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A year ago GenGreenLife.com launched as a social network site with listings of environmentally friendly businesses. It claims to be the “largest database of sustainable living resources, larger than any other website online.” Presently, it contains over 25,000 listings covering all 50 states and 350 cities. According to a September 8, 2008 press release, it is an “online community that makes local sustainable living easy for conscious consumers everywhere.”
Among GenGreenLife’s listings are over 15,000 recycling facilities, alternative transportation options, and cooperatives. The site also has a directory of over 9,000 eco-friendly businesses with an interactive map. It boasts that it has the largest green job board in the U.S., and the largest green events calendar.
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It seems that the word “sustainable,” or variants thereof, is never far away these days. It’s been on the minds and lips of scientists, environmentalists, environmentally conscious politicians, policy advocates and “green” public relations agencies for many years now.
More recently, it’s been rising to the “top of the charts” on the agendas of corporate executives as the potentially staggering costs of climate change and energy security become more evident – and not only in terms of dollars and cents. Add to the mix the establishment of local, regional, national and international climate change mitigation and renewable energy requirements and programs and it’s increasingly clear that corporate executives ignore the issue of “sustainability” at their own growing risk.
But pinning down a definition of “sustainability” is a thorny task. Its meaning varies and depends on who’s speaking and who’s listening. With all the attention and hype, as well as resources, “going green” has attracted, it’s important to establish clear definitions of fundamental terms, and to be able to wade through all the claims and promises of “sustainability” being made today – in other words to wade through them and determine what is “greenwash” and what is not.
Multinational oil and gas companies have as large a vested interest in the energy and sustainability debate as anyone. Earlier today, the corporate communications team of one of the oil industry’s pioneering, and still largest, private multinationals – Shell–hosted a live Web chat on the issue, one that was accompanied by introductory video and text transcripts in which a variety of professionals from a variety of fields voiced their opinions about greenwash, the do’s and don’ts of corporate media campaigns to do with “sustainability,” just what is or isn’t meant by it, and how to deliver on the promise.
Executive Director of the non-profit Make it Right, Tom Darden, has been working closely with New Orleans officials and community leaders like Charles Allen in order to rebuild the Lower 9th Ward with eco-friendly houses. He dubs it, “the toughest redevelopment project in the country.”
As if the idea of constructing new, efficient and “green” homes in the devastated area weren’t innovative enough, the NGO’s origins are more original than most. Make it Right (MIR) was started by Brad Pitt in response to hurricane Katrina. It now has 25 employees and just completed its first 6 environmentally friendly homes built using the cradle to cradle philosophy of zero waste.
The room was packed on Friday for a panel entitled “Bringing Electric Cars to the Mass Market”. The moderator, Bill Moore, editor of EV World, set the stage with a historical perspective–did you know that Henry Ford’s wife drove an electric car?–and then launched straight into the thick of things.
Before being critical, let me just say that I really enjoyed the panel. The panelists had some excellent things to say on the topics of battery rental, lithium availability, and V2G technology. The audience was very knowledgeable and engaged and the room was filled to capacity.
Nestled somewhere in the forests of northern Patagonia, amongst dramatic Andean peaks, alpine lakes, and fiery winds could very well be the answer to our dependency on fossil fuels.
Earlier this month, Gary Strobel, a professor from Montana State University, announced a fungus that lives inside trees naturally makes a mix of hydrocarbons that bears a striking resemblance to diesel.
Hydrocarbons are chemical compounds that naturally occur in substances like crude oil, and are thought of as the basic building blocks for any type of fuel. And in recent times, as the search has expanded to find alternative fuels, the majority of attention has been placed on biofuels and ethanol.
This week in ClimatePULSE we take a look at some of the best techniques for hosting an environmentally friendly conference or event. Given the current hysteria surrounding corporate sustainability projects, the simple task of promoting your organization’s green goodwill through hosting enviro-friendly events is often overlooked. So just how do you easily conform to environmentally sound behavior? It’s quite simple. Without overlooking the importance of ditching bottled water, there are 5 simple steps your company can take to portray a green image at your next big conference or meeting. Check below for the top solutions.Click to continue reading »
Last week I attended a discussion entitled After the Election: Where is Cleantech Headed Now? hosted by TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) at their Silicon Valley headquarters. The event was moderated by Andrew Chung of Lightspeed Venture Partners with presentations by Chris Flavin of Worldwatch Institute and Dr. Dick Swanson, founder of SunPower.
Needless to say, the room was full of some very smart, visionary people with a singular focus on exploring the state of the energy sector and the potential of renewable energy to bring solutions to a beleaguered economy and stressed environment (one might say to civilization and the natural systems that support it).
In my next post we’ll look at the the main ideas of Dr. Swanson’s presentation. Here we’ll review some key points from the discussion with Chris Flavin.
Perception lags reality
Worldwatch Institute’s Chris Flavin may have summed up the entire evening in his first sentence: “Energy is at a tipping point”. It is exciting to think we live in a time of rapid transition to a new energy economy. Flavin sees the beginnings of that transition in progress and accelerating.
Based on data from the report Renewables 2007 Global Status Report by REN21 in collaboration with Worldwatch, one challenge Flavin sees is “making the fossil fuel industry believe” that renewables offer a full-scale, “baseload” alternative to oil and coal, and that it isn’t hovering somewhere off in the distant future.
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“So much has happened in the renewable energy sector during the past five years that the perceptions of some politicians and energy-sector analysts lag far behind the reality of where the renewables industry is today”, says Mohamed El-Ashry, Chair of REN21
San Francisco is the first city in the U.S. to have implemented a plastic bag ban, but there are many other cities up and down the west coast and across the nation who have enacted or are discussing similar measures (including Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, and New York). As opposed to S.F.’s ban on plastic, most cities are planning to charge a fee for use of disposable or single use bags, both plastic and paper. The fee-based approach was initially introduced in Ireland, and according to the Irish government has been successful in reducing the use of disposable bags. In the U.S. the cost of the fee will vary by city, but the norm is $0.25 per bag. This cost will be paid by the consumer at time of checkout, and a large portion of the proceeds will go towards pollution and litter cleanup efforts.
There are several stakeholders involved, most notably municipal government, retailers, bag manufacturers, and consumer groups, making for a very dynamic environment. But perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that this may be the U.S. consumer’s first direct introduction to a new concept that will soon be a staple of the U.S. economy – the factoring of externalities into the cost and price of products. For many businesses, this impending change is frightening in both its intended and unintended impacts.
This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy. John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.
I mentioned before in this blog that the gym and spa industry is one of the main buyers of sport bottles. It makes sense, sign-up for a membership, get a water bottle and t-shirt.
I also mentioned that the BPA scare pretty much halted the market for plastic gym bottles. This was an event especially felt by eco-friendly gyms, yoga studios and spas that had been using bottles as giveaway items. Many businesses gave up on plastic altogether and moved to aluminum or steel bottles.
Well the industry is fighting back with BPA free bottles especially designed for gyms – like Glass America’s 19 oz. Treadmill BPA Free Bottle – bottles designed with wide mouths and easy grips.
These new bottles also have the words “BPA free” imprinted directly on them to make sure the audience does not miss the fact these are “safe” bottles.
We will see how well these new bottle designs do. It is nice to see the industry bouncing back in this area and at the same time moving forward on green products.
For more information on BPA free bottles from Glass America please visit their website or visit us at Proformagreen.com.
Mitsubishi Ramps Up Cleantech Commitment, BP Bows Out of UK Wind Energy Efforts
In the wake of the U.S. presidential election, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation has announced plans to expand business operations aimed to helping to mitigate climate change. The plans call for ambitious new sales goals for solar power, heat pump systems, and energy efficient power devices, following its framework target plan outlined in Environmental Vision 2021.
Energy giant BP said last week it will abandon plans to bid on the United Kingdom’s first carbon capture and storage project and not build a planned wind farm on the Isle of Grain. BP sees the shift in the coming American president and his pledge to invest $150 billion in renewable energy in the next decade and says it will shift its wind energy focus to the United States.
SAP Unveils First Sustainability Report, Seeks Co-Innovators for Change
After releasing its first sustainability report, software provider SAP doesn’t necessarily have plan laid out to the future, but they’ve got a place to start, or what the company calls its “60,000–foot view”. With CO2 emissions of 406,230 metric tons, and nearly 75% of that coming from business travel or Scope 3 greenhouse gases, the strategy for mitigating that footprint will involve social networking and “Web 2.0” tactics to “co-innovate” an overall framework to greater sustainability.
Clean Tech Open 2008 Tees Up Six Winning Startups
Now in its third year, the California Clean Tech Open named six winners in an awards ceremony at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco on November 6th. The Clean Tech Open serves as an “innovation catalyst” to motivate entrepreneurs and early stage companies to create and develop sustainability and clean technologies. This year’s winners included “high performance, consumer friendly diapers” and a company that helps data centers increase their operational efficiency.
FedEx, IBM and Office Depot Report Green Progress
Corporate responsibility reports are on the rise. Among the most recent is FedEx working to optimize routes, increase fuel efficiency, and reduce aircraft-related carbon emissions. IBM comes in with a nearly 32% reduction in perflourocompoound emissions from its semiconductor manufacturing. Office Depot has increased waste recycling in its U.S operations to 49% (in Europe the company recycles 71% of its waste), offers 30% more green office products for sale, and has reduced its transportation carbon emissions in the U.S. by 9.6%
Canadian Hydro Opens Canada’s Largest Wind Energy Installation
Canadian Hydro Developers, Inc. announced the opening of the 199.5 megawatt Melancthon EcoPower Centre, the largest wind energy installation in Canada.
REI Forges Ahead with Solar Plan
Outdoor gear and apparel company REI celebrated the completion of its third San Francisco Bay Area rooftop solar system this week. This brings the company nearly halfway of installing solar systems on 10% of its 105 stores in 27 states. In all 11 stores will have solar systems installed by the end of the year, with a total of four acres of installed solar panels expected to generate 1.1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.
The times, they are a-changin’
Despite the continuing turmoil in the economy in general, there is a lot of excitement and anticipation for a changing landscape with the coming of a new administration in January. On Wednesday, I attended a discussion hosted by TiE in Silicon Valley about the future of energy. Speakers at the program included Chris Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute and Dr. Dick Swanson, founder of SunPower. It was an encouraging and enlightening talk, and I will summarize it in a post next week.
Jen is off today, studying hard to help make good on this growing excitment for a sustainable world, but she’ll be back next week with the Green Business Wrap-up. Have a great weekend!
In 2003 Management Consulting firm Accenture created the Accenture Development Partnership (ADP) as a means of providing consulting services to NGOs, foundations and donor organizations working in the development sector. Since its launch, ADP has completed 200+ projects in 55 countries with more than 45 different client organizations.
I caught up with Senior Manager Chris Jurgens yesterday to better understand the program, its benefits to Accenture, as well as why it constitutes a “second generation” private-public partnership.
First Generation: pre-ADP
For Accenture the first generation of development consulting was its Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) program, inaugurated in 1999. Still in place today, the VSO program was instituted to allow Accenture’s consultants to take sabbaticals and engage in international development consulting for 6 months to 1 year.
The VSO advantage is that consultants remain Accenture employees and do not deviate from their career tracks. Consultants take a 50% pay cut, and they organize their own projects/partnerships with host NGOs.
GreenBuild in Boston – What Will Green Building Materials Manufacturers and Green Builders Have to Say?
Next week I am off to Boston for GreenBuild, the US Green Building Council’s premier event. Greenbuild International Conference and Expo was launched in 2002 as the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. This year attendees will learn about new green building products, innovative projects, the latest building research and more. The conference boasts over 100 eco friendly educational sessions, 800 exhibitors, international master speakers, practical green building workshops and green building tours in Boston November 19-21 for Greenbuild 2008.
Reviewing the speakers, it looks like the line up will focus heavily on innovation and environmental impact within green. But I expect many of the green building materials manufacturers and green builders to focus on the money. While the good news is that green is up, the bad news is that building is indisputably down. Without building, there is no green building. Manufacturers will be looking to increase sales with green building products, and building owners will ask if green building provides a better ROI. These are the questions I am eager to explore, and look forward to reporting back on Triple Pundit.
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This weekend leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies gather for the G20 summit. Gary Gardner and Michael Renner, Worldwatch Institute senior researchers, believe the G20 summit should discuss creating a Global Green Deal.
The strategic objectives of the GGD, as outlined by Gardner and Renner, are transitioning to a renewable energy economy, launching an efficiency revolution, investing in green infrastructure, and working for a fairer distribution of wealth.
The Petroleum Ceiling and the Limits of Growth
Since the credit crisis began, we’ve been hearing a lot about how investing in a ‚ÄòGreen New Deal‘, ‚ÄòA Green Economy‘, and ‚ÄòA Clean Energy Economy‘ will rescue us. But how, specifically, will green solutions be our savior, and why – at the end of the age of oil and a time of increasingly dangerous human-caused climatic instability – is this type of policy package so crucial for President Obama to implement during his first 100 Days?
Over the past few months, as I’ve talked about how our economy won’t experience a prolonged period of growth until we wean ourselves from our addiction to oil, I’ve referred to this limit on growth as the “Petroleum Ceiling” on our economy. What I mean – even now as gas prices have temporarily dropped due to recessional demand and investors’ flight to safety in the dollar (among other reasons) – is that as long as our economy is so foolishly dependent on oil, once the business cycle starts to heat up again, demand for oil will go up and with it, the prices of food, commodities and other critical goods and services – bringing the period of growth to a screeching halt.
As renewable energy, particularly concentrated and other solar power project developers are flocking to remote parts of the southwest, the Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab and Spain’s Iberdrola Renewables are building a network of solar resource monitoring stations across the region to minimize the uncertainties and risks.
The public-private sector partnership today announced that they have deployed the first of several such stations in Arizona as part of a planned instrumentation network – NREL’s Solar Resource and Meteorological Assessment Project, or SOLRMAP, that will extend across the United States, according to a media release.
With funding supplied by industry partners, SOLRMAP’s installations in Arizona will collect “precise, long-term solar resource measurements” that will be incorporated into technical analysis that aims to minimize the risk of commercial solar energy conversion projects, including concentrated solar power plants, according to the partners.
For the first set of measuring stations in Arizona, NREL and Iberdrola are using Irradiance Inc.’s rotating shadowband radiometer to collect direct and diffuse solar measurements. These measure and record the strength and consistency of sunlight at the station locations, as well as wind and temperature data.
NREL is going to combine the SOLRMAP data with information from existing regional solar radiation networks to upgrade models that populate a database of 10-km resolution solar resource data across the United States. The data collected will be used by NREL researchers and analysts to sharpen solar modeling, solar resource forecasting, and database development, according to NREL.
“The project is a win-win collaboration between NREL and industry to optimize the quality of solar resource data used to evaluate the viability of large-scale projects in the southwest U.S.,” said Steve Wilcox, a senior scientist with NREL’s Solar Radiation research program, and the Laboratory’s lead in the SOLRMAP collaboration.