Now that turkey day is behind us the holiday season is in full swing. Despite my annual Grinch-like attitude, it once again looks like Christmas threw up inside my house (thanks to my wife — she says its an addiction she’s had since childhood) and there is no shortage of holiday lights. We all have a love/hate relationship with our 100-bulb strings of green wire that always seems to have one burned out bulb, rendering the whole tangled mess out of commission. This year there is an economical solution to the failings of the traditional holiday lights and our concerns over energy use: LED holiday lights. This week I am looking at the benefits of these energy efficient replacements.Click to continue reading »
Differences developed, primarily Western nations and their leaders, as well as the international scientific and diplomatic elite, and their developing world counterparts place on reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions is likely to be the main obstacle blocking consensus agreement on globally coordinated and well-funded mechanisms to mitigate climate change at the upcoming UN Climate Change conference in Bali next month.
While the list of Western world leaders espousing the view that climate change is the “defining crisis” of our times continues to grow, leaders of emergent developing world economic powers, perhaps most notably Chinese premier Wen Jiaobao, continue to emphasize that reducing CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions should not hinder economic development. A survey of South Africans conducted recently in Durban, for example, showed that a large majority of residents were willing to sacrifice the environment somewhat in order to gain access to jobs and grow the economy.
This schism puts leaders of developing, emerging market countries in the uncharacteristic position of being political and economic reactionaries while Western leaders, such as California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the UK’s Gordon Brown and Prince Charles and others, are taking the more social and environmentally progressive and ethical high ground.
Looking for a sustainable way to shop this season? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
-Instead of buying desktop water fountains and massage slippers to friends and family that seem to have everything, try donating to a charity or micro-enterprise venture. The websites below let your friends choose where and whom they’d like to help.
-Instead of traditional gift exchanges, which are increasingly shifting towards “gift card” exchanges, why not make it a little more fun by exchanging items you already own? Try a “white elephant” gift exchange. Each person wraps up something they own that they are willing to give away and places it under the tree (a re-usable plastic tree or potable tree, of course). Everyone draws a number in a hat to figure out who goes first. When it’s your turn, you have the option to trade for a previously opened gift or choose a new one to unwrap.
-If you must buy something new for your loved ones, choose eco-friendly options. Beautiful travel coffee mugs/water bottles, massage certificates, organic teas/coffee, and organic lotions/soaps all make great gifts. Shop from eco-gift expos in your local area if you can.
-For sustainably produced jewelry, try: www.tarmadesigns.com
-For gift wrap, try an out-of-date map, sheet music, a decorated paper bag, or recycled vintage containers such as cigar, shoe, or hat boxes. Use natural gift box fillers like leaves, straw, corn popcorn, or straw.
It’s all “green this” or “ all natural that” these days, but according to Scott McDougall, president of TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, chances are it’s all a bunch of hooey.
A 99% chance to be exact.
McDougall’s TerraChoice conducted a study called “The Six Sins of Greenwashing” in which over a thousand common household products were randomly surveyed, taking their green claims and comparing them against the “six sins” most prevalent in marketing greenwash.
Of the 1,753 claims made a total of 99% committed at least one sin.
The sins are spelled out in TerraChoice’s Six Sins of Greenwashing page and include common ploys such the “Hidden Trade-off” to simply lying through your teeth. A further breakdown of the survey results is available here.
Green is fast becoming the next big buzzword for marketers, and polls show that consumers are willing to pay a premium for it. But if marketers abuse the trend and market bogus claims of green when consumers are genuinely trying to do the right thing, it could fast turn a win-win situation into lose-lose.
This is no time to simply chase a quick buck.
The line forms on the left as heads of state and other high-ranking government officials announce pledges and ambitious plans aimed at reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in the build-up to the United Nations Climate Conference to be held in Bali December 3-14.
Saudi Arabia pledged US$300 million and the neighboring Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates US$150 million each to establish the OPEC Environmental Fund last week at the closing of the Third OPEC Summit in Riyadh.
The environment, sustainable development and oil supply stabilization were the three themes addressed during the week long summit attended by energy and finance ministers and heads of state from OPEC’s 13 members, which ended with the signing and issuance of the Riyadh Declaration.
Meanwhile, carbon, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in the context of development and economic growth were also prominent themes at the third East Asia Summit in Singapore which concluded today. Click to continue reading »
It is predicted that by 2025 3.5 billion people will face severe shortages of fresh water. As climate change, desertification, and drought take an increasing toll, sources of clean, fresh water will be a rare commodity for many.
Desalination is not a new idea, but the process is energy intensive, and has generally been no economically viable alternative to implement in any big way. Using fossil fuels to power the process only creates more problems than it solves and is not a sustainable solution.
But that could change.Click to continue reading »
Although military contracting remains frighteningly profitable, other, greener options are emerging. Take Tower Tech of Manitowoc, WI. The self-described “logistical leader in wind tower production” has an interesting past – the facility in which it operates is a former submarine manufacturer which has been re-tooled to make the towers. The company’s stock is up 10x since last august, an astonishing rate of growth that proves that they’re doing something right. I wonder what the resources of Lockheed, Raytheon or Halliburton could produce if put to a different purpose?
A wild and fascinating story of the good and bad of business in the same place is unfolding in Northern California as we speak. In the wake of the major fuel spill in San Francisco Bay, the association of local dungeness crab fishermen voluntarily agreed to postpone this years crab harvest until crabs in the waters near San Francisco had been tested and deemed safe to eat. “The consensus was that one sick consumer could ruin the entire crab season, which began Thursday.” It was a highly unusual move for an industry to make and deserves attention and applause.
Unfortunately, quite literally in the middle of the night, two crews from Oregon swept into the waters and caught more than 100,000 lbs of crabs and immediately off-loaded them in Monterey, where less sympathetic dock workers happily unloaded the potentially tainted cargo to a handful of wholesalers who had not pledged to avoid the catch. The crabs are now, apparently, finding their way into the market.
The good news is the attention that the story is getting, and I’m happy to give it some more. If you’re in the bay area, you’d be advised to avoid crabs in the coming weeks, partly because they might be unsafe, but more importantly as a matter of principal to support the courage and forward thinking of a group of business people who have forgone immediate profits for longer term gain.
The whole thing will likely play out in the courts. On the one hand this serves as a reality check that while all may seem rosy, scoundrels may still lurk. But it also serves as a great example of what’s possible when business commits to doing the right thing. Read the whole story on today’s SFGate.
A new survey conducted by The Field Poll reveals that seventy percent of Californian citizens believe that global warming is very important to them personally. This is significantly higher than 52% of Americans who reported this in a national poll earlier in 2007.
Public concern over global warming in California is high because of recent regional changes in air quality and water availability. A majority believes that the problem requires “immediate” (43%) or “some action” (32%). The report notes that, “Despite these apprehensions, greater than eight in ten (85%) agree that the state can reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and, at the same time, expand jobs and economic prosperity. In addition, 90% agree that California can be a leader in new technologies to improve efficiency and reduce global warming, with 66% agreeing strongly.”
In an attempt to move beyond “speculation” as to the reality and principal source of current climate trends (haven’t we done that already?) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in their fourth summary report released last week in Spain, states that the evidence of global warming is now “unequivocal”.
This summary report (the draft pdf version of which is available here) is important as it synthesizes the three previous summaries released by the IPCC earlier this year, and will act as a guiding document in the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali next month.
Writing in Wunderblog Rick Roud, a professor at the University of Michigan, says that the process leading to this fourth assessment report eliminates speculation, as much as is humanly possible, into the science of climate change. As such, the IPCC report is considered by many, including Roud, as “safe”, with some “late-breaking” data and emerging trends not included as there has not yet been adequate time given for the scientific scrutiny and peer review required for such certainty.
In his post, Roud states that he hopes the debate can now move beyond “argument, above the suspicion of hidden agendas” and into more positive and productive discussions on action and policy.
And not a moment too soon, if you asked me.Click to continue reading »
The times have certainly given way to digital but radio waves are re-defining their value. The Tate Ambient Power Module, patented by Joseph Tate of California, converts radio-wave energy (manmade and natural) into energy that can be used by small appliances such as smoke detectors and clock radios.
The device is simple in its design and composition. The Ambient Power Module (APM) is nothing more than an electronic circuit connected to an antenna and grounded to the earth. Tate made this come to life by just loosely wrapped wire around a 3-inch plastic tube with a whip antenna. This module will deliver low voltage up to several milliwatts dependent upon the local radio noise levels and antenna specifications.
Once put together this crafty little unit can generate 36 volts/9 watts of power, equivalent to the output of several Duracell batteries. Apparently, this device in close proximity to large quantities of metal (bridges, ships, etc) winds up the output. The interesting added bonus to this creative module is that it might also be helpful in forecasting earthquakes by watching the rising and falling energy levels.
The Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) is seeking promising social entrepreneurs to enter the 2008 Competition. If you are an entrepreneur (or budding entrepreneur!) with a financially sustainable venture that addresses a social or environmental problem, you are encouraged to apply. Winning plans in the past have ranged from global health to microfinance, from cleantech to education, from fair trade to community development, from business concepts to operating companies, and have included for-profit and non-profit models.
Executive Summaries are due January 16, 2008*
Full Business Plans are due February 27-29, 2008*
For more info, click here.
This week Jamie asked me about the climate change impact of her company’s vehicle fleet and the options for reducing it. Her company has a vehicle fleet of 738 vehicles that average around 30,000 miles per year each. That adds up to 22,140,000 vehicle miles per year, or 0.00131% of US annual passenger miles (22,140,000 miles / 1,689,240,950,000 miles).
We will assume that the average fuel economy of this fleet is 30 mpg. This means that the company uses around 738,000 gallons of gasoline per year (22,140,000 miles / 30 mpg) at a cost of over $2.2 million (at $3/gallon). In a previous AskPablo I determined that a gallon of gasoline results in 19.56 lbs, or 8.87 kg of CO2 when combusted. So that vehicle fleet is responsible for roughly 6,546 mT of CO2 each year!
The net effect: 50% reduction in weight, the ability to form shapes that we not possible before, and a significant diversion of a waste stream.
Two car companies are taking advantage of the product: Hyundai and Chevrolet will use iQ for most of the external and internal panels as well as glazing on their two new concept vehicles, the Volt and the QarmaQ. In the case of the Volt, the prime driving force behind the move is weight – every bit counts with an electric vehicle. In the case of the QarmaQ it was the ability to achieve a shape that would otherwise have been impossible. Either way, both companies will benefit from the added customer satisfaction that comes with purchasing a more sustainable vehicle – assuming they get them beyond the concept stage and on the road soon. Click to continue reading »
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