Sustainability Management Infrastructure: What It Is and Why You Should Care

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Sustainability Management Infrastructure

As individuals, we want to do the right thing – but as businesses, we are challenged by the need to be profitable. The goal of sustainability is to accomplish both: to improve profitability today, while not compromising the environmental and social constraints of the future. As discussed in a previous post, Doing the right thing in business: Are you doing it right?, businesses must treat sustainability as a strategic opportunity, and move beyond eco-efficiency to achieve this greater goal.
Here’s how you can get started…

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Managing Energy for Sustainability

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Aberdeen Group Company energy management programs are becoming a bottom-line necessity for corporations’ financial viability, social responsibility and environmental sustainability, according to the research and consulting firm Aberdeen Group.
And sustainability as an essential element in return on investment is increasingly on the minds of the suits sitting in the executive suite, but there’s still a ways to go on that score.
Energy management as a concept began as a cost-saving initiative, “but is now starting to become a strategic part of the company’s larger corporate social responsibility program,” says Aberdeen in a recent report, Energy Management, Driving Value in Industrial Environments.

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Harvesting Solar Power in North Africa: Progress or Neocolonialism?

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments


A massively ambitious clean power project is underway in North Africa. The German insurance giant, Munich Re, announced last week that they are currently recruiting several European mega-investors to fund a project called Desertec. The project will build solar farms across North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt. Desertec will use a method called concentrating solar power, or C.S.P., which consists of huge mirrors that generate steam to power turbines. The turbines generate electricity, which will then be sent back to Europe via high-voltage direct current cables.

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New York Times Story Sparks Debate Over Geothermal Energy and Earthquake Risk

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Photo Source: nytimes.com

One hundred and counting. That’s the number of comments that readers have submitted regarding a New York Times story published Wednesday that says the startup AltaRock Energy plans to begin exploratory drilling for geothermal energy sources in Northern California, using a method similar to one that caused earthquakes in a similar project in Basel, Switzerland. Many comments support the reporter’s findings, while a good number criticize the story as being one-sided or sensational.
This is, of course, not the first time that the merits of geothermal energy – whereby heat is mined from the earth, sometimes by pumping water into bedrock and capturing the resulting steam – have been contested. Some claim that on large scales, geothermal energy will contribute to climate change by emitting more heat into the atmosphere, and beside that, some say that it’s not scalable, anyway. But this article has highlighted a concern that residents of Anderson Springs, California, near the new drilling site, have had for a while now: that geothermal energy exploration causes earthquakes.
According to a PBS Quest story, California already gets more energy from geothermal sources than from wind and solar. And it’s near Anderson Springs, where AltaRock plans to drill, that much of this energy is derived, through more than 20 power plants in an area called The Geysers.

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Electronic Cigarettes. Safer? Greener? Or Just Weirder?

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 8 Comments

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They look like cigarettes, act like cigarettes, give smokers their nicotine fix. And yet, they’re not cigarettes. They’re electronic cigarettes, or “E-cigs.” According to this CNN report, sales of e-cigs have been increasing over several years in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden and Brazil.
The claimed benefits? Instead of inhaling smoke, “e-smokers” (I just made that up) inhale a mixture of vaporized water, nicotine and propylene glycol (a common additive in food coloring and cake mixes). Yum. Their exhalation is not odorous second hand smoke, but just water vapor. According to the e-cig sellers, these battery-filled butts do not contain tobacco, tar, carbon monoxide or any of the other thousands of cancer-causing toxins in real cigarettes. Like the patch or the gum, e-cigs claim to help smokers kick their habit.
So are they healthier? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not entirely convinced. E-cigs are still an unapproved new drug due of a lack of scientific proof that they’re safe or effective.

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San Francisco’s Mayor Newsom Signs Mandatory Recycling Law

| Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Photo Source: seattlepi.com
Yesterday, Mayor Gavin Newsom signed one of the first legislations of its kind in the country: a mandatory law requiring residential and commercial building owners to recycle and compost. While several other cities require recycling service and participation, San Francisco is the first city to require the collection of food scraps and other compostables.
Based on a study by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, food discards comprise 10% of the total municipal waste stream, and the majority of that comes from the commercial sector. In the same study, the Waste Management Board found that over 40% of the waste produced by both the retail food store and restaurant sectors is compostable food and paper refuse.
If all of the recyclable and compostable materials currently going to landfills were captured by the city’s programs, according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco’s recycling rate would soar to 90%.

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Waste Expo Part IV: “Recyclables Separated Off-Site”

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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The Waste Expo convention that I attended early this month was sponsored in part by the National Solid Wastes Management Association, which launched a public relations campaign at the event. The campaign is called “Environmentalists. Every Day.” and is meant to paint some green attitude on the garbage business.
Included on the campaign’s web site are little tutorials on how waste management professionals ought to engage with the public at large and basically make the industry out to be a steward of the Earth, or something like that. The organization is basically saying “Hey, we’re part of the solution, not the problem!”
Well, it is true that the solid waste industry has evolved quite a bit in recent decades – though I would offer that perhaps this evolution is due largely to having to comply with environmental regulations and in finding business value in the recycling industry. But does an industry that calls energy generated through incineration a “renewable” energy really embrace the tenets of sustainability?

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iPhone + Hidden Park ARG = Getting Kids Outdoors

| Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 3 Comments


It’s been said that today’s kids are increasingly focused on their gadgets, and see the outside as a distraction from doing the cool things they can do online, on their XBox, their laptop, and their iPhone.
So how do you find a way to get them outside in a way that doesn’t involve nagging and will increase their own desire to be there in the first place?
Bulpadok has found a way. Engage them in a way that will leverage their fascination with the iPhone, their imagination, and GPS: The Hidden Park. Bulpadok is an Australian mobile apps company who as they say, “We love Geocaching so much we blended it with Alternative Reality Gaming.”
In the case of The Hidden Park, they’ve mapped out real life parks in nine major metropolitan areas in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, overlaying a children’s fantasy adventure “alternative reality game” (ARG) on top of that, taking them (and their parents) on a grand day at the park in the process.

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New Study Finds F-gases Are Making It Harder to Stay Cool

| Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

F Gas Refrigerator

Earlier this week, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that refrigerant chemicals known as “F-gases” pose a greater threat to global climate change than was previously thought. The paper, which was authored by a team of scientists from NOAA, EPA, Dupont and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, estimates that the growth of F-gas emissions due to increased cooling needs represents a grave enough threat that it may undo nearly half of the efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions as a means to combat global climate change.
Found in everyday products such as refrigerators, insulation foams and air conditioning units (including units in homes, building and cars), fluorocarbons were designed by chemical engineers to trap heat in modern cooling appliances. In this light, hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) are the quintessential greenhouse gases. The intention behind the design of HFCs was to combat the impact of cooling chemicals such as Freon on the depletion of the ozone layer, and they were developed before the impact of human-induced climate change was widely understood.

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Chinese Companies Creating Better Green Products

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

250px-Solarboiler.jpgTen companies received Business Week’s (BW) Greener China Business Awards. Although still the world’s biggest user of coal powered energy, China is emerging as an “incubator for clean technology,” as BW puts it. China is the largest producer of photovoltaic solar panels, and the second largest market for wind turbines. The Chinese government says it will increase its use of renewable energy to 23 percent by 2020, up from its current 16 percent, which is similar to European targets.
BW used a panel of experts and its reporters to select ten winners from over 60 candidates. Some of the companies were selected for cleaning up pollution they created, and others for creating environmentally-friendly products. It is the latter category that caught my attention, particularly two Chinese companies: Himin which makes solar water heaters, and Haier which makes environmentally friendly appliances.

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Tesla to Receive Goverment Money to Build Electric Cars

| Tuesday June 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

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If you thought that Tesla Motors hadn’t hit the big time, that it was just a fringe, even infant car company next to the big boys like Ford, GM, or Toyota, today’s bit of news might help change that notion. Like the major automakers, it too will now receive government funding.
Dozens of auto companies, suppliers, and battery makers have sought a total of $38 billion from a federal loan program to develop fuel-efficient vehicles, an AP article reported this morning. Alongside Ford and Nissan, two automakers that have EVs in the pipeline that will also get government funding in this new proposal, Tesla will receive roughly $465 million to build electric drive trains and vehicles.
“By supporting key technologies and sound business plans, we can jumpstart the production of fuel-efficient vehicles in America,” US Energy Secretary, Steven Chu said. Though, as Chu later alludes to, this will definitely help create more jobs and hopefully reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, it also begs the question if this is the best use of the money.

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Solar Stocks: Hot or Not?

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday June 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

solar stocks

As usual when it comes to the stock market the answer is maybe yes, maybe no. Playing in the solar arena depends on how risk-friendly you are.
Yes solar stocks are hot at the moment but are they a good long-term play or a bubble ripe for bursting? J. Peter Lynch, a financial analyst and contributor to RenewableEnergyWorld.com, advises caution.
“If you are getting involved in solar stocks you have to be a little a careful right now. Don’t buy a solar stock and put it away,” he says. Instead be ready to trade and be alert to the fluctuations in the market and the players.

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Waste Expo Part III: Trash-Talkin’ in Sin City

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday June 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

lasvegas.jpgI wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I’d get from Bob Coyle, vice president of public affairs for waste management company Republic Services of Southern Nevada, when I told him that, based on my experience, no one believes that waste is recycled in Las Vegas. Not the Las Vegas taxi driver I talked to as I was headed for the airport. Not my college buddy who lives in Vegas. Not even some of my fellow attendees at the Waste Expo conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center. As it turns out, that’s hardly news to Coyle.
“That’s one of my biggest challenges,” he says. “And the residential [recycling] system is antiquated, at best.”
Republic Services of Southern Nevada, which has an exclusive contract for waste collection and disposal in Las Vegas, collects trash twice a week from 515,000 residential customers in the area, and brings about 9500 tons of waste per day to the Apex Regional Landfill, located 25 miles north of Las Vegas. It also offers recycling services and operates a municipal material recovery facility (known as a MRF in waste circles) where recyclables are collected, sorted and bailed before being sold and shipped to converters in the US and aboard. But rather than being collected twice weekly, along with the trash, recyclables are only collected twice a month.

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Waste Collection Goes High Tech

Wes Muir | Tuesday June 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

By Wes Muir, Director, Communications, Waste Management
The days are longer, kids are out of school and beach season is in full swing: these are clear indicators that summer is upon us and everyone is flocking outdoors. While you’re out and about, packing a picnic lunch or walking around your favorite city, you’re probably also generating trash.
How many times have you wandered down the street or along the beach, wondering where you can pitch that ice cream wrapper? Or maybe when you’ve desperately sought a garbage can for that cup of coffee you drank while walking into work? Unfortunately, most times you’ve probably been unsuccessful in locating said receptacle. Worse yet, as this blogger describes as a pet peeve, you do find a bin, but it’s overflowing and you can’t properly dispose of your piece of trash.

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China Plans To Increase Geothermal Development

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday June 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

geothermal chinaChina is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Coal is used for 70 percent of China’s energy. However, the vice-chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Zhang Xiaoqiang, recently told the London newspaper, the Telegraph that China is serious about developing renewable energy. “We are now formulating a plan for development of renewable energy. We can be sure we will exceed the 15 per cent target. We will at least reach 18 per cent. Personally I think we could reach the target of having renewables provide 20 per cent of total energy consumption.”
Earlier this month the deputy head of the National Energy Administration, Liu Qi announced the preliminary draft for China’s energy stimulus plan was completed. No other details were given, but geothermal heating will surely be included in the stimulus plan, which will help China meet its goals of increasing its renewable energy use to ten percent by 2010 from 7.5 percent in 2005.

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