The big news of the day is, of course, the U.S. presidential election. This week ClimatePULSE will take a look at a topic where the parties found some common ground during the campaign – a cap-and-trade system. While each party has made its own adjustments, both Obama and McCain seem poised to implement a cap-and-trade system once the new administration is settled. The Democrats favour a 100% auction, in which all emitters will purchase credits, while the Republicans plan to issue credits for free market trade with the possibility of moving towards 100% auction in the future. Both plan to stimulate the growth of clean technologies, but the actual operation may vary significantly between the two approaches.Click to continue reading »
- SCS Global Services Releases Updated Recycled Content Certification Standard
- Live Twitter Chat: Kimberly-Clark Marks Fifth Anniversary Of Forest Conservation w/Greenpeace
- 20 Ventures Named to Accelerator Phase of Big C Competition to Change the Way the World Lives with Cancer
- Oscar Nominees, Halo and Freekibble.com Feed Los Angeles Pets in Need
Back on September 9, John Podesta’s Center for American Progress released a study called Green Recovery, which promised two million new jobs from a $100 billion investment over two years. That day was also my birthday, so my attention was elsewhere. But nearly two months later in the wake of the financial meltdown, taking a second look at the report seems worthwhile, since now more than ever, a road to recovery for the United States and the world could very well be paved with green bricks. Conversely, it could also be a story of “low carbon prosperity” that sounds good, but ends up dead on arrival. The landscape has changed greatly since September 9. To use one last Wizard of Oz allusion – we are no longer in Kansas. Credit has dried up, global stock markets are in chaos, unemployment is spiking and consumer confidence is at record lows.
As a result, does this now put the basic assumptions in the Podesta report in question? ($50 billion in tax credits, or half of the proposed $100 billion, for example, would seem a non-starter today). More importantly, even if the assumptions are unchanged, will the perceived cost of carbon policy at a time of economic instability suck the political will out of Capitol Hill, a place over the last three decades renowned for monumental cowardice in the face of monumental challenge. The stakes couldn’t be higher, especially on the eve of an Obama presidency and Podesta heading the transition team. It would be great for the Center to produce an update to their report, taking these new factors into account. But until that happens, some prominent voices in October continued to build a case for this notion of a Green Recovery as a message/vision worth rallying around.
Carbon offsets have gained wide recognition in the past few years as a means of mitigating ones carbon footprint. With that recognition has come, on the one hand, acceptance, and on the other, suspicion. It seems that in any case, the simple idea of voluntary carbon offsets has become complex in their type and execution. In many instances verifying that your good intentions have actually produced results is nearly impossible. (Fellow TriplePundit contributer Jen Boynton has written several great articles on the subject of carbon offsets – start with Carbon Offsets: Why No Two Are Created Equal)
These shortcomings include accountability, additionality (meaning that the money you pay actually achieves something that wouldn’t have happened anyway), double counting, the accuracy of measurement, and the permanence of the offset.
Carbon Retirement avoids these shortcomings by purchasing carbon allowances out of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.Click to continue reading »
The credit crunch is not just hurting the banks and the real estate market. Even the billionaire and wind energy enthusiast, T. Boone Pickens is having trouble financing his high profile 4000 MW wind farm. The price tag on this Texas wind farm is a hefty $10 and $12 billion.
Although we are used to hearing about climbing energy costs, the price of natural gas is actually down. Natural gas accounts for 20% of the nation’s electricity generation. The energy sector is also suspecting that the financial crisis may result in a global reduction in energy demand. Pickens’ plan calls for replacing natural gas with wind energy, while increasing energy security.
Residential green building has arrived. Once the niche of innovative companies like Living Homes and Michelle Kauffman Designs, green building has begun to be embraced by traditional residential builders. In the recent McGraw Hill Report: The Green Home Builder, Navigating for Success in a Down Market, they report that 6-10% of the market this year will be green vs. 2% in 2005.
What motivates traditional builders to go greener? A larger profit for builders and increased green building regulations from government encourages builders to follow the path to green building.
The last few weeks have focused the world’s attention on the economy, stock markets and interest rates. Understandably so – who isn’t interested in the financial crisis? After the immediate shock of the financial crisis, however, it now seems – thanks to swift political action – that the crisis may be prevented from developing into a global economic collapse. To deal with this crisis, we have seen world leaders come together and make far-reaching agreements with record speed. When stock markets plummet, politicians act quickly.
If only politicians would act so quickly and resolutely in response to the climate change crisis! Scientists have seen – and warned of – the signs of a threatening climate collapse, long before Wall Street arrived at the cliff from which it recently plummeted. Why is it that world leaders cannot come together on climate change and show the same form of dedication to finding a solution for this crisis as they do in response to an economic crisis?
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A group of 52 high profile investors announced the beginning of a massive letter writing campaign to urge businesses to sign on to the UN’s Global Compact. “Amid the current financial crisis, this underscores the importance of universal principles and the long-term management of environmental, social and governance issues,” said Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, Georg Kell, “We applaud this effort, which represents the largest recruitment drive ever undertaken with respect to the UN Global Compact.”
The investor group manages approximately $4.4 trillion in assets and they’re using that leverage to assert the relevance of the Global Compact to 9,000 CEO’s worldwide. Target companies are in the MSCI World, FTSE All-World and IFC Emerging Markets Indices. A sample of U.S. target companies runs the gamut from 1-800 Flowers and Abbot Labs to Marathon Oil and the Zale Corporation.
All of investors are signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment, a framework for corporate citizenship launched at the second Global Compact Leaders Summit in 2007, in partnership with the UN Global Compact and the UNEP Finance Initiative. Chair of the PRI initiative and Trustee of the BT Pension Scheme, Donald MacDonald, explained the impetus behind the letter writing initiative from the shareholder perspective, saying, “We believe investee companies that take account of environmental, social and governance issues are more likely to offer… [good, long-term] returns.”
Yesterday Honda Motor Company conducted a webinar entitled The Fuel Economy Challenge addressing the new CAFE standards and Honda’s overall approach to alternative fuel vehicles. Present at the webinar were John German, Manager, Environmental Policy Analysis America Honda Motor; Ben Knight, VP Honda R&D Americas; Edward Cohen, VP Government Relations American Honda Motor; and Dan Bonawitz, VP, Product Planning and Corporate Logistics America Honda Motor.
The goals of the 90 minute presentation and Q & A, which is available online, was to provide a clear understanding of Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE), and to explain Honda’s approach to advancing fuel efficiency.
I recommend taking the time to watch the full webinar for anyone interested in the new CAFE standards and the outlook of the auto industry from the perspective of a major automaker.
Below I summarize some of the main points from John German’s presentation about the new CAFE standards. In the webinar, Ben Knight discusses Honda’s approach to meeting the goals of the new CAFE and the company’s overall approach in alternative fuel vehicle development:
- The auto industry is at a critical juncture, facing the twin challenges of energy sustainability and climate change.
- Determining CAFE standards and measuring results, while widely discussed, is also easily misunderstood due to their complexity. (If you watch the webinar, have your scientific calculator on hand so you can do the math along with German).
- The new CAFE standards are a “game changer” for automakers, involving both attribute-based standards and “maximum feasible” standards. The 35 MPG target is the minimum mandated by Congress, and will likely be higher due to the maximum feasible requirement.
- The new standards will not only increase fuel efficiency, but also determine the future direction of policy development as well as the nation’s long term policy toward sustainability and climate change.
- The new CAFE standards will triple the rate of new technology introduced for improving fuel efficiency. Between 2011 and 2015, miles-per-gallon is required to increase at a rate of 4.5% per year. Therefore, the actual average MPG rating by 2020 may actually be higher than the required 35 MPG minimum. (See graph below)
- Only 20–25% of the power produced in a modern internal combustion engine is available for motive force. Even a hybrid is only 30–35% efficient. Therefore significant opportunities still exist to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. (See graph below)
- The internal combustion engine will continue to dominate the market through at least 2020.
Toyota Comes up with a New Way to Green: Plant Based Cars!
Seriously. Now, who doesn’t love Toyota? Here is one more reason. By 2015, Toyota plans to roll out cars in which bioplastic accounts for one-fifth of all plastic components. Let’s hope the parts are not leaky like my green bags (anyone else have that problem?) This bioplastic can compost a little too quickly sometimes if you know what I mean. Haha! Compost humor.
Sustainability Reporting is Back in Business CSR Reporting is the new black. 80% of the world’s 250 biggest conglomerates now do some form of sustainability reporting. It’s all about keeping up with the Joneses. The Sun Microsystem Joneses that is.
UK Gov’t Announces Zero-Tolerance Approach to Waste In the US we have zero tolerance for… what? Driving on the left? I was going to say drugs, but that seems to have eased off a bit in recent years. I don’t know. The straight talk express? No, some people still seem to like that. Definitely nothing this cool.
Government Opens 190 Million Acres for Geothermal I know all you people are head over heels for geothermal. I was a bit worried that these were national parks, but it looks like the good ole US government excluded those. This land can apparently produce over 5,000 megawatts of power by 2015 and over 12,000 megawatts by 2025. Hot springs here I come!
Hotels Cut Food Waste Using Decomposition Machines
Blogger create strange newfangled names to make composting seem high tech. Don’t get me wrong. I love composting. Hotels are bastions of food waste, and it’s great to know that there are companies working to solve the problem
Chrysler Kills First-Born Hybrids First GM killed the electric car. Apparently this is some sort of sick initiation rite to be a part of the GM family. Or else consumers were just not so thrilled about paying extra for hybrid technology that was geared more toward boosting performance than fuel efficiency.
Pillow Maker to go Zero-Waste by 2010
The biggest producer of pillows, one out of every 3 in the US, has made a serious push to up their eco cred with this goal. OK, you guys are going to think I’m joking but I’m totally serious. If there is a pillow fight in the factory like in the movies with a lot of feathers flying around, what do they do with all the feathers after they fall to the ground?
Co-Working: Not Just for People You’re Paid to be Nice to This new alternative to the cube, and lying around in your underwear with the cat on your chest and the laptop on your thighs (just me?), AND those coffee stained couches crowded with jobless hipsters is here! Co-working spaces have hot desks with lights, high speed internet, ergonomic chairs, people to talk to, and the best part? Your boss is still back at the office.
Lastly, we had a big week here at 3P! We the streamed the UPS press conference about the new Hybrid Hydraulic Vehicles and discussed the technology here and here. We had a rousing discussion about the meaning of green, and we found out that the CEO of Pitney Bowes things junk mail is *good* for the environment.
See you next week! Let me know at jen at triplepundit dot com if you have any hot green business tips to share.
Computer recycling has never been convenient. While just about every major manufacturer offers an end-of-life take back program, finding and printing the right labels, weighing materials, and shipping the package off isn’t always easy. Even then, some manufacturers will only collect their brand materials meaning you have to do the same process all over again for that monitor you got elsewhere. Having a reliable, go-to place to recycle any brand computer for free would be easiest right? With Reconnect, that’s the place Goodwill is trying to become. Dell and Goodwill are now extending their Reconnect Program to 31 drop-off locations in New York City and eastern New York State. Click to continue reading »
Do Not Mail campaigns and their celebrity champions (Oprah and Leo are the latest converts) are becoming quite a nuisance for companies like Pitney Bowes that provide goods and services to the direct mail industry. In a recent NY Times interview, Pitney Bowes executive chairman, Michael J. Critelli, defended the direct mail industry arguing that opponents to unsolicited mail are over-hyping the damage to the environment. Critelli believes these groups “are exceptionally well funded, exceptionally zealous and, in many instances, exceptionally resistant to the facts.” Pitney Bowes makes postage meters, which are used by direct mail companies, although Critelli estimates only 10% of Pitney Bowes sales are linked to direct mail.Click to continue reading »
This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of Proforma Green, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy. John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.
From leather to leader is how Leed’s explains it on their website. How about from bottles to briefcases? That might be a better description for Leed’s line of 100% recycled promotional items made from water bottles and other recycled everyday items.
Leed’s Owl line of bags and other items made from recycled water bottles has added a new product to their list of made from 100% post-consumer recycled material (product label affirms this claim).
The new Recycled Owl Laptop Sleeve holds standard 15‚Ä≥ laptop, has a front pocket, carry handle and runs around $15.
This is one of a number of new items in the 100% Owl post-consumer recycled line released in the last few months making Leeds one of the most prolific manufacturers of promotional bags made from recycled bottles (see the full line here).
They also offer 54% post-consumer recycled products under the Owl brand name which cost a little less than the 100% items.
UPS Delivers a Message with HHV in Atlanta: Government and Corporate Partnerships are Key to Finding Solutions
“There are a lot of ways to move a vehicle down the street”.
That’s what John Kargul, Director of Technology Transfer at the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told me in Atlanta earlier this week. We were discussing the various concepts in alternative fuel vehicles and propulsion systems that are little known yet still hold great promise in meeting our transportation and energy challenges.
Until Monday, the Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicle (HHV) was one of those little-known concepts promising significant potential for increased fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.
After two years of road testing done in a “real world laboratory”, working UPS routes on the streets of Detroit, that potential has proven itself ready for the marketplace, and UPS has stepped up to the plate as the first corporate buyer of HHV technology. The company has purchased seven HHV trucks to be deployed throughout 2009 and early 2010, starting in the first quarter of ‘09 with two HHV trucks plying the streets of Minneapolis.
Increased efficiency and reduced emissions
When testing the HHV on delivery routes, UPS reported a nominal 45–50% increase in fuel efficiency over a standard diesel UPS delivery truck, with a 33% reduction in CO2 emissions (the EPA has results as high as 60% increase in fuel efficiency). Using the hydraulic hybrid system in series with a small, highly efficient diesel engine, the HHV is particularly suited for the short-haul start/stop urban duty cycle of a city-bound UPS truck (UPS would prefer I call their delivery trucks “package cars”, but for clarity, I’ll stick to “truck”).
One piece of the puzzle
HHV technology is not intended as a be-all, end-all solution. Speaking at the press conference in Atlanta this past Monday, UPS Chief Operating Officer David Abney said:
“There is no question that hydraulic hybrids, although little known to the public, are ready for prime time use on the streets of America. We are not declaring hydraulic hybrids a panacea for our energy woes, but this technology certainly is as promising as anything we’ve seen to date.”
With the largest fleet of alternative fuel vehicles in the industry, UPS looks to HHV as one more piece of the puzzle toward creating a total picture of sustainability, efficiency, and reduced emissions throughout their global operation.Click to continue reading »
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Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve long criticized corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting. Despite the stakeholders’ seemingly insatiable thirst for information about the social and environmental impacts of companies, CSR reports read like infomercials, report outdated data, and no one is reading. This is a topic that I’ve learned perhaps too much about through my experience in launching dotherightthing.com, and the advising, research, and speaking I’ve done since.
In its 2008 CSR Report, Sun Microsystems has done something that I have never seen before in stakeholder engagement. Following the trend led by blogs in creating a deeper and more authentic experience for readers, Sun has enabled comments on its most recently release of its CSR report. Therefore, the report is now a conversation, no longer limited by its original authors’ text.
By enabling comments, readers can now submit publicly-visible questions (and statements) about the content and receive answers (and comments) directly from Sun, a company already known for its efforts in transparency. (Sun has over 7800 employee bloggers, an approach similar to that of Dell and Microsoft to effectively “open source” the voice of the company.) By enabling a direct feedback system, Sun will benefit from crowd-sourced fact checking (for better or worse), as is common in blogging when readers will elaborate or clarify where the original author may have less expertise or been mistaken. And its okay to be wrong; many high profile bloggers believe that it is the imperfect nature of the blog format, and the typos that do make their way to their posts, make the format more personal, since we are all human after all.
This week of Halloween, I thought we’d settle on a creepy, nay terrifying, topic – the topic of how far we actually are from preventing runaway climate change. In a Time Magazine article I read this morning, it was noted that even some of the most well-educated and prestigious young minds in America don’t really understand what level of effort is required to prevent catastrophic climate change. These are MIT students, strong in math and science, and yet 84% of the respondents got the question wrong. Before you read any further take a moment to answer these two questions: (1) How much do we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stabilize their concentration in the atmosphere at safe levels? (2) How much time do we have to do it?Click to continue reading »