Collin Breakstone is passionate about the environment, positive change, and creating a sustainable world. He’s just the kind of guy you’d expect as VP of a startup like Agilewaves. I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with Collin last week discussing Agilewaves, energy efficiency, sustainability issues, climate change, and reasons to remain hopeful in a troubling world. Ostensibly our chat was about the company he represents, but it was clear that Collin’s job is his mission in life.
The idea of the triple bottom line lies at the heart of what drives Agilewaves. And in pursuit of “people, planet, and profit” is the Resource Monitor, an integrated system that helps energy consumers – businesses, building owners, even individual homeowners – understand their energy consumption and carbon footprint.
It’s one thing to tell people about energy efficiency and ways to increase it. It’s quite another to actually show them. Mark Twain once said that the key to telling a good story is by not “telling” at all, but by showing: “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”
The concept on weaving a compelling tale that Twain demonstrated so eloquently holds true today in changing behaviors – to paraphrase, “Don’t just tell people they can save energy and lighten their footprint, show them how”. It’s a proven concept. Research shows a 10 to 15% reduction in energy consumption through behavioral change driven by feedback alone (for more read the pdf report The Effectiveness of Feedback on Energy Consumption).
The Resource Monitor makes that concept a reality.
With CFL bulbs quickly replacing incandescent bulbs in homes and businesses there is a growing disposal problem. CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury that if disposed of improperly can end up in the environment. But what do you do with a CFL bulb once it has burned out? Home Depot announced today a major step toward solving this problem. The world’s second largest retailer is going to offer a nationwide in-store CFL recycling program. Anyone with an unbroken CFL bulb will be able to drop the bulb off at any Home Depot store and Home Depot will ensure that the bulb is properly transported and recycled.
European researchers say they have begun to develop fridges that are powered by a 100% alloy which will reduce their energy usage by 50%. In the last 15 years, fridge technology developers have had to consider what option would be the lesser of two evils. Environmentalists alerted them to the harmful side effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the refrigerant chemical, but alternative refrigerants require a lot more energy. European scientists now claim that they’ve found the alternative to both chemicals, a solution that will reduce your fridge’s energy bill by half. Trick is, they say, to use electromagnetic fields. No joking. The scientists work on behalf of BASF, the chemicals company, and a Dutch foundation called Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM). They are pioneering technology based on magnetocaloric materials (again, no joking). These materials are a new class of refrigerants and are set to significantly reduce the negative impact of today’s cooling systems on the environment. Magnetocaloric materials could be highly efficient cooling technology. Research leader Prof.dr. Ekkes Br√ºck from Delft University of Technology has reserved five years for developing the materials with the best properties. He and his team will be working in the BASF laboratories in the Netherlands and Germany to improve the alternative chemicals requiring lower energy levels. Magnetocaloric materials are solid alloys and earlier research by the scientists has already proven that it’s set to be an attractive alternative for cooling fridges. “The [magnetocaloric materials] warm up in a magnetic field and cool down when the field is removed. Theoretical considerations show an energy savings potential of up to fifty percent”, the scientists say. Not only will the technology be applicable to fridges, but because of its compactness it’s likely it can easily be installed in air conditioners, central heating systems and even in computers.
So you’ve heard about all the pitfalls in the voluntary carbon offset market, and you still want to buy. How much is the right amount to spend? You might think that bargain shopping is a good idea–that it’s no different than shopping around for the best deal on paper towels. In the carbon offsets industry, cheap offsets are the equivalent of off-brand condoms: they might be fine, but the stakes are so high they are not really worth messing around with. First things first. There is an enormous variation in the price per ton for carbon offsets. The Katoomba Group’s Ecosystem Marketplace, Voluntary Carbon Markets 2007: Picking Up Steam found an enormous variation in the prices of offsets available for purchase on the voluntary carbon offset market, from 45 cents to 45 dollars per ton! (See the PDF Here) They included a lovely chart, showcasing the variation in prices by offset project type:
Shai Agassi, founder of Project Better Place, is largely regarded as one of today’s hottest eco-entrepreneurs. In less than two years, Agassi has secured agreements with Israel, Denmark, and Renault/Nissan to bring fully-electric vehicles to the market in mass quantities. At this month’s¬†“Plug-In Electric Vehicles 2008: What Role for Washington?,” Agassi explains the four elements that have converged to make this awesome project viable. Enjoy!
On this day 20 years ago, June 23, 1988, James Hansen, head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that it was 99 percent probable that global warming had begun. With 20 years of lost opportunities behind us, the need for definitive action is growing ever greater. So what better time to answer your question? When I saw Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the 700-page “Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change,” give a talk at the University of California at Berkeley in March 2007, he was asked this same question. I liked his answer because it didn’t start with changing your light bulbs for the curly ones. In his opinion, the most important impact that individuals can have on climate change is by expressing our concerns and opinions to our elected officials. Individuals’ actions are important but are almost symbolic if not widely adopted. Only government policies, applied across various sectors of our economy and society, can bring about the sort of wide-scale action required. Continue reading at: Salon
According to Great Britain’s PM Gordon Brown, our current energy crisis is a simple case of Economics 101. There is more demand than supply, and that is why oil prices are skyrocketing. At this past weekend’s emergency oil summit in Jeddah, Brown sought a way to rebalance that disparity, according to the Guardian UK, by offering a long-term deal of energy supply diversification as well as an investment by oil-supplying countries into western renewable technologies. Yet, despite his best efforts, he was unable to take the “heat” out of the rising oil prices, which at 12:00 EDT today, was trading at $137.18. Amongst other things, this has refueled the debate on ethanol. Bloomberg reported on Friday that the US, Brazil, and the EU are accelerating efforts to create global standards and make the alternative fuel an internationally traded commodity. The standards would let buyers and sellers trade the fuel like copper, sugar, and oil, undoubtedly boosting ethanol’s usage. “We can start seeing a world where we’ll begin to really replace gasoline with ethanol,” said Gregory Manuel, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s special adviser for alternative energy. “Trade is a function of commoditization.”
Last week ClimatePULSE addressed the question, “Are offsets immoral?”. We considered offsets from the “philosophical” point of view and from the regulation side, where we noted the potential of offsets help us reduce emissions now while buying the time needed to transform our energy infrastructure. This week let’s consider the question, “Are offsets inspirational?” Here we examine offsets from the ‘innovation’ side, and highlight the potential for offset opportunities to motivate the development and widespread adoption of new and cleaner technologies. To illustrate the concept, we will use as a current ClimateCHECK project as an example; the development of a protocol to quantify GHG reductions on dairy farms in Canada.
Japan imports a lot of its raw materials and fossil fuels are no exception. The country however is the 2nd largest global market for solar energy, and is home to some of the largest solar component manufacturers, including Sanyo, Kyocera, and Sharp. The Japanese government will introduce tax credits and subsidies to encourage household use of solar energy starting next year. The details will be determined in August when the budget is created. The incentive will decrease the cost of a solar photovoltaic system by an estimated 50% within 3 to 5 years. This initiative will make solar energy especially appealing because the cost of electricity in Japan is already over $.20 a kWh. This is roughly double the rate of electricity found in many areas of the US. Increased production of solar components can help the cost to decrease by creating an economy of scale. This solar incentive will also assist Japan in becoming more energy independent and less reliant on volatile fossil fuel markets.
If you’re trying to find the fastest route from Point A to Point B, would you choose a straight line or a zig zag? In the case of carbon reductions and climate change, it seems we’re choosing the latter. Carbon markets, a k a cap-and-trade, are a zig zag approach to reducing carbon emissions. They’re complex, dynamic and susceptible to corruption and gaming. The European Union, with its 3-year old carbon market, has seen carbon emissions rise, not fall, during this period, 0.4 percent in 2006 over the previous year and 0.7 percent in 2007. The reason? As human systems, carbon markets are subject to the same pitfalls and vagaries as any other human institution, perhaps even more so since the stakes are so high. In Europe, regulators have been heavily influenced by the 12,000 companies in the market vying for easy pollution permits. Too many permits were initially issued, making the price of carbon low and providing little incentive for polluters to reduce their emissions. Britain’s cement industry saw carbon emissions increase by 50 percent in the last 3 years. The simplest, best approach to reducing carbon emission is a carbon tax, whether in Europe or here in the U.S., which is inching toward a cap-and-trade approach. A carbon tax is the straight line. Put a price tag on carbon, apply it across the board and let the price signals do their thing. But to get there, we need leadership, from politicians, CEOs and citizens alike. That’s the tougher row to hoe, the real zig zag.
As we mark the official start of summer this weekend, like in years past, many storefronts from Rodeo Drive to Fifth Avenue to London’s West End will open up their doors, offering cool, air-conditioned oases from the sweltering heat of the streets. Yet, what serves as a clever marketing ploy for the businesses – often successfully luring in helpless passersby first for the cool and then keeping them there for their wares – is also, as you might imagine, a huge waste of energy. Early last year, New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer introduced a bill to the council that would set penalties for these types of energy wasting practices. Brewer, who is a long time veteran of state and local politics in New York, is well known for her public action initiatives, from previously sponsoring congestion pricing bills to working on affordable housing committees to supporting e-waste recycling programs.
By the year 2010 a plug-in hybrid vehicle will be available in Japan, the US and Europe as part of the green strategy released by Toyota on June 11 last week. The vehicles will be run with next-generation lithium-ion batteries and will be rechargeable from an electrical outlet. The ecological petrol-electric cars will be aimed at leasing customers and will operate longer and cleaner than regular hybrids. The initiative comes as part of Toyota’s larger plan to create a more sustainable practice and to meet consumer demand from suffering drivers who are feeling the oil price crunch and who are becoming conscious consumers in the face of global warming.
“Without focusing on measures to address global warming and energy issues, there can be no future for our auto business,” Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe said.
As long as some plastic products are made from polystyrene, Timbron International will be making money. The Walnut Creek, CA based company, recycles polystyrene plastic and foam to make decorative mouldings. Polystyrene is made from sytrene, which is “a known human neurotoxin and a known animal carcinogen,” according to the organization Californians Against Waste (CAW). Polystrene is used to make countless plastic items such as CD jewel cases. Foamed polystyrene, created by adding a blowing agent to polystyrene, is also used in fast food boxes and cups. Timbron’s mouldings are made mostly from post-consumer polystyrene waste (75%). The company boasts that it has recycled enough polystyrene waste since 2000 to fill the Empire State Building.
3P SoundBite emerged from our desire to show that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in sustainability come from all different walks of life…they could be people you know, or they could even be you! Every Thursday, we bring you a new profile and a new perspective.
Clark Wilson, a longtime builder for 30-plus years saw a market opportunity during his retirement to revitalize the Austin, Texas area by offering a suite of green homes. Readers, if you have ever been house hunting, prepare to feel a tinge of nostalgia when you view pictures of model homes onGreen Builders, Inc.’s website. Could this really be a green home? If it doesn’t have vines growing off the walls or look like a scene from Star Wars, then it can’t be green, can it? TriplePundit asks Clark these questions and more.
In the pacific region countries have joined forces to tackle land-clearing in an attempt to reduce regional emission levels. One of the latest carbon partnerships, agreed to in April this year, is between Papua New Guinea and Australia. The agreement has been criticised from its inception and with the release of a recent forest analysis report covering PNG, the potential usefulness of the program going forward is further questioned. Papua New Guinea is losing 362, 400ha of rainforest every year, one of the highest rates of deforestation and the worst scale of land-clearing as a percentage of the country size (1.4per cent of its land area). Farming and logging are the main industries leading to this depletion, which without being curtailed will result in more than 80 percent of the entire rainforest disappearing within 13 years. A rate ‚Äòconsiderably faster’ than ever before predicted. Click to continue reading »
Greenwich: Oct 23 – Oct 26 Social Venture Network 2014 Connect with like-minded business leaders at an SVN conference, Social Venture Institute or workshop. Get recharged, supported and inspired! Register here.
Los Angeles: Oct 28 – Oct 31 Sustainatopia Consisting of 5 Conferences and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability like no other single event. Register here.
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New York: Nov 4 – Nov 6 BSR Conference 2014 BSR 2014 will explore how transparency can transform supply chains, energy and climate, consumer engagement, community impacts, and more. Register here.
Redwood City: Nov 12 Corporate Philanthropy Institute 2014 Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Grantmakers bring together many of the country’s leading CSR professionals to discuss changing expectations of corporate citizenship, strategic local and global programs and assessing the impact of community investments. Register here.
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