What’s the Biggest Threat to Bike-Sharing: Vandals or Plummeting Ad Sales?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday August 4th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Decades of attempts at making bikes free and easy to share in urban settings—such as in The Netherlands; Portland, Oregon; Madison, Wisconsin—indicated that there’s no such thing as a free bike. Most of the steeds were eventually stolen or strewn into canals or otherwise rendered useless.  But forcing riders to pony up a deposit and/or pay a fee for using a bike beyond a set amount of time (say, a half hour) has led to some success in places such as Lyon, France, where the Velo’v system introduced a means for using smart cards and specialized bikes and locking racks to combine convenience with security.

In Paris, the two-year-old Velib system boasts an astounding 20,600 bicycles, which are stored at more than 1,450 stations and checked in and out using a payment and smart card system similar to the one designed by Velo’v.

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NASCAR Track Puts Solar Power in the Pole Position

| Tuesday August 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

nascarI’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the overlap between NASCAR fans and environmentalists is not large. But now they’ve got at least one shared topic of conversation:

Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway, which hosts two NASCAR events each year, plans to build a three megawatt solar power plant to provide the track with electricity.

At three megawatts, it would be the world’s biggest solar energy project at a sports facility, and Pennsylvania’s largest to date (at least two other 3 mW farms in PA are in earlier stages of development).

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How Far Would You Go to Decrease Junk Mail?

| Tuesday August 4th, 2009 | 4 Comments

junk-mailWhen I read the account of Alan During’s struggle to curb junk mail delivery to his residence, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud; is there anyone who can’t relate? For a solid year, Alan not only kept all the junk mail he received; he also chronicled the amount and type of mail delivered (i.e. 15 pounds worth of phone books!) before attempting to get off the mailers’ lists. His experiment has me wondering: how will sustainability influence marketing in the quickly evolving green business world?

All told, Alan amassed a whopping 50 pound, two-feet-tall stack of mail: the phonebooks, plus neighborhood advertisers (5 pounds), Eddie Bauer, Bike Nashbar, Performance Bicycle, Road Runner Sports catalogues (10 pounds), info-tech advertising (2 pounds), political mail (1 pound), tabloids (1 pound), and other various and sundry randomness (16 pounds). Talk about unwanted weight gain!

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The Green Workplace: A Holistic Guide to a Healthier Working Life

| Tuesday August 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

HC FrontLeigh Stringer is a converted “greeniac” who not that long ago didn’t think much about the idea of “being green.” It’s not that she necessarily had anything against it, she literally didn’t think that much about it.

“My husband drug me to see Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth,” says Stringer, and the rest, as they say, is history. She’s now an avowed greeniac (Stringer has formulated four levels of one’s, for lack of a better term, “greenness” 1) Greeniac 2) “Bottom line” environmentalism 3) Couch potato greenies, and 4) well, if you’re at this level, you’re not really so green, now are you?).

A trained architect with an MBA, Stringer is now a VP for Advanced Strategies, with HOK, a global architectural and sustainable design firm HOK, itself recently voted the “greenest design firm in the world.”

Stringer’s work at HOK’s Advanced Strategies involves consulting with clients in the initial stages of workplace and building design and help them make the best decisions for designing a workplace that best supports their mission and employees. More often than not clients want to incorporate sustainability and “green” in their plan, but are also just as often unsure of how best to go about it. Stringer found that often good intentions, while a good start, didn’t always lead to a sustained, comprehensive, and workable plan.

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Ricoh Tree-Planting Program Offers CSR Cautions

| Monday August 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

ricohBy so many measures, Ricoh, the Japanese office equipment-maker, is a leader in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). You can spend several hours on the Ricoh website reading about their numerous CSR initiatives, their environmentally friendly products and processes, as well as the many awards they have won over the past 20 years. The company places corporate citizenship at the core of their mission and makes the effort to integrate these core values through every part of their business. Well done.

But good intentions don’t always make for good results. The UK website BusinessGreen.com is reporting on one Ricoh CSR program that has seemed to miss its mark, raising the questions:  how do you decide which CSR initiatives are most appropriate for your business, how do you monitor the programs, how do you measure their effectiveness, and are good intentions enough?

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Hyundai Ponies Up $3.2 Billion to Go Green

Jeff Siegel | Monday August 3rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

Hyundai NuvisThere was a time when embracing sustainability or “green” initiatives meant sacrificing the bottom line in an effort to “do the right thing.” Clearly this is no longer the case. In fact, as we’ve seen with solar and wind companies, organic retailers and eco-friendlier vehicle manufacturers, embracing eco-sensibilities has proven to be a recipe for success. This has certainly been the case for major automakers.

Although no major automaker has walked away from this economic downturn unscathed, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see which car manufacturers have struggled the most.

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Green Is Dead, Long Live Green

3p Contributor | Monday August 3rd, 2009 | 6 Comments

It is time to rethink the language we use to describe efforts to improve our relationship with the environment. Below are the four reasons I believe we have entered a Post-Green, Post-Sustainability Era, and need a new meme:

  • Red or Black Only
    A price on carbon – whether in the US through ACES or internationally through COP15 – means that the discussion by businesses about “going green” becomes no longer exceptional (“hey, look what we did”), it becomes merely a requirement. Sustainability moves from the realm of marketing to the realm of bean counting and execution. Compliance to a regulatory framework for emissions means carbon is either a business asset or a liability, both of which impact the bottom line. Result: “Green” is folded into what business has historically been about – finishing the year in the Red or in the Black (and hedging against future shifts in the new currency of carbon). Similarly, strict compliance guidelines such as RoHS and WEEE also mean that making products more recyclable or less toxic is also taken out of the realm of marketing.
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How to Calculate Your Office Paper Footprint

3p Contributor | Monday August 3rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

paper-footprint by Andrea Hart, Sustainability Analyst, BlueMap Inc.

To help you calculate exactly how many trees are used to make the paper for your latest office report, the Environmental Defense Fund has created a paper calculator on its website. Although it’s a great tool, it expects the user to know how many pounds of paper are used. This is a more difficult task than you might think: Most people don’t know how much their office paper actually weighs. What most people do know is the number of sheets of paper in a given case, how many cases they go through, and a number on the side measured in “pounds” – typically indicated on the paper’s wrapping or invoice. Despite being called “pounds,” this number does not directly indicate how much that paper actually weighs, rather it distinguishes the quality of the paper stock itself. Business cards typically use 80 lb. paper stock while office paper is typically 20 lbs. So, if we do not know how much the paper actually weighs, how can we accurately calculate its footprint?

Here’s a quick way to do it:

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Coca-Cola Enterprises Joins Carbon Footprint-Cutting Race

| Sunday August 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

coke-logoCoca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) has joined the increasing number of corporations committing to minimizing their environmental impact. The soft drink giant has, “pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 15 percent by the year 2020. ” The move will, CCE expects, allow it to improve its corporate responsibility and sustainability (CRS) while lowering its net emissions to 5.2 metric tons.

“The Commitment 2020″ outlines strategies the company will adopt to improve five CRS focus areas. It will improve its: energy consumption and climate change impact (as mentioned, by trimming its carbon footprint by 15 percent); water usage (by establishing water-sustainable operations [i.e. using less water, neutralizing impact on local communities]); packaging-related damage (by reducing the impact of its packaging [i.e. maximizing use of renewable, reusable, and recyclable materials, with the goal of recovering the equivalent of 100 percent of its packaging]); product quality (by providing beverages for a range of lifestyles [and increasing consumers’ ability to make informed beverage selections]); and cultural inclusivity (by creating a culture that values diversity).

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“Cash for Clunkers” Program a Success – U.S. Government Approves Further Funding

| Saturday August 1st, 2009 | 2 Comments

traffic

The government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program – which offers compensation for older automobiles swapped out for newer ones – has been more than successful. Apparently, Americans have swapped out so many clunkers that the government is scrambling to obtain more funding. Today the House approved a bill allotting another $2 million to fund the program; the proposal will run through September 30, 2010, and will draw from an Energy Department loan. The bill awaits approval by the Senate.

“Cash for Clunkers” provides up to $4,500 in rebates for consumers who trade in aging automobiles for newer, more fuel-efficient ones. The government launched the program in June, with an initial $1 billion, in order to jump-start the auto industry. According to unofficial estimates, consumers have already sold close to 250,000 vehicles to the program, quickly exhausting available funds. For the struggling auto industry, the program has, apparently, provided a viable, national stimulus. Analysts reportedly believe that, if the program continues, it will boost U.S. auto sales to a record high (for this year) of more than 10 million units for 2009.

Legislators are not in agreement over the funds; some oppose using Energy Department funds for the auto industry, while the White House supports the program.

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Dot Eco – Uniting Environmental Websites? Or Distraction?

| Saturday August 1st, 2009 | 15 Comments

www

When it comes to combating climate change, Dot Eco LLC has a plan: to establish an obviously green, top-level web domain (TLD). It is high time, Dot Eco founders believe, that environmental websites gain the instant-recognizability of the .coms, .nets, .govs, .edus, and .orgs of the world. Moreover, by establishing .eco as a credible TLD, Dot Eco will, it believes, be able to provide steady funding for environmental organizations while increasing environmental initiatives and awareness.

“How will it do so?” you ask. Simple: the web is divided into several semantically meaningful zones (i.e. education, government, and organizations), each of which is denoted by a TLD (i.e. .edu, .gov, and .org). To be included in a TLD, an organization must meet certain benchmarks for that TLD (i.e. for .edu inclusion, an organization must be an accredited academic institution and contain relevant information on its site). Sustainability proponents would like to believe that environmentalism is becoming semantically meaningful enough to deserve its own TLD, hence the creation of the .eco domain name.

Creating a moniker-specific TLD for a group of random (but similar) websites has an effect similar to that of a well-known philanthropist adopting several orphans and giving them all his last name: the renaming creates a sense of “community” for the orphans, prevents them from slipping through the cracks, and prevents their mistaken identification with other philanthropists. Similarly, by adopting a .eco domain name, environmental organizations can join an online community of likeminded groups. By making sure the .eco domain is well-established, Dot Eco will lend credibility to participating sites, thereby increasing their chances of obtaining funding. Currently, Dot Eco also gives more than half of its profits to organizations committed to fighting global warming.

To qualify for the .eco domain, organizations must affirm their concurrence with Dot Eco founding principles and fund proven climate change combating efforts. Former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, the Sierra Club, and the Surfrider Foundation area among the organizations backed, via charter, by .eco funding.

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India to Pursue Monetary Rewards for Curbing Deforestation

| Saturday August 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

india-env-minister-jairam-ramesh

India is poised, Reuters reports, to pursue billions of dollars from the U.N. for bumping up India’s forest protection efforts. India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, pledged Friday to invest approximately $200 million in curbing deforestation (thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions). If India keeps this promise, it could potentially earn significant funding from an emerging U.N. scheme.

The scheme, called “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation”, or REDD, would allow developing nations to earn billions (in carbon offsets) by rehabilitating and protecting their forests. India could, in turn, sell the offsets to rich nations to and use the funds obtained to reach India’s emissions goals.

The U.N. proposed the REDD scheme in preparation for its climate negotiations, scheduled for December in Copenhagen, in which the U.N. will construct the next international climate treaty. Any international cooperation on sustainability efforts the U.N. can secure is seen as laying the groundwork for the Copenhagen conference. Many developing countries, including India and China, have presented a challenge to the U.N. thus far in securing such cooperation: these countries have asserted that developed nations should take responsibility for reducing emissions.

India will take a number of measures to obtain the REDD funding: it will report (by August 10) how much CO2 emissions are captured by green cover in India; conserve and restore unique vegetation; control forest fires; strengthen forestry infrastructure; and extend its forest cover by an additional six million hectares over the next six years, among other measures. Taking these steps would be major progress in India’s (thus far) lagging sustainability efforts.

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John Kerry: U.S. and China Must Work Together to Fight Greenhouse Gas Emissions

| Saturday August 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

john-kerry

When it comes to the U.N.’s make-or-break climate change talks scheduled for December, all eyes are on China. Securing the country’s cooperation is crucial in creating an international climate deal and, ultimately, to saving a planet in peril. In an article published recently on the Financial Times website, Senator John Kerry voiced his views on issue.

He describes China’s relationship to the U.S. as key to successful climate negotiations. When the two countries bridged their political gap in 1972 (with Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing), they established what Kerry refers to as a relationship of “well-known colleagues.” Now, this relationship is being put to the test as the world attempts to transform the energy economy. Kerry is not alone in wondering: will it be possible for the U.S. and China – the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters – to forge a partnership strong enough to avert a climate disaster?

Yet Kerry insists, with our climate at stake, that the U.S.-China relationship be the “blueprint for future collaboration”: that the U.S. exemplify sharing of the climate change burden (instead of shifting the blame for it). Kerry asserts that attempting to force China to accept binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will not be effective. He recommends that, instead, other nations deepen their collaboration on China’s current environmental protection successes: for example, its clean energy solutions and its desire, voiced by some Chinese leaders, to join international climate change negotiations. He also recommends that other nations train specialized workers for sustainability initiatives and continue to improve alternative energy technology, demonstrating that the green economy of the future is already here.

Would Kerry’s technique work, though? Is his analysis a case of magical realism (“if we build it they will come”) or idealism (“be the change you want to see in the world”)? Or is he simply reiterating already-thought thoughts in an effort to regain an international audience?

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Forged Letters Sent to Congressman to Undermine Climate Legislation

| Friday July 31st, 2009 | 4 Comments

Capitol HillWhen considering how he’d vote on the Waxman-Markety bill last month, Charlottesville, Virginia Representative, Tom Perriello, did what any legislator should. He listened to his constituents. Among the thousands of emails, letters, and faxes he received, a handful in particular stood out.

One was written by Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that works with Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. Five more from the Albemarle-Charlottesville branch of the NAACP. All urged the freshman congressman to vote against the important climate change bill. All, it turns out, were forgeries.

“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” Tim Freilich, an executive committee member of Creciendo Juntos, told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”

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SolFocus Designs CPV Solar Panels for Commercial Scale Deployment

Sarah Lozanova | Friday July 31st, 2009 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-friday

concentrated photovoltaicConcentrated photovoltaics (CPV) is not a new technology, but commercial utilization is. In the past, panels demonstrated high efficiency in the laboratory, but were not designed for manufacturability. Since SolFocus was founded in 2005, the company has taken a different approach to this technology.

“We have designed our product for manufacturability,” says Nancy Hartsoch, VP of Marketing for SolFocus. “Otherwise, we will end up with an expensive lab experiment.”

SolFocus recently announced raising over $77 million in Series C funding. This will help the company ramp up production to commercial scale production, something that they have had in mind from the beginning.

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