In the midst of of what many have termed “Philanthropy 2.0,” where nonprofits are harnessing the power of the web to generate awareness and support for their causes, a UK-based mobile services company called mCharity launched to help charities raise new donation revenue, market to potential donors and communicate with existing supporters and fundraisers using mobile technology. With consumers more wired via mobile devices than ever before, and the ability to geo-target and pinpoint consumer touch points using location-based services, it seems a natural segue for charities to go mobile in reaching and retaining new supporters. Currently, mCharity offers services that integrate seamlessly with nonprofits’ existing communications plans, allowing them to tie in promotions for text giving along with their normal print, radio and TV campaigns. The process works much like current text-based services where the donor sends a text message to a special SMS short code number, the donation is included on the user’s phone bill and mCharity collects the money from mobile companies, which it hands over to the charity. As the technology matures, services like this may also aid linking consumers with local volunteer opportunities or facilitating donations through mobile purchasing at popular online retailers. But until then, mCharity, the first dedicated mobile service provider and aggregator 100% focused on enabling UK charities to generate new revenue, is transforming text-based giving, and helping to create a marketplace where change is only a few thumbstrokes away. Click to continue reading »
On a packed night, the action on the dance floor at San Francisco nightclub Temple gets pretty hot. And while that might help make this a popular destination for the city’s clubbers, it bugs the club’s director of sustainability, Mike Zuckerman. After all, the energy the dancers exude is wasted. But that will soon change, because the club is moving forward with its long-planned installation of a new dance floor, complete with piezoelectric energy harvesters that will convert all that bumping and grinding into green energy. It should be plugged in and running on human sweat by September. Zuckerman says that Temple won’t be the first sustainable nightclub to use its dance floor for on-site power generation – there’s one at Club Watt in Rotterdam and there’s another in London, at a club called Surya. But the dance floor is something Paul Hemming, the club’s founder, have been trying to make a reality for many years. It’s one of the elements of Temple – and adjacent businesses Prana restaurant and Zen City Records, which collectively form the Zen Compound – that Hemming first sketched out in a notebook while conceptualizing the business in 2004.
“California’s the place you ought to be,” according to the theme song of the television show The Beverly Hillbillies. Perhaps now North Dakota is the place to be located if you want to start a business. It is one of four states that is not insolvent, and has the only state-owned bank in the U.S., the Bank of North Dakota (BND). Both North Dakota and BND have managed to insulate themselves from the present economic crisis. According to Creighton University’s Economic Outlook, the recession did not begin in North Dakota until January. In fact, North Dakota gained 3,000 jobs between the beginning of the national recession and January. Created in 1919 by the state legislature, BND opened with $2 million capital and today operates with over $160 million of capital. Last month, Mother Jones featured an interview with the president of BND, Eric Hardmeyer. The article pointed out that BND “earned a record profit last year even as private-sector sector corollaries lost billions,” and has over $4 billion under management.
Denis Hayes, President and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, kicked off today’s Ceres Conference in San Francisco with a reminder that no nation can solve climate problems on its own – we must come together as a species because everything is connected. North African dust has been correlated to hurricanes. We have all breathed an atom that was exhaled by Julius Caesar when he said “Et tu Brutus?” Economic bubbles and ecological bubbles Globalization has raised the stakes for both economic and ecological bubbles. “In America bubbles have to do with…delusions that mouse clicks can be monetized, and that my house can double in value every three years,” Hayes explained. But economic bubbles and today’s crisis will end – illiquidity is not irreversible. Ecological bubbles on the other hand are not reversible. Ecological bubbles don’t bounce back. Today’s prices do not reflect ecological realities. We are undermining values of ecosystem services and not including it in our accounting. These costs that are treated as external are larger and more important than internal factors, and they have grown to awesome proportions. “Sooner or later, mother nature will break our kneecaps,” Hayes warned. What should we do? Hayes had three suggestions:
Are things like Tetrapaks and Dannon/Stonyfield yogurt recyclable today? Yes and no. Here’s why: There are a few recycling centers that accept Tetrapaks and yogurt cups, but they are the exception. Most recycling centers do not except these materials, and those that do are so few and far between that only a small percentage of the American population can participate. This creates a few problems: First, companies like Tetrapak and Dannon cannot state on their package that their product is recyclable since there is only service in a few communities. Second, a company like Tetrapak, that has invested millions to build Tetrapak recycling centers, cannot get any credit for their investment and continue to get bad PR for producing a non-recyclable product. The reason this issue exists is that today’s recycling system is a reflection of the lowest common denominator in recycling. While many products are recyclable, the products that actually do get recycled are those for which the process exists in the majority of American recycling centers, and only a small percentage of recyclable plastics are recyclable nationally. There is very little incentive for local independent recycling centers to build the added capability since unless a solution is implemented nationally, the solution doesn’t get national marketing and people don’t get education about the opportunity for a new waste stream (or form of plastic or packaging) to be recycled.
You can’t beat the satisfaction of making the world a cleaner, more pristine place. For this reason, more and more people want green jobs. The more President Obama talks about them, the better they sound. In reality, many of us can have a tremendous impact, without working for a wildlife reserve or a solar energy company. Here are some ways to green your existing job: Start a Game People love competitions, even if it is ultimately for a mundane goal. What department can reduce their electricity use the most or have the largest number of employees commute by bike? How can you replace bottled water consumption with filtered tap water? “We have people here in our offices that are creating contests around printing,” said Matt Arnold, Partner, Pricewaterhouse Coopers in an interview with TriplePundit. “Think about how day-to-day this can get. We are having a contest to see who can print the least, floor by floor, department by department. We are keeping score and it’s a little game. The people that designed it are having a blast and we’re reducing paper consumption.” Click to continue reading »
A recent article for the environmental news site, Grist.org proclaims, “…the trailer park, done right, actually holds great potential as a development model.” If you are thinking this writer is a bit daft, consider a few things about manufactured (mobile) houses. They are built in a factory, then assembled before they are delivered, which reduces the transportation impact on the environment. The construction of site-built homes requires workers to travel to and from the site. Waste is also reduced because it can be collected and used on another site. In short, manufactured houses are more sustainable. Although Sustain MiniHome’s mobile homes are the typical rectangular structure, they are about as different from the typical mobile homes as you can get. The company’s website touts the following features of its manufactured homes: 1. Natural and rapidly renewable materials 2. Non-toxic healthy finishes 3. Passive solar heating 4. Natural ventilation 5. Air-tight construction 6. Tankless boiler/water heater 7. Hybrid energy systems such as solar and wind Click to continue reading »
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.
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