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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.
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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.
In this age of sustainability, environmental-focused initiatives themselves also need to be sustainable, not only as a potentially scalable business model to feed ongoing efforts, but as a source of compelling content that can spark — and maintain — awareness in the important issues our environment faces. That awareness is critical for cultivating a motivated population that can drive those initiatives forward, spurring viral activity and momentum to ensure widespread penetration — and adoption.
Leo Murray, the creative genius behind Wake Up, Freak Out, has achieved that essential part of the equation by developing an engaging film about climate change designed to educate viewers about the significance of this problem and promote action. Although the film is over 11 minutes long, Leo used his animation prowess to draw the viewer in with an entertaining storyline that visually depicts the issue and how it affects all of us throughout the world.
Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo
I had an opportunity to delve deeper into Leo’s vision for the film and plans for the future in a one-on-one chat, and while he isn’t in it for a payout, the monetization possibilities and product extension opportunities prove that green business is good business.
With the recent announcement of Obama’s green team things are looking encouraging for massive change happening in terms of how our government interacts with and takes action on the pressing environmental issues. You might be wondering, how can I too make a difference? Or more immediately, how can I save money in these turbulent economic times?
The answer is all around you: Your computer you’re reading this on, the light above you, and out in the kitchen, the refrigerator, your oven, and a host of other things. Each using electricity, many whether you have them switched on or not.
But how can you tell how much? How can you tell how much difference switching one thing out for another has? What keeping your lights off when you’re not in the room does? Typically, it’s been mostly a hindsight sort of thing, looking at your energy bill. And even then, you have no way of telling what’s happening on an individual appliance basis.
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When it comes to making the transition to a “green,” low carbon economy, government stimulus plans are doubly beneficial, but public sector investment and spending alone will not be enough to spur decisive action and a long-term commitment. Nor will President-elect Obama’s plan to spend $15 billion a year over 10 years alone be sufficient to generate 5 million jobs, according to an economist, a regulatory expert and a business leader, the three of whom came together and held a press conference today to advocate establishing a carbon price and an emissions cap-and-dividend, in contrast to a straight cap-and-trade, system.
The missing ingredient when it comes to government “green” economic stimulus is a method and system that establishes a price on carbon emissions, they assert. “Government stimulus alone isn’t enough, especially over the long-term…They’re going to need to energize investors and capital markets and that means sending strong, clear and consistent price signals to industry and market participants,” James K. Boyce, University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor and director of the energy and environment program at the Political Economy Research Institute, stated.
The combination of government stimulus and sending clear price signals to industry, markets and investors is needed to draw in capital and resources from the private sector, and they are absolutely necessary to build and maintain sufficient mass and momentum for any such endeavor.
In their preferred, politically pragmatic scenario, this would be through a cap-and-dividend system or slight variant thereof, maintain Boyce, Michael A. Livermore, executive director of New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity and Peter Barnes, entrepreneur and founder of “socially responsible” phone company Working Assets.
Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart, recently announced the launch of Neu Direction, a line of Fair-Trade Certified wines from Argentina. Fair Trade Certification™ is administered by TransFair USA and “guarantees consumers that strict economic, social, and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product.” This is one of the first certifications given to a wine cooperative, and the Neu Direction line will sell for about $10 in more than 450 Sam’s Club locations throughout the US.
This isn’t the first example of Walmart featuring Fair Trade Certified™ products, but after the corporation came under substantial scrutiny for lobbying against carbon offset standards, this new launch seems in part like a strategic move to improve its image in time for a modestly-forecasted holiday spending season.
(Photo Source: walmartstores.com)
Public concern over the appointment of the next Secretary of Agriculture highlights the dismal state of the American food industry. Last month, we introduced you to Farm Forward, the non-profit advocacy group that aims to transform the way our nation eats and farms. Conversations with CEO Dr. Steven Gross, and Director Ben Goldsmith revealed a robust model for inter-sector success and corporate evolution.
Farm Forward brings food retailers, nonprofit animal advocacy organizations, scholars, small farmers, and community leaders into conversation with one another. They leverage this expertise and employ the several strategies to fight factory farm practices, including:
-Lobbying for auditing practices to improve animal welfare
-Pro-bono consulting for family farms working towards humane and sustainable production
-Promoting conscientious consumption and discussion of the social issues that underlie agribusiness through publications, social media marketing, and community campaigns
-Advancing scholarship and undergraduate teaching that promotes critical reflection on the farming industry
A recent report has revealed that data centers will face critical shortages of energy in less than three years. By 2011, two thirds of all datacenters won’t have enough electricity to perform critical computing tasks.
The survey, carried out by Emerson Network Power is based on interviews with datacenter professionals. 64% of the 167 respondents estimate that they are going to run out of data capacity by 2011 because they will be faced with energy shortages by then.
The situation in Europe is no better than in the US. IDC recently issued a report that had similar findings, indicating that European data centers will land in an energy crisis in the near future too. The main reason being that energy consumption increased by more than 13% between 2006 and 2007. The report predicted that energy consumption by data center facilities would reach more than 42 terawatt hours in 2008.
This week in ClimatePULSE we take a look at the recently concluded UN Climate Change conference in Poznan, Poland. Although the conference brought together some 200 countries to discuss how to tackle global climate change, it was largely shadowed by a global economic crisis and a leadership vacuum in the U.S. The conference was apparently more about process than measurable targets, as hardly any firm targets were set. And even though expectations for the conference weren’t high, it seemed as if the talks were merely a pre-cursor to much more anticipated discussions in Copenhagen next year where a new Kyoto Protocol will be agreed upon. So what did the conference actually accomplish? Well, not much, but some progress was made, particularly regarding deforestation and so-called “adaptation funds” (money to help poor countries counter the future impacts of climate change). In this article we’ll present some of the booms and busts of the conference.Click to continue reading »
With an hour for lunch and a growling stomach, what’s the most important thing about a quick service restaurant billing itself as “eco-gourmet”?
“Gourmet” of course. You can’t eat “eco”. Mixt Greens, with three locations in downtown San Francisco, has been committed to running a sustainable operation since its founding in 2006. But, as co-founder Leslie Swallow recently told me, sustainability is only as good as the food that derives from it.
For Swallow, Mixt Greens is a marriage, literally as we’ll soon see, of sustainability and high quality food service (in a very tough market), providing the denizens of San Francisco’s workaday downtown financial district a healthy alternative to burgers and fries.
I spoke with Leslie Swallow, whose somewhat tongue-in-cheeck title is “Founder, Chief Development Officer, and Environmental Sustainability Director” (she’s too busy doing all that to take such a pretentious title too seriously), about how Mixt Greens got started, the challenges and rewards of running a sustainable business model, and how she’s working to “dispel the myth” of what green business is all about.Click to continue reading »
Big oil has once again gone into the confessional – and while oil industry execs have hinted at diminishing available supplies in the past, when prices were high, their recent admission that we’re running out of cheap oil is surprising now that prices have slid back down to three year lows.
This recent juicy piece of news (we’ll get more into it in a bit), coupled with Obama’s nomination of several energy-savvy cabinet members and the recent World Energy Outlook released by the International Energy Agency indicates that renewable energy is about to come on the scene in a big way.
With nearly all sectors of the market battered in the aftermath of a housing crash and resultant credit crisis, the coming onslaught of favorable policy conditions for alternative energy will allow investors to reap nice profits for several years.
Exciting as that may be, the reasons behind the unavoidable ascent of renewable energy–many of which are making headlines right now–are equally provocative.
What is beyond Green Building? I set out to AEC-ST EcoBuild America in Washington DC to find out. Although the U.S. Green Building Council and the LEED greenbuilding program seem to be getting the publicity, the federal government has been studying building science and developing best practices for decades. They have compiled these findings into the Whole Building Design Guide, a guide that is downloaded 1.7 million times a month! I had a chance to hear first hand from building scientists and leaders about the tools available right now to develop high performance buildings for your company or business.Click to continue reading »
Given an unprecedented and still unfolding crisis in banking and credit markets, spreading recession and sharp falls in fossil fuel prices I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that reports say that the UN climate change negotiations in Poznan lacked a certain urgency and robustness. Add to that the transition of government leadership in the US, and there were a host of factors planting the seeds of doubt and uncertainty in delegates’ minds.
Former vice president and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Al Gore said he felt a sense of pessimism in the air as he addressed delegates. Gore noted that while the evidence and science is clear, resistance on the part of business lobbies is throwing up a hurdle and slowing down progress even as the rate of climate change continues unabated, according to a report from the International Institute of Sustainable Development.
Some significant progress was made, nonetheless, according to statements and reports. Efforts to include and establish a framework and methodologies to finance projects that aim to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation while assuring indigenous and local community rights by including them in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism carbon credit system are now set firmly front and center on the agenda, even as the negotiations in Poznan showed just how challenging and difficult reaching a consensus is likely to be. Yet more promising news did come out of the conference…
by Karen Losee
According to Watching Water, A Guide To Evaluating Corporate Risks In A Thirsty World, a report issued by JP Morgan Global Equity Research (PDF Here), companies and investors have been quick to identify opportunities to invest in water-related businesses and technologies, but slow to identify the mounting business risks related to pressures on water supply.
What are your company’s business risks relative to water? What about your supply chain? Do you have water conservation and supply contingency plans in place?
The issue of business risk related to water was one of the topics at last week’s Corporate Water Footprinting Conference in San Francisco, California. The two-day conference featured a wide range of subjects such as water conservation, recycling, and risk assessment.
Kathryn Pavlovsky, Principal at Deloitte & Touche, in her presentation titled Global Water Supply Crisis: The Impacts for Business, described how future anticipated water shortages pose a serious threat to businesses that fail to develop water conservation and supply contingency plans in the near term. The overall consensus from the conference was that businesses, especially those in water intensive industries, are at increasing financial risk from global water supply issues. Leaders that fail to plan for risks related to water will ultimately be forced to address them by way of supply disruptions, increased costs, and diminished quality.
The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of business, labor, and community leaders promoting a clean energy and a green economy, have released The New Apollo Program, calling for an investment over the next decade of $500 billion and creating 5 million jobs through programs ranging from energy, education, construction, building, and manufacturing. The underlying theme of the New Apollo Program is improving conditions for Americans through better infrastructure, education, and good jobs. To the moon.
‘Tis the season for the environmentally conscious to feel guilty about shipping all those gifts to distant friends and relatives. If you run a business and are concerned with lowering not only costs but CO2 emissions as well, it’s always the season. First Global Xpress has come up with a business model they think can save companies 20% in shipping costs while reducing carbon emissions up to 30%. By sub-contracting with commercial airlines and courier services, FGX can ship packages and documents directly to its final destination instead of the typical hub-and-spoke system used by major shipping companies, often shaving thousands of miles off the trip. Also reducing the guilt trip the shipper takes.
Virgin Atlantic was the first, flying a 747 from London to Amsterdam burning a mix of Jet A and coconut and babbasu oil-based biofuel. But Continental airlines will have the honors of being the first U.S. airline to conduct a test flight next month of a 737 using algae-based fuel. Sapphire Energy will supply the algae biofuel. The fuel mix will also contain jatropha-based biofuel, supplied by Terrasol, as well as traditional jet fuel (Jet A).
Revised NanoMarkets Numbers Show Thin Film and Organic Photovoltaic Materials Markets at $2.4 billion by 2011
Virginia-based NanoMarkets, a leading industry analyst, announced yesterday the release of an updated analysis of the thin-film photovoltaics (TFPV) and organic photovoltaic (OPV) markets. The new numbers show that the current economic crisis will slow or delay advanced materials research in the short term, but that long-term growth for such materials remains strong. Analysts expect significant growth in demand for advanced materials such as TFPV and OPV as a result of “quantum leaps” in the price of traditional sources of energy within the next couple of years. NanoMarkets forecasts the revenues for the advanced materials market at $2.4 billion by 2011, growing to almost $7.5 billion by 2015.
What does the coming green economy need? Educated workers, managers, technicians, engineers, and business leaders. The operative word is educated.c Four universities in Ohio are collaborating to offer a Masters degree program in renewable energy. The University of Dayton, Wright State University, Central State University, and the Air Force Institute of Technology will join forces to inaugurate (I love that word!) a two-year program in which students can enroll full or part-time. Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor, Eric D. Fingerhut, says the program could serve as a model for other states. Renewable energy companies in Ohio are enthusiastic about the program, looking for it to serve as a source of fresh new talent to help serve, grow, and lead the burgeoning renewable energy market.
There’s a lot of news coming out of Poland as the UN Climate Conference wraps up. Andrew, Angelique, and Tori have been providing some good coverage these past couple of weeks. Jake Schmidt, the International Climate Policy Director for the NRDC has also had some great insight on the proceeding over at GlobalWarmingisReal.com (thanks Jake). Oh, and I’ve had my hat handed to me in regard to the difference between hangar and hanger. Just another week at TriplePundit. Jen will be back next week with the green business wrap-up. In the meantime, wish her good luck on her finals!