Follow the Sold Out Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference in Real Time

| Monday October 13th, 2008 | 0 Comments

twitter-socap.jpgWe sent a handful of 3p’s best (yes, they’re all the best) to cram themselves in the underventilated, far above capacity rooms that are home to the first annual Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference. This way, you get to pretend you’re there without leaving your office (or pajamas, if that is how you roll).
As writers Bill Shutkin, Jim Whitkin, Steve Tiell, Napoleon Wallace, and I interview conference attendees and weave together the stories for which you are so patiently waiting, you can following the conference live on Twitter. Check it out here:

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Cool Earth Solar Set to Open Prototype Plant and Change the Shape of Solar Power

| Monday October 13th, 2008 | 3 Comments

Cool Earth Solar's unique design makes solar energy scalableLivermore, California-based Cool Earth Solar is set to complete construction of their first prototype plant in the next few weeks. If all goes according to plan the new plant will change the shape of renewable energy scalability – literally.

I had the opportunity last week to speak with CEO Rob Lamkin about Cool Earth Solar’s mission and the difficulties facing alternative energy companies. In terms of the challenges of renewable energy, Lamkin was clear and concise: “scalability”.

Says Lamkin: “If you’re going to replace hydrocarbons with solar, you’re going to need a lot of collecting surface”. Cool Earth Solar addresses this challenge by changing the shape of the collecting surface.

Instead of using row upon row of flat panel solar collector “boxes-with-lenses” requiring heavy, expensive materials to build, Cool Earth utilizes what might be considered an application, in both concept and materials, of Ockham’s Razor: Keep it simple

Cool Earth’s patented design is centered on an inflated balloon-shaped “solar concentrator”, about eight feet in diameter, made of thin plastic film – the same sort of material used in potato chip bags. The upper hemisphere of the “balloon” is transparent, the lower is reflective, and sunlight is concentrated on the photovoltaic cell held at the focal point. A single concentrator can generate about 1 kilowatt of power.  

The unique design is simple in its concept and produces 300 to 400 times the electrical output that same cell could produce in a conventional solar collector.

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Is the Environment the New Corporate Responsibility?

| Monday October 13th, 2008 | 3 Comments

corp-resp.jpgI’ve recently struggled with the question: who bears primary responsibility for addressing the environmental crisis – government, companies, individuals, or all 3? Responses were split almost perfectly in quarters, suggesting that all parties are responsible for solving our environmental crisis. Fundamentally I believe that individuals hold the key – both government and businesses are beholden to them. But the reality of the situation is that institutions are far better organized to take concerted action. And without concerted action, we will see global warming, water shortages, and a series of other environmental problems come to roost.
Corporations are uniquely positioned to make a significant and positive impact on our environmental challenges, and for that reason they need to be held responsible. In other words, it’s time for them to step. It’s time for companies to step up to the plate and address our collective environmental challenges for 3 primary reasons.

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Refugees in Antartica and Virtual Olympics in Climate Change Scenario

Sarah Lozanova | Monday October 13th, 2008 | 1 Comment

climate%20change.jpgGrave warnings from climate scientists about the affects of global warming are abundant and forecasts of state specific impacts have been created. As ice caps melt and weather patterns shift, the million dollar question is how climate change will alter our lives. What will the world be like on New Year’s Day 2030?
British-based think-tank, Forum for the Future and researchers from Hewlett-Packard explored several scenarios of how climate change will impact business, government, and daily life. Here is what they came up with:

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The Pickens Plan: Boon or Boondoggle?

| Monday October 13th, 2008 | 1 Comment

pickensplan_logo_top.gif Former oilman, corporate raider cum alternative energy proponent, T. Boone Pickens’ highly, and largely self-promoted “Pickens Plan” only has it half-right as far as charting a course that will lead to a more secure, cleaner energy future for the US, according to critics.
While investing in and developing wind power to the point where it makes up at least 20% of the nation’s power supply is right on the mark, the second part of the Pickens Plan – shifting the 20% of natural gas currently used to produce electricity to transportation by converting vehicles to run on natural gas – is both foolhardy and impractical, according to Intelligent Communities Inc., developers of “The Intelligent Community Initiative,” (ICI) which aims to raise educational and living standards in the US by building an interconnected, symbiotic network that includes a school and business facilitation and business incubation divisions, all linked together by a custom-built, Web-based client-server network.

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A Better way to Run Our Capital Markets

3p Contributor | Monday October 13th, 2008 | 0 Comments

 

Paying attention to the news lately, you can’t avoid hearing about the economy and who needs to be bailed out next. What I haven’t seen, though, is a discussion that takes a step back and asks, “What would an economy look like that doesn’t need to be bailed out or ‘fixed’ every x number of years?”

This type of a discussion would ask a whole new set of questions: Why do centralized economies where communities systematically export money continue to be the de facto standard? What can we do to strengthen our local economies to provide resilience in broader economic downturns? How can businesses play a leading role in redefining our social landscape and add to economic resiliency? Would a corporate structure forced to focus on long-term sustainability be any better than one focused on short-term results? Should an investor even care about social impact?

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Sustainable Agriculture in practice: It’s all about the soil…and carbon

| Saturday October 11th, 2008 | 2 Comments

glblwrmgeconomic_costs_250px.jpg For decades organic farming was written off as an impractical, unrealistic flight of fancy dreamed up by 60’s-era hippies and those longing for a return to some pre-industrial, Eden with little or no grounding in what it actually takes to produce food for the masses. For a variety of reasons particular to North America, industrialized agriculture – large scale monoculture and irrigation helped by regular and liberal doses of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other soil “amendments,” all regularly plowed over by big, heavy fossil fueled equipment– has been, and largely remains, the model for American society’s food chain.
Organic, sustainable agriculture has turned out to be one of those ideas that just wouldn’t go away, however – and for a variety of good and increasingly vital reasons. Not only are growing numbers of farmers, ranchers and research scientists showing that sustainable, organic methods and practices can produce as high or higher yields in the short-term, but they’re showing that the long-term benefits of regenerating soils, which include reducing water usage, pollution and erosion as well as improving habitat for other forms of life, are not only equally as great, but go beyond any currently used means of calculating a “bottom line.”
It’s also been demonstrated that fostering greater use of organic methods and practices may be one of the best – least cost, most efficient and eminently practicable – means of mitigating climate change.
According to a summary of the results of a 30-year, side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming systems in the U.S. conducted by the Rodale Institute that organic agricultural practices could sequester an incredible 40% of present day global carbon emissions.

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Thoughts On Accountability and Opportunity As the Credit Crisis Slows Investment In Clean Energy Development

| Saturday October 11th, 2008 | 3 Comments

11-25-Foreclosure.jpgI just finished reading this post on Grist and a N.Y Times article that it links to about the credit crisis slowing investment in clean energy development, and I’ve gotta say – I’m pretty hoppin’ mad. As one of the sources cited in The Times piece acknowledged:

“financing for carbon-cutting projects is harder to find and…financiers (are) more cautious than before the crunch.”

Reading this N.Y. Times expose last weekend detailing how the Bush Administration’s policy blunders and negligence on oversight have brought us to this point didn’t exactly help me feel better. Lovely – thanks for bringing us to the verge of another Panic of 1873. As top market analysts have stated:

“We still don’t know the extent of the damage still coming from Lehman. But we do know that the federal government has made it so we are all afraid. That’s not going away. My hope is this — new president, better team.” – Jim Cramer, TheStreet.com

“Recessions are simply part of the business cycle… Depressions are caused by governments making major policy mistakes. And we have made some in the areas of not regulating mortgage lending, allowing the five large investment banks to increase their leverage to 30 or 40 to one in 2004 (what was the SEC thinking?), and failing to oversee the rating agencies.” – John Maudlin, Thoughts from the Frontline Weekly Newsletter, 10/10/2008

While other sources in the articles about impacts of the credit crisis on clean energy investment fortunately remained optimistic – as do I – one thing that leaves me at a loss of words as I consult with top sources to understand both the problem and the best potential solutions is this: where is the accountability?

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Cost of Deforestation is Vastly Greater than that of the Current Financial Crisis

| Friday October 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

deforestation.jpgWhile your 401K smolders in ruins, take a gander at this BBC article and it might give you some perspective. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately an optimistic perspective: We are actually losing more money through deforestation than through the current financial meltdown. The reasoning behind this is clear when we start calculating the often overlooked value of Natural Capital – resources provided by our environment including minerals, water, air, sunlight, heat, plants, animals, and other organic matter.
Looking at the costs of deforestation and other forms of resource depletion from a purely economic perspective may seem perverse to many environmentalists, but it may be the only way that these issues are ever going to get real attention from government, big business, and society at large. The study cited by the BBC comes from a Deutsche bank economist who states:

… whereas Wall Street by various calculations has to date lost, within the financial sector, $1-$1.5 trillion, the reality is that at today’s rate we are losing natural capital at least between $2-$5 trillion every year (emphasis mine)

Bear in mind that’s an annual cost… and it’s just about forests.

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The ISSP: Professional Development for the Sustainability Practitioner

| Friday October 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

The green networking space is getting crowded. Countless online resources are available where green-minded professionals can connect and interact. But you know that a profession has truly arrived when bona fide professional associations arise to support and promote it. Several niche organizations have sprung up to serve professionals in specific areas like CSR or supply chain. Marsha Willard, the Executive Director of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), believes her organization goes beyond niche to address the entire profession:

While there are other organizations related to sustainability, they tend to be focused on geographic area, framework, philosophy or sector. None are truly professional societies dedicated to supporting the professional development of practitioners globally, across sectors and philosophies.

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3M Post-Its Make Some Greener Progress

| Friday October 10th, 2008 | 1 Comment

post-it.jpgLike your 3M Post-it notes but are concerned about their impact on the environment?
Well so is 3M and starting in 2007 they started to provided eco-friendly versions of all their basic products called Post-it® Recycled Notes.
Is this green washing or real concern?
I suspect neither and both. Really I think it has to do with their bottom line and the growing chorus of folks that want green alternatives in the office. So the more we support items like a green Post-it the more will be sold and the more the idea will work itself into the fabric of 3M.
Also right now they only offer 30% postconsumer content. Come on 3M you can do better than that. Many of our other vendors selling a similar product do.
From the 3M website:

We are committed to designing and sourcing responsibly from an environmental standpoint. ALL Post-it® paper is sourced from paper mills that are certified for sustainable management practices. (Includes SFI and PEFC.) Our Post-it® Recycled Notes include a minimum of 30% postconsumer content and don’t forget – ALL Post-it® Notes are recyclable!

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This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of ProformaGreen, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy. John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

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Weekly Green Business Wrap-Up

| Friday October 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Six steps to green the board room 1. Stay home. (Kidding!) We all hate meeting overload, but when you must call the crew together, here are your 6 best bets for lowering your meeting’s impact.
hard%20hat.jpg 4.2M Green Jobs in U.S. by 2038 U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Mayors Climate Protection Center by Global Insights forecast that green job growth could account for as many as 10 percent of new jobs in the next 30 years. In these stark economic times, I’d settle for any job growth, but green is great!
solar-panel-1.jpgSolar Tax Credit Does the Trick: Solar Market Booms Despite Credit Crunch Go on- take the good news at face value. There’s no way these are apocalyptic buyers.

Norwegian_Korean_Standard_Link_Chain.jpgGreen That Supply Chain Greening your supply chain is a long and complicated process. This article makes the process a bit easier. Of course you could just buy local.

trash.jpgGarbage is a Rich Source of Energy Treehugger clues us in on all the ways to give trash a second life. Eco Geek has the skinny a new technology to do the same thing.

Computer.JPGToshiba Expands E-Waste Recycling Program Clear out those closets! Toshiba’s new free e-waste recycling program will accept many consumer electronics of any brand. Yes, Dell was onto this a few years ago, but welcome to the green revolution, Toshiba!
Parisian%20Waiter%201.jpgTed Turner’s Top Ten Ways to Green the Restaurant Industry Yes, I too wish it was Ted Turner’s top ten ways to tease a treehugger, but restaurants are probably more useful (especially with their water wasting ways!)
pope-new2.jpgWhat Would Jesus Do: Go Net Zero Carbon of Course! The Vatican makes history as first state to go carbon net zero with a huge solar panel array installed on the papal audience hall. The 2400 solar panel system cost a reported $1.5m. “Those who destroy the environment are also big sinners”, says Italian Cardinal Deacon Renato Raffaele Martino. “It’s a big insult to God.” All right Catholics. Now if we could just get somewhere on this abortion issue.

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Frito Lay Sustainability Efforts Save $55 Million on Water and Energy One more reason to eat chips.

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Electric Vehicles to Power New Business Models

3p Contributor | Thursday October 9th, 2008 | 0 Comments

tesls-9942.jpgPart of a series of posts by John Gartner of Matter Network: Just as the solar industry has spawned many new business (specialty finance companies, power aggregators, installers) so will electrified vehicles create supporting niche industries. According to utility, automotive, and related industries executives attending the RMI Smart Garage charrette, these companies will be needed to assume risk that automakers and utilities aren’t willing to take as a service layer in between the two. These new services include:
Free public charging stations – to ramp up demand for plug-in and all-electric vehicles, a visible number of no-cost public stations are needed. Big box stores such as Wal-Mart or Costco may be willing to install chargers to draw customers, who would have to shop for several hours as their vehicles recharge. State governments may also fund such projects under the guise of meeting carbon emission reduction goals. Other potential industries that could give away power to draw customers — golf courses and movie theaters.
Battery servicing and reclamation – during several sessions, it was proposed that new companies (or perhaps utilities themselves) are needed to finance the upfront cost of vehicle batteries and to extract the lifetime value of the battery that will go beyond the car. J.B. Straubel of Tesla Motors says testing that he’s seen indicate that battery durability quickly “falls off a slope” after 4 years. Utilities or third-party companies will buy banks of used lithium ion batteries to create relatively inexpensive storage arrays. Some batteries will need to be taken out of cars early to provide maximum value to utilities, while future batteries may outlast the cars. Another potential service is battery swapping, where service companies provide fresh batteries faster (10-15 minutes) than they can be recharged, but Straubel doubts that it will happen. Auto dealerships may get into the battery swapping business to offset revenue lost from charges for mechanic services.

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One Megawatt Solar Power System Unveiled at Gap Inc.’s West Coast Distribution Center

| Thursday October 9th, 2008 | 4 Comments

Gap Inc unveils 1 meagwatt solar facility

MMA Renewable Ventures and SunPower Corporation joined representatives from Gap, Inc. on Tuesday to unveil a one megawatt solar power system at the Gap’s West Coast Distribution Center in Fresno.

The five-acre installation is one of the largest in northern California. Designed by SunPower, the system features SunPower Tracker technology that tracks the sun’s movements throughout the day. The system increases energy capture by up to 25% over fixed-tilt systems, while decreasing land use requirements.

The installation is expected to offset 2.5 million pounds of greenhouse gas emission every year, equivalent to taking 2,466 vehicles off the road over the life of the project.

SunPower communication director Ingrid Ekstrom said similar systems have also been designed for other major firms including Macy’s, Hewlett-Packard, and Wal-Mart.

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Bamboo in the Bath – Ideas For Your Hospitality Needs

| Thursday October 9th, 2008 | 1 Comment

towels-bamboo.jpgManaging or starting up an eco spa? Trying to “green” your fitness center? Launching a new green hotel? Then this may be for you.
Pro Towels has released a new line of towels made from bamboo. They are lovely and great for any spa or water related business with a green agenda.
Bamboo as a woven material is popping up more and more in the industry. I would say it feels closer to silk than cotton and is being used in bags, totes, shirts, the usual suspects.
The Pro Towel Bamboo Collection advertises itself as a 35″x60″, heavyweight, twill hemmed and looped finished towel of 100% bamboo. Colors available are Sandalwood, Ivory, Leaf Green and Pure White.
The pitch is the same as always. Bamboo is “one of the world’s most prolific and fastest-growing plants making it nature’s most sustainable resources” and 100% biodegradable. Pro Towel also points out they use organic (natural) bamboo so that means it is grown without any pesticides or chemicals.
These towels are not cheap, running nearly $30 per unit (including 8K stitches of embroidery) and certainly fall into the luxury category for promotional items. A standard towel would run closer to $18 per unit. Pro Towels also has released robes made of the same Bamboo material.
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This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of ProformaGreen, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy. John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

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