Laura Klein

Sustainable agriculture is the fastest-growing sector of the food industry. On the other hand, less than 1% of American cropland is farmed organically.

In light of this conundrum, what keeps the organic farmer going?

I spoke with Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit, to find out more about what it’s like to be an organic farmer in these tough economic times.

“The future of organic is very, very solid in spite of level sales,” says Wiswall.  A farmer first and author second, Wiswall is seeing a groundswell of new organic farmers entering the marketplace, which he and others attribute to the writings of Michael Pollan, films like Food Inc., and the increased concern surrounding food safety issues in general.

However, there are big speed bumps in the way of an organic farmer’s success.

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Hunter Lovins Speaks On Climate Change Action and Revamping the Economy

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 3 Comments

lovins“Whatever you do, please take action…if we are going to solve this one [climate change], it’s going to require all of us,” Hunter Lovins said while speaking on October 21 at Bard Center for Environmental Policy’s National Climate Seminar. The founder and president of Natural Capitalism Solutions, and a founding professor of business at the Presidio School of Management, reminded listeners everyone can take action concerning climate change.

Lovins mentioned that since Pacific, Gas & Electric (PG&E) quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month because of its stance on climate change legislation, other companies are “starting to flee.” She suggested two actions people can take:

  1. Write to companies who are still members of the Chamber of Commerce, telling them you are not sure you want to do business with them.
  2. Send a letter to the Chamber of Commerce telling them to stop obstructing efforts to mitigate climate change by going to the website, NewVoiceofBusiness.org, where such a letter exists, and click “send.”
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Fisker Automotive Buying Closed GM Plant To Produce Plug-in Hybrids

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday October 29th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Fisker Karma006General Motors (GM) closed its Wilmington, Delaware plant in July, leaving 550 active employees out of work, and another 500 laid-off hourly workers without the hope of being called back to work. Vehicle manufacturing used to be Delaware’s second largest private employer. Perhaps it will be again. Fisker Automotive announced on October 27 it signed a letter of intent to buy the plant for $18 million after a routine four-month evaluation period.

Built by GM in 1947, the Wilmington plant produced 8.5 million cars, and has a production capacity of 300,000 cars a year. The Wilmington plant will support the Irvine, California-based company’s Project NINA, developing and producing a $39,000 plug-in, hybrid sedan. Production is scheduled to begin in 2012, and by 2014 the company plans produce 75,000 to 100,000 cars a year. Over half of the cars produced will be exported. The plant will create or support 2,000 factory jobs and over 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014.

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Solar Conference Opening Coincides with Obama Stroll Through the PV Panels

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments

obamasolarpanelsSPIIn an example of either great timing, or a degree of scheduling cooperation that would be the envy of any trade conference, Solar Power International, the largest solar energy conference in the county, kicked off the same day as the Obama administration and its allies began a concerted push for a climate legislation package in the Senate, and with the American public.

Indeed, just as Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), unveiled a “Solar Bill of Rights” on stage in Anaheim, President Obama was standing in front of a field of photovoltaic solar panels at the ribbon-cutting for a new 25-megawatt solar power plant in Arcadia, Florida, the country’s largest solar PV plant to date. Obama was also there to announce $3.4 billion in grants to help build a nationwide “smart energy grid,” designed to improve energy efficiency, and help integrate solar and other renewables into the national grid.

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Facing Reality in Copenhagen

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Measuring success in Copenhagen - The Road to COP15The days grow short and with it the time left to lay a foundation that leads to an international climate treaty to which all nations – rich and poor, north and south – can agree.

As Copenhagen braces for an influx of delegates, press, policy experts, and leaders from all corners of the globe this December, many begin to brace for a new definition of what will constitute success at the COP15 climate talks. A definition based less on the “do-or-die” high expectations of a signed treaty by the end of the year and more on the reality of the work left to accomplish a deal and the time available to accomplish it.

It may be  too much to hope that delegates negotiate a final resolution to the issues that carve a persistently wide gulf between developed and developing nations. Momentum for real progress has been slow going (though it’s building as a sense of urgency mounts).

Rich nations still squabble amongst themselves and developing nations aren’t too keen on  forsaking their expanding fossil-fueled wealth, just when it really gets going–especially when nations already fat and happy on coal and oil seem unwilling to pull their own weight.

The situation isn’t likely to change much, at least not by December. Is COP15 therefore destined to fail? Not necessarily – even with the intractable issues before it.

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Solar in the Developing World: Potential and Pessimism

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

solarpanelsAfricaSPIAmongst the seminars with titles like “The Real Value of Distributed Generation,” and “Innovations in Inverters and System Controllers,” at Solar Power International, one stood out as perhaps having a little more interest to the general reader: “Solar Opportunities in the Developing World.” As anyone who has ever looked into buying a residential solar power system knows, solar panels are very expensive. So what could solar power possibly offer to the world’s poorest people?

Turns out, both a lot and, unfortunately, very little. As the seminar’s three panelists made clear, solar power could be a solution to the developing world’s patchy electric grid. Installed solar panels, coupled with batteries to store electricity for when the sun doesn’t shine, could — and do — provide steady power for corners of the globe that will likely never get it otherwise.

But as the panelists all also agreed, that solution is extremely difficult to implement on the ground.

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Jack Hidary On PACE To $400 Billion

Bill Roth | Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Jack Hidary Accelerating the pace and scale of roof top solar power’s market penetration is Jack Hidary’s mission. Hidary comes to this ambitious goal with a background of success as cofounder of start-ups Vista Research and Dice.com. His plan for putting solar on America’s roofs is based upon creating of an unprecedented amount of financing while also cutting costs out of the sales/installation process to enhance solar power’s cost competitiveness.

Hidary’s financing focus is on PACE which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE is a program where a city borrows money to lend to property owners for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Loaned funds are paid back over 20 years through property tax payments. The program started in California and through the efforts of Hidary and the PaceNOW coalition it is now allowed in 15 states. “PACE holds the potential of financing $400 billion of property improvements tied to energy efficiency and solar over the next 10 years compared to the $6.5 billion budgeted in the current Federal stimulus package,” Hidary proclaims. “That’s both the pace and scale required to produce a meaningful improvement in our country’s economy and our environment.”

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US Chamber Will See Yes Men In Court

| Wednesday October 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments

yesmenIf you are a fan of the Yes Men, you probably ought to go see their newly released movie, The Yes Men Fix The World.  Multiple times.  With all of your friends and family.  The Yes Men will need all of the backing they can get, financial and otherwise, to fight a lawsuit filed by the US Chamber of Commerce against the group for copyright and trademark infringement.

Last week the Yes Men staged a fake US Chamber of Commerce press conference to announce that the world’s largest business federation would reverse its previous denial of climate change.  Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, impersonated a representative of the Chamber’s CEO, Thomas J. Donohue, addressing a number of reporters who attended the event under the false pretense that it was an official briefing.  The Yes Men also created a fake US Chamber of Commerce website.  The media was, by and large, unaware that this was staged- Fox News interrupted programming to broadcast the phony announcement, and Reuters ran the press release as an authentic news item.  It’s hard not to laugh.

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Let’s Talk About Failure: Lessons to Learn from FailCon

| Tuesday October 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

1FAILI find people most endearing when they speak with humility and honesty about things they’d rather not have you know.  FailCon was an amazing day of just that – successful people describing how they failed, rather than how great they are.  Here I’ll summarize my key learnings on running a successful start-up for all of you who weren’t able to attend. (Also check out #failcon on twitter for more).

  • Don’t build your resume.  You screwed your resume up when you became an entrepreneur, so you might as well just go for it. Who cares what the next person is going to think. ~Mark Pincus, Zynga (Love this one!)
  • We are living in a time and place where there is a high reward for success and high social acceptance of failure.  We call this Boom Town.  Take advantage of it. ~ Thor Muller and Lane Becker, Get Satisfaction
  • Don’t get funding too frequently, or too much.  This made the team very lazy.  The coolest things we’ve done have been when we’ve been close to running out of cash.  There’s something about being in a tight spot that you have to innovate out of.  ~Ali Moiz, Peanut Labs
  • Get empathy into your business.  Spend time with your target customers, learn about their behavior and motivations, connect these insights to your business objectives.  ~Brandon Schauer, Adaptive Path
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