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For the last few months my inbox has been filled with chatter about the stimulus bill and how those of us in sustainable business circles can take advantage of it. At last week’s Clean Tech Forum, entire panels were dedicated to discussing the implications of the stimulus bill for clean tech investors and entrepreneurs. Everyone wants to know if the stimulus bill will provide funding for clean tech projects, and if so, how they can get their hands on it.
This line of thinking only makes sense. Free-flowing money represents a light at the end of the tunnel in bleak economic times. For aspiring entrepreneurs, the possibility of receiving start-up funding from the government seems like a no-brainer: why wouldn’t I do everything in my power to gear my projects toward those that make me eligible for free money? Here’s why:
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Each day I become more aware of how critical our water problems are becoming – the availability of water has profound implications for our health, productivity, and economic development, all of which will flounder in the absence of clean drinking water. Currently, 20% of the world’s population lives without enough water. Last week’s Clean Tech Forum was a chance for clean tech companies addressing this and other problems to “to fund and be funded” as 3p’s Jen Boynton pointed out. One of the many exciting ventures present at the forum was Cardinal Resources, whose Red Bird System can provide clean water affordably to communities around the world.
The Red Bird is a solar powered water treatment system that uses no more than salt, sand, and sun to produce clean water for a fraction of a penny per gallon. It functions without pre-existing infrastructure, and can therefore be used in remote and rural communities globally, where clean water is needed most. One Red Bird System can provide for an entire community. The Red Bird can use water from a variety of sources, and can be set up in just a few days to provide water that meets US standards.
When I first heard about earthcycle, recent competitor for “Most promising investment opportunity” at last week’s Clean Tech Forum I was initially impressed. Their flagship products are produce packaging made from palm fiber, the remainders of palm fruit harvesting, which would otherwise be burnt.
But after mentioning it on Twitter, I was quickly reminded that Palm fruit planting and harvesting have a not so sustainable history, and according to Scientific American,
Today palm oil production is the largest cause of deforestation in Indonesia and other equatorial countries with dwindling expanses of tropical rainforest.
Fortunately, that’s not the case across the board.Click to continue reading »
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Last week, I wrote a piece about two recent reviews of the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Essentially, I was questioning the positive coverage, as most of it, in my opinion, seemed a bit lacking in substance.
However, looking back, I realized I may have come off as a sort of Ford-basher. And that was not my intention.
To give you an example of what I mean, in the previous article, I referenced a Car & Driver review of the Fusion hybrid, that indicated a 34 mpg fuel economy when given a 300-mile test run. This is not impressive for a hybrid, or even for a non-hybrid in some instances. What I did not reference, however, was the EPA rating, which is actually 41 mpg city/ 36 mpg highway. For the sake of objectivity, this should have been included, and I regret that it wasn’t.
So when I found out that Ford was running an interactive webcast, I jumped at the chance to cover it. I figured this would give me an opportunity to ask some questions and ultimately provide you with more well-rounded coverage of the company’s latest hybrid offering.
One of the biggest challenges for many nonprofits is exposure and generating mass awareness of their cause. But the Internet has begun to change the way in which charitable organizations promote their efforts and can serve as an important vehicle for spreading their message worldwide. By allowing them an opportunity to interact directly with consumers in a meaningful way, nonprofits can cultivate cause champions and reach untapped areas of the market to advance their efforts. Beaconfire, a web development and interactive marketing firm located in Arlington, VA, is focused on just that, working in tandem with nonprofits to make a difference in the world and create a thriving network of cyber-fueled consciousness.
Specializing solely in the non-profit sector, Beaconfire understands the subtleties and nuances of the space, including the financial and resource limitations that charitable organizations face. As such, they offer their services at discounted rates, and share their knowledge and learnings with non-profit staff to help expand their arsenal of tools and become self-sufficient in key areas. Their business model is simply to make a difference, and with that in focus, every activity is centered around change, not profit, and how their services can help spark that change. For Michael Cervino, Vice President and Co-Founder, making a modest profit that produces significant impact is more important than a big bottom line with little results. Through an unwavering dedication to that goal, Beaconfire aims to shine a light on nonprofits to guide growth, awareness and action. And that’s a karmic check worth cashing.
You can meet the folks behind Beaconfire at SXSW Interactive from March 13-17 in ‘The Beacon Lounge,’ a lounge with a conscience, bringing together conscious entrepreneurs and companies to collaborate and network toward a common goal. Room 19A, 4th Floor, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX. Click to continue reading »
Finding the capital necessary to take what looks like a great product from the ‘garage’ or university lab to the marketplace is difficult during the best of times. In today’s environment, clean energy and technology entrepreneurs could probably identify even more with Tantalus, the character from Greek myth always striving to reach, but never able to grasp, the fruit hanging above his head.
That’s where so-called ‘angel’ investors, such as the CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund, step in. When it comes to financing a ‘seed stage’ clean tech or renewable energy venture “there’s a gap that can stretch anywhere from half-a-million to $6 million or so dollars…
“When you talk to these companies in this area you hear that it’s really tough to raise money… Angels sort of fill the gap between friends, family and the founder and providing more substantial amounts of capital,” Susan Preston, the angel fund investing ‘guru’ who is now leading the CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund team, explained to Triple Pundit.
At Power Shift ’09 this weekend, 12,000 young activists converged in Washington, DC, for green-minded revelry and impassioned rabble-rousing. It was capped on Monday by an snowy protest at a DC coal-fired power plant, where protestors donning green hard hats chanted “no more coal” and prepared for arrest by blocking the plant’s entrance (as of press time, no arrests have been reported).
Clearly, Obama’s youth base hasn’t lost its political energy, nor its desire for change. In fact, both seem to be gaining momentum. Meanwhile, it seems as though there’s also a shift afoot in the focus of our brightest, youngest minds. There are fewer stories about new social media platforms started by wunderkinds in their dorm rooms and more about young scientists developing promising new forms of alternative energy systems.
Here’s one good example: Shawn Frayne. He went from studying physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to helping convert agricultural waste into fuel in Haiti, to founding his own company to develop and sell cheap wind-based energy. And he’s not even 30 yet.
There’s been lots of talk about the smart grid lately, and all that it can do for improving energy efficiency and increasing our use of renewables.
From smart meters to real-time two-way communication with utilities, smart grid technologies are shaping up to be integral parts of a futuristic grid–a much needed makeover for our quickly aging and inadequate system.
At a Piper Jaffray cleantech conference a few weeks ago, a special session was dedicated to the topic. Not one of the panel members had the same definition of what, exactly, a smart grid consists of, and that’s perfectly acceptable at this point.
What they did agree on, however, was one thing: the need for increased transmission.Click to continue reading »
Bad Economy, Cleaner Clothes? A Surprising Upside of the Global Economic Crisis for Rural China’s Air Quality.
By Kathleen E. McLaughlin – GlobalPost
TAIYUAN, China – The residents of Taiyuan measure their air pollution in dirty clothes.
In years past, when China’s boom created endless demand for this area’s coal, iron and steel, a white shirt stayed fresh only a few hours, turning black around the collar and sleeves before day’s end. When the government shut down hundreds of factories in and around Taiyuan ahead of the Olympics last year, clean shirts began to last two days. Now, six months into an economic slowdown that has snuffed demand for power and metals from China’s furnace, a man’s suit can stay crisp for three days without laundering.
“I don’t need to do so much laundry these days,” said Zhao Jihong, a 25-year-old environmentalist who works to encourage local companies to adopt pollution controls.
If there is a bright spot amid the global economic slump for China, it may be in the air – and in the water and soil. Dramatically slowed production in recent months has meant less pollution. In notoriously filthy places like Taiyuan, the capital of China’s coal country, that means more relatively blue skies and healthier breathing.
Whether you’re looking to change the world or want a career in an industry that’s only going to get bigger, solar may be for you. Along with wind, geothermal, and other clean tech industries, solar literally produces the power to change the world.
According to a 2008 economic study by Navigant Consulting, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008′s extension of solar tax credits through 2016 will lead to some 440,000 permanent jobs and $232 billion in investment. Greenjobs.com is even more optimistic, predicting that the solar sector could employ two million people by 2020: 60 percent in manufacturing and installation, 20 percent in sales and marketing, and 20 percent in engineering. And a report by the American Solar Energy Society and Management Information Services suggests the overall renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors could generate 37 million jobs by 2030, though solar will be a subset of that larger number.
Enterprise software industry leader SAP intends to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions from its worldwide operations by 51% by 2020 — the equivalent of 513,000 metric tons of CO2 — as compared to the 2007 baseline it has established. Doing so would bring emissions down to the 250,000-metric ton level of 2000.
The GHG abatement drive is part of a broader, organization-wide sustainability initiative that extends out to customers and supply chain partners by offering a range of information technology and services designed to help organizations reduce their carbon footprint.
SAP is using software solutions it has developed to monitor and manage its direct and indirect CO2 and GHG emissions, as well as those of its supply chain partners according to the criteria set out in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an internationally used carbon accounting tool.
For some, giving back is a personal experience, finding small ways to positively impact the world in their daily lives. For others, it’s part of their business mission, using profits to contribute to charitable organizations and causes. And for one unique individual, Maggie Keenan, Ed.D., it’s her profession and life’s work to provide philanthropic strategies that teach businesses effective ways of giving back that benefit their communities — and the world — in authentic and actionable ways.
Through her work at Giving Advice™, Maggie guides businesses through a Six Step Giving IMPACT Strategy model™ to provide a blueprint and giving strategy that is personalized for each client. Her focus and determination helps businesses make stronger and more synergistic connections between their business and causes, and she has attracted clients all over the world through her passion and vision for what she sees possible for their contribution to the world. With an uncanny ability to connect ideas, people and causes, Maggie sees opportunities all around for anyone that desires to be a force for change. Click to continue reading »
By Steven Tiell
Most Americans can describe ways they are being screwed by the economic and political decisions our government is making. No matter which recovery or bailout plan you consider, there are significant flaws, and we’re left trying to figure out which option will screw us the least. This doesn’t leave us much hope for a stable future.
But what if there’s a way we can treat this current calamity as an opportunity to regain control of our monetary systems and provide hope for a secure, sustainable future for generations to come?
Looking at the current crisis, we can see the wagons circling around nationalization – or “temporary nationalization.” After all, this is what Sweden did and they managed a relatively quick recovery, albeit with an economy a mere 2.5% the size of ours and with only a handful of banks. Nationalization is basically what happens when the FDIC takes over a bank – this bankruptcy for a bank is called an “intervention.” The FDIC does it all the time for retail banks and there’s a neat and orderly process for everything. The problem is, however, we’ve never “intervened” with our investment banks – just the retail ones. Most investment banks are huge and their transactions can be measured in terms of the GDP. Many argue that these banks are simply too big to fail and that is why our government has been pumping money into them.
The American electricity grid is a century old. There are approximately 157,000 miles of high voltage electric transmission lines in the U.S.. Since 1990, electricity demand has increased 25 percent, but construction of power plants has decreased 30 percent. As the Department of Energy (DOE) states, the biggest challenge for electric distribution is “responding to rapidly changing customer needs for electricity.” Enter a smart grid.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) defines a smart grid as an “improved electricity supply chain that runs from a major power plant all the way inside your home.” A smart grid provides many benefits, according to the DOE, including:
1. Relieve transmission congestion
2. Relax transmission reliability limits
3. Transmission capital deferral
4. Substation peak load and backup
5. Voltage support
6. Reliability enhancement
Part of a series of posts by John Gartner of Matter Network:
While the federal government is engaged in an overhaul of the banking industry, e3bank wants to redefine how banks interact with their customers.
The bank, to be headquartered in suburban Philadelphia (Malvern), will actively encourage its customers to live sustainably by offering preferential rates on green investments. E3bank chairman Sandy Wiggins says lending based on the sustainability of a project is “a powerful opportunity to leverage change [that] was sorely needed.”
Wiggins, who worked in real estate for 30 years, had a sustainable “awakening” in 1996 that led him to commit to building green. His adherence to the triple bottom line principle led him to become chair of the U.S. Green Building Council.
After leaving the post he was contemplating retirement, but got a call from veteran banker Frank J. Baldassarre, who is now e3bank’s President and CEO. Though never imagined working in the financial industry, he signed on with the company in 2008.
The bank’s principles, which tout the goals of enterprise, environment and social equity, are evident in their lending guidelines, which give preferential treatment to loans for green projects. Wiggins says finance rates for a loan will be reduced as projects reach higher levels of sustainability. For example, as a new building or retrofit attains higher levels of LEED certification (silver, gold and platinum), the interest rate drops.