CICERO: Battles Against Air Pollution and Climate Change Should Merge

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday February 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment

Whenever I visit Los Angeles, I consider the sprawl and congestion, but also the amazing vistas and architecture, and think it must have been amazing back in the 1950s. But the book “Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles,” stands as a reminder that well before the famously smoggy 70s, the air there was already blighted. In fact, the Smogtown authors, Chip Jacobs and William Kelly, maintain a great blog on the topic.
Unless you’re a native Los Angelean with at least a few decades under your belt, you probably can’t appreciate how much air quality in the LA basin has improved since the city first started being blanketed in smog in the late 1940s.
This photo, from the Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library, shows (or rather, doesn’t show) the LA Civic Center in 1948:

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The Clean Air Act, and a general frustration over the degradation of quality of life in smog-filled areas, ushered in California’s air quality improvements. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be harder to see or capture on film, and their impacts are less immediately blatant, but the state had become the 12th largest emitter of carbon in the world when Governor Schwarzenegger signed the State’s landmark 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, in 2006.
Will climate change be harder to fight than air pollution? Maybe the better question to ask is: Why should we address the two problems separately?

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Smart Grids: It’s All About Wireless Sensor Networks

| Friday February 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

lunapic-123453900192570%282%29.jpg Those able to design and build wireless sensor networks are increasingly in demand as utilities move forward with plans to build out “smart” grid infrastructure. The abrupt downward revisions to electricity demand forecasts resulting from the financial crisis and recession have added to the already heightened uncertainty utilities have been facing due to higher than average volatility of fuel prices, greater uncertainty with regard to securing fuel supplies, and regulatory requirements calling for sharp reductions in CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions.
These factors and ongoing advances in technology have prompted utilities to find ways of incorporating the “demand side” of the electrical power market into grid management in a bid to conserve energy and improve the efficiency of their transmission networks. Wireless sensor networks are integral to their automated metering infrastructure (AMI) and smart grid plans.
Couple this with the infrastructure spending and incentives included in the Congressionally revised version of Pres. Obama’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” and companies able to design and build them look like a bright spot in an overly gloomy economic forecast.
Case in point: Mid-Atlantic utility and energy services provider Pepco Holdings (NYSE:POM) last week announced that it had chosen Redwood City-based Silver Spring Networks to provide the hardware, software and services required to build a smart grid network that the utility anticipates will eventually serve some 1.9 million customers across Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland and New Jersey.

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Cause Marketing 2.0: A Social Reality Game on a Mission for Change

| Friday February 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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change%202.0_across%20the%20globe.jpgCause Marketing initiatives come in all shapes and sizes from cause-branded products to community events. But only one comes in a brightly colored deck of cards with opportunities for affecting change through real life activities.

Akoha, the world’s first social reality game, is built on the premise of bridging the on- and offline worlds in meaningful ways. With missions focused on simple things like thanking someone or buying a friend a cup of coffee or sharing your favorite book, Akoha cards help build relationships and spark everyday change. The concept forces players to take a step back [from their computers, preconceived notions and routines] to connect with others in substantive ways, and in turn, each activity earns them points.
Taking the idea of ‘playing it forward’ one step further, Austin Hill, Chief Instigator, and the rest of the Akoha team decided to implement cause-related missions into their decks, making volunteer activities and good deeds point-worthy, and turning actions into dollars and resources that benefit charitable organizations worldwide.

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Top 10 Reflections From a First Time TEDster

| Friday February 13th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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Last week 3p’s resident brand builder, Duke Stump, previously of Nike and Seventh Generation, attended TED for the first time. Below are his top ten reflections:

1. DATA IS MY NEW FRIEND
– For years I rebelled against statistics. Perhaps it was because I got a D+ in Stats 101 at college or the fact that I saw data as something that neutered intuition. Regardless, after seeing Sean Gourley’s presentation on The Mathematics of War, I am a new convert for data and statistics. I now see a new world of abundance where intuition and statistics converge and inform each other. Powerful.
2. INSPIRATION VERSUS DESPERATION – As one TEDster said over lunch, “We don’t have time to be pessimistic.” I personally am an eternal optimist obsessed with what could be and thus I found the verve that permeated the conference to be both magnetic and nutritious. Negative visioning is seldom sustainable, so why not focus on possibility?
3. WHAT WOULD BUCKY DO – As someone who holds Buckminster Fuller as a borderline deity, I kept thinking over and over how cool it would have been to see him on stage. His teachings and principles have never been more relevant than they are today. TED and Bucky would have gone together like sweet ocean swells and empty classrooms. So how about adding D.W Jacobs’s play R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe to TED 2010 Long Beach?
4. FRUSTRATION IS A FUNCTION OF EXPECTATION – The aura leading up to the event is surreal. You begin to feel as if folks will be walking on water. TED has certainly mastered the art of creating your own buzz. That said I had to reconcile my expectations with reality. In other words, TED was fantastic, but the hype leading up to the event created a false sense of brilliance at every step and that is simply not realistic nor fair.

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Book Review: CauseWired

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday February 13th, 2009 | 0 Comments

causewiredcover.jpg Tom Watson’s new book, CauseWired examines how social networking sites are changing philanthropy. Watson’s book does not present a blueprint for raising funds, but instead presents a sort of sociological study of what he defines as “online social activism or peer-to-peer philanthropy.” Or to put it simply, being “CauseWired.”
Who are the CauseWired consumers? Watson describes them as “superinformed” with the expectation to “create and support causes change politics, and have personal involvement in the brands they support economically.”

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Global Warming Solutions Act Part I: Bad for Business or a Pathway to Better Business?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday February 12th, 2009 | 4 Comments

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When Governor Schwarzenegger signed California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, in 2006, the move was applauded as a bipartisan victory and as bold, visionary, forward-thinking legislation. But some industry groups are complaining that the implementation of the legislation, which calls for a statewide greenhouse gas emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions, will be too costly, will weaken the State’s economy and will actually harm the environment.
Late last year, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which is tasked with developing the regulations and market mechanisms to achieve the reductions, finalized its plan of attack, called the Scoping Plan for AB 32. And in response, the AB 32 Implementation Group, whose stated goal is to “ensure that the greenhouse gas emission reductions required are achieved while maintaining the competitiveness of California businesses and protecting the interests of consumers and workers,” said in a statement that “CARB’s economic analysis doesn’t address what the actual costs will be for the State to implement AB 32,” and accused the board of not heeding the findings of groups such as the Legislative Analysts’ Office, which calls the funding plans for the bill unsustainable and suggests holding off on implementing budgeting for the Act until the Schwarzenegger can produce a stable, long-term funding plan.

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Investment Houses Make Greater Use of Corporate Emissions, Climate Change Data

| Thursday February 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

lunapic-123444758998222.jpg Climate change information is being factored into the decision making process of a large majority of the investment firms that have signed on to the Carbon Disclosure Project, the London-based climate change action organization announced yesterday.
Seventy-five percent of CDP’s 80 investment industry participants around the world say that climate change information is factored into their investment decisions and asset allocation strategies. Of these, more than 80% say that climate change is “important relative to other issues impacting their portfolio.” Some said that they are willing to go beyond requesting companies to make energy and emissions disclosures by asking them to take steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The results were released coincident with CDP issuing its annual 2009 carbon disclosure survey to its 3,700 listed company members. Now in its second year, the survey is made on behalf of CDP’s institutional investor sponsors, who together hold some $55 trillion of investments under management. The number of investment companies signing the annual information request is growing. A record 475 signed it this year as compared to 385 in 2008, an increase of nearly 25%.
*Photo credit: Digital Vision

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Franchised Health Care: Could a Small Business Model be the Solution to Africa’s Woes?

| Thursday February 12th, 2009 | 8 Comments

cfwshops.jpgThere is a fundamental flaw with most humanitarian aid efforts: they are, at best, short-sighted. Wealthy Country A swoops into Impoverished Country B during a time of crisis. Country A spreads food, medicine, drinking water and money. Country B goes through all of these resources quickly. Country A leaves. Country B is still poor, hungry and tired.
In recent years, however, the goal of most foreign aid programs has been to develop long-term and sustainable systems for the dissemination of resources and knowledge to people in need. In other words, humanitarian aid has become development aid. International relief agencies such as Oxfam and CARE International have set up permanent field offices in developing countries, and have committed their charitable work permanently. The money to fund these offices, though, has to come from somewhere. And, in order for these environmentally and socially sustainable outfits to become financially sustainable, they will need to eventually generate a revenue stream to pay for their operations.
Enter Michael Seid, a wealthy American franchising expert, and Scott Hillstrom, an American businessman. Hillstrom has been a long time financial supporter of various African charities, but he eventually grew tired of writing checks and seeing no results. His solution: franchised healthcare. The franchise business model has been tremendously successful in America, with companies like MacDonalds and Burger King generating billions in profit. Observing this massive accomplishment, Hillstrom hired Seid as a consultant, and an idea was born.

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The U.S. Army Has a Triple Bottom Line

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday February 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

army-logo.jpgEven the U.S. Army has a triple bottom line. However, instead of the traditional triple bottom line, the Army created its own: mission, environment, community. According to the Army’s sustainability website, it is ” taking responsibility for our past actions and actively cleaning up environmental contamination” through its Army Environmental Cleanup Strategic Plan.
The Army’s Strategy for the Environment, released in 2004, lists six goals:
1. Foster an ethic within the Army that goes beyond environmental compliance to sustainability.
2. Strengthen Army operational capability by reducing its environmental footprint through more sustainable practices.
3. Meet current and future training, testing, and other mission requirements by sustaining land, air, and water resources.
4. Minimize impacts and total ownership costs of Army systems, material, facilities, and operations by integrating the principles and practices of sustainability.
5. Enhance the well-being of soldiers, civilians, families, neighbors, and communities through leadership in sustainability.
6. Use innovative technology and the principles of sustainability to meet user needs and anticipate future Army challenges.

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First All-Digital Alternative to Snail Mail Launched

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday February 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment

mailman_small.jpg In today’s digital world, snail mail is still incredibly labor and resource intensive. Letters must be placed in an envelope, stamped and placed in the collection system. After it is sorted and driven around, it is hand-delivered to its final destination. Will the digital age nearly completely overtake this brick and mortar industry?
Zumbox aims to change the industry by introducing a paperless postal service. This service was just officially launched yesterday at www.zumbox.com. Simply stated, Zumbox creates a webpage for each physical address, allowing users to bypass the snail mail system.

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The Hard Time Is the Right Time – Retooling Our Future

| Wednesday February 11th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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I admit it. I love to live life in a way that there is no middle ground. It’s about going to the edge to see what’s on the other side. Along the way, you either thrive or fall flat on your face. I’ve done both, and surprisingly, they both provide a spiritual gift in a way that suggests the only wrong answer is to play it safe. What I’ve come to realize, is that there is an abundance of possibility that remains untapped. We live in a place of desperation (usually caused by negative visioning) versus inspiration. We also tend to keep the bar low so that we can ensure our success. That said, I do not anticipate every brand understanding how there could be opportunity in today’s marketplace, but the authentic and relevant ones who speak about courage, vision and leadership will get it. They understand that right now is a WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY. Why? It’s simple…the hard time is the right time.
I’ll tell you a little secret. The core thing that makes NIKE such a resonant and relevant entity to so many evangelists is that the brand has a dynamic cultural ethos. They’re brilliant at adapting and evolving. In fact, during my almost sixteen years at NIKE, we often would joke that the only constant is change. Life at the Swoosh is never static. And when times get tough, NIKE rallies like no other. Why? Because they have an amazing antenna for the emerging future and so when things become turbulent, they don’t see trouble, they see OPPORTUNITY.

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The Most Effective Way to Green a Home?

| Wednesday February 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Sustainable%20Spaces%20home%20retrofitting.jpeg“Passion” and “building retrofit” are not three words you might typically see together. And yet they fit Matt Golden, founder of Sustainable Spaces. While I could see that his company had a different, more human approach to presenting what they offer, I had no idea how fired up someone could get about green (re)building.
While the headlines in blogs, newspapers, and Planet Green seem to focus on the latest gadget wizardry in making homes greener, Golden thinks people and government incentives have it backwards. For Sustainable Spaces, they see the process in three sequential steps:

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Anchorage Sets the Course for LED Roadway Lighting

Justin Sternberg | Tuesday February 10th, 2009 | 3 Comments

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In June of 2007, the former Mayor of Anchorage and newly elected US Senator from Alaska, (D) Mark Begich, created an Energy Efficiency Coordinator position at the municipality to examine the potential cost savings unrealized within Anchorage’s lighting systems. In addition, the city hired lighting design firm Clanton & Associates to aid and guide in the city-wide examination. After two years of light testing and due diligence, the city assembly approved the Mayor’s request to purchase 4,300 LED light fixtures, the largest municipal purchase in the United States at that time, as the first phase toward retrofitting the city’s entire municipal lighting portfolio.

The project revealed a 7-year payback period which included a 4% interest rate to offset cost of capital. The mayor and the Anchorage Assembly agreed that a reasonable payback period on a project that reduced long-term operational cost was a wise of use of tax dollars and the fixture purchase was approved in August of 2008. In implementing the first large-scale municipal LED retrofit in the United States, the City of Anchorage has emerged as a leader of large-scale LED retrofitting.

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Congress Gets to Work on Stimulating Green Jobs, Doling Out Energy Dollars

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday February 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

green-jobs-sign.jpgThe Senate passed President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan Tuesday morning. But in order to reach the weekend deadline for passage, Congress will be very busy trying to hash out the differences between the $819 billion House version of Obama’s plan and a Senate bill costing $838 billion. Among the line-items expected to be hotly debated are those related to jobs creation, specifically green jobs creation.
As it stands, most of the $70 billion to $80 billion directed in the stimulus toward the energy sector will go toward green jobs, taking the form of either direct spending, loan guarantees or tax breaks. But what will those jobs will look like? And how far will they go toward both righting the economy and abetting global warming?
During last week’s State of Green Business Forum, a common chorus about green jobs was the uncertainty over what makes a job green. For example: does the truck driver delivering PV panels have a green job?

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Utilities’ Smart Grid Drive Opens New Vista for Enterprise Software Developers

| Tuesday February 10th, 2009 | 1 Comment

lunapic-12342925625682.jpgPower utilities’ drive to factor consumer, demand side management into their infrastructure is opening up a new vista for enterprise software developers. Consumers Energy, which provides natural gas and electricity to nearly 6.5 of Michigan’s 10 million residents, today announced it will be the first utility to buy SAP AMI Integration for Utilities software package.
Consumers Energy is one of nine utilities participating in SAP’s AMI– for automated metering infrastructure– Lighthouse Council. Members are working with the Walldorf, Germany-based software company to develop a new approach to integrating automated metering within their overall systems infrastructure at a lower total cost of ownership.
Integrated AMI systems are central to the drive to build out new “smart” electricity grids that make more efficient use of power by factoring consumer demand into grid management. In addition to providing consumers and utilities more detailed information and options to reduce and manage individual and grid-wide power consumption, the installation of “two-way” meters also paves the way for consumers to pump surplus power into the grid by installing solar or other renewable power systems.

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