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If I offered you a “green” cell phone for sale, what would you expect? Would you expect it to be made with recyclable or biodegradable thermoplastics? Would you expect it to come with a minimum of toxic heavy metals, or low-strength radio waves? What about the programs on it – would you expect the phone to tell you how to live a “greener” lifestyle?
Or would you think I was just schlocking another flip phone painted some ugly green color?
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Gone are the days that we have to use toxic ingredients to build our homes and work-spaces. Lifecrete offers a new alternative for construction materials, one that ticks the boxes on the sustainability front for both a product and business model. But what does Lifecrete offer to make this choice attractive for builders and consumers?
In today’s building industry, going ¬®green¬® is paramount. In 2007, the National Association of Home Builders reported that 90% of builders incorporated green elements into their projects, reflecting a trend that we all want to live — or at least strive to live — more sustainable lives. But much of the green elements incorporated into construction are secondary aspects, such as solar panels, water management systems, or energy-saving white goods, and little has been done regarding the actual building shell.
As well, many green construction products are damaging to the environment, using the tag ¬®energy efficient¬® to grab consumer attention but utilizing such elements as toxic plastic sealers, chemical conditioners, Styrofoam, and traditional concrete, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas. LifeCrete changes this trend, bringing to the market an affordable choice in masonry, the LifeBlock, that is a genuinely green product.
Also known as the stimulus package, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), along with Van Jones‘ appointment as Green Jobs Czar, will help American workers get back to work with job training and incentives for green initiatives. The subject has been well covered in the blogosphere and with good reason. Interest in the green economy is at an all time high, while employment is at…well, it’s not good.
But there’s a piece of the equation that’s missing. What happens when all of those people get trained, weatherize 60 million homes and offices, and the green work starts to dry up? We’d be missing a tremendous opportunity if we didn’t take this process one step further: help these people become independent by providing them the tools they need to start their own business and be successful in the green economy.
Right now, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has no programs designed to help small business owners go green. No advisory councils, no tax incentive worksheets specifically for eco-friendly initiatives, and no loan specialists who focus on the green market. I started a petition to Karen Mills, Administrator of the SBA. I’d encourage everyone not to just sign it, but to take this message further.
Without green businesses to continue the momentum of the current interest in green, the ARRA risks being just a stimulus bill. Barack Obama and the Democrats would be wise not to let that happen, as that is likely to be the greatest criticism of the bill after the dust settles.
No agency has more potential for being a catalyst for a green overhaul on our economy than the SBA, as half a million Americans start businesses every year in the U.S. However, after a thorough search of the SBA site, I could find nothing related to helping businesses go green, so I started calling the agency, getting passed from person to person until I was passed to something called the ‘advocacy’ group. I began by asking one of the advisors how he felt the SBA might work with Van Jones to help create the green transition. After a few moments, there was a pregnant pause in the air, so I stopped, not knowing what I had said wrong.
“Who is Van Jones?” he asked.
So what would a greener SBA look like? Glad you asked…
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Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the nation’s worst oil spill. It was on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude into the fishing waters of Prince William Sound. It was a tragic day, indeed.
I know, I know. It’s not popular these days to “bring everyone down” with reminders of those pesky oil spills. With energy security a major issue, and years of mocking those who think it’s a good idea to consider the loss of natural capital associated with the production and burning of fossil fuels, we’ve almost become immune to oil spills – writing them off as simply “the cost of doing business.”
So let’s examine that cost, shall we?
Taken at face value, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) seems like an organization with a selfless goal.
On its website, the entity describes itself as "a group of businesses and leading environmental organizations that have come together to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."
I’ll stop short of calling it sinister, but there is certainly more going on here than meets the eye.
Here’s the nitty-gritty on the USCAP, including details on the policy they’re trying to stay ahead of.Click to continue reading »
Despite the credit crisis, 2008 will be remembered in the solar industry as a year where federal incentives were enhanced and extended for eight years. This ends the boom and bust cycles that have plagued the industry for decades. Click to continue reading »
Pre-fabricated, low-cost bamboo housing to meet growing demand in Latin America. Climate forecasting designed to help business mitigate the impacts of environmental changes on their firms. A text-messaging service that acts as a bulletin board for taxi-sharing. These are just a few of the 300 entries received in the Financial Times Climate Change Challenge, a competition designed to spur carbon-cutting innovations (and sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and Forum for the Future).
The judging panel, which includes business tycoons (Sir Richard Branson, HP CEO Mark Hurd, Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy) as well as policy and research experts from groups such as the Pew Center, MIT, and Forum for the Future) has whittled the list down to five contestants, from which it will pluck a winner on April 3. The winner gets $75,000 to help develop their product or service and bring it to market. But you get to help pick the winner, too, by voting on FT.com. Here are your options:
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California is in its third year of drought. Last summer Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a State of Emergency Proclamation for the San Joaquin Valley’s nine counties, an area considered to be the agricultural center of the world. Schwarzenegger characterized the drought as the “the most significant water crisis” in the state’s history. The drought has left state reservoir’s at 35 percent capacity.
Recently, Good Magazine posted information about where Los Angeles gets its water. Not surprisingly, none of the city’s water is locally sourced. A major source of its water is the Owens River-Tinemaha Reservoir, 133 miles away in Owens Valley. The water in the Owens River- Tinemaha Reservoir comes from
the State Water Project, a 444 mile-long water system which begins in Northern California.
The Algae Biofuels World Summit is taking place in San Francisco this week. The first day’s pre-conference briefing on Monday provided a thorough and clear-eyed look at the current state of algae for biofuels, and the challenges the infant industry faces to scale operations from the level of an experimental “boutique” fuel to an economically viable component of a national fuel energy strategy.
Of the many reoccurring themes throughout the day, one was of the general misperception of algae biofuel – often that it is cheap and easy, a panacea for all our carbon fuel problems.
We should dispense with that now – economically scalable production of biofuels from algae will not be cheap, easy, or a total solution for anything. And totally worth it, if done right.Click to continue reading »
Gavin Starks, CEO of AMEE (a platform that seeks to, quite literally, measure all the energy data in the world), followed SF Mayor Newsom this morning on stage, to kick off the GreenNet09 gathering of tech oriented change agents.
AMEE is a great and obvious idea – after all, if any company, government, NGO, or your Aunt Marge wants to collect meaningful data related to energy or emissions on a global scale, the data has to be standardized in a way that allows you compare it to the data of others. More importantly – anyone seeking to mitigate the risk of climate change needs access to reliable data to understand if they’re moving in the right direction or spinning their wheels.
But what caught my attention this morning was not just the common sense of what AMEE provide, it was the passion and deep urgency in Stark’s delivery. Take a look at the image above – my favorite slide from this morning’s presentation – which has less to do with AMEE and more to do with the greater costs of taking little or no action to the planetary and climactic threats at our doorstep.
Incidentally, AMEE stands for “Avoiding Mass Extinction Engine”. Now we’re talking. Click to continue reading »
Only one out of 10 companies actively manage their supply chain carbon footprints, and about one-third have no idea what level of emissions come from their supply networks.
Greening the supply chain has been a buzz-phrase in the logistics and transportation sectors for some time now. The idea is that by creating sustainable supply chains long-term cost savings, environmental benefits and greater reliability will follow.
It turns out that it’s somewhat more complicated, falling squarely into the “easier-said-than-done” and “window-dressing” categories. That’s because manufacturer supply chains and the rise of global outsourcing have made their chains longer, increasingly complex and difficult to monitor along each link, from supplier to manufacturer to transport, warehousing and distribution.
Now the global recession is weakening green chain links even further, according to Accenture, the global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm.
Op-ed by Gwen Ruta, Environmental Defense Fund
With today’s economy in such dire straits, it’s understandable that some executives are asking, “Can we afford to go green?” Recent examples would indicate that they can’t afford not to.
At its most basic level, pollution is waste, and on the corporate budget sheet, waste is red ink. Now that companies are looking to save every penny, environmental initiatives present a truly strategic opportunity.
At networking technology titan Cisco Systems, an Environmental Defense Fund internship program helped Cisco engineers develop plans for a new energy-efficiency device that would save an estimated $8 million per year in Cisco’s R&D labs. And the early results of an Environmental Defense Fund “green portfolio” partnership with KKR, the giant private equity firm, unearthed $16 million in annual savings from measures that included reducing truck fuel usage at US Foodservice, cutting paper consumption at Primedia, and improving material use at Sealy.
While smart businesses are cutting costs and improving efficiency to increase profitability, they are also putting themselves ahead of the curve when it comes to our energy future. Click to continue reading »
Many of the questions that come up in any philanthropically-motivated campaign center around what percentage of sales actually go toward the selected charity, and if that amount is significant enough to make an impact on the cause. Usually, it’s only a few cents per transaction on small ticket retail goods. While every penny helps, in order to generate a measurable difference, more sizable proceeds need to reach the charity, making it imperative that the effort is seamlessly integrated with the transaction and turnkey enough to maximize donations. And above all, the contribution should fit the price tag.
Brokers for Charity, a consortium of real estate professionals committed to giving back, understands this concept, and has created a well orchestrated solution for linking home buyers with reputable agents that benefits the world and their bottom line. Other than a yacht or Learjet, there are few bigger ticket items than a new home, so with a hefty 10% of the agent’s commission going toward the charity of the buyer’s choice, those dollars add up quickly. And while some companies pad costs to offset charitable donations, at Brokers for Charity, there are no additional — or hidden — fees in the program. Once the deal closes, 10% is promptly donated to the 501(c)(3) charitable organization that the buyer has chosen, making it not only a profitable arrangement, but a personal one, where the investment is deeply connected to the consumer. . . and where a philanthropic spirit is always in move-in condition. Click to continue reading »
The U.S Postal Service is hurting. The agency lost $2.8 billion last year and in the first quarter of its current fiscal year saw a decline in mail volume of 5.2 billion pieces, compared to the same period last year, according to the Associated Press. To cuts costs, it is offering early retirement to 150,000 employees, in addition to other measures, such as re-drawing mail routes to conserve gas.
Meanwhile, two startups, Earth Class Mail and Zumbox, are looking to reinvent the conventional postal system in ways that will drastically reduce paper consumption and, if hand-delivered mails drop significantly, fuel consumption.
Earth Class Mail started in 2004 has set up nearly 25 retail locations around the country. Customers use the address of one of those locations as their mailing address. The snail mail is received there, where Earth Class Mail scans the envelope and sends its image to the customer’s secure online inbox. The customer can decide to have each piece of mail opened and its contents scanned (to be read online), or they can choose to have the mail recycled, shredded, archived, or forwarded to another location. The customer does all of this online – which makes it extra useful for frequent travelers.