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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Launch of Imagine H2O Encourages Innovation in Water

| Friday May 8th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Water is one of the greatest challenges of our times, and with this week’s launch of Imagine H2O, it has become a great opportunity. Imagine H2O is a non-profit with a mission to inspire and empower people to solve water problems.
Through an annual business plan competition, Imagine H2O will address the water problems of developed economies and bring together a community of entrepreneurs, investors, water experts, academics, and caring citizens who collectively have the power to solve the water crisis. The aim is to develop the Silicon Valley for water, an ecosystem of stakeholders to the next great water innovations.
Water supply is perhaps our most pressing issue, even in the US. For example:
* The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that over 50% of America’s groundwater is polluted.
* In 2007, 40% of states suffered droughts and over 70% of states are anticipating water shortages by 2013
* Over the last 25 years, droughts have killed more Americans than any other U.S. weather disaster and have caused $150 billion in damage nationally.
* Up to $1 trillion is needed to rebuild America’s aging water infrastructure
But today less than 0.5% of early-stage investment goes toward water innovations. Imagine H2O is offering $50,000 in prizes for business plans promising the greatest breakthroughs in the efficient use of water.

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This Week in Green Business

Scott Cooney | Friday May 8th, 2009 | 2 Comments

SF%20SOLAR%205MW.jpgWelcome to Friday’s Green Business Roundup from around the blogosphere! I’ll be filling in for the lovely and talented Jen Boynton for the next two weeks on this regular column as she finishes up her Green MBA at the Presidio School of Management. Send her positive energy and caffeine telemetry!
The City of San Francisco, long known as one of the greenest in the country, if not the world, and a terrific place to grow an organic garden, will now have California’s largest municipal solar project, thanks to an effort spearheaded by Mayor Gavin Newsom, and this week passed by the city’s Board of Supervisors (artist’s rendition pictured above). A company called Recurrent Energy will begin construction on a 5 MW solar facility that will provide a portion of the city’s power. Newsom, who will be running for governor of California in 2010, called the project an important step to “help lead the state towards a future of clean, renewable energy.”
1ford.gifIn a beautiful and hopeful sign of the times, Ford this week announced plans to retool a former SUV manufacturing plant in Michigan to produce the all electric Ford Focus. The first battery-electric Focus is set to roll off the assembly line there in 2011, and in the meantime, the plant will produce its fuel-efficient Focus in a facility that used to make Lincoln Navigators and Ford Expeditions. The facility is one of three that Ford operates that is shifting from trucks and SUVs to more fuel efficient and higher tech vehicles. (From our friends at GreenBiz.com).
2blind.gifCap & Trade legislation, as it turns out, will not mean offshoring of jobs, according to Pew Research. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans and conservative think tanks from lining up their whisper campaigns! It’s a blind man’s bluff, as described by John Laumer, to get congressional Democrats running in different directions and to obstruct any progress on climate change legislation. (From our friends at TreeHugger.)

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D.light Design: You Are the Light of the World

Richard Levangie | Friday May 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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One of the things that I like best about about the fight to slow climate change is that it is intimately tied to social justice and recognizes that we need to fight every bit as hard to eradicate poverty and diminish suffering in less fortunate areas of the world.
And so stories like this one fill me with hope.
D.light Design, a company that is on a mission to replace the kerosene lamps used in developing world villages, garnered $6 million in Series A funding from a venture capital firm late last year. But here’s where the story gets good. In a nutshell, D.Light’s founders have built a low-cost light with a battery and a small solar panel that can help families in the developing world save more money each month.

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Start a Green Business: An Eco-Driving School?

Scott Cooney | Friday May 8th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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eco-driving.jpg“Eco-driving”, or “Hypermiling” are terms used to describe driving habits that maximize fuel efficiency. Using these techniques, drivers were recently able to get 1,445 miles on a single tank of gas in a Ford Fusion Hybrid, which is double what Ford originally suggested the car could attain. While this may or may not turn out to be the norm (the drivers were likely a lot more committed to Eco-driving than any of us will be), it definitively shows the potential for efficiency gains.
So is there a market for entrepreneurs to create Eco-driving schools? You bet. Doubling our fuel efficiency could potentially save Americans $900 to $1,800 per person, depending on the type of vehicle. So who among us wouldn’t spend a small portion of that to learn Eco-driving? What parent would pay for a traditional driving school especially if they were footing the bill for their kids’ gas? In fact, marketing to parents would be even stronger based on the increased safety behaviors inherent in Eco-driving techniques.

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A Steady Diet of Healthy Communications for Change: Nedra Weinreich Demystifies Social Marketing

| Friday May 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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nedraweinreich.jpgOn the social web, the only thing that exceeds the number of social media “experts” and “gurus” out there are the number of names for those who practice it. From social media marketers to customer engagement specialists, everyone seems to be selling something. But while the term social marketing has nothing to do with social media, Nedra Weinrich is also selling something. . . good health, social issue awareness, disease prevention, environmental protection and safety. With her vast experience spearheading socially motivated programs focused on educating and engaging people around important health issues, she has developed a comprehensive blueprint for change that is both life-changing and life-protecting. I think that more than earns her a pithy, social media-esque title, and with how well she goes on to articulate the nuances of this important sub-set of cause marketing, she could easily be dubbed social marketing “swami.”

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The Holy Grail: Carbon-Capturing Cement

Richard Levangie | Friday May 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Last January, Novacem, a spin-off from London’s Imperial College, won the coveted Rushlight Award for its novel CO2-capturing cement process that could turn one of the world’s most CO2-intensive industries into an important carbon sequestration solution. Cement production is a huge environmental problem, producing between six to eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – and that makes the cement industry a much, much bigger headache than aviation.
Traditional Portland cement is made by heating limestone and clay in giant kilns which, according to the International Energy Agency, produces 0.83 (metric) tonnes of CO2 for every ton of cement. About half of this footprint is generated from the vast amounts of energy needed to heat the kilns (up to 1,500°C) and the other half is released by chemical reactions as the limestone decomposes.

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Shell’s “Three Hard Truths” Aren’t Clean, Cheap or Convenient

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments

shell.gifJust about one year ago, Triple Pundit writer Andrew Burger filed a two-part report on a web chat dialogue that Shell Oil had offered journalists. In the first post, Burger relayed how Shell had defined three hard truths that it, along with the rest of the global energy industry, are facing. In the second, he explained that while Shell believes renewable energy sources will take up a larger role in the future, its near-term spending would continue to focus on oil and gas exploration, while hoping that carbon capture and storage would address that CO2 problem associated with business as usual.
A lot has happened in the 12 months since these posts. For one thing, oil prices shot through the roof and then plummeted, along with the global economy. And Shell now says that the three hard truths – that demand for fuel will grow in step with global population, that energy supply won’t necessarily meet demand, and that the negative environmental impacts associated with the energy industry will grow – have only gotten harder.
That cheery message opens Shell’s 2008 Corporate Sustainability Report and acted as subtext for comments that Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer made during a press conference call today.

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Ghosts in the Ocean Machine

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

ghost%20fishing.jpg Many of us have heard of the Eastern Garbage Dump, an assemblage of trash the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. But another, lesser-known assault on our planet’s oceans has recently come to the forefront: ghost fishing.
Large amount of fishing gear is lost at sea or abandoned by fishers every year. This gear damages the marine environment, impacts fish stocks, and poses a hazard to ships, according to a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment Program (UNEP).
“There are many ‚Äòghosts in the marine environment machine’ from over-fishing and acidification linked with greenhouse gases to the rise in de-oxygenated ‚Äòdead zones’ as a result of run off and land-based source of pollution,” says Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director. “Abandoned and lost fishing is part of this suite of challenges that must be urgently addressed collectively if the productivity of our oceans and seas is to be maintained for this and future generations.”

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Wrap-Up of Ray Anderson’s Talk at Sustainable Industries Economic Forum

Scott Cooney | Thursday May 7th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Sustainable%20industries%20economics%20forums_header_short.gifRay Anderson, founder and Chairman of Interface, gave the keynote address this morning at the Sustainable Industries Economic Forum.
Anderson had a tough act to follow in this, the third Economic Forum put on by Sustainable Industries. Last year’s keynote was Van Jones, after all.
Anderson quoted Einstein as he talked about the thinking that we need to get us out of our current economic and environmental maelstroms. This alternative thinking led their factory in Southern California to go solar. Something their accountant might have missed, said Anderson, was the value of extra sales, PR, and the value of leadership, had they simply used a payback period or other cost-benefit analysis in determining whether their solar project was worthwhile.
Anderson next tried a visualization with the audience, which blew me away. He asked everyone to close their eyes…

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