A Vital Piece Missing in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act

Scott Cooney | Wednesday March 25th, 2009 | 2 Comments

van_stairs.jpgAlso known as the stimulus package, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), along with Van Jones‘ appointment as Green Jobs Czar, will help American workers get back to work with job training and incentives for green initiatives. The subject has been well covered in the blogosphere and with good reason. Interest in the green economy is at an all time high, while employment is at…well, it’s not good.
But there’s a piece of the equation that’s missing. What happens when all of those people get trained, weatherize 60 million homes and offices, and the green work starts to dry up? We’d be missing a tremendous opportunity if we didn’t take this process one step further: help these people become independent by providing them the tools they need to start their own business and be successful in the green economy.
Right now, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has no programs designed to help small business owners go green. No advisory councils, no tax incentive worksheets specifically for eco-friendly initiatives, and no loan specialists who focus on the green market. I started a petition to Karen Mills, Administrator of the SBA. I’d encourage everyone not to just sign it, but to take this message further.
Without green businesses to continue the momentum of the current interest in green, the ARRA risks being just a stimulus bill. Barack Obama and the Democrats would be wise not to let that happen, as that is likely to be the greatest criticism of the bill after the dust settles.
No agency has more potential for being a catalyst for a green overhaul on our economy than the SBA, as half a million Americans start businesses every year in the U.S. However, after a thorough search of the SBA site, I could find nothing related to helping businesses go green, so I started calling the agency, getting passed from person to person until I was passed to something called the ‘advocacy’ group. I began by asking one of the advisors how he felt the SBA might work with Van Jones to help create the green transition. After a few moments, there was a pregnant pause in the air, so I stopped, not knowing what I had said wrong.
“Who is Van Jones?” he asked.
So what would a greener SBA look like? Glad you asked…

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Exxon: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

Jeff Siegel | Wednesday March 25th, 2009 | 6 Comments

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Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the nation’s worst oil spill. It was on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude into the fishing waters of Prince William Sound. It was a tragic day, indeed.
I know, I know. It’s not popular these days to “bring everyone down” with reminders of those pesky oil spills. With energy security a major issue, and years of mocking those who think it’s a good idea to consider the loss of natural capital associated with the production and burning of fossil fuels, we’ve almost become immune to oil spills – writing them off as simply “the cost of doing business.”
So let’s examine that cost, shall we?

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U.S. Climate Action Partnership: A Carbon Fox in the Cap-and-Trade Henhouse

Nick Hodge | Wednesday March 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

U.S. Climate Action PartnershipTaken at face value, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) seems like an organization with a selfless goal.

On its website, the entity describes itself as "a group of businesses and leading environmental organizations that have come together to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

I’ll stop short of calling it sinister, but there is certainly more going on here than meets the eye.

Here’s the nitty-gritty on the USCAP, including details on the policy they’re trying to stay ahead of.

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US Solar Market Had Record Growth in 2008 Despite Economy

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday March 25th, 2009 | 6 Comments

The last year has been filled with news of plummeting property values, widespread unemployment, and bankruptcies. However, judging from stock values of solar companies over the last year, you would never know that the industry experienced record growth last year for both photovoltaics (PV) and solar water heating according to a report recently released by the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Despite the credit crisis, 2008 will be remembered in the solar industry as a year where federal incentives were enhanced and extended for eight years. This ends the boom and bust cycles that have plagued the industry for decades.

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Five Fab Ideas Fight to Be Financial Times Challenge Champion

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday March 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment

FT_chall.jpgPre-fabricated, low-cost bamboo housing to meet growing demand in Latin America. Climate forecasting designed to help business mitigate the impacts of environmental changes on their firms. A text-messaging service that acts as a bulletin board for taxi-sharing. These are just a few of the 300 entries received in the Financial Times Climate Change Challenge, a competition designed to spur carbon-cutting innovations (and sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and Forum for the Future).
The judging panel, which includes business tycoons (Sir Richard Branson, HP CEO Mark Hurd, Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy) as well as policy and research experts from groups such as the Pew Center, MIT, and Forum for the Future) has whittled the list down to five contestants, from which it will pluck a winner on April 3. The winner gets $75,000 to help develop their product or service and bring it to market. But you get to help pick the winner, too, by voting on FT.com. Here are your options:

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SRI: A Profitable Path to Independence from Pesticides and GMO Rice Seeds

| Wednesday March 25th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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Rice. It’s a staple crop for much of the world. And it uses a lot of water and pesticides to grow it. Not good in a world where water is likely to become an increasingly scarce resource. One supposed solution are proprietary high yield breeds, but that requires repeated purchase from the same company, say, Monsanto. Lotus Foods has another idea.
SRI, or System of Rice Intensification takes a different route than the typical method of rice cultivation – Instead of transplanting 3-6 week old seedlings, planting them close together, and flooding the field with water, they use much younger seedlings, less then 2 weeks old, and plant them farther apart. They need not remain submerged, only requiring periodic irrigation and then left to dry out. Organic fertilizers can replace the typical chemical ones, and there’s no need for pesticides.
In results that are sure to irk the Monsantos of the world, this method can increase yields by 50-100%, decrease water use by 25-50%, requiring 80-90% less seed, with less work to cultivate. Numbers that are sure to be attractive to just about any farmer.

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Do You Know Where LA Gets Its Water?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday March 25th, 2009 | 11 Comments

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California is in its third year of drought. Last summer Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a State of Emergency Proclamation for the San Joaquin Valley’s nine counties, an area considered to be the agricultural center of the world. Schwarzenegger characterized the drought as the “the most significant water crisis” in the state’s history. The drought has left state reservoir’s at 35 percent capacity.
Recently, Good Magazine posted information about where Los Angeles gets its water. Not surprisingly, none of the city’s water is locally sourced. A major source of its water is the Owens River-Tinemaha Reservoir, 133 miles away in Owens Valley. The water in the Owens River- Tinemaha Reservoir comes from
the State Water Project, a 444 mile-long water system which begins in Northern California.

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Algae Biofuel: Hype, Hope, and Promise

| Tuesday March 24th, 2009 | 6 Comments

The Algae Biofuels World Summit is taking place in San Francisco this week. The first day’s pre-conference briefing on Monday provided a thorough and clear-eyed look at the current state of algae for biofuels, and the challenges the infant industry faces to scale operations from the level of an experimental “boutique” fuel to an economically viable component of a national fuel energy strategy.

Of the many reoccurring themes throughout the day, one was of the general misperception of algae biofuel – often that it is cheap and easy, a panacea for all our carbon fuel problems.

We should dispense with that now – economically scalable production of biofuels from algae will not be cheap, easy, or a total solution for anything. And totally worth it, if done right.

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AMEE: Why Everything Will Have a Carbon ID

| Tuesday March 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Gavin Starks, CEO of AMEE (a platform that seeks to, quite literally, measure all the energy data in the world), followed SF Mayor Newsom this morning on stage, to kick off the GreenNet09 gathering of tech oriented change agents.
AMEE is a great and obvious idea – after all, if any company, government, NGO, or your Aunt Marge wants to collect meaningful data related to energy or emissions on a global scale, the data has to be standardized in a way that allows you compare it to the data of others. More importantly – anyone seeking to mitigate the risk of climate change needs access to reliable data to understand if they’re moving in the right direction or spinning their wheels.
But what caught my attention this morning was not just the common sense of what AMEE provide, it was the passion and deep urgency in Stark’s delivery. Take a look at the image above – my favorite slide from this morning’s presentation – which has less to do with AMEE and more to do with the greater costs of taking little or no action to the planetary and climactic threats at our doorstep.
Incidentally, AMEE stands for “Avoiding Mass Extinction Engine”. Now we’re talking.

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Companies Mostly Giving Lip Service on Greening their Supply Chains

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday March 24th, 2009 | 3 Comments

chain.jpgOnly one out of 10 companies actively manage their supply chain carbon footprints, and about one-third have no idea what level of emissions come from their supply networks.
Greening the supply chain has been a buzz-phrase in the logistics and transportation sectors for some time now. The idea is that by creating sustainable supply chains long-term cost savings, environmental benefits and greater reliability will follow.
It turns out that it’s somewhat more complicated, falling squarely into the “easier-said-than-done” and “window-dressing” categories. That’s because manufacturer supply chains and the rise of global outsourcing have made their chains longer, increasingly complex and difficult to monitor along each link, from supplier to manufacturer to transport, warehousing and distribution.

Now the global recession is weakening green chain links even further, according to Accenture, the global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm.

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Less Glitter, More Green

3p Contributor | Tuesday March 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Op-ed by Gwen Ruta, Environmental Defense Fund
With today’s economy in such dire straits, it’s understandable that some executives are asking, “Can we afford to go green?” Recent examples would indicate that they can’t afford not to.
At its most basic level, pollution is waste, and on the corporate budget sheet, waste is red ink. Now that companies are looking to save every penny, environmental initiatives present a truly strategic opportunity.
At networking technology titan Cisco Systems, an Environmental Defense Fund internship program helped Cisco engineers develop plans for a new energy-efficiency device that would save an estimated $8 million per year in Cisco’s R&D labs. And the early results of an Environmental Defense Fund “green portfolio” partnership with KKR, the giant private equity firm, unearthed $16 million in annual savings from measures that included reducing truck fuel usage at US Foodservice, cutting paper consumption at Primedia, and improving material use at Sealy.
While smart businesses are cutting costs and improving efficiency to increase profitability, they are also putting themselves ahead of the curve when it comes to our energy future.

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Brokers for Charity: Where Causes Find a Home

| Tuesday March 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Many of the questions that come up in any philanthropically-motivated campaign center around what percentage of sales actually go toward the selected charity, and if that amount is significant enough to make an impact on the cause. Usually, it’s only a few cents per transaction on small ticket retail goods. While every penny helps, in order to generate a measurable difference, more sizable proceeds need to reach the charity, making it imperative that the effort is seamlessly integrated with the transaction and turnkey enough to maximize donations. And above all, the contribution should fit the price tag.
Brokers for Charity, a consortium of real estate professionals committed to giving back, understands this concept, and has created a well orchestrated solution for linking home buyers with reputable agents that benefits the world and their bottom line. Other than a yacht or Learjet, there are few bigger ticket items than a new home, so with a hefty 10% of the agent’s commission going toward the charity of the buyer’s choice, those dollars add up quickly. And while some companies pad costs to offset charitable donations, at Brokers for Charity, there are no additional — or hidden — fees in the program. Once the deal closes, 10% is promptly donated to the 501(c)(3) charitable organization that the buyer has chosen, making it not only a profitable arrangement, but a personal one, where the investment is deeply connected to the consumer. . . and where a philanthropic spirit is always in move-in condition.

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The New School of Mail Service Starts Delivering

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday March 24th, 2009 | 1 Comment

mac_mailbox.jpgThe U.S Postal Service is hurting. The agency lost $2.8 billion last year and in the first quarter of its current fiscal year saw a decline in mail volume of 5.2 billion pieces, compared to the same period last year, according to the Associated Press. To cuts costs, it is offering early retirement to 150,000 employees, in addition to other measures, such as re-drawing mail routes to conserve gas.
Meanwhile, two startups, Earth Class Mail and Zumbox, are looking to reinvent the conventional postal system in ways that will drastically reduce paper consumption and, if hand-delivered mails drop significantly, fuel consumption.
Earth Class Mail started in 2004 has set up nearly 25 retail locations around the country. Customers use the address of one of those locations as their mailing address. The snail mail is received there, where Earth Class Mail scans the envelope and sends its image to the customer’s secure online inbox. The customer can decide to have each piece of mail opened and its contents scanned (to be read online), or they can choose to have the mail recycled, shredded, archived, or forwarded to another location. The customer does all of this online – which makes it extra useful for frequent travelers.

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See3 Communications: Storytellers for Change

| Tuesday March 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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What motivates someone to champion a cause or support a charity? Usually it’s a direct experience, a personal connection, or a powerful story about a friend, or friend of a friend, that touches your life and creates an emotional tie to the cause. It’s those stories that generate awareness and spark a desire to make a difference. And there is no better medium to share them, and recount those compelling encounters, than the Internet. No ad or marketing message could ever evoke the emotion needed to embrace a nonprofit’s mission better than a resonant real life story.
Under the vision of Michael Hoffman, See3 was created to bring these stories to life through new media. A media and non-profit veteran, Michael’s blog was named a must-read by the Nonprofit Times and he is frequently quoted in trade journals, industry blogs and the mainstream press. He is also co-founder of DoGooderTV, a video-sharing site for causes, and EarthFirst.com, a fast-growing green news and information site, and is considered an authority in Web 2.0 for social change. He brings these strengths to client engagements for See3 and orchestrates vivid memorable masterpieces that spread across the cyberverse and create a collective consciousness toward change. For See3, it’s not just about the greater good; it’s about the viral good. And their ability to harness the tools of technology to catalyze communications is making the media the message… and that message can be felt through heartfelt clicks around the world.

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AT&T’s Holistic Approach to Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship

| Monday March 23rd, 2009 | 1 Comment

As Jen reported in the March 14th edition of the Weekly Green Business Wrap, AT&T has recently announced a ten-year commitment to put 15,000 alternative fuel vehicle on the road, including deployment of 8000 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) service vehicles over the next five years – what will be the largest private fleet of CNG vehicles on the country – and the planned replacement of 7,100 gas-powered passenger cars over the next ten years with hybrid-electrics or other alternative fuel vehicles as the older cars come up for retirement.

AT&T plans to spend more than a half billion dollars on its alternative fuel fleet, a significant investment even for a corporate titan like AT&T that reflects an important step in the evolving commitment to assimilate strategic sustainability programs as a core component of corporate culture.

I had an opportunity to speak with Beth Shiroshi, AT&T’s assistant vice president for Citizenship and Corporate Responsibility, discussing the alternative fuel fleet announcement and how it stems from the company’s growing holistic approach to its environmental and social commitment.

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