Though I did do an April Fool’s story about Terracycle’s merging with Scotts Miracle Gro that got several alarmed phone calls/emails there, I promise this interview with their CEO and book author Tom Szaky is genuine. Enjoy.
It’s not often that the author of a book tells you he wants more people tearing off the cover, but that’s just what Tom Szaky, CEO of Terracycle and author of Revolution In A Bottle, wants. This surprisingly has not been well covered in reviews says Szaky. It’s a bit hard to miss, with orange ink inside drawing your attention to what turns out to be a makeshift envelope when turned inside out. Then you send back Bear Naked Granola packaging, to be made into kites and umbrellas. It’s a perfect example of Terracycle’s driving motivation – making the making of more planet friendly choices simple and easy to do, at an identical or cheaper price then the toxic conventional options. The origin stories of startups are frequently interesting, but it’s safe to say that few business ideas were started because of marijuana. At least not the cultivation of it. Legally. But it was exactly this, specifically a plant named Marley, that Terracycle founder Tom Szaky witnessed first hand the effectiveness of worm based compost, or “woom poop” as he (in)famously refers to it. Szaky, an accidental green business superhero as it turns out, clearly has a knack for telling memorable, effective stories, and as he shares in his advice to would be eco entrepreneurs, it’s a large part of what’s carried Terracycle so far. As is staying firm to seeing things in a different, sometimes unpopular way.
Ever since the current financial crisis began, Nicholas Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, has been everywhere. His astute and irreverent analysis of why human psychology is ill-equipped to deal with very unlikely yet very impactful events has captured the attention of many who are searching for answers in uncertain times. Mr. Taleb is in the headlines again with a Financial Times opinion piece entitled Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world, which lists some principles for preparing for, avoiding, and dealing with these unlikely events. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “black swan” is any event which can have an extremely large impact, but is so unlikely to occur that it is considered impossible. According to Wikipedia: “The term Black Swan comes from the assumption that ‘All swans are white.’ In that context, a black swan was a metaphor for something that could not exist. The 17th Century discovery of black swans in Australia metamorphosed the term to connote that the perceived impossibility actually came to pass.”
The current financial crisis has made me stop and think about my relationship to money and just what it provides you with. Is it an illusion that having a robust stock portfolio helps you feel secure or that when your 401k is up the future looks more rosy? Now the illusion has been stripped away. People are waking up to the fact that, contrary to everything we have heard for many years now, money doesn’t make you happy. According to Meadows, Meadows and Randers in “Beyond the Limits”, “People don’t need enormous cars; they need respect”
Green careers are in. No wonder there’s been a mini-stampede of books addressing what they are and how to get one. The books tend to cluster at one of two poles: Those that provide resources or information about a green career and those that are more of a handbook or guide for landing a job (or figuring out what you want to do). Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future, by Jim Cassio & Alice Rush, falls in the former category. While it includes a short section on career planning and the hidden job market, its greatest asset is its interviews with some 60 people in a wide range of roles, from a PR professional to a landscape architect, civil engineers to a fish biologist.
Cause marketing on the issue of reducing consumption of plastic bags is surprisingly difficult. A well entrenched and financed plastics lobby either truly does not understand the harm that billions of plastic bags cause, or are simply so obsessed with winning a marketing game that they won’t see the forest for the bag-filled trees. They’ve been so good at it that some years ago the lobby actually convinced activist groups that a tax on plastic bags would “hurt the poor”. Whether or not this is true probably depends more on how the government handles it than on people’s propensity to require more bags. Its troubling when an industry spends money on resisting what’s really a very common sense law, proven effective at reducing enormous amounts of waste. That’s money spent on very short term financial gain, and likely merely delays inevitable legislation that must now be past with extra urgency. Enter “Save the Bay” an activist group with a very creative metaphor: That the tsunami of plastic we produce will ultimately drown us lest we do something about it. See their latest in the video above.
“The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Invent It” This iconic quote from Alan Kay, the computer science pioneer, provided an appropriate context for a recent presentation given by Dan Reicher, Google’s Director of Climate and Energy Initiatives. Mr. Reicher addressed a full auditorium at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) describing Google.org’s endeavors to invent our energy future. He also discussed the more than $50B for clean energy in the recent federal stimulus package that he helped develop as a member of President Obama’s transition team. Inventing a new energy future will depend on advances in technology, better governmental policy, and an adequate supply of capital, according to Reicher. Google is working in all three areas. They began by using more than $1 billion of Google stock to capitalize Google.org whose mission is to make investments, advance policy and develop products. And although it will likely require trillions of dollars to transform our energy systems, when it comes to inventing the future, a billion dollars is a pretty good start.
As the economy takes a turn for the worse, it’s nice to know that some people are still thinking outside the box – or at least the office. Enter The Hub, a co-working outfit based in the UK, but with a decidedly global footprint. The idea behind co-working isn’t a radical one, or all that new: allow people from different companies to work together in the same space, and magical things will happen. As it turns out, the end result is more magical than anyone ever imagined: stories abound of entrepreneurs working out of one of The Hub’s airy, open work spaces who quickly found themselves making strides with their businesses that they previously thought impossible. With the support of the great folks at Good Cap, there is no doubt that the San Francisco Hub will soon be serving up connections and success to Bay Area entrepreneurs, too. For more information, please visit www.hubsf.net.
Bay Area wireless sensor networking pioneer Arch Rock has come out with an IP-based wireless energy monitoring system that gives facilities managers detailed, real-time visibility into electric power consumption that hasn’t been possible before. Combining Arch Rock’s PhyNet enterprise-scale wireless sensor network technology, specialized sensors that can be mounted on circuits and a Web-based Energy Visibility Portal, Energy Optimizer’s sensors gather data, which is processed and organized into “actionable” reports that enable users to see exactly when, where and how much power is being consumed at any given time. Because it’s IP-based, data from the sensor nodes can be sent directly to other nodes or any type of IP-based client device, be it a desktop, laptop, hand-held computer or mobile phone, according to the company. “Energy Optimizer is the first solution to bring low-power wireless networking to the scene. Analyzed, correlated energy-usage data is available as soon as it’s recorded. Facilities managers see detailed breakdowns of energy consumption from mains to branch circuits on a minute-by-minute basis,” Arch Rock CEO Roland Acra stated in a media release. “They can use the data to realize rapid payback by implementing energy-reduction plans or boosting internal efficiency through departmental charge-back reporting.”
Values-based companies are becoming more prevalent in our increasingly conscious marketplace, where the foundation is deeply rooted in a mission of giving back. By building with the end goal of making a difference in focus, all of the internal business practices, manufacturing – and even packaging – are developed in ways that not only give back, but protect and preserve the environment in the process. Plant It Water, a company devoted to providing consumers with an eco-friendly bottled water option, takes it one step further by keeping their eye on people and planet. In addition to taking steps to minimize their carbon footprint, and creating packaging solutions that have no negatve impact on the environment, for every carton purchased, a tree is planted, helping to replenish our land and natural resources. Founded by Jane Goldberg, Plant It Water seeks to empower consumers to make a visible difference in the world through everyday purchases of bottled water. As a product that respects and enhances the environment, the goal is to grow awareness of the fact that people all over the world don’t have basic needs such as water, and by supporting Plant It Water, consumers are united in a cause that benefits everyone, cultivating sustainable change with roots as deep as the trees they plant. Click to continue reading »
As the Obama Administration (pleasantly) surprises everyone by systematically turning everything on its head, one of the most exciting changes is actually stirring deep within the US Government itself. The rumblings began during the previous administration with the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Global Development Commons initiative, an interesting example of the cutting edge of international development and applied “web 2.0″ thinking. The Obama team certainly hasn’t dropped the ball, as evidenced by a USAID panel to be held titled “Open Innovation for Government: Answering President Obama’s Call for More Open, Effective Public Service”. Hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a D.C.-based think tank, the panel features director-level panelists from across the Federal government including such agencies as NASA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, USAID’s Office of Development Partners, and the US Department of State. The event is scheduled for April 14th from 3-5pm EST at CSIS headquarters: 1800 K Street NW, D.C. 20006. RSVPs can be sent to PCRProject@csis.org. Finally, in the spirit of openness and the cutting edge, a live webcast and Q&A will be available through the Global Development Commons site here as well as the Commons Ustream channel here.
Next month, Sears will begin selling men’s suits made of fabric that is derived, in part, from plastic soda bottles. An Isreali contract clothing manufacturer, Bagir Group Ltd., is making the garments for Sears’ private label Covington Perfect brand. The fabric, dubbed Ecopet, contains recycled PET plastic blended with wool, viscose and cotton or with other synthetics, according to Reuters, and is produced by Teijin, a Japanese chemical company. To weave enough of the fabric to produce one suit, Teijin says it uses 25 plastic soda bottles (2-liter size) but no additional oil. But what is most likely to really attract shoppers is the fabric’s feel, its price and its care label. According to the producer, the suits, which are styled in a classic look, don’t have the heavy, plasticy hand of the polyester suits of yore (read: leisure suits). And at $250 for a full suit, the line is competitively priced. But because it’s machine washable, there are additional savings over the life of the suit, compared to suits that must be dry-cleaned (a process without a great environmental profile).
I envision walking into a med-room, accessing low-toxin medications from a reusable dispenser, and carrying them in a reusable pill cup into a patient room. Our hospital policy strives to minimize pharmaceutical therapy, maximizing use of complimentary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and guided imagery for symptomatic relief of conditions such as pain and anxiety.
This is the second in a series of posts about incorporating sustainability into your business model by sustainability expert Heather Gadonniex. Stay tuned for weekly, step-by-step tips on how you can Modernize Business Through Sustainable Strategy™. Click here to read #1 In the last post, I covered a basic understanding of what sustainability means, why it is important and what changes are arising in the marketplace. Now it is time to determine how you want to integrate these concepts into your business. The first step in executing any sustainability initiative or program is to determine where you want to go by creating your sustainability vision and defining your goals. Just like any mission statement, your sustainability vision (also referred to as a sustainability mission or sustainability positioning statement) serves as a compass for your organization. In this post, we will focus on sustainability visioning and creating a sustainability positioning statement for your organization. In next week’s post I will circle back around to goal creation. To create your sustainability vision, follow the following steps:
Tropicana is attempting to put the squeeze on rainforest logging with its Rescue the Rainforest campaign and its recently-announced partnership with CoolEarth. To increase awareness of the problem, the company has launched a new flash game called Rainforest Rescue. The game lets you save the rainforest by playing the role of some very enterprising monkeys who happen to have acquired medieval siege technology (i.e., a slingshot), and have begun bombarding the encroaching loggers with acid-based chemical weapons (i.e., Oranges). Unfortunately for the monkeys, it appears that deforestation has left them with a deformity that causes one eye to be much bigger than the other, messing with their aim. That’s why they need your help. Luckily for you, the loggers are hell-bent on destruction. Like simple-minded storm troopers, they eagerly advance towards their sweet but sticky demise. Prepare to be frustrated: Actually hitting the loggers is excruciatingly hard at first, but, after a few games gets much easier. Hint: use a shallow angle. All in all, it’s good, clean, juicy, logger-bopping fun!
San Francisco: Dec 11 Building Health Forum More than 300 of the world’s preeminent experts and thought leaders pioneering the healthy buildings and healthy communities movement. Register here.
San Francisco: Jan 21 – Jan 22 Sustainable Food Summit Explore new horizons for eco-labels and sustainability in the food industry by discussing key industry issues. TriplePundit reader discount of 30%. Register here.
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