IKEA, the furniture giant, is going to sell solar panels as part of a massive investment in clean technology startup companies.The company says it will invest $77 million of its Greentech Energy fund in clean technology over the next five years. Solar panels, smart meters and other technology products are in the pipeline, according to an article in GreenBiz.Click to continue reading »
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line
The Federal Trade Commission publishes a green guide to ensure that companies don’t market their products with inaccurate environmental claims. It recently sought to update the guide with some clarifications on carbon offsets. As loyal Triple Pundit readers will know, I am an unabashed fan of increased regulation in the carbon offset sphere.
To my mind increased regulation is a win-win for offset retailers and enviros alike, because better standards will improve consumer confidence in offsets, increasing demand, and retailers can charge more for their products.
Walmart, as you know, has fought long and hard for a place of respect at the environmental table. They improved the fuel efficiency of their fleet, launched a campaign to reduce packaging, and are actively working to reduce energy use in their stores. That’s no small potatoes. Which is why it comes as a surprise that Walmart has come out against increased regulation for carbon offsets:
At the heart of Elements is a community. So describes one of the newer and more interesting examples of crowdsourcing, started by Linda Welch, the owner of a pet day care company and the former campaign treasurer for Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential bid. And the idea is fairly simple – a restaurant formed by a “beta community” of over 400 online members that will be opened in 2009 in Washington, D.C. serving raw and organic foods.
Crowdsourcing has been popping up more and more lately (See previous 3P post on crowdsourced apparel here), and has really espoused the 2.0, open-source ethic to redefine entrepreneurialism these days. Amongst others, it addresses one of the biggest issues faced by any new venture – capital.
Despite the amount of technological barriers to overcome, leaps in reliability and battery life make them a better environmental option for computer storage, if only slightly. The question comes with the news that Dell is now offering the storage drives in their consumer level M1330 and M1530 laptops.
Solid-state drives (SSDs) are an alternative to plate-spinning hard disk drives (HDDs), the part of your computer you want to toss out the window after it crashes and you lose all your life’s work. SSDs, however, are more mechanically reliable because there are fewer moving parts. SSDs are also more energy efficient, typically adding 20 minutes more battery life to your laptop compared to HDDs. SSDs are generally speedier, though operating systems have yet to take full advantage of them.
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Combine a desire to create sneakers made in a factory that pays workers fairly with eco-friendly materials, and what do you get? The answer is simple: Adbusters Media Foundation’s Blackspot and Unswoosher sneakers. Adbusters is a Canadian organization that publishes the Adbusters magazine. Three years ago, Adbusters decided to produce the Blackspot sneaker which is made from 100 percent organic hemp. The soles are made from recycled rubber bands, and the toe caps are 70 percent biodegradable. The Unswoosher is also made from organic hemp, and its soles are from recycled tires.
Kalle Lasn, Adbusters founder and CEO, says they created the Blackspot sneaker because Nike bought Converse, and decided to create a knock-off of Converse sneakers using eco-friendly materials and ethical labor. “We’ve been whining about the sneaker industry and specifically Nike for a long time and we’re still very unhappy with that industry and especially with Phil, and have basically decided to out-cool him, get into the business and cut into his marketshare,” said Lasn.
Will Uncle Sam pay those in need to reduce emissions and stimulate the economy? Would it work?
A recent editorial in the New York Times drew attention to a stimulus proposal that exemplifies the intersection of the triple bottom line and continues to fuel discussion.
Professor Alan Blinder suggests implementing a “Cash for Clunkers” program, recommending that the federal government offer a buy-back rate above market value for the oldest cars on the road. Older cars emit a disproportionate amount of emissions. Binder highlights a California study that found that “cars 13 years and older accounted for 25 percent of the miles driven but 75 percent of all pollution from cars.” With prices at the pump sky high, Blinder’s proposal may attract those struggling to fuel their old gas-guzzlers – in all likelihood people in lower income brackets. The profit from a clunker sale is intended to function as a stimulus payment, supplementing consumption spending for those hardest hit by the economic downturn.
Management consultants live near the top of the economic food chain. They have the ear of Global 1000 executives, spend heavily on business research, and are constantly looking for new ways to reduce client costs and increase client competitiveness – core services that help keep them in business. In this sense, they are naturally positioned to introduce sustainability to senior executives: It’s a topic that business executives often don’t fully understand, provides exceptional fodder for erudite reports and papers, and offers attractive, understandable ways for businesses to reduce costs and increase competitiveness, particularly in an era of rising energy costs.Click to continue reading »
Imagine you are a non profit in need of some new equipment. Or perhaps you’re a business that’s going out of business with loads of office equipment that needs to go somewhere before you close doors. Where do you go? What do you do? In either case, you could go through laborious processes to find/fund/beg for what you need, or liquidate/dispose of your inventory. Either option is far less than optimum, but for most, it’s how it needs to happen.
Only it doesn’t.
Throwplace is a hub that connects U.S. charities, international charities, businesses and individuals to “throw into” or “take from” the offerings listed on the site, to give away or get what they need. A sort of Freecycle on steroids. Only here, charities get first dibs. New or slightly used gear gets funneled towards them, while outdated and broken items, a.k.a. an opportunity for reuse or repair, go towards businesses and individuals. And that pile of xyz in the corner that you think is worthless? They’ll gladly list that too, since it likely has someone, somewhere in the world that can make use of it.
At first glance, it looks too good to be true: huge, untapped sources of clean burning natural gas right here in the U.S. It’s not easy, or cheap, to extract : the science and engineering associated with estimating reservoir and production capacities, not to mention extracting the gas, is still an evolving art. Nonetheless, pioneering U.S. oil and gas companies are now realizing some outsize returns on their shale gas investments.
As is true when it comes to extracting and processing any energy or natural resource for mass human consumption, the resulting shale gas comes at a cost, not only in dollars and cents, but to the environment. In order to facilitate and maximize the flow of gas, extraction techniques require a lot of water and hydraulic pressure to fracture the shale formations. To aid the process, various forms of grit and lubricating chemicals are mixed in.
Water rights and usage have been debated and fought over throughout the history of the West. Recent increasingly dry and drought conditions are exacerbating concerns, and now all this has residents in prime shale gas production areas, as well as environmental watchdogs increasingly concerned about the effects shale gas drilling has on water quality, aquifers and watersheds.
To hear my friends and colleagues discuss the matter over cocktails, you’d be sure that every major company in the world knew what their carbon footprint was and that they were actively managing it through increased implementation of energy efficiency and clean technology programs. That’s why when I came across a recent Harris Interactive poll commissioned by Dow Corning I was shocked by a few of the main findings. Especially surprising was that 68% of the companies surveyed did not know the meaning of the term “carbon footprint”. With well over half of the world’s major corporations still unaware of what a carbon footprint is, those of us in the greenhouse gas management industry, like ClimateCHECK, have a lot of explaining to do. We also have an enormous potential market ahead as 100% of these companies will, sooner or later, need to deal directly with climate change. But for now things are just getting started, and while moving quickly, there are definitely all the signs of a young market out there. For instance, there are diverse motivators and diverse standards as to what makes a credible corporate response.Click to continue reading »
The Breakthrough Institute, a progressive think tank founded in 2003 (see the 3P post Environmentalism is Dead: Why Doomsday Doesn’t Work), is hoping to generate support to convince the next Congress and President to pass a National Energy Education Act to help “lay the groundwork for a new energy economy”
Modeled after the National Defense Education Act of 1958 (pdf) in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, the NEEA would direct government investment toward training the next generation of Americans in “strategic energy-related fields”.
The legislation would specifically support training in engineering, technology, science, mathematics, business, and policy, assisting students pursuing innovation in energy development as they move through the educational system and on into a professional career.
As is consistently reported here in TriplePundit, the challenges faced in our changing world present commensurate opportunities. As the American Solar Energy Society states in a report entitled Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Economic Drivers for the 21st Century (pdf), there were 8.5 million new jobs created in 2006 in renewable energy and efficiency technologies. The potential for continued growth is real, but a limiting factor is a lack of trained workers with the right skill-set to meet the needs of a new energy economy.
Meeting that need starts with proper education.Click to continue reading »
Recent conversations with sustainablity execs, including those in the product – centric industries (CPG, discrete mfg) and in technology firms, have centered around adoption of internal sustainability programs (that is: executive sponsorship and enactment of internal initiatives to create a sustainable organization and business model).
A central issue comes up: how to convince executives that sustainability programs are critical to the welfare, brand, and growth of their company?
As in any nascent market or as part of a new management trend, there are always ‘thought leader’ executives that ‘get it’ quickly; in this case: they understand the sustainability value proposition for their company, and more importantly, may articulate the specific programs and initiatives that need to be executed to acheive success.
But many execs are viewing sustainablity with a jaundiced eye; it may appear to be ‘one more corporate exercise’ as one exec told me. And many view sustainability as an additional layer of compliance (more on this in a future post).
This is not to denigrate or judge those executives who don’t get it; the incentives for most of these people are ones that you would expect:
– Increase profitability
– Find and develop new product and services lines, or expand to new markets
– Attract and retain the best talent
– And, keep the company out of trouble (i.e. regulatory compliance, product liability mgt, maintain positive press and brand image, etc)
So what may drive sustainability adoption broadly throughout various sectors, beyond that of the ‘thought leaders’?
You are probably reading this on a machine filled with lead, and all kinds of other toxic and unrecyclable nasties. Luckily there is at least one technology consulting firm that is doing their part to push hardware buyers and sellers to become more sustainable – and they are doing it for free with a great web tool.
Softchoice is trying to become the ‘leading enabler of sustainable IT practices’. They are off to a good start with their EcoTech solutions page.
This resource makes product purchasing recommendations using the EPEAT standard, a rating system that compares toxics, recyclability, product longevity, and energy use. Softchoice’s purchasing system collects all the EPEAT products in one place to make responsible purchasing easier.
Ecotech doesn’t stop with purchase of equipment. Softchoice has addressed every sustainability concern related to technology including: recommendations for travel-reducing technology options, safe and responsible hardware disposal , paper reducing technologies and power management. Go check them out and find some easy ways to green your technology use.
Click to continue reading »
McDonald’s, the world-famous fast-food chain best known for its golden arches and Big Macs, bills itself as a leader “in environmental conservation.” A few weeks ago I walked into a McDonald’s restaurant for the first time in a year and ordered the new sweet tea drink. To my surprise the drink comes in a styrofoam cup.
Styrofoam is also known as polystyrene, which is made from styrene. According to the Environmental Justice Network, styrene is “known to indiscriminately attack tissue and the nervous system” and is absorbed through the skin, lungs and intestines.
* Oil from the humble, but ubiquitous, coconut palm is beginning to replace diesel fuel in Papua New Guinea and islands throughout the South Pacific.
In addition to providing a readily available and cheaper alternative to increasingly expensive oil imports, which puts foreign exchange earnings demands on small economies typically in poor position to finance them – the move to coconut oil biofuel is also empowering local residents and small businesses, giving them greater say and control over their economic future.
*Photos courtesy of Kokonut Pacific