As 2008 comes to a close and we take a look at the year in review, we reflect on the year that has passed and begin to think about the future. There have been many climate change-related headlines over the past year, from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative holding its first two auctions, to global representatives meeting in Poland to discuss climate change, to global warming as a major issue in the most publicized U.S. election in history, and more. As this exciting year in climate change comes to a conclusion, we look forward to the major (and minor) events that will take place in 2009. This week, ClimatePULSE will take a look at the top 3 climate change headlines to watch for in the upcoming year.Click to continue reading »
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line
In their year-end report, the American Wind Energy Association shows another banner year for wind power in the U.S. For the third year in a row, wind energy development has grown at a record pace, generating over $18 billion in revenue.
Even though Germany has more turbines and greater capacity (22,300 megawatts), the U.S. has stronger winds (perhaps in more ways than one) and overtook Germany this summer as the world leader in actual megawatts of electricity produced from wind generation when the U.S. “blew past” 20,000 MW of installed generating capacity. By the end of the third quarter, the U.S. had more than 21,000 megawatts of electricity in place. Fourth quarter statistics show Germany’s wind development slowing and the U.S. sprinting to the finish line, no doubt spurred on by the better-late-than-never extension of the renewable energy tax credit.
This is the kind of “arms race” that will do the world good.
“With additional projects coming on line every week since (September), the wind industry is on its way to charting another record-shattering year of growth,” AWEA said in its report.
A press release from the AWEA last May reported that wind energy is well on the path of supplying 20% of electrical generation in the U.S. by 2030, supporting over a half million jobs. Subsequent wind development since then bears that out.Click to continue reading »
Click to continue reading »
By Mei Lan Ho-Walker
I must confess I thought a communications class would be a piece of cake. I would read some books, practice public speaking and viola! instantly emerge as an ‘effective communicator’.
I was dead wrong. The class LiveE was a mental bootcamp that turned my world upside down. It rocked my core – in a good way. I often questioned what we were doing, from the paper airplane exercises, to writing about energy leaks, to reading a book called Difficult Conversations. I went through the motions because I was unsure of where we were going. There was a level of ambiguity that made me very uncomfortable, and I couldn’t see the big picture.
The moment of clarity came when I realized there was no predetermined end result. I essentially surrendered myself to myself and making this shift made all the difference. I embraced the ambiguity as an opportunity to define what I wanted to learn. It wasn’t about the professor, getting good grades, or coming up with the right answer, it was about me.
This class became a personal journey in developing my own sense of self to help me navigate, communicate and succeed in the situations I found myself in. I was and still am building this self-knowledge or what I call the ‘me muscle’.
I had this idea of what a good communicator was supposed to be based on expectation of others. But this experience revealed that effective communication begins from within. This ‘me muscle’ represents the driving force helping me make decisions, build confidence and gain control. Through practice and reflection, we can all develop our own sense of style.
To help keep my ‘me muscle’ in shape, I’ve compiled a list of daily exercises. It’s hard work, but remember some pain is good. It means you’re building muscle.
Less than six months after discovering a massive geothermal field 180 miles southwest of Salt Lake City near Minersville, Utah, Raser Technologies expects to begin delivering clean, renewable electricity to residents of Anaheim, California under the terms of a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Anaheim city government.
A dramatic demonstration of just how quickly and effectively such “new” geothermal energy, heat and power resources can be brought on line, Raser wasted no time in tapping into what may turn out to be |one of the more important geothermal energy developments of the last quarter century,” according to University of Utah professor of geothermal exploration Greg Nash.
Discovery of the field – where superheated water circulates through a porous limestone deposit more than a mile thick several thousand feet below the surface – has prompted management to drastically revise its capacity estimate and development plans for the project. Originally slated for 10-megawatts, they now anticipate being able to develop a 230-megawatt plant on the site, and that may only be scratching the surface, according to an AP report run today in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s Northwest Arkansas edition.
Sitting at home watching It’s a Wonderful Life, I didn’t really feel so wonderful. Mostly, it just reminded me of the banks bailout and the problems with our banking system that brought down the economy this fall. A banker who knows your name? Who cares about you and your family and your wellbeing? Our expectations have slipped so far that we only have hopes that our banks will not go under Depression style. Forget personal attention. Our relationships are with a hungry Automatic Tellers that eat our deposits, we shrug our shoulders at mysterious maintenance fees, and we consider compromised social security numbers and identity theft to be an unfortunate part of doing business in today’s economy. Happily, there are banks our there like New Resource Bank that are trying to do things differently.
Click to continue reading »
by Vinitha Watson
Through the Live Exchange course, I gleaned a deep understanding of the human experience through communication. At the onset of the class, we didn’t dive straight into a business focus, but we first focused on ourselves as individuals, employees, friends, partners, and citizens.
As we studied our own psyche, I became fascinated by how modern day corporations address the needs of their consumers much like we as individuals relate to each other. This idea really sunk in when I arrived home after a long day at school, to find an unexpected package on my doorstep. To my surprise it was a box of chocolates from a local chocolatier who I usually turn to for gifts during the holidays. This unexpected gift not only created a thoughtful gesture, but was a strong reminder of the quality of their chocolate. What’s common between individual interactions and how a company’s persona interacts with their customer boils down to trust, frequent interactions, and a perception that the product communicates the consumer’s identity to the outside world. Corporations are now able to peel back the social onion through developing meaning and reality through a consistent “voice”.
Governmental Climate Change Mitigation Efforts Are Less Costly When They Target Temperatures Rather Than CO2 Emissions Reductions
Climate change mitigation packages should be aimed at reducing temperatures rather than lowering carbon emissions. This makes global government investment in protecting the environment a lot less expensive, say European scientists.
The researchers, in the Netherlands and Germany, have found scientific grounds for the commonly held opinion that high initial costs of eco-friendly solutions are rewarded in the long term by savings from lower energy usage.
Rather than focus on a CO2 emissions cap which is the common approach to climate solutions, the researchers modeled changes based on a cap for future temperature rises.
Working with a temperature cap makes sense in many ways, especially financially, says Michiel Schaeffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study. This is because the cost estimates associated with limiting a pre-determined level of carbon emissions often rise rapidly, even exponentially, as the scale of emission reductions to be reached increases.
In order to increase its renewable target to 33% by 2020, California needs an additional $6.5 billion worth of transmission projects. That’s according to the California Independent System Operator, which plays babysitter to the state’s electrical grid.
Current law requires 20% of the state’s power to be produced renewably by 2010, a goal that can be achieved without major infrastructure upgrades. But anything beyond that would require new transmission capacity, and new investment.
Similar scenarios are being played out around the country and the world, where intentions are good but technology is lagging. A 100% renewable energy mandate, for example, is nothing but laughable if the proper supporting cast isn’t in place.
And so we’re realizing, slowly but surely, that a shiny new solar plant in the middle of a desert is worthless unless it’s hooked up to a little thing we call the grid. As it happens, we’re discovering the grid is also in need of some drastic improvements.
Click to continue reading »
by Kathryn Hautanen
As a person new to the sustainability conversation, it is somewhat difficult for me to understand the dialogue. Terms like green, sustainable, organic and greenwashing are being tossed around as if everyone is in agreement as to what these terms mean.
Last year I was at the West Coast Green Conference in San Francisco especially to see Michelle Kaufmann’s mkLotus™ house. As I was leaving, a guy in a gorilla suit engaged me in a conversation and he was very animated by PG&E’s “greenwashing.” He was clearly upset and all I could think was – what is “greenwashing” and is it good or bad? The only thing that was coming to mind was Tom Sawyer and the whitewashing of a fence – not exactly evil. He was frustrated that I wasn’t hearing him and getting outraged at PG&E, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t understand him.
Click to continue reading »
by Erik Ehrke
It pretty much goes without saying that “communication is important in business.” Right? And if we are talking about an innovative, design-based business, good communication is regarded as an imperative. We implicitly understand that communication is essential for collaboration. But while this is a plain fact on its surface, its deeper implications within the design process might not be so apparent. I hope to contribute some thoughts about the role of communication in business – specifically businesses that rely on collaborative design to create competitive, sustainable alternatives to the status quo.
As a student in California College of the Arts’ new Design Strategy MBA program, I have been studying the interactions of Design, Business and Communication with increasing appreciation for how intimately these three disciplines can ally with one another. Almost any business could benefit from applied design innovation. Innovation is the single most effective means of creating product or service differentiation. But there are differing degrees of innovation – at its far reaches, innovative thinking can disrupt established markets, define entirely new market segments and create extraordinary market-power. Think iPod. It is precisely this type disruptive innovation – but focused on the triple bottom line (TBL) – that will be necessary across a wide variety of industries if we wish to grow a sustainable “green economy.” The desire for change may ultimately be driven by deep values and existing needs, but it will be effected through designed solutions that competitively meet these criteria within our existing market economy. Here, design can function as a critical tool in this process. Similar to the combined roles of mutation and selection in evolutionary theory, design innovation acts as a type of “change factor” that can replace prior solutions by virtue of unquestionable competitive advantage.
Click to continue reading »
By Adam Dole
Many of today’s top companies are so fixated on what their competition is doing, that they often forget to focus on their single most important competitive advantage; their strengths! In the current economic climate, companies need to stop focusing on the competition and start getting back to what they do better than anyone else. Using their strengths to create a competitive advantage might sound obvious, but focusing on the internal measures of excellence that come naturally is surprisingly too often the first thing that gets overlooked or brushed aside.
Natural strengths tend to hang around and show up whether you like it or not. As a result, spending any time trying to suppress them, or believing that your weaknesses will ever out-perform your strengths will rarely provide the same value or return on investment that spending that same time playing to your strengths will. So why fight it? Knowing how to play to your strengths might just be the one way out of this economic crisis.
There’s a growing movement out west as ranchers and property owners in high, steady wind areas of Wyoming and neighboring western states turn to wind energy associations as a means of better understanding and coming to terms with the growing number of wind energy project developers and agents interested in leasing rights to their land.
Cattle ranchers in areas such as Wyoming’s Laramie Valley are having a tough time of it: though they’ve come down sharply of late, the cost of diesel and gasoline, as well as fertilizers, hay and other inputs, have shot up sharply over a period of years. This year’s calf prices, meanwhile, are the lowest since 2002 putting pressure on the many smaller, family run cow/calf operations spread across the Mountain West.
While demand for their calves and beef may be weak and margins tightening, ranchers in places like Laramie Valley are finding that they have another increasingly valuable natural resource: wind. In order to come to grips with the deals being put before them and cut better ones, typically fiercely independent ranchers and other property owners are forming wind energy associations, according to a report run by NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
Click to continue reading »
by Sara Kozlowski
This fall, I joined the inaugural cohort of CCA’s DMBA program as a fifteen-year veteran of the fashion industry. In Innovation Studio, I joined forces with four other DMBA pioneers and embarked on a semester long journey to develop solution areas for our chosen domain of “packaging”. We tenderly christened ourselves as Team Swill and went straight to the business of seeking to build a better water bottle. Our research quickly evolved into the study of urban potable, drinking water. Humbly, I’ll share a few glimpses at the evolution of our journey and a particular “aha” moment.
Access: Others have succeeded in building a better water bottle but what about the fountain?
Early on in our quest to build a better water bottle we learned that it already exists, in fact several of them do. The real problem is access. In an urban sprawling city like SF blessed with good free clean drinking water, one would think this resource would be exploited. Sadly, one could walk from The Haight to SOMA and still not find a drinking fountain. Enter a public building, school, museum, or shopping mall and you might get lucky. Once you find it, filling your Camelbak can be a hassle as most fountains are designed for direct mouth to fountain access. Try to fill your vessel from a fountain that wants to be drunk directly from and you end up with a bottle that is at best half full.
Click to continue reading »
Most ecopreneurs are familiar with the tenets of running a sustainable business — People, Planet, Profit, and, most importantly, in equal priority. Building a sustainable and eco-focused business is based upon a commitment to the welfare of society — and the environment — with the same emphasis as earning a profit. This turns traditional business on its axis by making the betterment of the planet as important as the bottom line. But some of the greatest returns can be generated by also doing a 180 on traditional marketing efforts.
‘Green Marketing,’ however, is still very much a gray area lacking in clearly defined guidelines around what it means to be a green product — or even a green company, for that matter. Everything from sustainable packaging to ecolabeling to green advertising falls under the umbrella, making it an opportunity, as well as a challenge, to engage in activities designed to enhance your positioning and elevate your value proposition in a memorable, scalable — and socially responsible — way. But, if harnessed effectively, it can yield significant brand equity and enough social capital to ignite growth and spark change.
Apart from no brainer solutions like using soy-based printing alternatives for marketing materials and reducing waste around the water cooler, let’s take a look at some strategically sound– and environmentally efficient — tactics for greening your marketing. And you don’t necessarily need to have a green product to demonstrate an actionable commitment to green business through your branding and communications initiatives.
The U.S. wind industry has been a world leader, installing an impressive 5,244 megawatts in 2007. The U.S. offshore wind industry is another story, with no offshore wind farms yet developed. The tides may be changing however 4.7 miles off the coast of Cape Cod in Nantucket Bay.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) helped moved this proposed wind farm forward by approving the undersea cable that would transmit the generated power from 130 turbines to land.
In a letter notifying Cape Wind of their decision, a DEP official wrote, “the Department determines that the proposed project serves a proper public interest which provides greater public benefit than detriment to the public’s rights in said tidelands”.