Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently announced plans for Los Angeles to supply 10% of its electricity generation from solar power. Dubbed “Solar LA“, the ambitious plan would create the largest installed base of solar power of any city in the world.
Mayor Villaraigosa told reporters at the plan’s unveiling last month, “Our solar initiative is the largest of any kind anywhere in the world. When it takes full effect, LA will have 1,280 megawatts more capacity — more than exists in the entire United States today.”
In an energy hungry world, oil has allowed us to achieve unbelievable feats. An inconceivable amount of resources have been poured into an infrastructure that allows us to travel to every corner of the globe. As the fuel for this way of life dwindles, the future of transportation has yet to be written. We are so entrenched in the status quo and corn-based ethanol present insurmountable challenges. In the World Energy Outlook Report, the International Energy Agency predicts a global shortage by 2030 of a staggering 28.6 million barrels of oil a day. It is hard to say what the leading technologies will fill this gap, but biofuels have a good shot to play a huge role if certain hurdles are overcome. Speakers today at the Emerson Biofuels Summit highlighted some of the hurdles for large-scale production for 2nd generation biofuels. These challenges include:
Climate change adaptation and mitigation is largely a non-issue for executives at the world’s largest apparel, pharmaceutical, retail, and technology corporations according to a survey released today by Ceres, a non-profit coalition of environmental groups, investor and other public interest organizations. Select companies are responding to the risks and opportunities climate change presents by setting greenhouse gas emissions targets, implementing energy efficiency programs, purchasing renewable energy, and integrating climate factors into product design, according to Ceres’ analysis of survey results, but the majority of respondents are in large part ignoring climate change, especially at the CEO and board level. “More action is needed to align company strategies with greenhouse gas emission reductions that scientists say are needed to avoid dangerous impacts from climate change,” according to Ceres, which concludes its report with a list of recommendations for corporate executives and boards of directors. *Image credit: Norman Mingo, MAD Magazine
What if your day could start out like this: Wake up. Log on. End world hunger.
Thanks to the technological masterminds behind the World Community Grid, that scenario is not all that far-fetched. Researchers have found a way to harness a user’s idle Internet time to perform calculations that help dramatically accelerate research for vital humanitarian projects. By installing software on your computer, it works undetectably in the background, using your spare system resources to calculate data. When the calculations are finished, this stealthy software sends the data back to the World Community Grid for validation and another set of calculations is sent back to the user’s computer to begin the process again, maintaining a constant flow of productivity that keeps researchers’ efforts active on a wide scale never before possible.
As President-Elect Obama stands with Al Gore by his side for the world to see, vowing to combat climate change, a decision he will make in a matter of days will decide the future of federal policy towards sustainability, without most people even realizing it. Obama’s future cabinet is quickly taking shape, but one key position is still very much up in the air – The Secretary of Agriculture. Since the moment that Barack Obama was elected our future president, several food activists – including Michael Pollan and Alice Waters – have been calling for a radical overhaul of the USDA, with Pollan even calling for the appointment of US Food Czar independent of the government organization. However, in as much as Obama vowed to buck Old Washington traditions and ring in an era of change, it seems that in this case, the President-Elect is unwilling or unable to do so.
The hangar at Van Nuys Airport will resemble another “sustainable” hanger unveiled by Shangri-La on Tuesday on neighboring Burbank airport (starting a “green hangar war” in southern California perhaps?), with both facilities designed to meet platinum LEED building specifications.
On hand for the unveiling of Hangar 25 at Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, Los Angeles mayor told reporters that the building represented “the greenest aviation facility in the world” – apparently not reading my post last week about Indianapolis International Airport (and where was the mayor of Burbank?).
The boasts of politicians notwithstanding, Shangri-La construction sees the newly opened hangar in Burbank and the one planned for Van Nuys as a model of sustainable aviation facility construction. One they hope to bring to other projects throughout the country.
At the intersection of a sinking economy and a new administration in the White House, there is no shortage of ideas on what the new president should do to rescue our butts from the abyss. Seems like all the pundits are formulating their “Letter to the New President” with their strategies on how we should proceed forward. But could the cure for our ills be no economic growth? To many this seems counter-intuitive, but this is the premise of Peter Victor’s new book “Managing without Growth – Slower by Design, not Disaster” (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2008). Victor, an economist on the faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto, believes the big problem we should be addressing is the Earth’s biophysical limits. Can our environment sustain continuing economic growth, thus far the basis for all Western economies, and for many the fix for our current crisis? Victor offers this opinion, “If the financial system breaks down, we’ll suffer for a while, but we’ll get through it. If we succeed in destabilizing the climate, we may not be able to get through it.” In the book, Victor challenges the long-standing premise that constant economic growth must be the center piece of economic policy and is synonymous with progress. He also believes the concept of “sustainable development” that came from the 1987 Brundtland report (which popularized the notion of sustainability) has become mostly diluted and meaningless because it was never fully defined. The ensuing commitment from several governments to sustainable development has become “more of the same rather than a radical departure from economic growth as the top policy objective,” which is the departure Victor is advocating.
Founded in 2005 by the Center for a New American Dream, the Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) touts itself as the “first national network of procurement-related professionals dedicated to socially and environmentally responsible purchasing.” RPN publishes Responsible Purchasing Guides for everything from cleaners to water. The Responsible Purchasing Guide for Cleaners describes the effects of the toxic ingredients found in traditional cleaners. Every year the industrial cleaning industry adds five pounds of chemicals to the atmosphere. People who work indoors are “particularly susceptible to the health risks posed by these products.” The list of health problems includes major organ damage, permanent eye damage, and asthma. The toxic ingredients can affect the public at large because they end up in bodies of water such as lakes and streams.
This past Sunday I saw a very interesting commercial about clean coal. A group called, Thisisreality.org ran the spot during Meet The Press. Essentially, the ad calls out the coal industry for touting clean coal technology – which doesn’t actually exist in the U.S. Here’s a link to the clip if you haven’t seen it. Now while I certainly enjoyed the ad, there’s only so much that can be said within 30 seconds. So in an effort to shed some light on the realities of coal – both environmental and economic – allow me to show you why coal-fired power plant operators are about to begin a long swim upstream against the backdrop of new climate change legislation and expedited depletion.
They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. A child, like an idea, must be nurtured by many people working together for a common cause. So too must socially responsible companies join together if we are to achieve our common goal of a socially responsible, environmentally stable world. Eco-friendly or triple bottom line start ups and small businesses face a steep climb to success. Traditional companies are able to make products and services faster and cheaper because they are not necessarily as concerned with the effect of their practices. So small start ups must find ways to compete with companies that have a well developed relationship with retailers and consumers, have more sales/marketing dollars, and only have one bottom line to reach. I believe that to succeed “Green” must be a movement, a group of unified businesses that are willing to help, support and guide each other through the many challenges so that we all can reach our goals in unison. TerraCycle strives to do this through our Brigade programs, which we first launched with the help of Honest Tea and Stonyfield Farm. I think both of these partnerships represent a different, but important way that triple bottom line companies can partner.
Nick and I are currently in Miami attending the Sustainable Brands International conference. Check it out via live streaming video below, the next best thing to actually being here in the just-opened, uber swanky, W Hotel on steroids, Fontainebleau Resort Miami Beach.
Check out the schedule for Wednesday and Thursday and join the discussions online, even if your company slashed its travel and conferences budgets.
The ongoing global climate negotiations in the Polish town of Poznan are all about financing, insiders say. So what proposals are on the table? A roundup of some headline generating plans: The future of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is at the heart of the discussions. New projects in this mechanism, which allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to sell credits to industrialized countries wishing to meet their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, are worth $25 billion. Last year alone, $82 billion worth of carbon credits were traded globally. The certificates are aimed at boosting technology transfer to developing countries.
The story of Andy Funk left me impressed, amazed, envious and motivated. I think it will do the same for you. Funk moved to the US from Germany at the age of 19. Just six years later, without a formal college education, he had founded and sold 3 companies, and then became the youngest founding member of a venture capital firm in the country. His firm, Funk Ventures, is also one of the leaders in a new category of VCs that maximize social and environmental impact as well as financial return in its investments.
Do you remember when you were a kid, making “houses” out of old boxes? Anything around you was fair game to be put into use, via your imagination. Well Joost, an artist and would be architect by accident never stopped. On display now in the middle of urban Melbourne is Greenhouse, a structure made almost entirely from repurposed waste, save for the 100% recyclable steel framework, which was uncoiled and cut on site. The rest is composed of the now familiar strawbales for walls, and on into less familiar territory – using discarded scientific equipment for plates and “taste tubes,” street signs becoming chairs, fire hydrants turning into tables, and strawberries growing out of the walls in former plastic pallets. The living roof will supply produce for the fully functioning restaurant and bar running in the Greenhouse. And it’s all going away by January, reappearing at the Milan Furniture Fair next year.
Los Angeles: Oct 28 – Oct 31 Sustainatopia Consisting of 5 Conferences and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability like no other single event. Register here.
London: Nov 3 – Nov 5 Sustainable Brands London 2014 Connect with Sustainability Executives, Brand Strategists, and Design & Innovation Leaders as the Sustainable Brands London Conference convenes to drive the innovation that leads to enhanced business. Discount with code: NW3pSB14LRegister here.
New York: Nov 4 – Nov 6 BSR Conference 2014 BSR 2014 will explore how transparency can transform supply chains, energy and climate, consumer engagement, community impacts, and more. Register here.
Redwood City: Nov 12 Corporate Philanthropy Institute 2014 Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Grantmakers bring together many of the country’s leading CSR professionals to discuss changing expectations of corporate citizenship, strategic local and global programs and assessing the impact of community investments. Register here.
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