Peak Oil or Climate Change: Which Is Most Urgent?

3p Contributor | Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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by Andre Angelantoni (For an in-person discussion of this topic, please RSVP here for May 21 meetup in San Francisco)
For a casual, scientifically-inclined observer, climate change used to be easy: the link between CO2 and climate change had been established, CO2 emissions were increasing year after year and unchecked growth was likely to see a world at least 2 degrees hotter than now — and possibly much more.
However, there is increasing evidence that some of the assumptions of fossil fuel availability used by the current set of atmospheric CO2 concentration projections are too high — in some cases much too high.
For instance, in 2004 Germany lowered its hard coal reserves from 23 billion tons to 0.183 billion tons — a 99 percent reduction. The UK and Botswana underwent similar reductions of 99 percent.
It looks like the US is due for a future reduction, too, though not on the scale of these three examples. In 2007 the National Academy of Science studied domestic coal reserves and urged a thorough reassessment because, in their view, “only a small fraction of previously estimated [coal] reserves are economically recoverable.” Subsequent studies put the peak of world and U.S. coal production between 2030 and 2040.

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Senators Deceive Voters with EPA Challenge

Jeff Siegel | Wednesday May 13th, 2009 | 3 Comments

barasso.jpgWell, it looks like the deniers are back at it.
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans released a nine-page memo which included the opinions of a number of federal agencies regarding the regulation of greenhouse gases.
The document stated that factories, small businesses and institutions would be subject to unreasonable costs if the EPA proceeds with the regulation of greenhouse gases. This, my friends, is what the deniers do when their data is bogus, and their agendas are based more on political maneuvering than doing what’s right for the nation. They re-word, and repackage the same old argument in an effort to continue the debate.
No rational person has ever denied that the regulation of greenhouse gases would require some sort of price tag. But what most of these folks are refusing to acknowledge is that there have always been costs associated with the production of greenhouse gases. It’s just that these costs have consistently been externalized onto you, me and every living thing around us.

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Cluetrain 2.0: 10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media

| Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Rob Reed, the venerable mind behind MaxGladwell.com had an idea today – get 100+ websites to simultaneously publish a post on ten ways in which social media can “change” the world. Longtime readers of this site know my affection for The Cluetrain Manifesto, written 10 years ago which states:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter – and getting smarter faster than most companies.

Rob’s site is devoted to this principal and to making the best, most intelligent use of social media for positive change – not just in business, but everywhere else. His post follows….
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SAP Getting Serious About Clean Technology

| Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Multinational enterprise software leader SAP is getting serious about clean technology and reducing carbon emissions–both inside and outside the organization. Recent moves are a sign that SAP isn’t merely “talking the talk,” but “walking the walk” when it comes to reducing the negative environmental impact of its business.
On May 1, SAP announced details of the expansion of its campus in Philadelphia’s Newton Square. Designed by FXFOWLE Architects, the recently completed 200,000 square foot building’s sustainable design features include a roof planted with grass and other native plants, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and toilets that use rainwater.
SAP management apparently also sees clean information systems technology as a promising market segment. Just yesterday, the company announced that it was looking to acquire Clear Standards, Inc., a privately-held developer of a “Sustainability 2.0″ software-as-as-service (SaaS) information systems platform that enables companies to gather data, analyze, manage and report on the greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts of their operations.
*Image Courtesy of SAP Americas/FXFOWLE

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Ford Will Convert SUV Plant to Small Cars and New Electric Vehicle

Steve Puma | Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Ford Motor Company announced that it is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. The plant, formerly the production site for Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators SUVs, is one of three North American light truck plants Ford is retooling to build fuel-efficient small cars in the coming years.
This transformation will not only be a shift in the plant’s focus from large SUVs to small cars, it will also include more efficient assembly methods, more ergonomic design to improve working conditions, and an agreement with the United Auto Workers that implements new operating practices to improve quality and efficiency based on joint problem solving and continuous improvement .
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World’s Most Sustainable Coffee?

Scott Cooney | Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 10 Comments

Pop quiz: What are the 2 most commonly traded commodities on the planet? If you guessed bananas and wheat, you’re wayyy off. But who would guess bananas and wheat? Maybe if you just finished eating Shredded Wheat with chopped bananas you might have it on the brain, but odds are if you just did finish breakfast, you enjoyed it with a cup of the world’s #2 most traded.
Coffee, after petroleum (#1), is the second most traded commodity in the world. Of course, the name itself is very misleading. A commodity, according to my Econ textbook, is “something for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across markets. It is the same no matter who produces it…” Examples given are petroleum, iron ore, copper, as well as agricultural products such as corn, soy, wheat, ethanol, and yes, coffee.

Any coffee aficianado will tell you that coffee is anything but a commodity. Can anyone truly say there’s no difference between Folger’s and a local artisan roaster’s rich blends?

And of course, there’s the sustainability aspect. Coffee has been one of the darlings of the sustainability movement. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to switch from a conventional coffee to a truly sustainable one, and gives our conscience something to feel good about with every delicious sip. For coffee to be sustainable, it can achieve a variety of certifications. Organic, Fair Trade, and Shade-Grown, coffees are available in most any city in the world. Some coffees go even further.

So what is the most sustainable coffee on the planet?

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Conversations in Corporation: eBay’s Green Team in Progress

| Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay, stood underneath a pop-up tent on a rainy Friday in San Jose. He had on running shoes, old jeans, and wore an eBay Green Team tee over a long-sleeved, button-up shirt. For being the head of one of the most well-known names in Silicon Valley, he was refreshingly approachable and accessible. Employees came up to him, introduced themselves, and took the opportunity to speak with the man they had probably never even seen walking through the office hallways before. “The best thing about the Green Team,” he started, “is that it happened in a very eBay way.”

The crowd of a couple hundred listening to Donahoe and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed was mostly comprised of eBay employees—tired, wet, and cheerful after a green space beautification project sponsored by the company’s Green Team just miles away from the its corporate headquarters.

What started off as a scant 40 members, volunteering their time because they had a passion for sustainability, the Green Team has now exploded to over 100,000 strong after it opened up to community members (eBay sellers and customers) a little over than two months ago.

“The founding of eBay,” Donahoe said in an interview, “always had a socially conscious outlook, though it was never emphasized or articulated.” Donahoe also made a point to emphasize how inherently green eBay is. Its core offering, the eBay online marketplace, is about returning used goods to the market, supplanting the creation of new goods with large carbon footprints and removing products from the waste cycle. “We didn’t want to be the guys talking about it,” he said, referring to the company’s social values. “We want to be the guys doing it.”

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Green Marketing or Greenwashing? You Decide.

| Tuesday May 12th, 2009 | 6 Comments

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Let me start by saying this is an interactive post. In order for it to be a stunning success, you need to pen your thoughts in the comment section below!

Normally at this time you would be reading my weekly column “Sustainably 101″. However, it is trade show season and I wanted to share a few stories from the road. Since April 20th, I have been speaking and attending conferences. First it was Coverings in Chicago, then off to Vegas for The National Hardware Show and The Hospitality and Design Expo.
One common theme carried throughout the exhibit hall: “green marketing”. Some displays excelled in telling their company and product’s green story. On the other hand, others failed miserably. Many companies disregarded environmental marketing regulations and guidelines, mainly because the marketing team didn’t know they existed. “Carbon Neutral” claims were highly visible, yet sales and marketing teams did not know how to talk to their customers about the carbon footprinting process, or if the product or manufacturing process was “carbon neutral”.
So, my question to you is this: Do you think the image above is marketing the product, company, or manufacturing process as carbon neutral? Yes, I have the answer. And, yes, I will share it with you after I receive your feedback!

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What is Sustainable Futures 09?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday May 11th, 2009 | 0 Comments

150px-Alterecologo.pngCompanies who want to become leaders in sustainable change now have a new evaluation tool called Sustainable Futures 09. Created by Havas Media, Sustainable Futures 09 is targeted for “progressive and engaged companies.”
Guy Champniss, Director of Business Insights, Havas Media Intelligence characterizes Sustainable Futures 09 as, “a huge step forward in allowing us to help progressive and forward-looking brands manage their sustainable communications more effectively. It directs brands so that they can meet and surpass consumer expectations, ensuring their endeavours in this area help build durable brand value.”
The Sustainability Futures Quotient (SFQ) is a “cross-sector measurement tool” that tracks and compares companies’ performances in regards to sustainability. According to Champniss, the SFG is “key in helping companies maximise their advantage.” It can help companies in the long-term to “take a corporate temperature check.”

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John Brennan: Mapping Social Change Around the World

| Monday May 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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In addition to promoting the concept of for-profit philanthropy, this series is designed to spotlight the amazing individuals who are creating new vehicles for change and innovating social good. One such individual, who is embarking on a journey to make taking social action easier, is John Brennan, creator of I’mDoingMyPart.org and winner of the Social Actions Change the Web Challenge for his live map of change activity around the globe.
Every moment of every day, somewhere in the world, people are volunteering, donating, signing petitions, making loans and doing other important social work. But before John Brennan came along, there was no way to visualize this change in progress. Using the Social Actions API, which aggregates social action data from over 50 nonprofit and change organization sources, John has created geographical context around that activity in the hopes of sparking people’s desire to join in.
His goal is to create a compelling presentation where people can be excited about all of the work that is happening around the world to make it a better place. “A person might discover an interest in helping others abroad and feel a connection with what they’re doing by seeing it on the map,” says John. “Seeing a real location plus picture plus the related action goes a long way!”
More often than not, it’s not a matter of finding people who want to do their part, but providing them with the resources for what needs to be done. John’s map technology allows people to connect tangibly with a cause or activity to drive the corresponding action. And if everyone does their part, more dots on the map could translate into less work needed because change will already be in motion across thousands of miles of oceans and terrain.

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Competing for Sustainability: Could Social Game Design Hold a Key?

3p Contributor | Monday May 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

sustainability video gameBy Kai Jaffe

How would your company act differently if run by social gamers? This was the question posed by social game designer Alan Wells at Thursday night’s Designers Accord town hall meeting in San Francisco.

The Designers Accord is a global coalition of designers, educators, researchers, engineers, and corporate leaders working together to integrate the principles of sustainability into all aspects of design practice and manufacturing. It advocates inverting the traditional model of competition, and encourages sharing best practices so environmental and social innovation is more efficiently and quickly disseminated. In the spirit of sharing, a number of designers and design educators came together at Lunar Design in San Francisco to discuss how they are implementing sustainability thinking into their work.

Alan Wells works at Zynga, a social gaming company, designing social games. To get people to play his game over and over and want to share it with their friends, the game must have rewards built into it. Very clear reward structures, where a player knows what they have to do to receive a reward, appeals to human nature. Alan has found that the key to a successful reward structure, and thus a successful game, is when players have to exhibit comparison, competition, and cooperation. To have a successful social game a player will always compare what they have with what others have, and therefore, compete with their friends, and cooperate with people to gain a reward.

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Do Global Clients Need a Sustainability Strategy today?

| Monday May 11th, 2009 | 4 Comments

(Note: this is the first post in a series of articles on developing, validating, and implementing a sustainability growth strategy for current (and future) market conditions. Overview of the blog post is here. The target audience is CXOs in technology companies and global Engineering Procurement & Construction (EPC) firms who are chartered to lead efforts to grow new revenue streams in this general market sector, as well as those executives in global enterprises who are considering implementation of such strategies.
In the fall of last year, I wrote about the need for sustainability programs in the industrial sector, given the current economic climate (link). Since that time, we have seen market conditions deteriorate, but conversely, have also seen companies (both services and technology) who are starting to hire again to provide sustainability solutions to their clients. The purpose of this column is to provide some guidance on the state of the sustainability strategy market need; particularly in regard to enterprise systems. Notes from leaders from both the “sell” and “buy” sides of the equation provide additional data points on current trends.

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The Vetrazzo Process: A Photo Essay

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Monday May 11th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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Earlier this month, Mary Catherine O’Connor visited the Ford Point “Green Manufacturing facility” and, among other innovative companies, spent some time with Vetrazzo, a maker of stylish, recycled surfaces such as countertops.
Vetrazzo’s final products are approximately 85% (by weight) recycled glass from a variety of post-consumer and post-industrial sources. We thought you might like a closer look at the manufacturing process in the form of a photo essay. Read on to see…

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Seeking the Eco-Friendly Golf Course, Part 2

| Saturday May 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment

A few weeks ago, I took a look at the Isla Viveros Resort’s purportedly eco-friendly golf course. Isla Viveros is doing more than many golf courses in its quest for sustainability, but does South Carolina’s Kiawah Island Golf Resort, established in 1976, do better?

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World’s Largest Hydroelectric Plant Drowning in Political Tension

| Friday May 8th, 2009 | 0 Comments

After nine months of negotiations and two hours of official face-to-face discussions, Brazil’s President Lula da Silva and his Paraguayan counterpart, Fernando Lugo, failed to come an agreement over Itaipu Dam, Brazil’s O Estado do S√£o Paulo reported last night. Completed in 1991, Itaip√∫ is a joint venture between neighboring countries Brazil and Paraguay to generate hydroelectricity from the Rio Parana, the world’s 7th largest river.
According to a treaty signed in 1973, each country retains a 50% claim to the electricity generated. However, over the years, Brazil has dominated the consumption of the energy produced, using 95% of Itaip√∫’s output to power 20% of the country, leaving 5% for Paraguay. Though, O Estado clarifies that 5% amounts to 90% of the Paraguay’s entire energy needs.
Nonetheless, Lugo, who recently entered office, has cited growing global energy concerns and the financial crisis as among the principal reasons to renegotiate the concessions of Itaip√∫, threatening to take the matter to international courts in order to resolve the issue.

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