Responding to Iran, Thomas Friedman’s Controversial “Freedom Tax” on Oil

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment

“Launching a real Green Revolution in America would be the best way to support the ‚ÄòGreen Revolution’ in Iran.”

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Thomas Friedman had an interesting idea in his op-ed yesterday morning: The US should impose an immediate “Freedom Tax” of $1 per gallon on all gasoline. By putting economic pressure on oil producing regions, the US could potentially gain leverage on key Middle Eastern regions, in particular Iran, where both the current unrest as well as its nuclear program pose concern for the Obama administration.
According to him, the tax will result in three large and quantifiable results:
1) It would stimulate more investment in renewable energy now.
2) It would stimulate more consumer demand for the energy-efficient vehicles that the reborn General Motors and Chrysler are supposed to make.
3) It would reduce our oil imports in a way that would surely affect the global price and weaken every petro-dictator.

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Alice.com: Would You Like a Cause With Your Toilet Paper?

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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This week, the blogosphere was a buzz with the launch of Alice.com, a direct-to-consumer start-up committed to helping you never run out of toilet paper again. And a whole bunch of other consumer packaged good items that are always a hassle to run out to the store for. From Tech Crunch to Mashable to Venture Beat, and just about every other blog in my Google Reader, the new Alice.com brand was splattered all over the news.
But I had the advantage of knowing (read: being a complete and total fan of) Rebecca Thorman, a brilliant writer, observer and Gen Y entrepreneur who just happens to be the in-house marketing superhero at Alice.com. And yes, a Gen Xer can be a fan of a Gen Yer.
About a month ago, she got my attention (yet again). But this time, not for her no-holds-barred insights on social media or masterfully poignant posts; it was for a cause marketing campaign she was running as part of the pre-launch efforts for Alice.com. So, rather than tout all of the benefits of the service that the tech set have already duplicated ten times over covered, I decided to chat with Rebecca about the cause marketing initiative and Alice.com’s plans to bake social good and consciousness into their ongoing plans. Hey, I write a cause marketing series – what did you expect?

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Dell Earth: Greening IT with Smarter PCs and Engaged Employees

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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When Tod Arbogast, Dell’s Director of Sustainability, was interviewing for his current position, he posed a question to Michael Dell, the iconic namesake of the PC giant: “If I got this job, what would you expect of me first and foremost?” Dell replied, simply and profoundly: “Courage.”

Arbogast needed courage to carry forward issues that may be controversial, tough, and without the widest support both in the technology sector and within Dell itself. These days, Arbogast leads a small, yet surprisingly effective team. Last month, the technology research firm TBRI ranked Dell #1 in its inaugural Corporate Sustainability Index Benchmark Report, a study measuring the CSR initiatives of technology and computing companies.

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Amory Lovins’ Inspiring Words at Virtual Energy Forum

Chris Kaiser | Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment

amory-lovins-banana.jpgWednesday marked the start of the Virtual Energy Forum, billed as the World’s Largest Online Energy Conference. I was lucky enough to catch Amory Lovins’ web-cast, which he presented from Sweden where he was attending the 2009 Tallberg Forum. The Virtual Energy Forum’s presentations are in the video archives and you can view them for free once you register. The idea of a forum that requires no travel and very little resources is extremely sustainable!

A quick search on Triple Pundit yields many hits for “Amory”, but if you don’t know who the “energy-efficient design” genius behind the Rocky Mountain Institute is, then please do yourself a favor and start researching him. Not only do some of the biggest companies in the world seek out his advice, but so do entire nations. The thing I like most about Amory is that his advice is so simple and obvious, yet I’m always amazed at how so few people are following what he is preaching. As he said at the beginning of the web-cast, RMI is filled with “practitioners, not theorists”. He doesn’t seek out wild, hair-brained schemes, but simply implements efficient design principles!

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Sustainability Management Infrastructure: What It Is and Why You Should Care

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Sustainability Management Infrastructure

As individuals, we want to do the right thing – but as businesses, we are challenged by the need to be profitable. The goal of sustainability is to accomplish both: to improve profitability today, while not compromising the environmental and social constraints of the future. As discussed in a previous post, Doing the right thing in business: Are you doing it right?, businesses must treat sustainability as a strategic opportunity, and move beyond eco-efficiency to achieve this greater goal.
Here’s how you can get started…

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Managing Energy for Sustainability

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Aberdeen Group Company energy management programs are becoming a bottom-line necessity for corporations’ financial viability, social responsibility and environmental sustainability, according to the research and consulting firm Aberdeen Group.
And sustainability as an essential element in return on investment is increasingly on the minds of the suits sitting in the executive suite, but there’s still a ways to go on that score.
Energy management as a concept began as a cost-saving initiative, “but is now starting to become a strategic part of the company’s larger corporate social responsibility program,” says Aberdeen in a recent report, Energy Management, Driving Value in Industrial Environments.

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Harvesting Solar Power in North Africa: Progress or Neocolonialism?

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments


A massively ambitious clean power project is underway in North Africa. The German insurance giant, Munich Re, announced last week that they are currently recruiting several European mega-investors to fund a project called Desertec. The project will build solar farms across North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt. Desertec will use a method called concentrating solar power, or C.S.P., which consists of huge mirrors that generate steam to power turbines. The turbines generate electricity, which will then be sent back to Europe via high-voltage direct current cables.

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New York Times Story Sparks Debate Over Geothermal Energy and Earthquake Risk

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Photo Source: nytimes.com

One hundred and counting. That’s the number of comments that readers have submitted regarding a New York Times story published Wednesday that says the startup AltaRock Energy plans to begin exploratory drilling for geothermal energy sources in Northern California, using a method similar to one that caused earthquakes in a similar project in Basel, Switzerland. Many comments support the reporter’s findings, while a good number criticize the story as being one-sided or sensational.
This is, of course, not the first time that the merits of geothermal energy – whereby heat is mined from the earth, sometimes by pumping water into bedrock and capturing the resulting steam – have been contested. Some claim that on large scales, geothermal energy will contribute to climate change by emitting more heat into the atmosphere, and beside that, some say that it’s not scalable, anyway. But this article has highlighted a concern that residents of Anderson Springs, California, near the new drilling site, have had for a while now: that geothermal energy exploration causes earthquakes.
According to a PBS Quest story, California already gets more energy from geothermal sources than from wind and solar. And it’s near Anderson Springs, where AltaRock plans to drill, that much of this energy is derived, through more than 20 power plants in an area called The Geysers.

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Electronic Cigarettes. Safer? Greener? Or Just Weirder?

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 8 Comments

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They look like cigarettes, act like cigarettes, give smokers their nicotine fix. And yet, they’re not cigarettes. They’re electronic cigarettes, or “E-cigs.” According to this CNN report, sales of e-cigs have been increasing over several years in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden and Brazil.
The claimed benefits? Instead of inhaling smoke, “e-smokers” (I just made that up) inhale a mixture of vaporized water, nicotine and propylene glycol (a common additive in food coloring and cake mixes). Yum. Their exhalation is not odorous second hand smoke, but just water vapor. According to the e-cig sellers, these battery-filled butts do not contain tobacco, tar, carbon monoxide or any of the other thousands of cancer-causing toxins in real cigarettes. Like the patch or the gum, e-cigs claim to help smokers kick their habit.
So are they healthier? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not entirely convinced. E-cigs are still an unapproved new drug due of a lack of scientific proof that they’re safe or effective.

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San Francisco’s Mayor Newsom Signs Mandatory Recycling Law

| Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Photo Source: seattlepi.com
Yesterday, Mayor Gavin Newsom signed one of the first legislations of its kind in the country: a mandatory law requiring residential and commercial building owners to recycle and compost. While several other cities require recycling service and participation, San Francisco is the first city to require the collection of food scraps and other compostables.
Based on a study by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, food discards comprise 10% of the total municipal waste stream, and the majority of that comes from the commercial sector. In the same study, the Waste Management Board found that over 40% of the waste produced by both the retail food store and restaurant sectors is compostable food and paper refuse.
If all of the recyclable and compostable materials currently going to landfills were captured by the city’s programs, according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco’s recycling rate would soar to 90%.

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Waste Expo Part IV: “Recyclables Separated Off-Site”

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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The Waste Expo convention that I attended early this month was sponsored in part by the National Solid Wastes Management Association, which launched a public relations campaign at the event. The campaign is called “Environmentalists. Every Day.” and is meant to paint some green attitude on the garbage business.
Included on the campaign’s web site are little tutorials on how waste management professionals ought to engage with the public at large and basically make the industry out to be a steward of the Earth, or something like that. The organization is basically saying “Hey, we’re part of the solution, not the problem!”
Well, it is true that the solid waste industry has evolved quite a bit in recent decades – though I would offer that perhaps this evolution is due largely to having to comply with environmental regulations and in finding business value in the recycling industry. But does an industry that calls energy generated through incineration a “renewable” energy really embrace the tenets of sustainability?

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iPhone + Hidden Park ARG = Getting Kids Outdoors

| Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 3 Comments


It’s been said that today’s kids are increasingly focused on their gadgets, and see the outside as a distraction from doing the cool things they can do online, on their XBox, their laptop, and their iPhone.
So how do you find a way to get them outside in a way that doesn’t involve nagging and will increase their own desire to be there in the first place?
Bulpadok has found a way. Engage them in a way that will leverage their fascination with the iPhone, their imagination, and GPS: The Hidden Park. Bulpadok is an Australian mobile apps company who as they say, “We love Geocaching so much we blended it with Alternative Reality Gaming.”
In the case of The Hidden Park, they’ve mapped out real life parks in nine major metropolitan areas in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, overlaying a children’s fantasy adventure “alternative reality game” (ARG) on top of that, taking them (and their parents) on a grand day at the park in the process.

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New Study Finds F-gases Are Making It Harder to Stay Cool

| Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

F Gas Refrigerator

Earlier this week, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that refrigerant chemicals known as “F-gases” pose a greater threat to global climate change than was previously thought. The paper, which was authored by a team of scientists from NOAA, EPA, Dupont and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, estimates that the growth of F-gas emissions due to increased cooling needs represents a grave enough threat that it may undo nearly half of the efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions as a means to combat global climate change.
Found in everyday products such as refrigerators, insulation foams and air conditioning units (including units in homes, building and cars), fluorocarbons were designed by chemical engineers to trap heat in modern cooling appliances. In this light, hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) are the quintessential greenhouse gases. The intention behind the design of HFCs was to combat the impact of cooling chemicals such as Freon on the depletion of the ozone layer, and they were developed before the impact of human-induced climate change was widely understood.

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Chinese Companies Creating Better Green Products

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday June 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

250px-Solarboiler.jpgTen companies received Business Week’s (BW) Greener China Business Awards. Although still the world’s biggest user of coal powered energy, China is emerging as an “incubator for clean technology,” as BW puts it. China is the largest producer of photovoltaic solar panels, and the second largest market for wind turbines. The Chinese government says it will increase its use of renewable energy to 23 percent by 2020, up from its current 16 percent, which is similar to European targets.
BW used a panel of experts and its reporters to select ten winners from over 60 candidates. Some of the companies were selected for cleaning up pollution they created, and others for creating environmentally-friendly products. It is the latter category that caught my attention, particularly two Chinese companies: Himin which makes solar water heaters, and Haier which makes environmentally friendly appliances.

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Tesla to Receive Goverment Money to Build Electric Cars

| Tuesday June 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

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If you thought that Tesla Motors hadn’t hit the big time, that it was just a fringe, even infant car company next to the big boys like Ford, GM, or Toyota, today’s bit of news might help change that notion. Like the major automakers, it too will now receive government funding.
Dozens of auto companies, suppliers, and battery makers have sought a total of $38 billion from a federal loan program to develop fuel-efficient vehicles, an AP article reported this morning. Alongside Ford and Nissan, two automakers that have EVs in the pipeline that will also get government funding in this new proposal, Tesla will receive roughly $465 million to build electric drive trains and vehicles.
“By supporting key technologies and sound business plans, we can jumpstart the production of fuel-efficient vehicles in America,” US Energy Secretary, Steven Chu said. Though, as Chu later alludes to, this will definitely help create more jobs and hopefully reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, it also begs the question if this is the best use of the money.

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