The Holy Grail: Carbon-Capturing Cement

Richard Levangie | Friday May 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Last January, Novacem, a spin-off from London’s Imperial College, won the coveted Rushlight Award for its novel CO2-capturing cement process that could turn one of the world’s most CO2-intensive industries into an important carbon sequestration solution. Cement production is a huge environmental problem, producing between six to eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – and that makes the cement industry a much, much bigger headache than aviation.
Traditional Portland cement is made by heating limestone and clay in giant kilns which, according to the International Energy Agency, produces 0.83 (metric) tonnes of CO2 for every ton of cement. About half of this footprint is generated from the vast amounts of energy needed to heat the kilns (up to 1,500°C) and the other half is released by chemical reactions as the limestone decomposes.

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Shell’s “Three Hard Truths” Aren’t Clean, Cheap or Convenient

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments

shell.gifJust about one year ago, Triple Pundit writer Andrew Burger filed a two-part report on a web chat dialogue that Shell Oil had offered journalists. In the first post, Burger relayed how Shell had defined three hard truths that it, along with the rest of the global energy industry, are facing. In the second, he explained that while Shell believes renewable energy sources will take up a larger role in the future, its near-term spending would continue to focus on oil and gas exploration, while hoping that carbon capture and storage would address that CO2 problem associated with business as usual.
A lot has happened in the 12 months since these posts. For one thing, oil prices shot through the roof and then plummeted, along with the global economy. And Shell now says that the three hard truths – that demand for fuel will grow in step with global population, that energy supply won’t necessarily meet demand, and that the negative environmental impacts associated with the energy industry will grow – have only gotten harder.
That cheery message opens Shell’s 2008 Corporate Sustainability Report and acted as subtext for comments that Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer made during a press conference call today.

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Ghosts in the Ocean Machine

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ghost%20fishing.jpg Many of us have heard of the Eastern Garbage Dump, an assemblage of trash the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. But another, lesser-known assault on our planet’s oceans has recently come to the forefront: ghost fishing.
Large amount of fishing gear is lost at sea or abandoned by fishers every year. This gear damages the marine environment, impacts fish stocks, and poses a hazard to ships, according to a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment Program (UNEP).
“There are many ‚Äòghosts in the marine environment machine’ from over-fishing and acidification linked with greenhouse gases to the rise in de-oxygenated ‚Äòdead zones’ as a result of run off and land-based source of pollution,” says Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director. “Abandoned and lost fishing is part of this suite of challenges that must be urgently addressed collectively if the productivity of our oceans and seas is to be maintained for this and future generations.”

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Wrap-Up of Ray Anderson’s Talk at Sustainable Industries Economic Forum

Scott Cooney | Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Sustainable%20industries%20economics%20forums_header_short.gifRay Anderson, founder and Chairman of Interface, gave the keynote address this morning at the Sustainable Industries Economic Forum.
Anderson had a tough act to follow in this, the third Economic Forum put on by Sustainable Industries. Last year’s keynote was Van Jones, after all.
Anderson quoted Einstein as he talked about the thinking that we need to get us out of our current economic and environmental maelstroms. This alternative thinking led their factory in Southern California to go solar. Something their accountant might have missed, said Anderson, was the value of extra sales, PR, and the value of leadership, had they simply used a payback period or other cost-benefit analysis in determining whether their solar project was worthwhile.
Anderson next tried a visualization with the audience, which blew me away. He asked everyone to close their eyes…

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Blogging for a Cause: Zemanta Gets in the Cause Marketing Game

| Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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128x128_bloggingforacause.pngYesterday, Zemanta, an application that suggests tags, links, photos, and related articles to enrich your blog based on keywords extracted from the text of your posts, launched its “Blogging for a Cause” campaign. Putting up $3,000 of their own money, Zemanta is asking bloggers to write about their favorite nonprofits, the top five of which get the most bloggers to endorse them, will receive the donation. The process is simple: write a post, embed a trackable link at the bottom for Zemanta to tally it as an official vote, and share the link with your friends and networks as you normally would in promoting your blog. Zemanta has also created badges that can be added to blogs or nonprofit websites in maximizing exposure around this initiative.
The Social Innovation Greenhouse at Weber Shandwick has also stepped in with a matching donation of Zemanta’s $3,000 pledge, and Zemanta is also seeking any other socially motivated entities who want to add to the pot, making this an even bigger opporunity to make a difference for the winning nonprofit.
The beauty of this initiative from a cause marketing standpoint is that it engages the blogosphere, who are able to reach the masses within their own sub-sets of the population, in generating significant exposure for the nonprofits they feature. And it won’t cost them a dime. Unlike most cause-related campaigns that are hinged on transactions, Zemanta has simply asked that bloggers do what they normally do. . . blog.

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Frito-Lay Partners With Terracycle to Close the Loop on Chip Bags

Scott Cooney | Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

frito_bag.jpgFrito-Lay has announced plans to partner with ‘Upcycler’ Terracycle to give their chip bags a second life. Frito, which on Earth Day of 2008 unveiled a solar thermal generation facility at their manufacturing plant in Modesto, CA, with the capacity to power that entire plant, is making public its desire to reduce the environmental footprint of their packaging. By partnering with Terracycle, they are making a significant stride toward that end with an innovative program wherein they provide incentives for people to upcycle their chip bags (people will actually ship them directly to Terracycle, but Frito pays the postage). Terracycle will then do what they do best, turning the chip bags into everyday products like clipboards and tote bags.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what cool designs they come up with for all those brightly colored Frito’s, Cheetos, Doritos, and Lay’s bags. I’m ready to buy an upcycled rainbow-colored hammock, just give me the word!
But why Terracycle, why not just a traditional recycling effort? And how much can 2 cents per bag really add up to? And perhaps most importantly, how much good will this do for the waste stream?

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Ecuador Eliminating Fossil Fuel Use in the Galapagos

| Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

lunapic-124169953523815%282%29.jpg The Galapagos Islands rank right up there with the Amazon and the Serengeti as one of the richest and best known, yet fragile and threatened, ecosystems in the world. Now, the Ecuadoran government is looking to a range of alternative energy resources to make sure it stays that way.
Recognized by the UN as a World Heritage Site for its rare and unique marine and terrestrial fauna and flora, booming eco-tourism in the Galapagos, ironically, has added to the challenges and problems faced by those looking to restore and protect the island’s native species and ecological balance.
The Ecuadoran government has turned to wind and solar power as a means of realizing its goals. Along with a range of international aid organizations and private sector businesses, it’s working to eliminate the use of fossil fuels on the Galapagos Islands by 2015.

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SF To Build California’s Largest Solar Plant (Despite the Fog)

| Wednesday May 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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If there’s one thing I know about being a longtime resident of San Francisco, it’s that it’s always hot and sunny here. Oh wait, did I say hot and sunny? I mean cold and ridiculously foggy. And the foggiest part of the city is, ironically, call the Sunset. Maybe it’s the name that threw them off when the SF Board of Supervisors approved a new 5-megawatt solar plant to be installed at the Sunset Reservoir.
Under a proposal approved Tuesday, Recurrent Energy, a privately owned solar power company, will create this new solar plant to sell the energy to San Francisco at a cost of about $2 million annually.

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Panel Discussion Tomorrow: Economic Realities of Sustainable Business

Scott Cooney | Wednesday May 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments

anderson_ray.jpgTriple Pundit’s good friends at Sustainable Industries are hosting a panel discussion tomorrow, May 7, at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, focusing on the economic realities of working in the sustainability sphere during this economic downturn. From everything I’ve gleaned so far, the mood will be one of cautious optimism as Ray Anderson, rock star green entrepreneur, takes center stage.

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Living Homes: Bringing Green Building Closer to the Average American

| Wednesday May 6th, 2009 | 1 Comment

prefab modern housingThere are tons of innovative green buildings out there these days, but so often, things on their websites stop at the ooh ah design and green trickery. What about what it’s like to be in one of these places? In something I’ve not seen previously, Living Homes shows exactly that, with a time lapse view of an entire day, light filling the place nearly the whole time, due to well placed windows.
And the kicker? They’re prefab modular homes. As I said to a friend, “Who would have thought the words sexy and modular home would ever be within 2 miles of each other?”
Their first home, built and done in 8 hours on April 13th, was also the first LEED Platinum certified home in the nation. Steve Glenn, the founder of Living Homes, lives in it, as he said, “eating our own dogfood” (Using their own products, so to speak).
All thinking, design and execution is guided by what they call “Z6″: Essentially, aiming to have zero impact, before, during, and after living in one of their homes. They’re aware it’s generally not possible to have no impact, but if you look at their thinking around reaching for that goal, it’s no marketing ploy.

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What Is the Best Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday May 6th, 2009 | 0 Comments

When President Obama released his budget, he included a “cap-and-refund” proposal that strictly limits greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and would auction emissions permits to large companies. The price of fossil-fuel based energy will increase. However, Obama’s plan also includes giving refunds to taxpayers which will come from the auctions.
Seventy percent of state regulators surveyed by Deloitte in March and April believe electricity costs will go up next year. Eighty percent believe Obama’s proposed cap and trade system will increase electricity costs in their state. Over half (53.3 percent) believe the public would pay as much as five percent in increased rates to reduce GHG emissions. Only 16.7 percent believe the public would accept a 10 percent rate increase, and 23.3 percent believe the public would not support any rate increase.

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Consumerist.com Gives Sustainable Business a Kick in the Pants

| Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Service starts with an “S.” So does Sustainability.
Coincidence? I think not.


Consumerist.com, long regarded for its snarky commentary on business practices and marketing, has launched their annual “Worst Company in America” battle royale, whittling down from 32 companies to four, one of whom will be awarded this inauspicious honor. Among those vying for the title are Bank of America, Comcast, Ticketmaster, and AIG. At first blush, there aren’t really any surprises there. In one corner, you have AIG and Bank of America who have become surreptitiously synonymous with exorbitant compensation packages, reckless management, and of course, the dreaded tax payer bailouts. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ticketmaster and Comcast bring us monster monopolies where service is overlooked as customers are forced to deal with their “only game in town” mentality. Ever tried to get a live agent on the phone at Ticketmaster? You’d be more likely to get swine flu than a helpful customer service representative. And while Comcast has attempted to improve their notoriously poor customer service with their @comcastcares account on Twitter, Frank Eliason is just one man up against the 50 trillion* new users since Ashton Kutcher and Oprah joined the party. Probably not going to make a dent in transforming their image with the masses. You’d have better luck actually getting that wire transfer of a hundred million dollars from the Prince of Nigeria.
*may not be an actual stat

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Microfinance: Real Stimulus. No Bailouts Necessary.

3p Contributor | Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 3 Comments

The following is a short post from Opportunity Fund Founder and CEO, Eric Weaver. Opportunity Fund is producing an event that we at 3p are very excited about called Microfinance California, on May 28th at Stanford. If you have the chance, come join us at the event, which promises to deliver some great discussions on the future of lending to California’s entrepreneurs who aren’t receiving access to the capital they need to get their businesses off the ground.
With the economy still reeling and federal stimulus dollars yet to hit the street, the work we do at Opportunity Fund is more important than it has ever been before. If you doubt the power of microfinance to provide fast and effective stimulus, consider these facts:

  • Very small businesses are a major source of quality, sustainable jobs in the Bay Area and in recent years have been the only source of job growth.
  • From 2001 to 2006, very small businesses (fewer than 19 employees) were the only size businesses in the Bay Area to create jobs – with an average 4.7% increase in employment.
  • Microenterprises with 4 or fewer employees experienced an 11.3% increase in jobs.
  • Businesses with 20 employees or more reduced their employment by an average of 8.67% during the same period.

Opportunity Fund and other microfinance institutions have proven their ability to help these job-creating businesses grow. Our borrowers, for instance, have an 85% survival rate two years after receiving a loan from us. Even better, our loans are being repaid and we are in no need of a bailout. Because microfinance isn’t about bubbles, excessive leverage or opaque financial products. It’s about old fashioned hard work and faith in our fellow human beings.

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UL Plugging Into Green Products

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment

ULE_logo.jpgLook around you. Unless you’re reading this on a laptop in a tent high in the mountains (lucky you), you can probably find the Underwriter Laboratories’ UL symbol on a nearby electrical product. That ubiquitous little logo conveys to consumers that the product they’re about to plug into a wall socket meets its safety standards. But soon, you may also see a new UL logo, one that will certify that the product meets basic standards for efficiency, renewable materials, sustainable design and other metrics. It’s part of an effort UL rolled out earlier this year, called UL Environment.
UL’s motivation in creating the UL Environment label is to help consumers see through the fog of competing eco-labels in the marketplace. Since UL is such a well-known standards organization, it expect its UL environment label will help ease consumers’ concerns and confusion surrounding what products can walk their green talk.

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Going Green Today Whips Your Saggy Sustainability Butt into Shape

Steve Puma | Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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There are a lot of websites attempting to make the world more “green” by changing individual behavior. These companies use a number of different methods to accomplish this, such as carbon footprint calculators (CarbonFund.org), simulation games (ClimateCulture.com) or mapping tools (LocalHarvest.org). They all have one thing in common: they require the user to keep using them, to keep coming back.
Making your life more eco-efficient is kind of like losing weight: you have to stay motivated until you start to see results. If you are not seeing results, you are likely to get discouraged and eat the next doughnut that comes along. When that happens, you need someone to remind you to get back on track. When it comes to sustainability, Going Green Today wants to be your personal sustainability coach.

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