Community Organizing and the Free-Rider Problem

| Monday May 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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As a community organizer, I am all too familiar with the free rider problem and with economically rational ways to circumvent it. Under the right conditions it’s not as daunting as it first appears.
I’ve seen two classical ways around the free rider problem. The first is democracy- everyone makes a decision to invest collectively and then contributions are mandatory (ie taxes.) The second involves punishment, in a multi-stage game free riders can be punished for their actions, creating a an incentive for everyone to chip in.

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Ford Point and the Greening of an Industrial Relic

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday May 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Business and political leaders in the East Bay – the region that lies east of the San Francisco Bay and encompasses a number of towns including Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville and Richmond – are working to make this region “the Silicon Valley of the green economy.” Buoyed by alternative fuels research and other clean-tech advances coming out of UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and by the work of Van Jones and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland in advancing green collar job opportunities, the area is starting to grow into that moniker. And tucked away behind the Chevron refinery in Richmond sits Ford Point, a massive former Ford manufacturing plant that now houses two of the East Bay’s thriving green businesses: SunPower and Vetrazzo.
The acclaimed architect Albert Kahn, who pioneered window-rich building designs in an effort to infuse manufacturing facilities with natural light, designed Ford Point. It opened in 1931 as Ford’s west coast Model-A production plant. The facility had a number of other uses – including manufacturing military vehicles during World War II – until it closed in 1956. It sat dormant for decades, a relic of America’s domestic manufacturing legacy, until 2004 when Orton Development purchased the 517,000 square-foot behemoth, that sits on 26.5 acres.

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Tri-State Energy Looks to Solar as it “Rethinks” Coal

| Monday May 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Tri-State Energy has a lot of ground to cover. The Denver-based energy co-op is responsible for generating baseload power to 1.4 million end users across a 250,000-square-mile service area over 5,200 miles of transmission lines covering Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and New Mexico. Coal obviously plays a big part in delivering all that energy. But things are changing for the power cooperative.

The power wholesaler recently announced a partnership with First Solar to build the Cimmaron Solar Project, a 30 megawatt PV solar facility in northeast New Mexico. Once completed in late 2010 (the plant will come online in phases starting in September of 2010) the 500,000 panel Cimmaron project will be the largest of any power co-op in the world, and one of the largest commercial scale plants of any utility anywhere. Tri-State will enter into a 25-year power purchase agreement to purchase all the power generated from the plant, scalable in 10mW “chunks.”

Formed in the 1950’s on the Rural Electrification Administration model for rural hydropower distribution in early 20th century, Tri-State doesn’t sell power directly to end-users, but to the 44 retail power districts and co-ops for which it serves. The structure of the power co-op mandates a “bottom up” approach according to Lee Boughey, manager of communications and public affairs for Tri-State. Thus, emerging policy trends, renewable energy portfolio standards, and a changing climate calls for Tri-State to reassess its energy resource plans for the future.

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Governor Sarah Palin Rejects Federal Funding for Renewable Energy

| Monday May 4th, 2009 | 6 Comments

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Alaska governor Sarah Palin has rejected $28.6 million dollars in federal stimulus money for Alaska’s State Energy Program. However, Gov. Palin did accept all other federal stimulus money that her state is eligible for ($930 million). Palin’s rejection of the funds is founded in her opposition to strengthening state building codes and making energy efficiency and renewable energy top priorities when spending the money.
Although other governors have voiced opposition to the stimulus package, Gov. Palin is the only governor who has not signed a letter of reassurance to Steven Chu (US Energy Secretary) that her state intends to accept the funds and will comply with the policies associated with the money for state energy departments.

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Events This Week – Social, Networking, and More

| Monday May 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Attention San Francisco & Chicago: Three Triple Pundit sponsored events are coming up this week which you might want to get on your radar if you’re in the Bay Area or Chicagoland.
Firstly, everyone’s favorite green networking event, green drinks, is taking place on Tuesday, May 5th (yes, we’ll be interjecting some cinco de mayo fun in) at the Minna St. Gallery in San Francisco (111 Minna at 5:30pm). It’s a lighthearted social affair and a great time to hear about what we’ve got planned for the rest of the year. RSVP via facebook, it’s FREE. Email us if you’d like a 3p rep at a green drinks in your area.
Secondly – Our friends at Sustainable Industries are putting together another phenomenal breakfast forum on Thursday the 7th at the Regis Hotel in San Francisco. It’s a $75 event, but having been to their last one I can tell you it’s more than worth it. The legendary Ray Anderson will be keynoting along with other great panelists. Register here.
Finally – Join us in Chicago on Saturday, May 9th for the inaugural Climate Cycle bicycle ride along Chicago’s lakefront. We’ll be dusting off the winter blues and kicking off spring in Chicago with a proper bike ride to benefit Chicago area schools’ education on alternative energy and raising money for solar installations. It’s not too late to register, or email your friends in Chicago!

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Friday Fun From The Onion

| Friday May 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments

The Onion does it again… happy Friday.
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Starting a Coworking Space – Good Economic Timing?

Scott Cooney | Friday May 1st, 2009 | 1 Comment

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While the economy putters along at a snail’s pace, it is sometimes hard to see the trees for the forest.
Sure, the economy is tough right now, and it’s easy to get lost in all the economic data and large-scale trends. But if you look, there are opportunities for long term success that will also fill a niche in the current economic maelstrom. One of these, and a really interesting emerging business trend, is coworking space. Coworking space is, essentially, an office in the traditional sense, with a new economy twist, in that the space will be rented by the workers themselves, all of whom may be working on different projects.
Coworking space is a haven for freelancers, job seekers, contractors, and entrepreneurs who need all the conveniences of a traditional office (land lines, IT support, fax machines, meeting/conference rooms, mail services, and, for pete’s sake, a break room!). For one reason or another, these folks prefer not to work from home, and pay a small fee to become a member of the coworking facility. The economy is turning more and more toward independent work, contract work, and disconnected workers. Coworking space creates a community for these folks, and is, by its very nature, a green business.

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How to Get a Job in the Obama Administration

| Friday May 1st, 2009 | 7 Comments

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“Billions of dollars in stimulus, there must be tons of jobs in DC. How do I get a job with the Obama Administration?”
As K Street becomes the new Wall Street, socially conscious business folks are flocking to DC to find jobs with the new administration. There are a lot of green jobs supporting the federal government’s green goals, you just need to know where to look. Here are some tips from inside Washington for those who would like to get in on the ground floor in President Obama’s administration.
1) There are actually three types of workers at a place like the Department of Energy. At the top are Political Appointees, most of which still have not been appointed and confirmed by the Obama administration. They set the agenda and the direction of the department based on the current administration’s goals and objectives. In the middle are career Federal Employees, or “Feds”, who stay from administration to administration. Many are career bureaucrats, with varying degrees of expertise and passion for the mission of the department. At the bottom are contractors, who actually do much of the day to day work. In fact, many contractors sit in the DOE, have DOE e-mail accounts, computers, and even blackberries.
2) Contractors are the fastest way to get involved. I heard that as much as 90% of the DOE workforce are contractors, though I do not know the actual number. Current Secretary Steven Chu was actually a contractor when running Lawrence Berkley National Labs. Contracting firms can hire you quickly and pay you a competitive salary. They are given tasks by the Feds to fulfill, for example helping to run a rebate program or analyze aspects of the stimulus package. If the task is complete, the contracting company can assign you to something else in the department. There are down sides to being a contractor, but if your goal is to get involved quickly this seems to be the best approach.

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Be A Good Human: A New Nonprofit with Built-in Funding

| Friday May 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments

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One of the primary benefits of a philanthropic business model is the ability to provide ongoing funds for nonprofit organizations. Fundraising is one of the most critical areas for nonprofits to be able to fuel their efforts in generating awareness of their cause, and affecting real change. Removing the need to fundraise so heavily allows organizations to re-allocate resources toward program implementation and volunteering with a steady steam of funds on which they can rely. But like any corporate giving or cause-related marketing campaign, there is no guarantee of ongoing support, and often, initiatives are geared toward several different organizations or causes over time, diluting the overall amount of funds any one nonprofit would receive.
In a unique twist on the concept of for-profit philanthropy, Cr8ing Digital Art, a web design firm in Pennsylvania, is launching an ecommerce site focused exclusively on building a brand new foundation called Be A Good Human that will focus on igniting good will through individuals, communities, and schools globally. The ecommerce end will be 100% focused on funding the Be A Good Human project, facilitating a turnkey — and permanent — flow of dollars to keep their efforts thriving through a percentage of all sales. Each retail division (apparel, books, etc.) will also then contribute a portion of the proceeds from their respective cost centers to established foundations with synergistic ties to the Be A Good Human iniatitives. This helps create partnerships, united around a specific cause, and will broaden reach and maximize the work that can be done in making a tangible difference through multiple, dedicated sources.
Unlike some cause marketing or ad hoc giving programs, their business is solely focused on building a vehicle for sustainable change that, through one singular foundation, can benefit many. You can’t put a price tag on consciousness, but you can on the purchases that trigger it. And the Be A Good Human project proves that you can spend wisely — and responsibly.

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Smart Grow Is a Big Hairy Deal for Gardeners – And for Oil Spill Remediation

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday May 1st, 2009 | 3 Comments

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smartgrow_mats.jpg“Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees / Give a home to the fleas in my hair…” So go the lyrics for the title track of the 1967 musical Hair. But a Florida company called Smart Grow has slightly different plans for human hair: rather than letting it fly in the breeze and catch in trees, the company sells a product that puts hair into the ground, where it acts as a fertilizer and weed deterrent.

Smart Grow is the brainchild of Phil McCrory, a former hair stylist who wanted to find a way to use all the locks that he’d been sweeping up and throwing out at his shop for more than a decade. Watching coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill had given him the kernel from which he grew his invention: he noticed that the wildlife such as otters coming out of the oil-slicks were covered in oil. Why not use human hair to soak up oil in the next big spill? He took some hair home, bound it up in a nylon stocking and experimented with the prototype. It worked quite well and a number of years later he earned a patent for his “hair mat.”

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REEM ’09: The Convergence of Technology, Policy and Markets

| Friday May 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

California Businesses Seek to Form Renewable Energy Partnerships in Emerging Markets

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Emerging market countries offer fertile ground for the growth of renewable energy projects. They have ample supplies of renewable energy resources (solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc) matched by a rapidly growing demand for energy. But what they often lack are the government policies, technology and capital resources to make these projects a reality.
By contrast, many areas in developed countries, and especially California, offer an abundance of these resources, and are often best positioned to lend a hand. To bring together these California resources with emerging market demand, the California-based Center for International Trade Development (CITD) played matchmaker this week, hosting the inaugural Renewable Energy in Emerging Markets conference (REEM09) in San Francisco. The CITD is a non-profit association that serves as a bridge connecting California businesses with the global marketplace.

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Great Eco-Stats for Food-Based Green Businesses to Use in Their Marketing

Scott Cooney | Friday May 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Any restaurant, caterer, CSA, farm, wholesaler, manufacturer or distributor of food that works in the sustainability arena can benefit from the use of simple statistics that their customers and the public can easily wrap their brains around. It’s a simple fact–people are busy, and we live in a sound bite culture. So if you can break down your eco-credentials in bite-sized chunks, customers are more likely to remember you.
The following statistics will particularly benefit organic and vegetarian-based businesses, but also small family farms, CSA, and farmer’s markets over factory farms.
I offer you, from David Suzuki’s Green Guide, part 2 of my series of eco-stats from the book review of this comprehensive book.
Eco-stats on food, in no particular order:

  • Eating local, vegetarian, and organic can reduce the ecological footprint of our diet by 90%.
  • A 2006 study found that children who switched to organics quickly stopped having detectable levels of pesticides in their urine.
  • The first CSA (community supported agriculture) appeared in North America in 1985. There are now more than 1,000.
  • Similarly, the number of farmer’s markets in the US doubled between 1994 and 2004.
  • A Chicago study found that food in a supermarket traveled an average 1,500 miles to get to the store. By contrast, food at a local farmer’s market travels an average of 73 miles.
  • Cows, pigs, and chickens produce 5 tons of manure per person in North America per year.
  • As a consequence of the above, the EPA estimates agriculture is responsible for 70% of the water pollution in the U.S., much of it from concentrated animal feedlots (CAFO’s).
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Creating Your Sustainabilty Goals

| Friday May 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

goals.jpgSo far, we’ve learned how to create a sustainability vision for your organization using facilitated discussions and stakeholder engagement, and the importance of benchmarking your organization’s current sustainability standing. Now, it is time to use this information to create your organization’s sustainability goals.
Creating Your Green Goals
Use both your vision and assessment to help you determine your targets and what will be important to evaluate and change in your organization. Before writing down any goals, reread your vision and analyze this result of your assessment. Referring back to your vision – your organization’s sustainability compass – will ensure you are aligning your goals with your original intentions. Use the data gathered from your sustainability assessment to determine the most cost effective and influential areas for improvement.
Be Realistic!
When determining your goals, be realistic. There’s no point in making goals that are unattainable; this only leads to frustration and less support for your sustainability initiatives as you begin to implement them.

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An Awesome Opportunity for Non-Clean Tech Green Business Startups

| Friday May 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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New%20venture%20exhange%20green%20business%20venture%20fair.jpegIn the media, from the geekiest of geeks to the most mainstream, cleantech is in the news. And in the minds of VC companies as well, even in the midst of the chaotic economy we’re experiencing. All well and good, but where’s the support for innovative green businesses that do more then create the latest vaporware wind turbine or wave powered biofuel factory? Not so much.
The New Venture Exchange, premiering at the upcoming Sustainable Brands conference, aims to remedy that, in a number of ways: It starts with who’s judging the initial crop of submitted entrants. Your submission will be seen by some of the best eyes to be seeing it, as they’re connected to so many others, including Boyd Cohn of 3rdWhale Media, Andrew Winston, co-author of Green to Gold, and Jonathan Greenblatt, co-founder of Ethos Water, among others.
Who can enter?

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The City of Brotherly Love Goes Green

| Thursday April 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment

greenworks%20logo.jpgPhiladelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced today their comprehensive Greenworks Philadelphia plan – which highlights their environmental efforts and strategy towards sustainability – with the goal to make Philadelphia “The Greenest City in America” by 2015.

Greenworks Philadelphia is the culmination of 10 months of work with contributions from city employees, nonprofit organizations, civic and business leaders. The plan is broken down into 15 key targets in five focus areas – energy, environment, equity, economy and engagement.

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