I first learned about Gordon Murray, a former Formula 1 designer, about eight months ago, when his team was half-way through the 24-month developmental cycle for his novel T25 city car – a cute little bug that could spark a clean transportation revolution. It’s reportedly smaller than a Smart Fortwo. Reports last month suggested that the T25 design and engineering work has already been completed, well ahead of schedule, and they’re ready to build the prototype. The T25 will be small, but safe; it will boast a lightweight chassis – built from carbon fiber composites – mated to a three-cylinder engine. These two factors combine to create a car that is expected to cut CO2 emissions in half when compared most European cars – which are already far more efficient than their North American cousins. In other words, the T25 should do better than 85 mpg. Click to continue reading »
I like to keep things simple when it comes to greenwashing. I reserve this term for cases of blatant misrepresentation, lack of commitment, conflict in practice, and inconsistency. After a CSR initiative passes the greenwashing test, I examine its magnitude: what is the impact and how can it be improved? I’ll be examining Tropicana’s new “Resscue the Rainforest” campaign by first looking for signs of greenwashing before weighing its social impact. “Rescue the Rainforest” Campaign Tropicana, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., has teamed up with Cool Earth, an international non-governmental organization, to launch the “Rescue the Rainforest,” cause marketing campaign to protect endangered rainforests. This campaign runs through 2009 and with a goal of protecting 15,000 acres in addition to the 5,000 acres that Tropicana is already protecting. Specially marked Tropicana products, such as Tropicana Pure Premium® and Trop50™, will carry an 11-digit code which, when entered on Tropicanarainforest.com/, will protect 100 sq feet of rainforest land for a minimum of three years. There is no limit to how many codes someone can submit and people can enter as individuals or teams. They will also be able to visually track their contribution and watch it grow with a map tool driven by Google Maps. To encourage a little friendly competition, the site prominently displays a leaderboard which displays the top five teams and individuals by square footage. The site has also recently launched a fun flash-based game called Rainforest Rescue where you can lob oranges at loggers. Steve Puma of 3p covers it here.
As conscientious start-ups go, sometimes, efforts at the local level can have a far greater impact than a monolithic high tech project due to the local goodwill they create. Such is the case with Dogpatch Biofuels. Dogpatch is the first B100 biodiesel filling station in San Francisco. Despite having only been in business since December, they’re well on their way to their goal of selling 1000 gallons per day. Dogpatch has teamed up with other biofuels filling stations in the Bay Area to get volume discounts on fuel made from used cooking oil, as well as to share marketing expenditures. Their innovative approach to collaborative marketing saves costs and increases impact: a driver with a diesel car will likely have to fill in other cities, and any new drivers who come into the community will be a boon for every station owner. Click to continue reading »
At this week’s Ceres Conference, Peter Darbee, Chair, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation delivered an inspiring speech. As Darbee sees it, the key to a sustainable future is not technology, but rather working together as a functional, collaborative team, instead of the dysfunctional team that we often are. “We say we want renewable power,” but when push comes to shove people, in Nantucket for example, say “not in my backyard.” Sustainability must be our number one priority, which will involve sacrifices and tradeoffs on all fronts. “We are faced with the greatest challenge mankind has ever faced,” Darbee explained. “We need to work together as a US team and as a world team with vision and values to overcome these great challenges for mankind.” PG&E has sometimes received mixed reviews, but I was encouraged to hear its leader’s bleeding edge sustainable views. “People say [renewable energy] is too expensive, but they don’t have a clue how expensive it will be if we don’t deal with the problem…I know it’s exponentially cheaper to deal with fixing the problem now rather than waiting. That is crazy and reflects that people aren’t very thoughtful.” Darbee described his vision of a bold future: 1. Plug in electric vehicles will be charged at night, and provide energy to the grid during the day 2. A home grid network will allow appliances to interact with each other. A computer will monitor energy prices and control energy accordingly, shifting demand to night when energy is inexpensive 3. Dynamic energy pricing will incentivize energy use when it’s in lower demand 4. Air conditioners will be smart so that they are off during the day and turn on just before you arrive at home 5. The key will be integrating these technologies – each one can save us a lot, but integration will create the real opportunity
At the bottom of a recent New York Times article about China’s burgeoning electric vehicle market, I found quite a few hostile comments. Most seemed to be nationalistic in tone, and questioned why we should rely on China for electric cars when GM, Chrysler and Ford are all developing their own electric cars right now. GM, Chrysler and Ford are all expected to have new electric vehicles in the showrooms within the next 2 to 3 years. And the truth is, if they can keep costs under control, I’m optimistic that demand will be strong. But it is also understandable that some folks are threatened by a potential Chinese electric fleet. Look at it like this…
In the midst of of what many have termed “Philanthropy 2.0,” where nonprofits are harnessing the power of the web to generate awareness and support for their causes, a UK-based mobile services company called mCharity launched to help charities raise new donation revenue, market to potential donors and communicate with existing supporters and fundraisers using mobile technology. With consumers more wired via mobile devices than ever before, and the ability to geo-target and pinpoint consumer touch points using location-based services, it seems a natural segue for charities to go mobile in reaching and retaining new supporters. Currently, mCharity offers services that integrate seamlessly with nonprofits’ existing communications plans, allowing them to tie in promotions for text giving along with their normal print, radio and TV campaigns. The process works much like current text-based services where the donor sends a text message to a special SMS short code number, the donation is included on the user’s phone bill and mCharity collects the money from mobile companies, which it hands over to the charity. As the technology matures, services like this may also aid linking consumers with local volunteer opportunities or facilitating donations through mobile purchasing at popular online retailers. But until then, mCharity, the first dedicated mobile service provider and aggregator 100% focused on enabling UK charities to generate new revenue, is transforming text-based giving, and helping to create a marketplace where change is only a few thumbstrokes away. Click to continue reading »
On a packed night, the action on the dance floor at San Francisco nightclub Temple gets pretty hot. And while that might help make this a popular destination for the city’s clubbers, it bugs the club’s director of sustainability, Mike Zuckerman. After all, the energy the dancers exude is wasted. But that will soon change, because the club is moving forward with its long-planned installation of a new dance floor, complete with piezoelectric energy harvesters that will convert all that bumping and grinding into green energy. It should be plugged in and running on human sweat by September. Zuckerman says that Temple won’t be the first sustainable nightclub to use its dance floor for on-site power generation – there’s one at Club Watt in Rotterdam and there’s another in London, at a club called Surya. But the dance floor is something Paul Hemming, the club’s founder, have been trying to make a reality for many years. It’s one of the elements of Temple – and adjacent businesses Prana restaurant and Zen City Records, which collectively form the Zen Compound – that Hemming first sketched out in a notebook while conceptualizing the business in 2004.
“California’s the place you ought to be,” according to the theme song of the television show The Beverly Hillbillies. Perhaps now North Dakota is the place to be located if you want to start a business. It is one of four states that is not insolvent, and has the only state-owned bank in the U.S., the Bank of North Dakota (BND). Both North Dakota and BND have managed to insulate themselves from the present economic crisis. According to Creighton University’s Economic Outlook, the recession did not begin in North Dakota until January. In fact, North Dakota gained 3,000 jobs between the beginning of the national recession and January. Created in 1919 by the state legislature, BND opened with $2 million capital and today operates with over $160 million of capital. Last month, Mother Jones featured an interview with the president of BND, Eric Hardmeyer. The article pointed out that BND “earned a record profit last year even as private-sector sector corollaries lost billions,” and has over $4 billion under management.
Denis Hayes, President and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, kicked off today’s Ceres Conference in San Francisco with a reminder that no nation can solve climate problems on its own – we must come together as a species because everything is connected. North African dust has been correlated to hurricanes. We have all breathed an atom that was exhaled by Julius Caesar when he said “Et tu Brutus?” Economic bubbles and ecological bubbles Globalization has raised the stakes for both economic and ecological bubbles. “In America bubbles have to do with…delusions that mouse clicks can be monetized, and that my house can double in value every three years,” Hayes explained. But economic bubbles and today’s crisis will end – illiquidity is not irreversible. Ecological bubbles on the other hand are not reversible. Ecological bubbles don’t bounce back. Today’s prices do not reflect ecological realities. We are undermining values of ecosystem services and not including it in our accounting. These costs that are treated as external are larger and more important than internal factors, and they have grown to awesome proportions. “Sooner or later, mother nature will break our kneecaps,” Hayes warned. What should we do? Hayes had three suggestions:
Are things like Tetrapaks and Dannon/Stonyfield yogurt recyclable today? Yes and no. Here’s why: There are a few recycling centers that accept Tetrapaks and yogurt cups, but they are the exception. Most recycling centers do not except these materials, and those that do are so few and far between that only a small percentage of the American population can participate. This creates a few problems: First, companies like Tetrapak and Dannon cannot state on their package that their product is recyclable since there is only service in a few communities. Second, a company like Tetrapak, that has invested millions to build Tetrapak recycling centers, cannot get any credit for their investment and continue to get bad PR for producing a non-recyclable product. The reason this issue exists is that today’s recycling system is a reflection of the lowest common denominator in recycling. While many products are recyclable, the products that actually do get recycled are those for which the process exists in the majority of American recycling centers, and only a small percentage of recyclable plastics are recyclable nationally. There is very little incentive for local independent recycling centers to build the added capability since unless a solution is implemented nationally, the solution doesn’t get national marketing and people don’t get education about the opportunity for a new waste stream (or form of plastic or packaging) to be recycled.
You can’t beat the satisfaction of making the world a cleaner, more pristine place. For this reason, more and more people want green jobs. The more President Obama talks about them, the better they sound. In reality, many of us can have a tremendous impact, without working for a wildlife reserve or a solar energy company. Here are some ways to green your existing job: Start a Game People love competitions, even if it is ultimately for a mundane goal. What department can reduce their electricity use the most or have the largest number of employees commute by bike? How can you replace bottled water consumption with filtered tap water? “We have people here in our offices that are creating contests around printing,” said Matt Arnold, Partner, Pricewaterhouse Coopers in an interview with TriplePundit. “Think about how day-to-day this can get. We are having a contest to see who can print the least, floor by floor, department by department. We are keeping score and it’s a little game. The people that designed it are having a blast and we’re reducing paper consumption.” Click to continue reading »
A recent article for the environmental news site, Grist.org proclaims, “…the trailer park, done right, actually holds great potential as a development model.” If you are thinking this writer is a bit daft, consider a few things about manufactured (mobile) houses. They are built in a factory, then assembled before they are delivered, which reduces the transportation impact on the environment. The construction of site-built homes requires workers to travel to and from the site. Waste is also reduced because it can be collected and used on another site. In short, manufactured houses are more sustainable. Although Sustain MiniHome’s mobile homes are the typical rectangular structure, they are about as different from the typical mobile homes as you can get. The company’s website touts the following features of its manufactured homes: 1. Natural and rapidly renewable materials 2. Non-toxic healthy finishes 3. Passive solar heating 4. Natural ventilation 5. Air-tight construction 6. Tankless boiler/water heater 7. Hybrid energy systems such as solar and wind Click to continue reading »
Though I did do an April Fool’s story about Terracycle’s merging with Scotts Miracle Gro that got several alarmed phone calls/emails there, I promise this interview with their CEO and book author Tom Szaky is genuine. Enjoy.
It’s not often that the author of a book tells you he wants more people tearing off the cover, but that’s just what Tom Szaky, CEO of Terracycle and author of Revolution In A Bottle, wants. This surprisingly has not been well covered in reviews says Szaky. It’s a bit hard to miss, with orange ink inside drawing your attention to what turns out to be a makeshift envelope when turned inside out. Then you send back Bear Naked Granola packaging, to be made into kites and umbrellas. It’s a perfect example of Terracycle’s driving motivation – making the making of more planet friendly choices simple and easy to do, at an identical or cheaper price then the toxic conventional options. The origin stories of startups are frequently interesting, but it’s safe to say that few business ideas were started because of marijuana. At least not the cultivation of it. Legally. But it was exactly this, specifically a plant named Marley, that Terracycle founder Tom Szaky witnessed first hand the effectiveness of worm based compost, or “woom poop” as he (in)famously refers to it. Szaky, an accidental green business superhero as it turns out, clearly has a knack for telling memorable, effective stories, and as he shares in his advice to would be eco entrepreneurs, it’s a large part of what’s carried Terracycle so far. As is staying firm to seeing things in a different, sometimes unpopular way.
Ever since the current financial crisis began, Nicholas Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, has been everywhere. His astute and irreverent analysis of why human psychology is ill-equipped to deal with very unlikely yet very impactful events has captured the attention of many who are searching for answers in uncertain times. Mr. Taleb is in the headlines again with a Financial Times opinion piece entitled Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world, which lists some principles for preparing for, avoiding, and dealing with these unlikely events. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “black swan” is any event which can have an extremely large impact, but is so unlikely to occur that it is considered impossible. According to Wikipedia: “The term Black Swan comes from the assumption that ‘All swans are white.’ In that context, a black swan was a metaphor for something that could not exist. The 17th Century discovery of black swans in Australia metamorphosed the term to connote that the perceived impossibility actually came to pass.”
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