Plunging Home Values? Then You’ve Driven Too Far – A Case for Smart Development

| Wednesday April 23rd, 2008 | 5 Comments

Driving less is key to sustained home valuesNot so long ago the thinking was “drive ‘till you qualify”  – but it’s a brave new world, with a barrel of oil costing $118.10 (as of this writing) and gallon of gas reaching up for the $4.00 per gallon threshold, that thinking just doesn’t work like it used to. Home owners and developers are having second thoughts about that nice little three-bedroom split-level gleaming in the distant suburban sun – or put another way, that house miles from anywhere you need to be (other than home) that’s worth less than you paid for it.

A recent report on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition talks of tumbling home prices in a “slowed” economy (just don’t call it a recession), and to a phenomenon in the housing market that is best summed up in three words:

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location

There’s a new metric in town when it comes to buying a home, and it’s one we’re already familiar with: miles per gallon.

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Organizations’ Environmental Activities Impact Employees

| Wednesday April 23rd, 2008 | 1 Comment

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A study by the Kenexa Research Institute indicates that organizations environmental initiatives significantly influence employee motivation and their opinions of senior management. Fifty-four percent of employees surveyed in a cross-culture study that spanned 13 countries looked favorably on their organizations’ “green” initiatives. More Indian workers (63%) looked favorably on their organization’s environmental initiatives than their counterparts in Russia (42%) and Japan (40%), where the two least favorable ratings were recorded.
The research results indicate that an organization’s record of environmental responsibility can significantly and positively influence employees’ opinions of management and the company they work for, their overall job satisfaction, intentions to stay with the company and recommend it to others as a good place to work, according to Kenexa.
“Those organizations committed to the environment demonstrate this by routinely recycling, conserving energy and working with vendors who share similar values. This sets them apart from their competition by creating a positive employment brand, and establishes an emotional tie between the employee and organization,” Anne Herman, a Kenexa research consultant stated in a media release.

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NEX Clean Energy Share Index Falls in Q1

| Wednesday April 23rd, 2008 | 1 Comment

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Volatility has increased and share prices of clean energy stocks fell during Q1 2007 as heavy bank losses, weakening economies and ongoing rises in basic commodities took their toll on what’s been a rapid and large-scale flow of capital into the sector, according to an April 1 New Energy Finance media release.
The 17.9% drop in the WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index of clean energy shares (NEX) for 2008′s first three months was larger than that for broad stock market indices. NASDAQ fell 14.1% while the S&P500 was 9.9% lower for the quarter. The NEX rose 57.9% faster last year, outperforming other indices on the upside as well.
The Power Storage sector was a bright spot in the gloom and looking out over the longer term governments’ need to meet established renewable fuels, clean energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets underpins and provides strong support for clean energy companies and shares, however, according to the media release.

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In the News: Europe Turns to Coal; ThinkCity Recyclable Plug-In Coming to US

| Wednesday April 23rd, 2008 | 1 Comment

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The International Herald Tribune in its April 23 edition reports on two contrasting developments that are likely to have significant ramifications when it comes to efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and facilitate a transition to low carbon societies while at the same time meeting forecasted growth in energy demand in Europe and the US.
A front page article by Elizabeth Rosenthal, reporting from Civitavecchia, reports on Italian electric utility Enel’s plans to convert one of the country’s largest power plants from oil to coal, one instance of a broader shift to coal by electricity producers across the EU, and the alarm these plans have raised among environmental scientists.
A mid-page 13 article by Reuters’ Anupreeta Das, meanwhile, reports on plans being hatched by two of leading US VCs and Norwegian electric carmaker ThinkGlobal to put as many as 50,000 recyclable, emissions free plug-in electric vehicles a year on US roads.

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Renewable Energy Credits 101

| Wednesday April 23rd, 2008 | 6 Comments

rewnew99.jpgSome of you might have heard of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), an alternative to carbon offsets. Many companies are starting to buy them to offset their electricity usage, or just to support the production of clean renewable energy sources.
The question is, what are Renewable Energy Credits exactly? How do they work? What are you really owning when you put your name on the dotted line?
First things first: when renewable energy companies create power, they sell it to the nearest utility and it goes out on the grid and gets mixed with all the electricity produced by natural gas, coal, and hydro. There is no telling who actually gets to use the clean energy produced by the small renewable company– it just goes to the next person in range who happens to turn on their lights or run their dishwasher. But, there are a lot of people out there who want to support the production of renewable energy sources, and who would pay a premium to use renewable energy in their homes if such a thing were possible. So, renewable energy providers, like solar or wind power generators, sell Renewable Energy Credits in addition to selling the power they create. RECs are basically the right to claim whatever renewable energy was created. Random McMansion owner A who happened to plug in their Glade PlugIn at the right time does not get to claim the power even if it was actually clean. You, the REC owner get to, even if the energy that powers your LEED certified home is actually regular dirty power.
Now for some fun analogies:

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Pedal Powered Telephones? Si se puede!

| Wednesday April 23rd, 2008 | 3 Comments

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Here in the US, we’re used to the near ubiquitous access to cell phones, with the possibility of thousands, if not unlimited minutes. But what if every phone in the US was prepaid? Such is the case in Nicaragua. There, people use their phones mainly to receive phone calls, or as address books to make calls at one of the numerous, more affordable “call shops” in the country. Brian Forde looked around, saw the prevalence of three wheeled bikes, carrying cargo, people, ice cream, and had an idea: create a pedal powered mobile version of the call shop, able to go wherever the people are.
Rather then creating a slickly engineered, and therefore difficult to repair device, they make them from what’s common in the area: a car battery + an old computer battery backup UPS to convert the battery power to 110 volts. Llamadas Pedaleadas, or Pedaled Phone Calls provides the energetic entrepreneur the opportunity to literally go where the market is, be it a festival, a busy intersection, the big game. For those who have trouble getting around, the phone could come to them, as well. The station charges batteries as the vendor drives around.
See them in action below

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Do You Have a Sustainable Mindset?

| Tuesday April 22nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

duquesne.jpgDuquesne University’s Sustainable MBA program is regarded as among the top ten in the world. A recent post on their website sums up seven mindset qualities that are critical for leadership in sustainable business. They’re worth checking out:
1. The Sustainability Mindset – You question rhetoric and use data to guide decisions, take risks and predict implications across organizational, social, political and economic landscapes.
2. The Authentic Mindset – You admit what you don’t know, fiercely insist on disclosure and have the resilience to deal with setbacks.
3. The Collective Mindset – You can build the collective capacity of teams and organizations. You negotiate effectively to implement change, and mobilize others through clear communications and strong advocacy.
4. The Global Impact Mindset – You understand the influences and impacts of the global economy. You also anticipate how new developments in natural and social sciences will intersect with sustainability.
5. The Analytical Mindset – You can apply business theories and relevant data to solve complex business problems.
6. The Holistic Mindset – You use a big-picture view of organizations to frame and critically analyze ill-defined problems and map out the cause/effect relationships of social systems.
7. The Creative Mindset – You can synthesize seemingly independent pieces of information, adapt and deal with new problems.
More at duq.edu

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Greenest Building on the Planet?

| Tuesday April 22nd, 2008 | 0 Comments

green_042208_125.jpgFittingly named for Aldo Leopold, the Leopold center near Baraboo, WI, has been awarded 61 of 69 LEED points – more than any building so far – making it, apparently, the “greenest” building currently in existence. Although the architects of certain ancient structures might beg to differ, in the our era it’s popular and often helpful to use this kind of ranking to see where things are stacking up and to encourage more to do the same. So be it.
It goes without saying that the center is carbon neutral, incredibly efficient, embracing of daylight while using and recycling rainwater for most functions. More importantly, perhaps, is the buildings function as an educational center for other inspired folks. No data is public that I could find about costs and ROI, but it’s certainly something worth checking out for businesses ans individuals alike.
(image and more from jsonline.com)

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Smart Glass Jewelry: Recycled Line

| Tuesday April 22nd, 2008 | 1 Comment

smart-glass.gifSmart Glass Jewelry has launched a “recycled line.” In this case, “Recycled” as in glass accessories form sources as broad as wine bottles to Perrier, Coca-Cola, beer and many other bottles. Although recycled glass can involve the use of massive blast furnaces and other energy intensive mega-machinery, Kathleen Plate’s recycled line of glass jewelry is created from a delicate method that is low-impact all around.
Kathleen has created a unique, simple and popular style for her recycled line for women’s jewelry. In fact, her jewelry is hand-crafted, providing a personal and one-of-a-kind product worth its sentimental weight to many a consumer. Given the fact that in 2005, production of glass was responsible for 4.2 million tons of CO2 emissions, this is the simplest of examples of businesses profiting form resourceful green solutions.

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AskPablo: Keep the beater?

| Monday April 21st, 2008 | 0 Comments

Is it environmentally better to keep my 1986 Mercedes-Benz W126 or buy a new hybrid?
This is a question I have gotten a lot, and one that I have wondered about myself. You see a modern-day tie-dye aficionado puttering along the highway in his VW van with black smoke spewing out the back, and you have to wonder if we wouldn’t all be better off if he traded it in for a Prius. The consensus among some environmentalists — perhaps ones who drive late-’60s Mustangs — seems to be that driving your old car creates significantly less pollution than the manufacture of a new car. I wish it were that easy.
The Argonne National Lab, a U.S. Department of Energy research center, has analyzed the material intensity and energy consumption of manufacturing vehicles and vehicle fuels. Their work is packaged in GREET models (for greenhouse gases, regulated emissions and energy use in transportation). According to the models, the average conventional internal combustion engine vehicle is made up of 61.7 percent steel, 11.1 percent iron, 6.9 percent aluminum, 1.9 percent copper/brass, 2.9 percent glass, and around 13.6 percent plastic/rubber. This information helps determine the energy required to produce a vehicle.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/04/21/ask_pablo_cars/index.html

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Clorox Rings the Green Bell – With Sierra Club

| Monday April 21st, 2008 | 2 Comments


Hot on the heels of their acquisition of Burt’s Bees, among the more respected “green” brands out there, Clorox has now partnered with the Sierra Club to launch a new line of products called “Green Works” which the Sierra Club will validate as “natural”. Both organizations joined together this morning at the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell as part of Earth Week celebrations.
There’s a lot to digest here. Can Clorox succeed in launching a new green brand alongside leaders like Seventh Generation and Method? Will the Sierra Club’s endorsement come with a critical eye to make sure the GreenWorks products are as good as Clorox claims? Or will this all go down like a cup of bleach? As usual, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. What do you think?

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Solar Leases Makes Cents

Sarah Lozanova | Monday April 21st, 2008 | 4 Comments

solar%20panels%20house.jpgIn California, a combination of state incentives, a federal tax credit, and a new solar leasing program could create the perfect storm for the state’s solar industry. SolarCity is changing the landscape of the residential solar market in California and the Phoenix metropolitan area by offering solar leases, which significantly reduces the upfront cost of going solar.
“Customers have called for alternatives to solar purchasing, and our innovations in financing will allow them to get the benefits of renewable energy quickly, easily and affordably,” said David Arfin, Vice President of Customer Financing at SolarCity.

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Beyond Green: Adam Werbach and BLUE, Sustainability or Self Help?

| Monday April 21st, 2008 | 9 Comments

hello-my-name-is-blue.jpgAfter four years of heads down work to find answers where it appeared that only questions existed, Adam Werbach followed up his highly controversial 2004 speech, “Is Environmentalism Dead?” just over a week ago at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The speech, titled “The Birth of Blue,” was frustratingly brilliant, asserting that the answer to the change we all seek is in incremental shifts in consumer behavior, trading Twinkies for carrots, then organic, locally-produced carrots, in search of a greater sense of health, both personal and environmental. Without really putting the finger of his eloquent voice on it, I believe Werbach stumbled on the inspired answer the audience had waited four years to hear.
For those who don’t know Werbach, some of his most notable accomplishments include becoming elected the youngest president of the Sierra Club, America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization at the age of 23. He’s since become the poster child of the green movement, founding Act Now Productions (acquired by Saatchi and Saatchi this year) to work with corporate titans like Wal-Mart to incorporate the principles of sustainability derived from an all-talk environmental activism movement that he swore off four years ago.
Werbach’s speech entertained and inspired the audience of sustainability consultants, LEED developers, non-profit staffers, and greater Bay Area public. He reflected on his 2004 eulogy for environmentalism and the many attacks that followed, including a recent one titled “Adam Werbach makes me puke.” The full text of the speech is available on Grist.

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A Carbon Credit is a Credit…Right? Better check the label!

| Monday April 21st, 2008 | 1 Comment

CC_logo_small.jpgSo, you have been tasked to procure carbon offsets for your organization. You have your shopping list that includes the key ingredients for success; the number of offsets, a budget and outlet locations. Well, time to get to work and evaluate the best route to achieve the offset objective.

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Wall Street Journal editorial page: A glimpse behind the curtain

| Sunday April 20th, 2008 | 4 Comments

First, a disclaimer: the Wall Street Journal’s news reporting on climate science, clean energy and related environmental issues is and has always been stellar. To a person, the reporters are subject matter experts in each of their relevant beats and are the lodestars of accuracy, healthy skepticism and a desire to understand the complex, cascading set of issues.
Then there’s the Journal’s editorial page. The page is known for its unabashed defense of … well, of its own quirky ideology. They’re not exactly capitalists: they like profits when they’re privatized, as long as the related costs (especially if it’s infrastructure, pollution or poor labor conditions) are socialized. They disdain partisan politics, unless the partisan in question is bashing Democrats or those God-forsaken liberals.
Usually, the wacky, unsigned opinions on the Journal’s editorial page give little insight into the personalities behind their “unique” outlooks. At least, that was the case, until they started recording themselves on video and posting it on the internets.

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