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Last week Common Current published its top sustainablity stories of 2008. More than half of the stories had implications for businesses including the “highest gas and oil prices ever.” The high gas prices caused people to want to live near retail districts. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, people would rather have “walkable retail districts” than golf courses in their neighborhoods. The International Economic Development Council cites mixed-use developments (MUDs) as a real estate trend across the U.S.
In a tough economy where consumers are less likely to spend money, MUDs have advantages for businesses. A study by the University of Wisconsin-Extension cites several advantages of mixed-use development, including the expansion of “market opportunities,” and more “customer traffic” from occupants of the development. According to the Condo Hotel Center’s website, MUDs offer “enhanced viability” over individual developments, allow development to be accelerated, and offer the opportunity to “spread or reduce by having investment revenue flow through multiple revenue streams.
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Has the ongoing recession dampened your spirits?
It probably has, as it’s affected everything from stalwart automakers to commodity prices to home sales to unemployment. But despite a few delayed and canceled downstream projects (steel in the ground) due to limited credit, the cleantech sector has been largely unaffected when it comes to funding in the earlier rounds.
A recent survey by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) revealed that 400 venture capitalists expect investment at the venture level to wane in every sector but cleantech.
Sounds like we have a bull here. Click to continue reading »
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by Rowan Edwards
Coming into the dMBA program at CCA was always an exciting proposition. Innovation. Sustainability. Design. Business. And all for the greater good. This is why I came to this program or it came to me. I also came for the unknown. In the program I would be getting some better understanding of the corporate world, the strategy within it, better skills in organizational architecture, decision making and control, and the underlying economic ramifications inherent in them. The unknown quantity to this next wave MBA curriculum was not just new methods of integration of Design Strategy into the old corporate paradigm, but understanding and integrating meaning into it. Though I typically would consider myself fairly self aware, the course “Live Exchange” (the communication component to the program) would prove to be the course that not only would challenge me to be more efficient in my communication technique, but offer meaning and encourage a more compassionate and reflective means to that end.
There’s a paradigm shift going on in the US real estate sector. Yet will home owners justify paying extra for green building if the economic situation continues to deteriorate?
The US homeowner population has been silently suffering for years now. Numbers from the Center for Housing Policy show that between 1996 and 2006, homeowners have been spending an increasing portion of their income on housing (the current crisis notwithstanding). A household would typically spend 21.5 percent of its total income on housing in 1996 and this had risen to 26.2 percent in 2006. Nearly a sixth of homeowners were far worse off, spending more than 50 percent of their disposable income on their homes in 2006. Another harrowing fact: housing expenses went up 64.9 percent over the ten year period, while homeowner incomes increased by only 36.3 percent.
It makes you wonder how sustainable the sustainable building wave will prove to be. “In order to avoid repeating the dire situation so many home owners are in today, it is critical that our thinking evolve around home costs,” said Michelle Kaufmann, founder and chairman of Michelle Kaufmann Designs, an architecture firm specializing in sustainable designs. Kaufmann’s recently published white paper “Redefining Cost: A Beacon of Hope Shines through Housing Market Gloom” (PDF link). The study hones in on the current troubles in the US housing industry outlining why it is imperative to consider cost structures in a changed perspective.
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Europeans are far ahead of North Americans when it comes to adopting green living standards by large groups and local communities. The Danish Island of Samso is a brilliant example of how a community can adopt a self sufficient lifestyle within a relatively short space of time. North America is beginning to catch up with Europe. The case of a brand new Alberta community living on solar energy shows a unique approach to a sustainable lifestyle.
The Danish island is located in central Denmark, and home to 4,000 people who have spent the last ten years collaborating intensively to achieve self sufficiency and carbon neutrality. Samso’s energy needs are generated by wind turbines, eleven of which are placed in green fields and ten in the surrounding coastal waters of the North Sea. Visitors to the island will agree that if any place deserves carbon neutrality it’s Samso. It’s a romantic place which in 1214 was given by King Valdemar the Victorious to his new queen once they got married. There are plenty of goats grazing in the fields underneath those wind turbines and a photovoltaic panel array at a solar heating plant. Most farmers rear organic pigs below the unsynchronized rotating blades of the wind turbines.
The houses in which the inhabitants live are 70% heated with natural resources such as rye, wheat and straw. The roofs are paneled neatly with solar panels. There are cars and thirty percent of the houses are dependent on oil for their heating yet all the carbon emissions are more than offset. What’s the most amazing is that it all has been achieved in under ten years’ time.
Alliance Between U.S. Government Lab and Battery Makers for Development and Production of Lithium-Ion Batteries in New “Green” Cars
Whether or not you support the federal government lending the beleaguered U.S. auto industry $13.4 dollars in emergency funding (with more to come in February), most probably agree that whatever they do with that money, it can’t be business as usual for the Big Three
A new alliance was announced yesterday between 14 battery makers and the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to promote the development and manufacture of advanced lithium ion battery technology. Called the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture, the hope of the alliance is that U.S. car companies will use the batteries in next-generation hybrid and plug-in electric cars.
Lithium-ion battery development is now dominated by foreign countries in Europe and Asia. Even GM, gasping for breath as it is, has announced it may use foreign-produced batteries for its Chevy Volt, it’s much publicized plug-in hybrid theoretically due out in 2010 (GM announced this week that it will be delaying construction of a manufacturing plant for the car, claiming it will have no impact on the car’s expected release).
It would appear that such an alliance to promote both U.S. battery development and green cars couldn’t have come at a more opportune time – unless it had come many years ago.Click to continue reading »
Greetings from the tropical hinterlands! I’m updating you on all the best green business this week from Honolulu, where I’m visiting my family for the holidays. I’m a bit late with my wrap up, but I, personally, feel that my proximity to the international date line is totally reasonable justification. I might actually be early. I’ll leave you puzzling over that one while we get right to it!
Golden Arches Turn Green McDonalds talks up their new green franchises, efficiency standards, and employee education programs. Does it make you want to eat there? Give me a grass fed quarter pounder and we’ll talk, Ronald.
Seventh Generation Unrolls Label Reading Guide, Makes Scrubbing Bubbles Less AppealingSeventh Generation unrolled a guide to make it easier to wade through all those pictures of happy bubbles doing your work for you to let you see the toxics within.
Out with the Chain Gangs, in with the Green Jobs Colorado aims to have prisoners making biodiesel. Read on to find out if they are using the fry oil from the cafeteria or those prisoners have to grow the switch grass too.
Dell Says Green Packaging will Save 8 MillionIn these dark climate times it’s nice to know that the rally cry of the sustainably business mavericks and mavens still holds water: going green can save you money!
Rock, Paper, Scissors: Wind Trumps All Wind comes out on top in a recent study of environmentally friendliness of different renewable energy technologies. The technologies and fuel sources were ranked against 11 different criteria but big weightings were given to just two – greenhouse emissions over the full life cycle of their production and the levels of local air pollution.
Here at 3P we were busy talking about all those executives at big oil companies work on renewables.
Data centers were also a hot topic. We worried about them running out of energy And fantasized about them heating our swimming pools
And since my mom is so sweet to read Triple Pundit, and she lives in such a nice place, here is her favorite post of the week.
Every large global corporation currently has a choice. They can try to survive by moving around pennies, or they can use this economy as a wake-up call. One response is a strategy that moves investment away from low-value commodities towards a strategic role in solving problems.
The Oil and Gas Industry, and how they respond to climate change, is an excellent case. From a societal and environmental perspective, we need ‘Big Resources’ to step up – moving from being largely the problem, to being a big part of the solution. The company that is the first to see business opportunity, rather than focusing on climate as a risk and a marketing problem – will reap the rewards.
Al Gore told us The Inconvenient Truth about global warming. But many of us asked, “What can I do about it?” The documentary film FUEL, winner of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, provides more than doom and gloom; it provides sustainable business solutions. This film has the potential to do more to promote clean technology and renewable energy than all of the venture capital money in Silicon Valley combined.Click to continue reading »
A new model for calculating global goal reserves created by Dave Rutledge, chair of Caltech’s engineering and applied science division, shows that previous estimates may overstate, by hundreds of billions of tons, the amount of economically recoverable coal left in the ground.
Rutledge estimates that the total amount humans will extract, including all past mining, is only 662 billion tons. Far less that the previous best guess from the World Energy Council of 850 billion tons still available for mining
Basing his new model on historical examples of fossil fuel exhaustion, Rutledge notes the consistency with which governments fail to accurately estimate their own fossil fuel reserves. “The record of geological estimates made by governments for their fossil fuel estimates is really horrible. And the estimates tend to be quite high. They over-predict future coal production.”
As examples Rutledge noted the precipitous decline in British coal reserves after its 1913 peak, and the U.S. peak oil production of 1970, “controversially predicted” by M. King Hubbert in 1956 (and who was one of the first to warn of the unsustainability of fossil fuels starting in the ’40’s).Click to continue reading »
I’ve been receiving a lot of questions lately about how the Obama administration’s energy policies will affect the renewable energy sector. After all, the President-elect has been very vocal about insisting on the need to develop new, cleaner forms of energy, stating in very clear terms that the future of our economy and national security is inextricably linked to the challenge of energy.
So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that such an agenda will only lend further support to the long-term potential of many renewable energy stocks. Even the mainstream media is jumping all over renewable energy stories, telling folks the same stuff we’ve been screaming from the rooftops for years.
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We are not living in an “entrepreneurial-friendly” climate. The economy is in the proverbial toilet. Health care costs continue to increase. However, on January 20 President-elect Barack Obama will take office, and if he fulfills his campaign promises for businesses and health care, aspiring entrepreneurs will have a chance to fulfill their dreams.
What are those campaign promises? Let’s start with statements Obama made this week during a press conference. “The pursuit of a new energy economy requires a sustained, all-hands-on-deck effort because the foundation of our energy independence is right here, in America – in the power of wind and solar; in new crops and new technologies; in the innovation of our scientists and entrepreneurs, and the dedication and skill of our workforce.”
Datacenters that are faced with the challenge of cooling their servers have a brilliant opportunity to jump on the green bandwagon and distribute energy. A European IBM outlet, an Israeli Intel facility and a Scottish Microsoft center are all using the heat their datacenters produce to warm up buildings and other facilities. IBM is even commercializing its method.
The Zurich Research Laboratory is a grand name for the defunct military underground bunker in which IBM housed one of its European datacenters. The company is putting the datacenter’s heat waste to good use; it is cooling its servers with water which is subsequently used to heat a local swimming pool.
A report on IEEE Spectrum indicates that instead of using air-conditioning or fans, the IBM datacenter simply has devised a water pump system through micro channels within the computers themselves. The water then absorbs the heat from the datacenter and sold to the neighbors. “A 10-megawatt datacenter could produce enough energy to heat 700 homes,” according to the article in IEEE Spectrum. Nifty or what?
The reason that IBM opted for heating up the pool rather than its own facility was that there wasn’t an office to heat up because the bunker is based in an inconvenient location and underground. “Through reclaiming the heat, approximately 130 tons of carbon emissions can be saved. This corresponds to the CO2 discharge of mid-size cars driving 500,000 miles,” according to IBM spokesman. “It’s a nice solution. It’s obviously a terrific example of the private sector and the public sector working toward each other’s mutual benefit.”
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by Carla Voorhees
As a member of the brand new Design MBA program at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco I’ve gotten a crash-course in how to work across miles, time-zones and emotions. While the school and most of my classmates are located in San Francisco and the rest of the bay area, I live just outside of Washington, DC and fly in to attend classes. As a result, 98% of our group work on projects is conducted virtually.
Working virtually is almost never easy, but it can be managed. More importantly it’s becoming a necessary tool in the businessperson’s arsenal. There are significant trends in business today towards cross-functional and multi-disciplinary teams, many of which are not physically located in the same office, city, state or even country. It is this trend that makes finding a way to work virtually that works for you so critical. Here are some tricks for making it work for you:
1. Choose the right project and the right team. Projects that are easily broken up into discrete blocks with little overlap are particularly good for this type of environment. Team members that are good at working independently can be great assets.
2. Schedule meetings far in advance. Once the scope of the project has been defined and the team assembled, block out once or twice weekly “sync-up” meetings for all members of the group, taking into account time zones and other factors.
3. Work asynchronously as much as possible. Independent workers and discrete portions of projects make this task much easier. If everyone owns a section of the project, focus can increase, stress decrease and meetings can be shorter.
4. Keep the lines of communication open. Post your work regularly for feedback where the group can see it, and make sure that you also give feedback to other members. Make sure that everyone is heard, and that you are present on every conference call. Really listen, pay attention and think about what everyone is saying and how you can incorporate it into your section of the project.
5. Set clear expectations. In addition to owning a section of the project, having clear expectations for each group member, and the group as a whole, I’ve found to be incredibly helpful. Knowing exactly what I’m expected to do helps me know when I need to ask for help or additional feedback.
6. Try not to overreact. It can be very easy to misinterpret an email message or other form of virtual communication without the benefit of body language and physical presence. Try to remain calm, and reread the message. Try not to take it personally, and ask for further clarification if need be. This would be a great time to start a videoconference if you need it.
7. The right tools make it easier. There are a multitude of tools available on the internet. Here is a quick survey of the arsenal that my team uses. The right tools have made working virtually something that I may have dreaded to something I actually look forward to.
As Vilsack said in an interview earlier this month, the Department of Agriculture affects every American. The Secretary of Agriculture oversees several departments including the Forest Service, the Food Service and Inspection Service, and the Food Stamp Program. Primary responsibilities include the direction of farm subsidies, food exports, soil and water preservation, national forest preservation, food aid, organic standards, animal disease, and pest control. After considerable lobbying and speculation, at a press conference earlier today, the president-elect announced his selection.
If confirmed by the Senate, Vilsack will take the reigns during a “period of intense volatility in the agriculture industry,” observed Clayton Yeutter, former Secretary of Agriculture under George H.W. Bush. Commodities and agriculture analysts are calling for expediency in addressing farm subsidies and crop prices. Details of subsidy allocation in the farm bill remain unanswered while corn, wheat, and soybean prices fall. Vilsack will also be tasked with balancing the growth of biofuel with food needs and the environmental impact of increased production-a debate at the center of any comprehensive renewable energy initiative.