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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Aqwise & Ecological Sanitation on the Rise, Part 1

| Sunday April 20th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Having designated 2008 the “International Year of Sanitation,” the United Nations is among the most prominent of a growing number of international aid and economic development organizations on a crusade to address poverty in developing nations around the world by facilitating projects that aim to provide poor communities access to basic and sustainable water, sewage and sanitation services. Long taken for granted in developed countries, concerns about water supplies, sewage and sanitation services are intensifying in cities, counties and municipalities in the US, Europe and developed countries around the world as well however.
Private sector investments and M&A activity in ecological sanitation solutions and clean tech’s wastewater treatment sector have surged as a result. A global industry of multinational companies is emerging, which in turn is stimulating growth of new, innovating start-ups, such as Israel’s Aqwise, that are pursuing ways of giving natural ecological processes a helping hand by cultivating growth of the biota naturally present in wastewater streams to remove polluting organic materials.
Aqwise last month raised an additional US$3.6 million in capital to support its growth plans, which center on use of its AGAR (Attached Growth Airlift Reactor) technology and ecological water sanitation process for municipal, industrial and aquaculture wastewater treatment. Last week, Triple Pundit got the chance to interview Aqwise CEO Elad Frenkel.

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Ford Motor Bows to Shareholder Pressure – Outlines Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

| Friday April 18th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Ford responds to shareholders concerns about climate changeIn an example of the power shareholder activism, Ford Motor Company has made public their plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their fleet of cars and trucks 30% by 2020.

Shareholders pushing for action include the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Investor Network on Climate Risk. Climate change resolutions from shareholders were withdrawn upon Ford’s agreement to outline their plan to address climate change.

Other automakers such as General Motors are also feeling the heat, as it were, from activist shareholders. The Big Three (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) are members of the US Climate Action Partnership and, along with other US companies, have agreed to cut carbon emissions 60–80% by 2050. Ford is also a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange.

To the automaker’s credit, Ford has reduced their GHG emissions from their facilities worldwide by 39% from 2000 to 2007.

John Viera, Ford’s director of of Sustainable Business Strategy, says “The CO2 reduction levels we have adopted represent our contribution toward meeting 450 part per million (ppm) to 550 ppm stabilization pathways.” Unfortunately, many feel that a target of 450 and especially 550 ppm simply isn’t good enough.


While Investor Network on Climate Risk director Mindy Lubber applauded Ford’s efforts, she cautions us not to “fool ourselves… Ford – as well as General Motors – need to do much more, and quickly, to reclaim their leadership role in the global marketplace. It’s not just a coincidence that these two corporate icons, once the embodiment of American innovation, are each worth less today in terms of their market capitalization, than First Solar, a nine-year-old solar company in Arizona.”

Nissan Motors has adopted a 40% reduction in GHG emissions from its vehicles by 2016 and 70% by 2050. Honda’s reduction goal is 10% by 2012.

Sources and Further Reading:
ClimateBiz.com
SocialFunds.com

For more in-depth articles on shareholder activism published here on TriplePundit click here and here

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US and China Collaborate at Green Energy Conference

| Friday April 18th, 2008 | 1 Comment

usa-china.jpgIt was early for a Friday to be at the PG&E auditorium in San Francisco, Calif. to talk about the dire state of our planet. Hosted by the US Green Energy Conference (USGEC) and the Asia Society, it started with a pleasant breakfast spread of fruit, bagels and coffee, and continued via two serious panel discussions. One on policy and increasing energy efficiency and the second on business and tech development.
And while there were the usual issues discussed about cleantech (wind, solar, biomass) and their tradeoffs, this certainly wasn’t your every day panel about sustainability issues.

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