Sustainability 101: Creating Your Strategic Plan

| Friday May 22nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

Yesterday I read an article that called out corporate social responsibility (CSR) as the new “Brand Content.” We are all aware of the increased marketing push around CSR activities. But, how do you make sure those marketing claims are legit and reflect what your organization is actually achieving? And, more importantly, how do you keep your organization on track when implementing sustainability?
Creating a Strategic Plan
Creating and following a strategic sustainability action plan provides your organization with a road map.
Your vision, assessment, and goals are the backbone for developing a plan to move you forward and keep you on track (For more detailed information on how to accomplish these three key steps refer back to my previous posts!). A strategic plan helps you document, track, and monitor the different sustainability initiatives rolled out in a fiscal year and assists you in communicating to and getting buy-in from your staff. As I’ve mentioned over and over again, metrics and verification not only allow you to track your sustainability progress, they also support your marketing claims.

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How to Work with a Clean Tech Recruiter

Frank Marquardt | Friday May 22nd, 2009 | 2 Comments

Say you gave notice, the economy be damned. Or you took the corporate buy-out offer and want to take your considerable skill set and apply it to world-changing (and potentially lucrative) work at a renewable energy startup. Or you just finished a workshop with Solar Energy International and are looking to implement phase-two of your job-change program (i.e., the find-a-job part).
And you’re trying to get a clean tech recruiter to take notice.
What do you need to know?

Start with the Facts

“Our business, we don’t have a magic bullet to create jobs,” says Dawn Dzurilla, President and Founder at Gaia Human Capital Consultants, a retainer-based executive search firm. “We work with those who we think we can earn a living working with, even in the green economy.”
That’s right – clean tech recruiters are businesspeople, too.
Fortunately, a number of firms offer services that go beyond retained or contingent search. (Retained search means a company is paying the search firm to fill its vacancies. Contingent search means the search firm is paid only when it places a candidate; contingent firms typically work with dozens of companies.)

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Hewlett Packard’s “VooDoo” Reducing Waste by Turning Packaging into Products

Steve Puma | Friday May 22nd, 2009 | 8 Comments

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One of the more interesting themes at the Greener by Design 2009 Conference is how some companies are reducing waste by turning their product packaging into reusable products. From the manufacturer end, Hewlett-Packard is leading the charge, with unique packaging solutions for its Voodoo line of high-performance laptops and for a line of products being sold at Wal-Mart.

Voodoo, recently acquired by HP, delivers ultra-high-performance gaming machines with a slick, minimalist aesthetic reminiscent of Apple products. Hewlett-Packard Creative Director Mark Solomon explained that the company wanted to design a unique packaging solution that would reduce waste while also increasing the value of the open-box experience for their customers. They wanted a solution that was as unique as the laptops themselves.

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Google Power Partners Announced

| Thursday May 21st, 2009 | 3 Comments

smartmeter.jpgEarlier this year, Google announced the development of a gadget called Google PowerMeter which delivers personal electricity usage data to consumers on their individual computers. This effort took a big step forward on Wednesday of this week when Google announced a list of eight initial electric utilities that will serve as partners.
United by a common interest in connecting their customers with personal consumption data, the diverse list of partners includes utilities from India, Canada and the United States. The partnering utilities range in size from small providers to ones with millions of customers.

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Jennifer Rice: Proving Values-Based Business Is the Most Fruitful

| Thursday May 21st, 2009 | 2 Comments

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In my cause marketing series, I rant communicate often about the critical need for businesses to ensure their philanthropic efforts are strategically aligned with core values over using it as a sleazy marketing tactic to fake consciousness. And I am continually searching for clever analogies to drive this point home as I believe it is the foremost tenet that must be upheld in implementing successful – and sustainable – cause initiatives: Authenticity. So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw the below tweet by Jennifer Rice the other day.

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Bingo! The perfect analogy. It reminded me of my childhood when my mother would snicker at those she called “once a week Catholics” as they filed into church like the picture of piety when “doing good” for them was making a pitstop at mass on the way to the IHOP. But it’s the same principle as touting social responsibility while you engage in unfair labor practices (rhymes with Schmalmart) or claiming to be an eco-friendly corporation while you destroy the earth one overpriced, unrecyclable coffee cup at a time (ok, that one’s blatantly obvious).
Needless to say, I sought Jennifer out to spotlight, and get her insights on philanthropy as part of her values-based business model at Fruitful Strategy, a consulting firm that creates corporate social opportunity by aligning business strategy with social impact. Through her responses, she articulates the importance of ensuring that CSR is part of the fabric of your company and outlines the brand, stakeholder and customer benefits achieved with a well integrated campaign that’s built on a mission, not a marketing ploy.

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Richmond, CA, Living a Green Economic Revolution

Scott Cooney | Thursday May 21st, 2009 | 6 Comments

greencollarjobs.jpgCalifornia has had 4 “rushes”. First was the Pioneer land grab, followed by the gold rush, then the information rush of the dot-com era, and now, finally, the green rush. I’m thrilled to say it’s not confined to Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland, and Silicon Valley.
Last week, I wrote about the city of Richmond, California, and its exciting efforts to join the green corridor that includes Silicon Valley, Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. Richmond held its first green business tour last week, modeling itself after the East Bay Green Tours that have been heralding Berkeley and Oakland area businesses and non-profits that are leading the way to a sustainable future. The tour included the deep green as well as the light green, and businesses more in tune with Richmond’s gritty industrial environment.
While square footage is too expensive in Berkeley and San Francisco and other dense population centers for manufacturing, recycling yards, and other land-intensive businesses, this is exactly the kind of green economic development that places like Richmond are ripe (and hungry) for. And this is precisely the reason why green is so ubiquitous and holds so much hope for an economic turnaround in this country and around the world.

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The Evolution of Aviation: Biofuels

| Thursday May 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Earlier this week, Boeing released it’s 2009 Environmental Report which highlights 2008 reductions in energy and water consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. On the more innovative side, the Boeing report describes biofuel demonstration flights held over the past year which document the technical feasibility of using biofuels in commercial jetliners. The demonstration flights represent a significant step toward a long-term vision of sustainable fuel solutions for the aviation industry.
In addition to biofuel advancements, a Boeing subsidiary, Spectrolab, achieved a new solar cell world record with 40.7% efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity. The 2009 Environmental Report provides a clear indication that the company is pioneering innovative technologies that will realize even greater efficiencies in the coming year.

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Green Jobs & Investment in Indian Country

| Thursday May 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

ramona22_300.jpg A groundswell of “green” investment and activity has been building on Native American Indian tribal lands around the country. Recent action at the tribal, state and federal levels, as well as in local communities and the private sector, bodes well for the future of these marginalized populations and lands. It also dovetails nicely with what we’ve come to associate and identify with in traditional American Indian culture and beliefs.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on April 25 announced that the Department’s Indian Affairs office will offer federally guaranteed loans for businesses owned by American Indians under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a small part of some $3 billion the Department expects to invest among federally recognized Native American Indian tribal communities through President Obama’s economic recovery plan.
Renewable energy and sustainable lifestyle practices have already sparked a good amount of interest and activity among Native American Indian tribes. Case in point is an eco-tourism project on the Ramona Indian Reservation near Anza in southern California where the Ramona Band of Cahuilla Mission Native Americans’ resort is being built.

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McDonald’s Reports its Global Best of Green

| Thursday May 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

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The sustainability movement touches every company, incluing the folks that wrap factory-farmed beef products and feed them to the poor, obese masses. That’s right, the 2009 “Best of Green” innovations have come to McDonald’s. But it gets better, you can vote on them here!
This list of best practices highlights local innovations to be shared and applied in other McDonald’s markets around the world. The best practices cover many fronts including energy, packaging, anti-littering, recycling, logistics, communications, greening the restaurants, greening the workplace, sustainable food and supplier leadership.

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Increasing Efficiency In Wind Power

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday May 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The U.S. wind power sector benefited from the 8,358 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity that was installed last year. The total U.S. installed wind power is 25,170 MW, making it the country with the most wind power. Despite the current economic crisis, there is good news for the U.S. wind power sector: R&D is paving the way for increased efficiency in wind power.
Researchers from Purdue University and Sandia National Laboratories developed a technique to monitor wind forces wielded against wind turbine blades. The research was presented in a paper earlier this month at the Windpower 2009 Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

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Climate Change: Developed and Developing Nations Share the Burden of Change

| Wednesday May 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ClimateChange.jpgOn Wednesday, The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released a first draft of a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol (1997) which is set to expire in 2012. This new 53 page document is considered to be the basis for the agreements to be made in the international climate talks scheduled for December 7th-18th in Copenhagen.

The key-differentiating factor between this document and the original Kyoto Protocol is that the newly proposed treaty calls for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by both developed and developing nations. Bridging this gap should satisfy the historical Kyoto opposition from both sides, which plagued the original framework since it’s inception. Under the Bush administration, opposition to Kyoto was founded in the notion that due to output volume of GHG emissions, developing nations should be included in the framework. Conversely, opposition from developing nations was founded in the argument that as the leaders in per capita pollution of CO2, the industrialized nations should hold the primary burden of emissions reductions.

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Capturing Carbon at Schwarze Pumpe – Part of the Solution or Fostering the Myth of “Clean” Coal?

| Wednesday May 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Of particular interest to many of my colleagues on our recent trip to Germany was the newly commissioned (Sept. ’08) Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) pilot plant at Schwarze Pumpe in Spremberg – an interest in spite of the general belief among the ranks of my fellow enviros that “clean coal” is a myth.

Clean coal may be a myth, or more accurately a pernicious marketing slogan doggedly pursued by the coal industry, but the abundance of coal and the reality of it as a principal source of the world’s energy cannot be wished away.

Designed and built by Vattenfall, a Swedish power utility operating throughout northern Europe, the 30 megawatt pilot CCS project stands next to the commercial-scale 1600 megawatt coal-fired plant in the state of Brandenburg near the Polish border.

Using the Oxyfuel method of removing nitrogen from the air stream and injecting pure oxygen for the combustion of the fuel (in this case lignite coal), the plant is able to capture more than 95% of its CO2 emissions in the process, described in more detail in a recent post at GlobalWarmingisReal.

Schwarze Pumpe proves the technology and demonstrates the feasibility of capturing nearly all the CO2 emitted from burning coal. Over the next 3 years Vattenfall plans on spending 10 million Euros annually for testing and tweaking operation of the plant, seeking to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Tests using hard coal instead of lignite will also be conducted. As a test facility, the plant does not generate power for the electricity grid, instead selling the steam produced to a neighboring paper mill.

Vattenfall’s future plans for CCS development include a 300 MW demonstration plant at J√§nschwalde, Germany and a full-scale 1000 megawatt plant in operation by 2020.

But despite all this forward movement in CCS technology, the question remains, as we were made painfully aware walking through the oxyfuel plant at Schwarze Pumpe: where will all the captured CO2 go?

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Coffee Activist Dean’s Beans Brews the Perfect Blend for Change

| Wednesday May 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Dean with the farmers of Atsabe, East Timor
Dean Cycon, CEO of Dean’s Beans and award-winning author of Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee uses only organic fair-trade coffee and cocoa, typically pays farmers well above the fair-trade minimum while still keeping consumer prices very affordable, and reinvests substantial profits into locally governed sustainability/economic development projects in the communities that supply his coffee. He’s also perhaps the business person with the highest integrity that I’ve ever encountered.
Not surprisingly, his revenues and profits have grown every year, despite the recession.

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Uservoice – A More Sustainable way to Gain Customer Insight

| Wednesday May 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments

Uservoice.jpegThere are many ways for businesses to learn from their customers – the typical arsenal includes focus groups, surveys, and recently, social media “listening” tools. While all those have their value, they all can use an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money to manage.
Most consumer insight research involves outreach on the part of the company. You have to find your customers/potential customers, and perhaps incentivize them to participate. What if they came to you, felt heard, and were managed in such a way as to give only the most pertinent results?
Uservoice would seem to fit that description.
Whereas user forums can get cluttered with numerous one-off duplicates of the same issue, clouded by vocal minorities, and in turn discouraging to others that may have had valuable insight, Uservoice has put one simple, effective boundary to remedy all of this:

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Pedestrian Plaza Reclaims Pavement for People

Scott Cooney | Wednesday May 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

castroopening.jpgIt’s been popular in New York and other places where open space is at a premium, so San Francisco figured, “eh, why not?” The first reclamation of street space to create a pedestrian plaza opened last week on San Francisco’s famous Castro Street at the intersection with 17th St.
It’s a small space, maybe 1000 square feet in sum, but it’s symbolic, and perhaps a hopeful sign for pavement reclamation enthusiasts everywhere. The idea is to close a section of street to vehicular traffic, so that citizens can have a place to eat, drink coffee, read the paper, and generally hang out outside. As part of San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks Program, it is the first of what some hope will be many pieces of paved street that are repositioned as business centers.
If successful, the 17th and Castro plaza will be made permanent, and likely many others will follow in the city and perhaps in other cities. It makes the city more walkable and pedestrian friendly, and marks a stark contrast to the never-ending paving of America that began in earnest in the 1950’s and continues to do this day in most parts of the country. And it’s one of the big reasons why people love cities like San Francisco and New York and are increasingly returning to them as the illusions of suburbia burst like gnats on a windshield.
I went to the opening and interviewed some pedestrians, some hanger-outters, and some local businesses to see how they felt about the space.

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