The State of Green Business is Objectively Mixed, Subjectively Hopeful

| Tuesday February 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

State%20of%20Green%20Business%20Forum.gifJoel Makower, co-founder and executive editor of Greener World Media, kicked off today’s State of Green Business Forum which coincided with a release of GreenBiz.com’s second annual State of Green Business report. Nearly 500 attendees filled the PG&E Auditorium in San Francisco, representing 20 states, Fortune 500 companies, NGO’s, government entities, consulting firms, the media and more. I was lucky enough to attend and cover the piece for the GreenBiz.com blog where you can see my in-depth coverage of the event. This piece contains excerpts from that coverage.
The State of Green Business report cites 10 trends in green business, and ranks 20 indicators ranked on a swim (green), tread (yellow), or sink (red) basis. Five indicators are “swimming” (cleantech investments, clean-energy patents, energy efficiency, paper use and recycling, and water intensity); twelve are “treading water”, neither here nor there (including green jobs, green office space, carbon transparency, corporate reporting and toxic emissions), and three are reported as “sinking” (carbon intensity, employee telecommuting, and e-waste). The objective results indicate a mixed bag – we clearly have lots of work to do.
But the five panels that followed told a more optimistic story. Not surprisingly, corporate leaders touted their employer’s efforts and avoided negative impacts, while non-profit and policy leaders gave more wary status reports. But all were hopeful that we can overcome the obstacles before us.

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MethodCleaning Combines A Light Approach With C2C Principles

| Tuesday February 3rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Method Products, the cradle to cradle cleaning company, is an intriguing example of how marketing and green are not mutually exclusive. This San Francisco company, which generated a breathtaking $75 million worth of turnover in 2007 has opened its doors in the UK and will soon expand further into Europe.
Its worth keeping an eye out on what its directors, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, are doing,
if only because the Obama-Biden team spotted them and invited Ryan to the inauguration ceremony.
The same guy – a former marketing guru – also struck a recent deal to provide Microsoft with a modern image. He acts himself in the computer giant’s latest tv commercial, an animation themed ‘Be Weird – Be Different’. Check out the ad on the company’s blog here.

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Newspapers On-Demand: Greener, Interactive Solution for Tough Times?

| Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

Times are particularly tough for newspaper publishers, distributors and agents. Even august members of the industry, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, are feeling the pain and being forced to take some extraordinary measures to assure their sustainability while trying to adapt to a radically different news market and technological environment.
The emergence of commercial quality, on-demand digital distribution and publishing systems may afford participants all along the supply chain a “greener” way forward, though pulp & paper suppliers and truckers may be the worse off for it.

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Monterey Bay Shores: The “Greenest Ever” Eco-Resort Set to Break Ground on California Coast – Holistic Approach Pushes Boundaries of Sustainability

| Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 9 Comments

“Sustainability” can be a slippery term in the best of circumstances. Add “eco-resort” to that and you have a recipe for greenwash. Organic soap, low-flow shower heads, and encouraging guests to hang up their towels for one more use before washing is all well and good, but does not a truly sustainable eco-resort make. There are exceptions, of course, and one of the best examples I’ve seen is Monterey Bay Shores, a planned eco-resort located in Sand City, along the scenic Monterey Peninsula on California’s north-central coast. The seafaring, agricultural region made famous by John Steinbeck.

The project is the brainchild of developer Ed Ghandour and has been for him a sixteen-year journey. As with most journeys spanning such lengths of time, it has has presented significant challenges and setbacks, all of which, in the end, have helped bring to fruition what Ed hopes will be a new way of thinking about sustainable development for everyone involved, from government and business to environmentalists, local communities, and, indeed, the world.

Today marks the formal announcement of the project, currently set to break ground in March. If all goes according to plan, Monterey Bay Shores will be completed in late 2010 or early 2011 and consist of 105 hotel rooms, 63 hotel/condo units, and 85 residential units. But there’s a lot more to this story than the prospect of more hotel space on the Monterey peninsula. I recently met with Ed to discuss his journey, what he’s learned in the process, and how those lessons learned have shaped Ed’s vision, not only for Monterey Bay Shores, but for defining the very concept of sustainability.

“We are driving forward the nascent green development trade with a team of hand-picked sustainability experts that are pooling their knowledge to ensure every aspect of this project is environmentally profitable”, says Ghandour.

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Solar Stocks: Wall Street Heavyweight or Punching Bag?

Nick Hodge | Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

These are the top five names in solar: First Solar, Renewable Energy Corp., Q-Cells, SunPower, Suntech.
This is their stock performance over the past year:

In the best case from those five scenarios, First Solar, the stock is down 26%; in the worst case, Suntech, the stock is down 83%.

Something just doesn’t seem right here. Over 5.2 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity were installed last year–a record that crushes the 2.2 GW installed in 2007. But despite the 136% year-over-year capacity growth, shaky policy and deteriorating finance conditions have given investors cold feet, driving down stock prices as you can clearly see.

So what’s going on here? Has Wall Street rightfully rowed its solar boat ashore, or has their short-sightedness left solar shares ripe for the picking?

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Sentilla’s Energy Manager: If You Can’t Measure IT, You Can’t Manage IT

| Monday February 2nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

Sentilla%20logo.gifAll of the major server and microprocessor manufacturers are now offering more efficient systems that draw less electricity and/or generate less heat. (Cooling accounts for about half of an IT centers overall energy usage.) Along with more efficient hardware, IT managers can now choose from a growing number of energy management systems. A recent entrant to this sector is Sentilla, who last week released their innovative Energy Manager for Data Centers.
Demands on the world’s data infrastructure are growing exponentially along with concerns over the related environmental impact. In 2005, an estimated 1% of the entire world’s electricity consumption was attributed to data centers alone (enough to power the entire state of Utah!). And a recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry is now generating as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines – about 2% of global CO2 emissions. Not surprisingly, IT managers are spending more of their time looking for ways reduce their energy usage as well as their carbon footprint.

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Sunday February 1st, 2009 | 0 Comments

Sunday still counts as the end of the week, right kids?
sugar.jpgRaw Materials now Eligible for Cradle to Cradle Certification! McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) is taking its Cradle to Cradle analysis further down the product supply chain with its new Cradle to Cradle Approved Ingredient certification. Hopefully this new division will bring MBDC out from under the raincloud of the recent Fast Company article about how trigger happy MDBC is with the lawsuits surrounding the use of Cradle to Cradle. Please don’t sue me, Bill! I got nothing.
steps.jpgGreenBiz has a very timely feature on ten steps for marketing sustainably in an uncertain economy. If you’re interested in sustainable marketing, don’t forget to check out our new series Conversations in Cause Marketing, written by 3P superstar Gennefer Snowfield
beer.jpgNew Belgium Brewing Slashes Cardboard Packaging
New Belgium says “we don’t need no stinking cardboard,” removing the cardboard partitions from almost all of its 12-packs. Based on the company’s current level of production, that will eliminate 150 tons of cardboard and save New Belgium about $280,000 in the next year! As if I need another reason to drink beer.

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What Can Jobseekers Expect From Obama’s $30 Billion Incentives Package To The Renewable Energy Sector?

| Friday January 30th, 2009 | 4 Comments

President Barack Obama’s plans to increase the production of renewable energy to double the current levels by 2012 and one of his first acts has been to provide $30 billion in tax incentives to this industry. That was $10 billion more than had been anticipated. The move supports the optimism of the people who anticipate surging growth in the green jobs market.
Recent research by think tank and academic institutions shows that significant job increases in the green sector is expected. The reports provide helpful information for people interested in employment in a green job. Many of them offer detailed information of anticipated growth per sector and region, which is exactly what job seekers need.
A recent survey of the Academy for Educational Development (AED) advises green job seekers to consider a community college as their ‘dream school’.

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Paul Detering: Change Is Coming to the Solar Industry

| Friday January 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Since my last post from the Solar Power International 2008 conference in San Diego, large amounts of the bailout bill have been distributed, Obama has taken office, and the automakers have their bailout as well. “Change” is coming in many forms. In San Diego, we experienced a surge of exuberance around the passing of the solar investment tax credit (ITC) as the logjam of pent-up deals began to move forward. But now, having a couple months for the market to digest what has happened and for people to realize what all these changes mean, a very different renewable energy world is emerging.
 
I’ve had a lot of queries since October about how significantly the financial crisis has crippled alternative energy – specifically, tax equity-based solar projects. Certainly, albeit temporary, declining costs for petroleum-based energy further raises questions about the timing to move to renewable energy. The industry momentum that was building has undoubtedly faltered.
 
That said, the financial crisis hasn’t been all bad. It has, in some ways, supported the business model for companies like Tioga. For some time, people were predicting Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), a third-party project finance mechanism, to represent 50% to 80% of the commercial solar market and a recent Alta Terra survey shows this number now over 70% for 2008. The financial crisis has helped this along because more than ever, companies want to hold onto their capital to help ride out this financial storm and save money where they can. One way to do that and go green is through a solar PPA that allows them to trade a portion of their current utility bill for a potentially lower one via solar, without the burden of additional debt or capital outlay. And, despite the plummeting costs of oil and natural gas (which never seems to translate into lower utility prices nearly as quickly as they went up), it only serves to demonstrate the hedge value a PPA offers against volatility in energy prices.

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Tie Your Cause to Your Product – Not Just Your Cash Register

| Friday January 30th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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Fostering%20Goodwill%20Through%20Sales.jpgIt’s not too difficult to spot the brands who have hopped on the cause marketing bandwagon recently, tying their promotions to a charity in the hopes of sparking increased sales and reaping the halo benefits of goodwill for their image. Today’s consumer is smarter and more informed, and wants to do business with socially responsible companies, so it makes sense that businesses would react to deliver on this growing market demand.
But as consumers continue to rally against the old capitalism paradigm, companies need to demonstrate a deeper commitment to doing good than using a cause as a flavor-of-the-month marketing technique with no clear tie-in to their business, product or brand position. Coastal Contacts is one such example of a business focused on giving back to society in relevant and meaningful ways, so I sought out Patty Gibson, their Advertising Director, to learn more about their strategy behind cause marketing, and share their success stories for effectively linking a cause to people – not dollar signs.

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Recycling and Reuse: Are Financial Incentives Necessary?

Tom Szaky | Friday January 30th, 2009 | 5 Comments

Call me cynical (and you’d be right), but I think that humans as a species have a couple of basic tenancies. We want life to be better and want to do less to make it so. In other words, we want more comfort and convenience at less cost. That is why we live in a consumer based society with disposable products. We also focus almost entirely on short term gain vs. long term gain. There are obviously exceptions to these rules – like our friends the Mennonites – but in general I think this holds true.
So here comes the million dollar question. If the above is true then how do we solve the environmental problem since it is a long term problem (vs. short term) and most of the solutions come at a higher cost and less convenience. Even a simple tasks like recycling takes time and energy (vs. throwing everything in the trash can) and has no immediate reward (only long term). With all this said I do also think that people want to do the right thing. However wanting something is less powerful than doing and the act of doing is governed by the aforementioned rules.
The solution is incentive. A fantastic case study in RecycleBank’s approach to recycling demonstrates this point. Recyclebank simply pays people to recycle. Prior to recyclebank recycling rates in Philly were under 30%, after recycle bank they were above 80%. Amazing.
TerraCycle (my company) runs brigade programs where millions of Americans sign up to collect waste (from Oreo wrappers to Stonyfield yogurt cups). Currently we donate $0.02 to $0.06 per unit of waste collected to the charity of the collectors choice. So here is my question: do we need to be giving out $0.02 to $0.06 per unit of waste? Over 1 million Americans are now sending specific non-recyclable waste to TerraCycle, postage paid, with the contribution to the charity of their choice. What will it take for you to collect your packaging waste and send it to TerraCycle (or another company), rather than sending it to an landfill? Is $0.02 or $0.06 not enough?

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The Classroom of the Future – Behind the Curtain of the Open Architecture Network

| Thursday January 29th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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The latest challenge from the talented crew at Architecture For Humanity is hot off the press. This time the focus is on how to revolutionize education worldwide by building the classroom of the future. A lofty goal, perhaps, but exactly what we have come to expect from the small team dedicated to revolutionizing architecture the world over. So what exactly drives the people behind the accolades and successful projects? What is it like to be in the midst of an architectural revolution? Definitely interesting, but not half as crazy as you might think.

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Motorola Launches “Carbon Neutral” Phone

| Thursday January 29th, 2009 | 2 Comments

trainingthefox.jpgMotorola recently launched what they claim to be first ever carbon neutral phone at the Consumer Electrics Show in Las Vegas. Additionally, the plastics used in the phone’s exterior are made from recycled water bottles. Enter the MOTO™ W233 Renew. The company signed up with Carbonfund.org to offset the carbon produced during the manufacturing process of the handset. Distribution and operating activities are also offset. Motorola invests in the Carbonfund’s program of renewable energy and reforestation investments.
When you take a close look at the phone you will see that the Carbonfund investment is not a free ticket to environmental utopia because the press buttons and the robust exterior are entirely made of the kinds of metals that still will need recycling at the end of the phone’s life. But, having said that, knowing that the plastics are 100% made of recycled bottles is hopeful, especially when competitors like Nokia and Samsung are using bioplastics made from food crops. The Carbonfund also awarded Motorola with its CarbonFree® Product Certification after an extensive product life-cycle assessment.

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Book Review: Companies We Keep – Employee Ownership and the Business of Community and Place

| Wednesday January 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Business books on the Triple Bottom Line abound. Trust me. I speak from experience. I am an MBA student in a program focused on sustainability, and a mountain of these books stands between me and the end of each semester. Most do an adequate job of plodding through the subject matter, but I usually find myself skimming the material to extract the main points so I can move on to the next book. One down, mountain to go.
That was not my experience with John Abrams’ revised edition of Companies We Keep – Employee Ownership and the Business of Community and Place. The book is a revised and expanded version of his 2005 Company We Keep. Abrams is the cofounder of South Mountain Company, an employee-owned, custom building business based on Martha’s Vineyard that began operations in 1975. He’s written a very readable narrative that knits together a personal memoir with an examination of the employee-owned business model he has developed at South Mountain Company.

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Strengthening Renewable Energy Innovation – Corporations, Venture Capitalists, and Government Working Together

3p Contributor | Wednesday January 28th, 2009 | 2 Comments

By Jim Hurd, Director, GreenScience Exchange
The United States is at a critical crossroads in its energy policy and the Obama administration is promising to completely reshape our energy objectives.
We’re in a global race to develop renewable energy technologies – to compete with leading countries in Europe and with dynamic initiatives in China and Asia. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman makes this clear in his newest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, as he warns that the US must be a leader in “ET” or Energy Technologies – the next multi-hundred billion dollar creation of global wealth.
To compete, the US has to be strong in each of the four stages of the energy innovation ecosystem:
1) Research; 2) Development; 3) Commercialization; and 4) Scale-Up and Job Creation
In the last stage of “scale up and job creation,” we will see extensive green projects in the economic stimulus package. These will create jobs through the building of wind, solar and other renewable energy projects. But another critical place for the incoming administration to focus funding is that first stage of the energy technology continuum – research.

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