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Here’s a fun experiment: go to your favorite deep-green environmentalist friend and say the phrase “sustainable golf course.” You’re likely to be subjected to at least half an hour of explanations about why golf is inherently unsustainable. Or maybe you’re the deep-greenie questioning the existence of the mythic green golf course–you’ve probably heard references in passing to such a creature, but you don’t really believe it exists. After catching wind of a golf course in Panama that is pushing its sustainability as a main selling point, I decided that it was worth finding.
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San Francisco’s family-owned Lombardi Sports has been selling sporting gear for more than 50 years, inspiring the city’s active citizens to get outside. But with the help of the SF Energy Watch program, the company recently turned its attentions to an inside activity: improving the energy efficiency of its 50,000 square-foot Polk St. store. In the process, Lombardi’s lowered its monthly energy bill by $3000.
SF Mayor Gavin Newsom found the Lombardi store a fitting place to announce plans to expand the energy efficiency program today. He introduced a resolution at the Board of Supervisors this week to increase funding for the SF Environment Department program by $3.7 million. This would bring the total invested in the program to nearly $18 million. The money for SF Energy Watch comes from a percentage of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) ratepayer bills.
While counterintuitive, a recession is actually a terrific time to start a business. Sure, credit is tight, and venture capital is definitely hard to come by, so startup ideas requiring large amounts of up-front capital are perhaps best left to the drawing board for the moment. But for many entrepreneurs with a dream, startup capital requirements are small, and other elements of the economic outlook are very favorable.
As far as timing, for most businesses, it simply takes time for their product, service, or brand to become recognized, trusted, and sought after. Estimates vary widely, but it is simply a truth that average customers have to see your product or company several times before they make a purchase. This makes a recession a great time to get your name out there while most other companies are cutting back and the competition for people’s attention is less. Your company will be in good shape when the economy rebounds.
So while recessions can be a good time, and historically have been a good time for businesses to get their start, this particular recession is a great time to start a green business. Here’s why:
In the wake of the AIG scandal, it’s refreshing to see that some companies are tying company bonuses to significant achievements for both the corporation and society. National Grid- a London – based utility company – has has become the latest and biggest UK firm to link the company’s success in reducing its carbon footprint to executive remuneration packages. The company will also implement carbon budgets across its entire operations starting next month, and incorporate the cost of compliance within those budgets.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t cut it, so National Grid has been conducting a detailed greenhouse gas emissions inventory over the last 12 months to provide senior management with the tools to track each division’s carbon footprint, and take the steps necessary to improve the overall environmental performance. Although the remuneration committee still hasn’t decided what weight to give carbon reductions in compensation packages, a National Grid spokeswoman expects that it will become an increasingly important metric. Click to continue reading »
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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?
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 »