Terracycle Quits Worm Poop Business, Merges with Miracle Gro

| Wednesday April 1st, 2009 | 16 Comments

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Tom%20Szaky%20Terracycle.jpegTerracycle, the company made famous for its gardening products made from “worm poop” and packaged in previously used soda bottles, has decided to take a radical shift in their business model, merging with Scotts Miracle-Gro, and will be producing a mostly synthetic line of plant food made from a petroleum based formulation, citing the under utilization of it in automobiles leading to a plentiful “waste” stream of unused source.
Asked why they chose to do this, the characteristically loquacious CEO, Tom Szaky, initially had no comment. But with some prodding, he had this to say:

In line with our focus on being distributed in big box stores, we were tired of fighting off the multiple lawsuits from Scotts, and thought, why not make money from working with them rather than spending it against them?

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Emerging Solar Technologies Flex Their Market Strength

| Tuesday March 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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By Paul Detering
Technology development in the solar industry continues to accelerate at an unprecedented rate. Over $3 billion was invested in new companies and technologies in 2008 alone, and investments in solar have doubled every year for the last five years.
Manufacturers of traditional photovoltaic (PV) panels continue to drive improved efficiencies, inverter manufacturers boast higher reliability, and as in the case of micro-inverters even offer a different take on older technology– producing AC current at the panel or string level. A variety of innovative new thin film technologies and material systems are also emerging with the potential to offer unprecedented new and lower cost structures. Entrepreneurs are addressing the balance of system as well–looking for ways to reduce costs and accelerate the deployment of PV systems while also increasing quality and reliability.
All of this investment is aimed at reaching renewable energy’s holy grail– grid party, the point at which solar power becomes less expensive than traditional polluting sources of energy. The Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for solar is rapidly closing in on traditional power due to increasing fuel costs for carbon-based energy sources joined with the introduction of new technologies reducing total solar system costs.

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Empowering (and Recruiting) Future Leaders

Scott Cooney | Tuesday March 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

FLI2_1.jpgA month ago, I attended a Pitch-A-Thon the Future Leaders Institute (FLI) hosted in which students pitched their ideas for building a better tomorrow and received feedback from community leaders (respondents) in the sustainability and social change fields. FLI challenges students to research and identify societal problems, and come up with a plan for how to address them through efforts in their classroom and their community.

I sat, somewhat stupefied, as student after student 20 years my junior took the stage and gave a powerpoint presentation about problems as diverse as Darfur and melting polar ice caps, and tangible solutions they could help enact in their own community. I couldn’t help but think that my own career in the green business community would have started 10 years earlier had I only had a FLI of my own where I grew up. Each respondent was matched with four students for purposes of giving them feedback, and I honestly felt that despite a pretty substantial resume as a green business author, a sustainability consultant, and serial ecopreneur, I should be the one taking feedback–from Eve Cowen, Executive Director of FLI, for what she’s been able to accomplish.

Van Jones recently recommended Cowen for the prestigious Harold J. McGraw (of McGraw-Hill fame) Prize in Education. I’ve learned to listen to Jones, and when he says that the FLI “can no longer be education reform’s best kept secret”, and that we need to create far more evangelists so the promotion can be done by and from many angles, I make a mental note to help FLI spread its mission (and later, write a blog post about it).

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Sustainability and Value Creation: Investors Are Paying Attention

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday March 31st, 2009 | 1 Comment

Sustainability%20Investing.jpg These days, it’s not just about following the money. More importantly, it’s also about finding the best way to find the money that’s out there while making the process more visible and transparent. That’s a tall order for companies trying to do the right thing on the sustainability front while delving into the murky world of finance and investment for funding, which by its very nature is prone to opaqueness, complexity, and secrecy. Simply put it’s tough to reach investors even in a solid financial and economic environment. So dotting the i’s on sustainability is becoming a crucial piece of the funding puzzle.
That’s where the Global Reporting Initiative, an Amsterdam non-profit, enters the picture. It has developed a framework for disclosure on environmental, social, and governance data – also known as ESG disclosures or sustainability reporting – and in a report this week says that companies that fail to link their sustainability reporting and activities to an overall corporate strategy likely will fail to connect with investors.

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FedEx Blogging: Starting the Conversation

| Tuesday March 31st, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Markets are conversations. So explains the famous Cluetrain Manifesto which continues:

…learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.

A corporate blog, if done properly, can bring back the kind of real human voice that companies have forgotten about over the last generation. If a CEO can blog casually and uninhibitedly (as Jeffrey Hollender does so well for Seventh Generation), or if employees are empowered and encouraged to participate as themselves in blogging and discussions (as the Zappos team does so well) then the result will likely be more honest, more productive dialogue between all stakeholders.
Generally, the larger the company the more inertia, so I’m impressed to see FedEx has a corporate blog. I’m even more impressed at the quality of voice and the variety of subjects and authors featured.

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“Find the Farmer” Helps Consumer Connect Flour Back to Farms

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday March 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

find_farmer.pngThe closest most of us get to the farmers that grow our food is when we’re on our way to somewhere other than their farms – as we cruise down highways and byways adjacent to their acreage. But there’s a movement afoot that would make Farmer John less of a stranger. And by making the supply chain that serves up our meals more transparent, we might just end up with safer food. That’s the hope, anyway.
Pistachios are just the latest food in a long string of safety recalls in the last few years, indicating that our massive food-processing industrial complex has some major gaps in safety. What if wheat – the building block of so many of the foods we eat – became tainted? It could sicken or kill millions of consumers. In an effort to prevent such a lapse in safety, Stone-Buhr flour has launched Find the Farmer, a website that allows consumers to (virtually) meet the farmer responsible for the bag of flour of a special “Washington White” product they’ve taken home, by logging onto findthefarmer.com and keying in the lot code printed on the bag.

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Tesla’s Model S: Beginning of the End for the Big Three?

Steve Puma | Tuesday March 31st, 2009 | 12 Comments

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Last week, electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors made headlines with the unveiling of its long-anticipated Model S sedan. The elegantly-styled four-door hatchback has some extremely impressive statistics. As a matter of fact, the stats are so good that it makes me wonder if this could be the beginning of the end for the Big Three. While Ford, GM ,and Chrysler are mired in government bailouts and don’t appear to be offering much in the way of real change, it looks like Tesla is about to prove that it can not only build a niche sports car for an elite few, but can build one that is much more mainstream.

The annoucement of the new Tesla sports sedan had pundits from across the interweb gushing abut its sleek styling, range, charging times, and cargo capacity. The car sports smooth, aerodynamic curves, with a look reminiscent of high-end BMWs or Mercedes.

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Austin to Pilot Daimler’s “car2go” City Car Share Program

| Monday March 30th, 2009 | 2 Comments

car2goaustin.jpg Might cities one day close their streets off to personal vehicles, instead running or providing fleets of high-efficiency compacts, plug-ins and electric vehicles through third-party providers on a pay-as-you-go basis? That may not be such a far-fetched idea.
Cities around the country are trying to come to grips with traffic congestion and all the emissions, heat, noise and safety issues associated with personal vehicle use.
Mayors around the country have committed to the Clean Cities program, and federal agencies have just released funding to support energy efficiency and emissions reduction efforts promised by recently passed “green” stimulus legislation.
The issue is also attracting interest from the private sector, both from outside and within the auto industry, including the likes of Germany’s Daimler AG.

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Jet Blue’s Jab at Corporate Excess Works

| Monday March 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Corporate sustainability is about more than just environmental concerns. It’s also about creating a livable, open, and creative corporate environment – for both customers and those inside the company. Though it might be a silly advertising stunt, Jet Blue’s recent online campaign is more than just hilarious. It’s effective and catchy, likely boosts internal morale and positions the company as a free thinking innovator (if you’re a Jet Blue employee feel free to pipe in).
The ad campaign,Welcome Big Wigs, is a series of videos featuring a snooty corporate exec teaching others how to fly coach for the first time. In light of the endless corporate scandals and excess of the past few years, his faux attitude may be less preposterous than that of some our real corporate players. Needless to say, it’s partly such outrageous, myopic attitudes that have landed our economy in its current state.
Amazingly, the National Business Aviation Association (who represent private, general aviation travel) felt compelled to write a scathing letter insisting that Jet Blue pull the campaign on the grounds that it maligned their industry out of context.
Pity the big wigs. If today’s CEOs can’t take a joke, then we’re in worse trouble than I thought.

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Green, Affordable Housing Faces a New Financing Challenge

| Monday March 30th, 2009 | 3 Comments

GreenHome.jpgAffordable housing projects face enough challenges of their own without the added challenge of making them green. And yet, low-income families face a greater challenge from the burden of housing costs – the more families have to spend on maintaining a home reduces the amount they can spend on other basic necessities. Green features such as increased insulation, energy efficient appliances, and renewable energy systems can have a major impact on reducing the energy burden for low-income families. So how do we overcome the challenges of affordable housing to incorporate these green features?
Financing is one of the major barriers to affordable housing projects. Affordable housing projects cost the same to build as market-rate housing, but are priced below the market value in order to meet the needs of lower income families. As a result, developers do not get the same return for an affordable housing project, which encourages some developers to skimp on features such as energy efficiency or renewable energy.
Luckily, there are several government (federal, state, and local) programs that help to bridge the financing gap. Many of these programs are now incorporating energy efficiency standards into the eligibility requirements for these projects. There are also some emerging programs that directly address green features and renewable energy for affordable housing projects. In researching green affordable housing, I’ve come across some of these innovative programs.

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Peter’s Path: Making Philanthropy Fashionable

| Monday March 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Most companies who engage in for-profit philanthropy add that element in later as a reaction to consumer demand or to remain viable in a a market that’s shifting toward corporate consciousness and social responsibility. Few are created with the sole intent of giving back. And fewer still forge a personal connection with consumers and causes, which is essential for building brand loyalty and making a sustainable impact. But Peters Path, an online clothing and accessory store, was built primarily as a vehicle for doing good — not only through monetary donations, but with a staff who is dedicated to committing time and resources to help nonprofits advance their missions.
Founded by Christine Peters, the goal of Peters Path is to promote conscious consumerism by transforming retail purchases that consumers already make into ongoing charitable activities. In addition to their efforts to support organic products and reduce their carbon footprint by running an eco-friendly business, they give consumers a choice as to where the proceeds of their purchase will go, creating a personal tie to the cause, and a reason to return to keep their selected charity thriving. In an oversaturated space where retail shopping is a primary activity, Peters Path has found a way to rise above the clutter and make meaningful connections with users, proving that doing good is always in fashion.

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GM CEO Resigns Opening the Door to Innovation in the Showroom

| Monday March 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment

jetsons.jpgIt’s time for GM shake up its business model. Over the past few months the headlines have been filled with news about the big US automakers, their desperate situation and their inability to turn a profit. This is quite laughable for those of us on the green side of the spectrum, given that the US automakers have fought for 20 years against increased fuel efficiency standards and now no one wants to buy their bloated cars. Another great example of bullheadedness is GM’s missed opportunity to leap ahead of the competition with the EV1. GM has dragged its heels with every opportunity to change its business model and actually produce something consumers want to buy. It’s time for this behemoth to stop thinking about itself merely as a car manufacturer and start thinking of itself as a transportation company with all the flexibility of product and service offerings that implies.

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What Does the White House Organic Garden Mean to the Green Economy?

Scott Cooney | Monday March 30th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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Two sets of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) had made public campaigns calling on Barack Obama to rip out part of the expansive White House lawn and plant an organic garden. Dan Simon and Casey Gustowarow championed the WHOFarm (White House Organic Farm) Project, while Amanda Fuller and Justin Mog (RPCV-Paraguay) created their campaign around Obama’s campaign slogan, referring to it as a “Hope Garden.” Michael Pollan, author of several books about sustainable food systems (Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food), advocated for the garden as well as a “symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture.”
It was not an unprecedented suggestion: Eleanor Roosevelt’s World War II Victory Garden is well known, and started millions of Americans gardening. Less well known is that Woodrow Wilson allowed sheep to graze and fertilize the White House lawn to save resources during WWI and that John Adams had a vegetable garden at the White House in 1800.
Though we’re not in a World War right now, it can be argued that we are fighting for our very survival with economic and environmental perils everywhere we turn. As Obama himself mentioned:

Our agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the meantime, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices… huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity…

The bottom line is that Obama gets it, and knows that a White House organic garden can be a terrific catalyst for change.

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Van Jones Wins Aspen Institute Environment Award for Individual Thought Leadership

| Sunday March 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments


More on Van Jones and the Aspen Institute:
Van Jones Chosen as Obama’s “Green Jobs Czar”
Van Jones to be Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Van Jones’ Last Unvetted Speech
Green Collar Jobs: Van Jones on the Colbert Report
Aspen Institute Forum: Powering the Planet: Energy for then Long Run

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Friday March 27th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Tide.jpgProctor and Gamble Doubles their 2015 Sustainability Goals With Bounce, Cheer, Zest and Luv(s), Procter and Gamble announced a commitment to double its per-unit reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation and water and energy consumption by 2012 from 10% reductions to 20%, as part of an effort to make its environmental goals more robust. Swiffer!
blog-landfill-new.jpgGross! National Trash? Joel Makower has a feature this week on the importance of developing a metric for measuring our national trash production… mm-hmm… Gross National Trash.
wood%20pallets.JPGThree Big Businesses Say Good-Bye to Wooden Pallets Tropicana,Gatorade, and Quaker have all committed to recyclable plastic pallets. While that doesn’t seem like a big deal from an environmental point of view, the plastic pallets are 30% lighter than wood, reducing the carbon impact of the shipment, and when they get banged up, they can be recycled directly into new pallets– no downcyling! Side business benefits of the switch include: fewer lost shipments (the plastic pallets are embedded with RFID tags to monitor shipments) and fewer refused shipments because there are fewer safety hazards like exposed nails and broken wood.
Verizon Jumps on Energy Management Bandwagon With it’s routers already in your home, Verizon has realized that they have a ready entry into the energy management business. They’ll soon be able to broadcast information about your energy usage as well as power your devices off remotely. Next, I would like them to fix it so my mother and I an have fewer one way conversations due to dropped calls.
think-electric-car.jpgToyota Starts Hybrid Price War With the economy in shambles and car buyers looking sheepishly at their bank accounts when considering a hybrid purchase, Toyota announced this week that it is developing a low-cost hybrid version of the Yaris, designed to directly compete with the Honda Insight.
Finally, here at 3P we had a busy week! We covered AT&T’s holistic approach to sustainability
, Exxon’s environmental improvements in the 20 years since the 1989 oil spill, a London utility company offering carbon bonuses to employees, and whether or not “sustainable golf course” is an oxymoron.
Until next week!

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