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Despite the amount of time we spend in homes and offices, most of us are not aware of the indoor air pollution in our personal and work environments. In fact, most Americans spend a minimum of 90 percent of their lives indoors. Considering this staggering statistic, it’s a wonder why more people are not at least as concerned about the quality of air inside, as they are about the air outside.
The every day products we purchase and use as consumers in our homes or indoor environments release harmful chemicals into the air we breathe and re-breathe day in and day out. From TVs to shampoos, draperies and air fresheners: all can contribute to toxic environments.
It was announced yesterday that Dell Computer’s 2.1 million-square-foot headquarters in Round Rock, Texas is now powered entirely with renewable energy. 60% of the energy is supplied by wind power generated by Energy Future Holdings Corp.’s TXU Energy and the remaining 40% from Waste Management’s landfill gas-to-energy plant.
Dell, a participant in Austin Energy’s GreenChoice® power program, also announced it is increasing it’s renewable energy at its Austin Parmer Campus from 8 to 17%.
In Twin Falls, Idaho, Dell powers a call center with all renewable energy, 97% from wind and 3% from solar.
All this is in step with Dell’s goal, announced last fall, of going carbon neutral in 2008.
President Paul Bell challenged other technology firms to follow suit and take the lead in helping create a new energy future,
“It’s time for our industry to take a lead role in creating a clean energy future. Today, we are challenging every technology company to work with their suppliers and partners in integrating green power and energy-efficient strategies into their operations.”
Oh, and it’s saving the company money as well: Says Bell, “We’re using green technology to drive operating expense down.”
“Sustainability is the Opportunity”
-Jeff Mendelsohn, Founder and President of New Leaf Paper
Last evening Triple Pundit founder Nick Aster and I attended one of the series of “Business Conversations” presented by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and SF Works in partnership with Net Impact, Sustainable Industries, the Social Venture Network, and Pacific Community Ventures.
The program focused on “building a socially responsible brand for the conscious consumer”.
The panel included Matthew and Terces Engelhart of Cafe Gratitude, Lori Ann Thrupp, manager of sustainability and organic development for Fetzer Vineyards, and Jeff Mendelsohn, founder of New Leaf Paper. Kim Davis, currently a managing partner with BBMG and whose resume as a marketer and consultant in socially conscious branding is too long to list here, moderated the discussion.
50% of American consumers purchase from socially conscious businesses. According to CO-OP America’s Green Business Network and Conscious Media and Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS), “green” consumers put $230 billion dollars into the economy, and the number is on the rise.
The panel discussed issues and challenges of creating and maintaining a socially conscious business, from Fetzer’s sourcing of grapes to Cafe Gratitude’s lawsuit with a vendor who refused to provide bleach-free napkins, but throughout the discussion the message to me was one of aligning business with values.
As Cafe Gratitude’s Matthew Engelhart said, there is a growing feeling in America that business as usual “just isn’t working”. Greenwashing is inevitable as the “green” marketplace grows into the mainstream and the buzz words surrounding it are bandied about with increasing frequency, creating a challenge not only for consumers but for socially and environmentally minded businesses as well.
Through the clutter, those entrepreneurs, managers, and owners that align their own values with their business practices will ultimately reach their market and thrive. Not from a nifty sounding tagline or a highly-produced ad campaign, but from their own expression of value and values brought to the marketplace. The market is, after all, about people and what they value.
This isn’t to say there aren’t challenges in creating a socially responsible and sustainable brand. But as Jeff Mendelsohn simply and eloquently said, therein lies the opportunity.
Friday is a good day to watch a little Steven Colbert. The other day, Van Jones guest starred and rolled with Steven’s punches to give a pretty good depiction of the idea of a green economy and the potential for millions of associated jobs. Enjoy:
Duke Energy and Gridpoint Inc. on March 27 announced what they believe to be the first successful commercial test of utility-controlled charging a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) using smart grid technology.
Using the latter’s SmartGrid systems platform, Duke engineers tested the “smart charging” features of Gridpoint’s SmartGrid by plugging a PHEV into a garage wall outlet. Charging started at 10 p.m. and the car was fully charged before peak demand the following morning and ready for the driver’s commute. The system successfully controlled, measured and verified the charging process, according to the media release.
The University of Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) has been chosen to participate on behalf of New York State in the International Renewable Energy Technology Institute, a global consortium recently established to “accelerate the adaptation and implementation of renewable energy technologies around the world.”
Academic institutions in 16 U.S states have been invited by IRTI’s organization committee – made up of U.S. and Swedish leaders in business, government and academia – to take part in the new organization. Two other states received membership offers: Georgia, through the Univ. of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Minnesota, through the Minnesota state university system.
“Working through IRTI, researchers from across the globe will work jointly to advance renewable energy technologies that will provide opportunities for U.S.-based companies to supply clean energy products and services to the European market while also testing and qualifying technologies developed in Sweden for introduction into the U.S. market,” according to an April 3 media release.
CNSE’s Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center (E2TAC) will lead participation in IRETI in partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation, and Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture and Engineering. CNSE also intends to leverage its relationships with 50 industrial, university and government partners through its leadership role in New Energy New York.
Cambridge, Massachusetts has earned a reputation as a community promoting forward-thinking energy and environmental policies. From sustainable building to transportation and green collar jobs, Cambridge’s stated goal is to become the “greenest city in America” (they’re currently at number 6 according to Popular Science).
The Cambridge Energy Alliance is a major step toward that goal.
Featured last week on the PBS program NOW, the Cambridge Energy Alliance is a city-sponsored non-profit group aimed at lowering the city’s carbon footprint, increasing energy efficiency and water conservation (thus cutting participants energy bills), and helping promote green collar jobs and business opportunity in an otherwise downturned building market.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the building sector comprises 48% of the increase in carbon emissions in the United States since 1990. Up to 80% of carbon emissions in urban areas come from buildings.
The CEA aims to reduce Cambridge’s carbon footprint by 10% in five years through an innovative program that provides energy auditing, renovation, and financing – all in a relatively simple “one-stop-shop” process. Loans for proposed renovations made through the program are designed to pay for themselves through savings from lowered energy costs.
If the CEA program meets its ambitious target of enlisting 50% of the city’s building stock into the program within the next five to six years, there will be plenty of work for green collar workers trained in the new methods and materials to implement the efficiency upgrades for all those buildings.
The program’s success will serve as a model to roll out to communities and municipalities across the nation.
Note: If you like what the Cambridge Energy Alliance is doing, and you’ve got the chops, there’s an opportunity to become it’s next CEO. Check their website for more info.
The March 2007 launch of Cambridge Energy Alliance
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has announced the signing of two memorandums of understanding in the past two days that will foster the development of renewable energy resources and reduce dependence on oil and fossil fuels.
NREL is entering into public-private partnerships with UPC Wind to establish a Remote Research Affiliate Partner Site at the company’s Kaheawa Wind Farm on Maui, the first of its kind for the NREL outside its home base in Colorado.
NREL is also moving forward on the biomass front. Bringing together three independently established programs, NREL on March 31 announced the signing an MoU with ConocoPhillips and Iowa State University to conduct near, mid- and long-term studies aimed at identifying promising cellulosic biomass conversion technologies.
(This is a guest post by Bobby Grace)
Computers are becoming cheaper and easier to manufacture by the minute. Intel’s new Atom processor is bound to create a whole new set of net-enabled devices at extremely low cost. While the processor is not out yet and prices are not set in stone, rumors price new “net-top” computers below $200.
Cheaper computers make electronic recycling all the more relevant. Computers and gadgets are being replaced more frequently as electronics become obsolete in a matter of months. Most manufacturers will take back used electronics, and there is likely some sort of e-waste collector in your area. But if you are looking for a company to responsibly handle, resell, and recycle all your e-waste from nearly anywhere in the United States, GreenDisk is a viable option.
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The words sustainability and business phone service don’t often get put together, other then, say, consumer long distance and cell phone carriers like Working Assets Credo service and Earth Tones that dedicate a portion of their profits to earth and social positive causes. So it was interesting to hear from someone at Broadcore, a voip phone service provider, who was wondering if we’d be interested in writing about them.
Their site doesn’t explicitly say they are a green phone service provider, but in explaining the benefits of using their service, it became quite clear that they are just that.
Finding ways to include deforestation abatement projects into the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and private sector emissions trading schemes such as the EU’s ETS – thereby providing a market-based mechanism that offers an incentive and financing to jumpstart forest conservation initiatives – is one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s priorities.
Fossil fuel use and land use change account for roughly 1/5 of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the IPCC’s 2007 assessment report. Researchers at the Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim, Germany have put out a discussion paper that evaluates the economic implications of creating tradable carbon credits, such as CDM CERs (Certified Emissions Reductions), derived from reduced deforestation projects for the post-Kyoto emissions market in 2020.
Write “Reducing Deforestation and Trading Emissions: Economic Implications for the Post-Kyoto Carbon Market” authors’ Niels Anger and Jayant Sathaye, “We find that integrating avoided deforestation in international emissions trading considerably decreases the costs of post-Kyoto climate policy – even when accounting for conventional abatement options of developing countries.
“At the same time, tropical rainforest regions receive substantial net revenues from exporting carbon-offset credits to the industrialized world. Moreover, reduced deforestation can increase environmental effectiveness by enabling industrialized countries to tighten their carbon constraints without increasing mitigation costs.”
Tropical Foresters to Meet at Yale
Meanwhile, the Yale University chapter will be hosting the International Society of Tropical Forester’s annual conference in New Haven March 28-29.
The potential impacts of bioenergy and deforestation on tropical landscapes, both of which hold the potential to offset carbon emissions, would have significantly different impacts on land uses, according to the organizers, hence discussions will focus on questions such as whether bioenergy will be a tool for tropical forest conservation or a catalyst of its destruction and whether biofuel production and deforestation are compatible.
When Walmart takes a position in the marketplace, it’s hard not to notice. There’s little doubt that Monsanto hasn’t taken notice of Walmart’s decision to no longer carry milk from cows injected with Posilac, the synthetic growth hormone produced by Monsanto since 1994.
Some believe Walmart is delivering the knock-out blow, following behind other food retailers such as Kroger, Safeway and Starbucks in banning dairy products containing (or produced through the use of) recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). In 2006 Dean Foods, producer of 2 billion gallons of milk per year, made the decision to stop using Posilac.
While Monsanto and, thus far, the FDA (who approved the use of Posilac in 1993) claim there are no health risks to humans from rBGH – it doesn’t really seem very pleasant for the cows. The claims of the FDA and Monsanto notwithstanding, there are concerns about the effects of rBGH in humans. Use of rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada.
There are no labeling requirements for dairy products produced using growth hormone. In a curious twist (at least to me) some dairy producers have petitioned the FDA to block the labeling of milk and other dairy products produced without the use of rBGH – claiming the label of “organic” (or at least made with no synthetic growth hormone) is misleading to the consumer since there is no evidence that organic products are any safer or more nutritious than products produced with synthetic growth hormone.
But it all may be in vain.
On the first hand, there is ample evidence of the ill-effects growth hormones have on the cows themselves, and even if we don’t really care so much for the cows (and we should), those ill-effects make their way up the food chain and into our glass of milk.
And on the second hand, Walmart (and others) move on what the consumer wants. And that appears to be milk, cheese, and yogurt produced from dairy cows free of rBGH.
As goes Walmart, so goes rBGH. Maybe its time for Monsanto to throw in the towel.
The American Southwest has some of the greatest solar resources on the globe, it yet remains largely untapped. This trend may be changing as solar technology matures, market forces shift and concern for climate change mounts.
One of the most common arguments against large-scale use of renewable energy is that it cannot produce a steady, reliable stream of energy, day and night. Ausra Inc. does not agree. They believe that solar thermal technology has the potential to supply over 90% of grid power, while finding solutions to environmental issues.
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Israel’s southernmost Eilot region begins at the Egyptian border and gateway to the Sinai, a short way south and extending west outside the Red Sea coast and holiday/port city of Eilat. Practically walking distance to the east is the Jordanian border. Nestled against the Red Sea and the striking, majestic Edom Mountains is the neighboring city of Aqaba, a city made immemorial by David Lean in his epic film Lawrence of Arabia. Drive a bit farther south along the western fringe of the Red Sea and you come to the Saudi Arabian border.
Heading north from Eilat, Eilot stretches more than 100 kilometers to the capital of Beer Sheva. The road north along the Arava Valley is framed by the Eilat and Ketura Mountains and the Negev desert plateau to the west and Jordan’s Edom Mountains to the east.
The area, like many places, is a mix of striking similarities and stark contrasts. Sharing the same rugged coastal mountain, desert and acacia scrub geography and climate, it is not only one of the few places where Arab and Israeli/Hebrew cultures and people reside in relative peace and close proximity. An arid desert climate (with 10 millimeters or less of rainfall on average per year) modulated by the Red Sea is both harsh and gentle – and a challenge in terms of making the most out of precious natural resources and adapting technologies to the climate and geography without damaging what is at one and the same time a rugged yet fragile ecosystem.
Still sparsely populated, relatively speaking, the Arava Valley is nonetheless a center of agriculture, as well as eco-consciousness and entrepreneurial spirit. The former is thanks to a substantial underground aquifer and practical human farming skills and know-how. The latter is also a result of the people that have settled in the Valley, which is dotted with kibbutz communities that exhibit an intriguing mix of participatory, democratic, communal living and market-driven, entrepreneurial spirit.