The Road to a Better Place

Richard Levangie | Friday April 10th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Better Place began with a $200 million venture capital investment, and the company has easily garnered that much again in enthusiastic publicity. Since its founding in late 2007, barely a week goes by without the electric vehicle-and-infrastructure project cutting a new deal that makes business headlines in newspapers across the world. Why? Certainly, founder Shai Agassi is the consummate salesman, and a photogenic, charismatic, and literate entrepreneur.

But at the end of the day, it comes down to this: What Agassi is promoting could revolutionize the automobile industry just as surely as the Model T did a century ago.

Agassi hasn’t invented a fuel-efficient 100 mpg-engine, or a powerful new battery technology that will propel EVs for more than 250 miles on a single charge. Instead he’s bringing stakeholders together to create the electric car infrastructure that will power the first generation of EVs and plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The Better Place principle is actually quite simple, and it seeks to circumvent the classic chicken-and-egg scenario that was dogging the EV industry for years before the first Tesla rolled off the production line.

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Insurance Industry Prepares for a Rocky Future

Richard Levangie | Thursday April 9th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The President understands, but judging by coverage the American media is still in the dark. Very few seem to realize that North Dakota’s devastating floods are just the opening salvo in what will become a steady stream of severe weather stories. After two relatively cool years thanks to a strong La Ni√±a event – years that would have been scorching hot by Victorian standards – scientists are predicting that either 2009 or 2010 will be the warmest on record, and that warming will accelerate dramatically over the next decade. And though it’s impossible to peg any one event to climate change, the likelihood for severe weather is increasing.
“I actually think the science around climate change is real. It is potentially devastating,” Obama told reporters last week. “If you look at the flooding that’s going on right now in North Dakota and you say to yourself, ‘If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?’ That indicates the degree to which we have to take this seriously.”

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Will Aviation Biofuel Fly?

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday April 9th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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A better question is when.
Fuel is by far the biggest cost center for airlines, mainly because aviation fuel is the most expensive fuel to refine and, well, airplanes guzzle a lot of it.
That’s why the drive to develop an alternative aviation biofuel is becoming increasingly urgent for aircraft and engine manufacturers.
But even with the attention of the two largest aircraft makers, Boeing and Airbus, aviation biofuel is not exactly on the near-event horizon: Think 2025 before biofuel accounts for even 25 percent of the fuel airlines use, says Christian Dumas, vice president of sustainable development and eco-efficiency for Airbus. “I hope we can go faster than that,” he added.

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CleanTechies Helps Job Seekers Ease the Transition from Mainstream to CleanTech

| Thursday April 9th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Let’s get right to the point – losing your job sucks. Looking for work is a drag. Going to endless job interviews is stressful at best, at worst it’s a humiliating exercise in futility.

This is the unfortunate experience for a steadily increasing number of people, as the monthly employment reports regularly remind us. But not only is the economy receding, it is shifting as well, as new technologies and energy sources combine with a realization that “bridled growth” is the path to long term sustainability (pdf) and triple bottom line economics become the basis for what emerges from the other end of the current downturn. And the shining star in all this is the clean tech sector. Perhaps for most yet more promise and hope than reality, what is needed is a way to help individual job seekers smooth their transition to the “Clean Tech economy.”

The mission of CleanTechies.com, is just that. Combining a clean-tech job board, specialized resume writing service, interactive community, and the latest in industry news and trends, CleanTechies has set out to help ease the way into the new energy economy,

Looking for a job may still suck, but what results from the effort just might be the start of a new career that helps grow a new economy, one where “CleanTech” becomes a core component of the mainstream economy.

Okay, that’s a lot to ask from a single website – let’s back up a moment and take a closer look.

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Should In-N-Out Burger Dump Its Trash Cans?

| Thursday April 9th, 2009 | 6 Comments

I find absolutely no shame in admitting that I love In-N-Out Burger. And I should add that I’m on my second year as a vegetarian… I get the grilled cheese, one of many off menu options.
The 60 year old, privately owned In-N-Out has long celebrated its freezer-less approach to serving its food fresher than the competition. The company has also always paid its employees significantly more than state and federally-mandated minimum wage guidelines, and you can tell by the moods of their employees. In-N-Out has even quietly eliminated some of the trash it serves, with the replacement of those cardboard boxes served on plastic trays with reusable plastic trays, shaped like the old cardboard boxes.
But for a company that has believed in fresher food (and even received one of few accolades in the book, Fast Food Nation), positive work environments, and fairly compensated work, In-N-Out hasn’t yet taken what seems to be any easy opportunity to lead by eliminating trash entirely from its more than 140 locations. You don’t have to be the McDonald’s center of attention to lead.
My idea is this. Replace cups, lids, straws, burger wrappers, french fry trays and tray liners with compostable alternatives. The compact menu actually makes the transition straight forward. With one call to the owners of Mixt Greens, another great California business, I am sure they would be lead in the right direction and that the suppliers would be happy to put those secret bible verses on their wares, to get the business.
So I posted this idea on the quietly relaunched, all new dotherightthing.com, where you can show your support and help the idea grow into reality. With enough support, the business case will be clear and their marketing will have been done for In-N-Out Corporate. And of course, if you have ideas for In-N-Out or another company, you can post them to the site as well.

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Bottleless Water: How to Sustainably Quench our Thirst

| Thursday April 9th, 2009 | 0 Comments

glass%20of%20water.jpg We drink bottled water because we are made to believe it is better for us–the liquid is somehow purer, fresher, and/or safer than water that comes straight from the tap. This is simply not the reality, and Quench shows us how water can be purified simply, economically, and more sustainably than bottled water options.
By consuming bottled water we contribute to a host of environmentally damaging activities. For example, we use around 1.5 million barrels of oil per year to produce plastic bottles in the States (not including transport services), we rarely recycle the bottles after we use them (only 1 in 5 on average), and we contribute to the depletion of remote natural water sources if the company is true to it’s bottle labeling. Not to mention that often the product is no better than regular tap water. Eric Goldstein from the Natural Resources Defense Council explains, “No one should think that bottled water is better regulated, better protected, or safer than tap.”
Bottle water aside, demand nonetheless exists for purified water. Quench brings a solution to this; a UV filtration system that is efficient, relatively inexpensive and is simple to have installed and maintained.

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Should Free-Wheeling be Free? One Oregon Lawmaker Says No.

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday April 9th, 2009 | 9 Comments

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Oregonians love their bikes – and for good reason. Portland and Eugene are among the most progressive cities in the nation when it comes to biking infrastructure (bike lanes, bike racks, etc.). But Oregon representative Wayne Krieger has introduced a bill that would mean this infrastructure would no longer be freely available to two-wheeling citizens. They’d have to pay to ride.
Krieger’s bill, HB 3008, would require cyclists to register and license their bikes for about $27 a year. The bill doesn’t have much chance of advancing, since his fellow Congressmen haven’t granted it a committee work session. But the proposal raises some important questions. Should cyclists help pay for cycling infrastructure? Should cyclists be required to register and license their rides, just like motorists?
Krieger argues that if motorists and cyclists are to share the same roads, cyclists should pay licensing and registration fees, as motorists do. This way, he says, they’ll financially support the road systems and bike lanes from which they benefit. Plus, authorities will have a better way to nail fines on cyclist who disobey traffic laws.

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GM/Segway Joint Venture Is a Step in the Right Direction

Steve Puma | Thursday April 9th, 2009 | 5 Comments

General Motors and Segway have announced a joint venture to produce a small 2-passenger electric vehicle, based on Segway’s balancing technology. The prototype, named the P.U.M.A., (short for Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility), includes some notable concepts, including networked communications technologies which [could] allow the vehicles to avoid collisions and participate in an on-demand transit network. Jim Norrod, chief executive of Segway, had this to say, “We’re excited about doing more with less, less emissions, less dependability on foreign oil and less space.” This appears to be a move by General Motors to focus on more environmentally-friendly vehicles and could potentially signal a greater change in GM’s strategy.

A few days ago, Joel Makower wrote about the American obsession with automobiles. This obsession has translated into the current rush to produce marketable electric cars. He laments that switching from gasoline to electricity merely clouds the fact that personally-owned vehicles are inherently wasteful and unsustainable. Makower suggests that what is needed is a shift to a greater focus on providing transportation solutions, not just building more cars. If the automakers could reinvent themselves as “transportation providers,” perhaps they could begin to focus on providing the most efficient solutions to transportation problems. This would most likely lead them to the realization that the solution involves doing more with less. The P.U.M.A. vehicle appears to be a step towards this type of better design and whole-systems thinking.

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The Other Side of Capital: A Look Inside Angel Investing

Steve Puma | Wednesday April 8th, 2009 | 0 Comments

business-angel-2.jpgWhether it be the state of the economy, or the rise in interest in everything green, a lot of people are thinking about starting their own business with a focus on sustainability or social equity. Getting a new business off the ground requires tenacity, hard work, and cash. Lots of cash. One of the places to get that cash is through an angel investor, but, to many people, this type of investing is shrouded in mystery.
I had a chance to find out more about angel investing at the Green Financing for Green Businesses panel discussion, hosted by Urban Solutions, a San Francisco-based non-profit that promotes small and green business in disadvantaged communities. Speaking on the panel was Colin Wiel, an angel investor and founder of the San Francisco chapter of the Keiretsu Forum, the world’s largest angel investor network. Mr. Weil, whose accomplishments also include founding a 35-person software firm, gave an overview of who angel investors are, why they invest, and what types of businesses they invest in.
Angel investors generally invest in companies seeking $500,000 to $1 million. Due to the fact that the Keiretsu Forum invests as a group, investments of less than $500K would not allow enough members to participate. Investments of $2M or more are usually handled by VCs. Those seeking less than $500K should probably use their personal network, family, or friends.

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Rocks Storing GHG? Questioning Our Focus on Technology

| Wednesday April 8th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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I am worried that our reliance on finding large scale technological solutions can potentially stunt the growth of sustainable development. To me, Sustainable Development is the result of integrating Sustainability in our lives, while Sustainability is a set of actions which ensure that living and non-living systems can thrive in perpetuity.
Taking this article as an example, “Rocks Found That Could Store Greenhouse Gas“, the numbers are so abstract and large that they were mostly irrelevant. For example, the potential of rocks sequestering carbon equal to 500 years of US GHG emissions has no practical meaning. Even if the sequestration amounted to 1% of 1% of those 500 years of emissions, it is still less than the amount of annual reductions needed to get to 2050 goal.

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Progessive Aims to Drive Automotive Innovation with X PRIZE Competition

| Wednesday April 8th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The long-awaited beginnings of a major sea change in automobile design and manufacturing continues.
Progressive Insurance yesterday released the official list of teams that will compete for its Automotive X PRIZE. One hundred eleven registered teams from 25 U.S. states and 11 countries will field 136 vehicles using 14 different fuel sources and compete for a share of a $10 million prize purse.
Looking to inspire and foster development of a new generation of practically feasible “super fuel-efficient vehicles,” registered teams will now move through a design judging phase based on data submission packages they’ve submitted. In addition to fuel efficiency, entries will be judged on affordability, safety, and environmental impact.
*Image courtesy of Myers Motors, Ohio

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Who Is the Greenest Web Host?

| Wednesday April 8th, 2009 | 7 Comments

solar%20powered%20web%20hosting%20greenest%20web%20host.jpegIf you’re looking for a green web host, there’s a large and expanding number of companies out there offering it. Trouble is, for the most part they do nothing different than their conventional counterparts, save buying RECs to offset their energy use. Server farms are a major user of energy, and to eliminate that all together, safely, is a huge, tangible step your business can take.
Solar Host does this, and is a company unlike any other host I’ve seen out there.

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How Viable Is a Plastic Bag Tax?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday April 8th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Plastic bags account for 50 percent of the plastic trash in Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia River. In order to decrease the amount of plastic bags in the Anacostia, the D.C. Council proposed legislation that would put a five cents tax on disposable shopping bags. Eleven council members co-introduced it, and according to a Washington Post article, that almost guarantees it will become law.
Social service groups and plastic bag manufacturers have joined forces in opposing the legislation, arguing that the tax will be a hardship for poor people.
Photo Source: Dwell

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Giving Plants Instead of Flowers

| Tuesday April 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

giving%20plant.jpg Flowers show people that you care about them, but in doing so we show neglect for wider environmental and social issues related to the cut flower industry. Giving Plants, an online plant delivery service, offers customers the chance to give a long-lasting gift to loved ones in a more sustainable and socially responsible way.
The idea is to completely change how we gift give. Conveniently, the company organizes plant deliveries with online and phone orders, and organizes plants by occasion, price, holiday, and of course by the plant species itself. For example, if one wanted to mimic giving flowers, the “Flowering Plants” selection provides the option to deliver plants “in bud, ready to open, offering a colorful display that will brighten any home or office.” But giving plants goes beyond providing a convenient delivery service; it allows us to invest in a local business with high green credentials, a business that grows plants responding to the seasons in the United States, for distribution in the United States.
It’s is an economical and more ecological option for gift delivery, but best of all it allows us to move away from the cut-flower choice, where gifts may come loaded with uncertain impacts.

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3P Founder Wins Best Green Media Architect!

| Tuesday April 7th, 2009 | 5 Comments

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Nick Aster, founder of 3P, has been awarded the distinction Best Green Media Architect by Treehugger in their inaugural “Best of Green” awards for his work on Triple Pundit and Mother Jones magazine.
It’s a testament to his modesty that he doesn’t want me to post this — but I just thought you all would like to know!

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