Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Saturday November 29th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Apologies for the delay in delivering this weekly wrap up! I am still recovering from my Tryptophan haze.
This was a big week in sustainable business news! Read on for the biggest stories:
solar-panel-1.jpg Five Reasons You Should Consider Generating Your Own Green Energy While 3P’s own Ryan Mickle doesn’t much like the idea at least as compared with other solutions for combating climate change, there are some compelling reasons for going off the grid, not the least of which is turning on every light in the house and blasting Blondie when the power goes off on your block, just to stick it to your neighbors who refuse to compost.
think-electric-car.jpg Electric Car Network on the Fast Track in San Francisco San Francisco joins the fine company of Israel and Denmark as one of Better Place’s inaugural networks for electric cars. A couple of us from 3P were at a presentation by Better Place’s founder last week, and they’ve got it all figured out! Plug-in parking spaces at home, work, and shopping centers, battery exchange stations, and the cars are pretty cute to boot. I’m working on getting Nick to buy us one, for business use *only* of course. Click on lots of pages, people!
los%20angeles.jpgLA wants a Seat at the Green Team Table LA has no shortage of sunshine, and Mayor Villaraigosa made a commitment last week to put it to better use than tanning aspiring actresses: he committed the city to reaching 10% solar by 2020. That is a fine, fine commitment, Mayor! Keep it up and we’ll work on getting you a fancy electric car network too.
PredictingTheWeather03.jpg
Can Wind Farms Change the Weather?
Ecogeek has given me another reason for eco-panic insomnia. This gives the butterfly effect a whole new meaning (with one turn of the windmill…). Luckily it looks like the windfarm would have to stretch from Texas to Canada to have an impact. That doesn’t mean this isn’t fodder for another eco thriller B movie.
walmart-logo.gifWalmart Goes Big with Two Newspopping Stories
First they pledge to buy 226 million kilowatt-hours of renewable power each year from a wind farm that’s set to be up and running by April 2009 (avoiding the production of a staggering 139,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually).
Then CEO Lee Scott, champion of the superpower’s green initiatives, resigns. Will this mean the end of the green happy face?
corn.jpg Corn Based Plastic Sales Skyrocket Sales have jumped 450% in the most recent period recorded. Now you know where to put that money you yanked out of the stock market. Just don’t forget to compost your bio-plastics! (Otherwise they offgas methane in the landfill and contribute to global warming.) Just call me the eco-Debbie Downer.
horn.jpg A Cap and Trade Thanksgiving This is a great piece about the compromises inherent in any 100 mile meal undertaking. I love me some carbon humor.3P had its own share of Thanksgiving coverage: sustainable turkey farming and food economics in a fuel based economy.

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Holy Solar – Vatican Installs 2,400 Panels

| Saturday November 29th, 2008 | 3 Comments

New_Popeweb.jpgThe German solar panel company SolarWorld has installed solar panels on the roofs of the Vatican. The Pope switched to the system earlier this week and is expected to announce drastic plans to expand on the project. The solar panels are placed on top of the massive roof of the Vatican’s Nervi Hall, where the pope receives general audiences.
A total of 2,400 photovoltaic panels have been attached to this 5,000 square meter roof. They are not noticeable from the ground below and can provide all of the energy for the hall and a few other buildings adjacent to it. Exact output is 300 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually.

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Breaking Out of the Oil Trap: “Big 3″ Bailout & An Open Fuel Standard

| Saturday November 29th, 2008 | 2 Comments

cropcircleouroboroshillbarn2001a.jpg A great opportunity for the US to break free of the foreign oil trap presents itself before the incoming Obama administration and the US Congress, according to the Set America Free Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to breaking America’s dependence on foreign oil: any use of public finance to bail out the “Big 3″ automakers should include establishing an Open Fuel Standard so that most new cars sold in the US will run on a variety of liquid fuels.
The Detroit-based automakers have conveniently shunted aside any real move towards making flex-fuel vehicles though they have said they are willing to commit to make 50% of new cars sold in the US fuel flexible by 2012. Indicative of a glaring lack of responsiveness, or sense of social and environmental responsibility, they have zealously maintained this stance despite the fact it costs only around $100 per vehicle for them to do so, according to Set America Free research.
The “Big 3″ auto executives are shuttling back and forth between their monolithic Detroit headquarters and Washington D.C., again crying wolf to lawmakers in order to preserve their own bacon. The present political-economic drama is shaping up as yet another instance of throwing good money after bad, in the form of public funds and financing no less, something that has become the norm in the US. Lawmakers can change all this by requiring the automakers to do what they’ve chosen not to do for decades.
Set America Free is behind a push on Capitol Hill to pass the Open Fuel Standard Act (Senate bill S.3303; House bill H.R. 6559), a piece of legislation that would catalyze the transition to flex-fuel vehicles and give the driving public their choice of liquid fuels. Enacting this legislation would be beneficial in a number of important respects: it would set us squarely down the path towards cutting the cord on our reliance on oil, imported oil in particular, thereby enhancing energy and national security, promote the development and use of cleaner, less polluting and environmentally damaging biofuels, it would be complementary and smooth the transition to hybrid electric vehicles, and it could lead to a much reduced military presence and sacrifice of life in oil-rich, geopolitical hot zones.
Moreover, it would save consumers money. The price at the pump of methanol, including taxes, distribution and mark-up, comes in at $2.03 per gasoline equivalent gallon, according to Set America Free.

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Geologists Say Rock Laid Bare Under Omani Desert Can Absorb 4 Billion Tons Of CO2 a Year

| Friday November 28th, 2008 | 2 Comments

180px-Perid_SanCarlos.jpgPetroleum Development Oman, the state owned oil company of Oman (partly controlled by Shell), is in discussions with geologists who claim they’ve found a type of rock that can be used to soak up huge quantities of carbon dioxide.
The rock, known as peridotite, is layered just under the surface of a desert in Oman. The peridotite was found to react chemically with CO2, forming solid minerals. What’s more, it absorbs hot water infused with a concentration of CO2 that engineers can drill deep into it.
Theoretically, the peridotite in Oman alone could take in 4 billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year and transform it into marble and limestone. Total global annual carbon emitted is around 30 billion tons.
In most places in the world, peridotite usually resides some 20 kilometers or more below the earth’s surface. But in Oman, it’s been pushed upwards due to geologic activity making it far more accessible.

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How Will Obama’s Healthcare Changes Impact Business?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday November 28th, 2008 | 1 Comment

Obama.jpgThe U.S. healthcare system is in sorry shape. The Commonwealth Fund Commission gave the U.S. healthcare system a score of 65 (out of 100) when compared to other industrialized countries. The overall performance of the healthcare system did not improve from 2006 to 2008, and access to healthcare decreased. The efficiency of the healthcare system continued to be low.
The U.S. spends twice the amount per capita on healthcare that other industrialized countries do, but ranks last among 19 industrialized countries. It ranked 15th last year. The rate of uninsured adults increased from 35 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2007. According to the Commonwealth Fund Commission, “We are headed toward $1 of every $5 of national income going toward health care.”

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STAR Community Index: LEED Guidelines for Entire Cities

| Thursday November 27th, 2008 | 4 Comments

STARCommunityIndex.jpg Much as LEED™ has transformed the building industry, the people behind the STAR Community Index hope to transform the way local governments set priorities and implement policies and practices to make their cities more sustainable.
The STAR Community Index isn’t the first to try and rank or rate the greenness of cities. SustainLane for example has already put out three rankings on the sustainability of cities, including creating a network for government officials to exchange best practices.
However, as SustainLane’s methodology has sometimes been criticized, The STAR Community Index is taking a slightly different approach. GreenBiz writes, “The Star Community Index is the only thus far that intends to use the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design as a working model for development.”

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The Business of Truly Sustainable Turkey Farming

Tori Okner | Thursday November 27th, 2008 | 0 Comments

turkey.jpg As you read this, someone close to you may be cleaning, stuffing, or slicing a turkey. Over 45 million turkeys were purchased for Thanksgiving out of the 265 million raised this year alone. The vast majority of these birds were grown on industrial farms. Perhaps your bird is organic, free range, or locally grown, but odds are you won’t be dining on a heritage turkey this holiday. You may be surprised to learn just how much healthier these birds are, how crucial they are for the future of our food system, and why its hard for this niche to turn a profit.
Heritage turkeys – birds with genetic lines that predate the engineering that defines the current poultry market – are bred and raised in a traditional, humane, and sustainable manner. To meet the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy standard, they must mate naturally, live productively outdoors, and grow slowly in order to develop strong bodies. In contrast, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 99% of American turkeys are Broad Breasted Whites. These turkeys are the product of the 1960’s shift to industrial farming and have been bred to grow the maximum quantity of white meat. Such genetic selection is inhumane, dangerous to human health, and ultimately not commercially viable.

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An Efficient Thanksgiving Day Turkey

Jeff Siegel | Thursday November 27th, 2008 | 0 Comments

turkeys2005-200.jpgThe free-range turkey we bought for this year’s Thanksgiving was ordered through a local organic and natural foods store. And it was about three times the cost of the conventional turkeys they were selling at the mega-supermarket.
But our turkey was raised naturally, without genetically-modified feed grown with synthetic, nutrient-depleting fertilizers. The feed wasn’t covered in pesticide residue either. There was also minimal processing, minimal storage, and transportation was less than 30 miles.
From farm to table, this turkey represents the workings of a sustainable and efficient food system. A system that, unfortunately, is not more widely utilized and accepted.

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UPS Adopts HP Paperless Printing Solution for Package Processing

| Wednesday November 26th, 2008 | 0 Comments

UPS announced this month it will deploy a new combination scanner and paperless printing device developed by HP that will print millions of sorting labels directly on packages, helping Brown make further inroads on greening their operations by slashing its consumption of paper while reducing costs at the same time.
Called the HP Handheld sp400 all-in-one (kinda rolls off the tongue) The innovative device offers UPS a win-win situation by increasing efficiency and reducing waste.
“Leveraging technology innovation is critical in today’s tough, competitive economy,” said Dave Barnes, senior vice president and CIO of UPS. “The new HP handheld device means increased efficiency and effectiveness at a lower cost, with less waste. This is a perfect example of how technology helps to drive business solutions at UPS.”
Once fully deployed, the printer/scanner will save over 1,300 tons of paper annually, with millions of dollars in operational savings for UPS.
The device is currently in use in 41 U.S. processing centers, with plans to expand to a total of 850 printers in 55 centers by the end of the year. The company expects to process 1.5 million packages with the new system by mid-2009. By 2010 3.1 million packages should be handled using the device.

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Greening Your Gigabytes: Apple Introduces the World’s Greenest Family of Notebooks

| Wednesday November 26th, 2008 | 0 Comments

mac%20greenbooks.jpgWith all of the time and energy we expend using computers, it makes sense that developing energy efficient alternatives should be a high priority for technology companies. And who better to grab the reins and innovate this category than Apple, reinforcing their commitment to bringing leading edge solutions to the forefront, and elevating the green ‘cool factor’ in the process.
Although Steve Jobs’ keynote on this topic did not impress environmentalists at the Macworld Expo last year, with Greenpeace contendors stating that that the company still had a long way to go to set any kind of environmental standard for the rest of the tech industry, this latest evolution of their Macbook series may change their minds. And while Apple is not the only computer company focusing on eco-issues, it is clear that their stance in the most recent ad introducing the ‘greenest family of notebooks’ that Jobs is vying for a leadership position in environmentally sound manufacturing.

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Dark Economic Cloud Throws Shadow Over Upcoming COP14 Climate Talks

| Wednesday November 26th, 2008 | 0 Comments

cop14_logo_250.jpgThe COP14 climate talks next week are taking place amid circumstances that are drastically changed compared to the last round of negotiations; the world’s economy is in severe turmoil. That means one thing – global leaders’ resolve to combat climate change will be put to the test.
The talks, which will take place December 1-12 in Poznan, Poland, could be the scene of intensified difficulties and any climate action may be seen as a trade off against economic growth. The experts at the United Nations are prepared for it. In a recent interview with Reuters news agency, they said their calculations show that the maximum sacrifice rich nations will be making to avert the worst effects of global warming is less than 0.12 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) annually until 2030.

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The Key to the Gap’s Sustainability Success: An Interview with Kindley Walsh-Lawlor

| Wednesday November 26th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Kindley.jpgIt is one thing to start a green by design eco-fashion company, and an entirely different thing to direct a ~$16B clothing retailer that employs 150,000 people to reduce its environmental impact and operate more sustainably. This is exactly the job of Kindley Walsh-Lawlor, Gap Inc’s Senior Director of Social Responsibility and Environmental Affairs. I got the chance to discuss with Kindley how she landed where she is, what Gap Inc’s brands (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic) are doing to “go green”, and the ins and outs of retail corporate social responsibility (CSR). Gap Inc is a social responsibility leader, having spent 12 years working on ethical sourcing and human rights. Kindley’s task involves incorporating environmental initiatives. As she puts it: “Are we leaders right now in the environment? The answer is no. I think, is it a goal? Yeah. …The key thing that’s so important to us is it’s about really making a positive impact versus just creating a great story.”

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Green Car of the Year: A Diesel?!

| Wednesday November 26th, 2008 | 8 Comments

VWJettaTDI09.jpgWhen you say the words “green car,” what comes to mind? Prius first, I suspect. One of the numerous electric cars popping up these days. And perhaps a hydrogen car. So would you be surprised to hear that the winner of last week’s Green Car of the Year award at the LA Auto Show was…a diesel? Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI.
If you’re from anywhere outside the US, probably not. Particularly in Europe, diesels comprise a large amount of the cars driven, and it’s with good reason: They get great mileage, and have low emissions.
Many in the US likely have an outdated perception of what a diesel car is like: Weak, loud, and a big polluter. Or you see big rig trucks on the road, belching dark exhaust clouds. That’s diesel, for many people.
The truth is, diesel powered cars have steadily improved, becoming agile, powerful, efficient, low emission vehicles, even known to beat hybrid mileage.

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Healthcare Costs Affect Businesses

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday November 26th, 2008 | 2 Comments

Tobias-AIDS-test.jpg
Over the last five years, health insurance premiums for employers increased almost five times faster than inflation, and four times faster than wage growth, according to a study by the National Coalition on Healthcare (NCHC) released last February. Premiums are rising at double digit rates which makes it harder for businesses to provide health insurance coverage for employees. “It is becoming clear to many companies that at current rates, their health insurance expenses will out pace their profits,” the NCHC study stated.
Between 2000 and 2007, premiums for businesses increased almost 100 percent, but wages increased only 24 percent. The NCHC study listed how the rising cost of premiums affects businesses, including reducing their capacity to grow. Higher premiums also are a “drag on economic growth” because the job growth rate slows and wages are suppressed.

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Energy at a Tipping Point: Part 2 – SunPower’s Dr. Richard Swanson on the Future of PV Solar

| Tuesday November 25th, 2008 | 2 Comments

SunPower founder Dr. Richard Swanson sees a bright future for PV solarThis post continues my reveiw of some key points from the discusion forum I attended earlier this month “After the Election: Where is Clean Energy Headed Now?” hosted by TiE at their Silicon Valley headquarters. My last post focused on the presentation by Chris Flavin, president of Worldwatch Institute. In this post we’ll review what SunPower founder and current President and Chief Technical Officer Dr. Richard Swanson had to say to the crowd of venture capitalists, investors, engineers, and entrepreneurs.
A megawatt a day keeps the coal man at bay
As could be expected, Dr. Swanson is bullish on solar PV, not only for SunPower, but for the industry as a whole, even given the pernicious uncertainties in the general economy. With the rapid growth of PV (30 to 40% annnually worldwide) and increasing R&D investment, Swanson is looking for the next few years to bring more breakthroughs in the price and efficiency of PV solar systems.
According to Swanson, half the current cost of a solar system is in its installation. Streamlining this process by increasing system assembly efficiency and utilizing non-penetrating foundations for ground-based panels helps bring costs down and enables SunPower to install 1 megawatt a day of solar PV, from factory to field.
These efforts, combined with ongoing research and development in continuous ingot growth, thinner solar wafers, and solar tracking of panels for better ulitization of solar energy throughout the day (we reported of such an system SunPower installed for Gap Stores back in October), are some aspects by which Swanson sees SunPower meeting its target objectives of 60% in cost reduction and 23% efficiency increase in PV solar by 2012.

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