Solar energy is child’s play. Just use a magnifying glass in the sun and you’re generating energy in a jiffy. It’s what scientists at IBM are doing. They’ve launched what they claim to be breakthrough solar energy which is among the cheapest solar solutions around.Click to continue reading »
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line
On May 13th UPS announced the purchase of 200 hybrid-electric and 300 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, further adding to what is the largest “green” or alternative fuel commercial fleet in the industry (see my recent post about the UPS Telematics program). The purchase of 500 new alternative-fuel vehicles will grow that fleet 30% from 1,718 to 2,218 low-carbon vehicles.
On Friday I had the opportunity to speak with Robert Hall, Director of Vehicle Engineering for UPS, about this latest expansion and the general philosophy that drives UPS in alternative fuel vehicles.Click to continue reading »
The Convention on Biological Diversity is a treaty between nations to maintain diversity and sustain life on earth. Every year the party nations meet to discuss progress of the convention, topical issues and strategic planning. This year our attention is drawn to the devastation brought about by climatic disasters and the real economic cost of losing biodiversity.
The convention was born from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where world leaders signed up to a strategy for sustainable development; to meet our needs while ensuring that we leave a viable world for future generations.
The convention as agreed to at the Earth Summit has three main goals:
“the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources”Click to continue reading »
A friend just found out that he has major termites in his house. He has no choice but to take steps to get rid of them. That said, what is the least environmentally offensive method of doing this? And on a purely theoretical note, if he had the ability to not do anything and eventually rebuild the house, is it easy to assume that fumigating would do less harm on a large scale than building an all-new house?
This is a common dilemma for homeowners, particularly those in warm coastal regions such as California, Texas and Florida. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause $5 billion in damage each year. Eradicating termites by fumigation involves flooding your house with toxic gas, but inaction can lead to structural failure of a timber-framed building. Luckily there are alternatives to turning your house into a gas chamber so that you can protect your investment, your health and the environment.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/ask_pablo/2008/05/19/ask_pablo_termites/index.html
Much more than food will be at stake at next Thursday’s vote in the EU parliament for a resolution on food prices. Food shortages in the Third World are increasingly linked with the EU’s biofuel crops, that’s why.
Whether or not that link is justified is for the time being hard to establish. What is certain is that food prices in the Third World are rising and that anything to stop this obviously is of massive importance. Cultivation of crops that are competing with food provisions was “understandable at a time when food prices were lower but not any more,” Jeffrey Sachs recently was heard saying. Sachs, a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, recommended that both the EU and the US rethink their biofuel policies. He’s joined by many other high profile people and organizations. Even the European Environment Agency, an official advisory body to the European Commission, has called for a suspension of the 10% biofuels target.
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Companies such as Israel’s Aqwise see a growing market for ecological wastewater and sanitation services. Backed by a diverse group of investors, including Israel’s Cleantech Ventures, Elron Electronic Industries and AHMSA Steel Israel, a subsidiary of Altos Hornos de Mexico SA de CV, Aqwise is looking to build and grow along with a market and industry that is expanding and consolidating as it attracts investments from multinational corporations.
Aqwise currently has 40 installations up and running, split 50-50 between industry and municipal customers, as well as a large number of projects in its development pipeline. “We are currently active in the food and beverage industry, which has a lot of organic material in its wastewater, and we have quite a lot of experience in the pulp and paper industry – recycling paper is very water-intensive.
“We’re also in aquaculture – fish ponds to increase yields and re-circulate water in inland fish ponds, as well as two new fields: one is definitely the oil and gas world – petrochemical refineries – and we’re now starting to penetrate the biofuel industry – corn and other ethanol plants, which have a lot of wastewater to treat,” explained Aqwise CEO Elad Frenkel during an April interview, the first installment of which can be found here.
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Facing up to the “3 Hard Truths” identified by Shell’s Global Business Environment team in its “Global Energy Scenarios to 2050″ (see previous post) means facing up to the hard reality of humanity’s growing population, tight energy supplies, increasing energy consumption and associated environmental stresses, according to Shell executive Jeremy Bentham in the company’s first Shell Dialogue live web chat May 15.
Summarizing what Shell’s team has learned over the last three years while putting together its “Energy Scenarios to 2050″ report, Bentham added that the “3 Hard Truths” are “very hard. Transitions are inevitable…technology is key, but a portfolio of technologies is required…
“There is no single silver bullet — a portfolio is needed, political and regulatory [actions] are pivotal and the next five years are critical– that’s just due to natural time scales of energy systems…Policy choices in next five years will shape energy production and usage, and economic and environmental progress for the next 15 years.”
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In the sea of companies proclaiming their ‘green’ credentials because they purchase carbon offsets, it is refreshing to hear of companies that practice real environmentally-friendly practices. Within the past month two American companies announced plans to use renewable power.
Recreational Equipment Inc., better known as REI, announced on May 15 that it will install photovoltaic solar panels in 10 percent of its stores. The stores chosen are located throughout California.
Interested in finding out how your building, or building design, rates in terms of energy usage and carbon emissions? Integrated Environmental Solutions is making it a lot easier to do so.
In line with its commitment to the sustainable building design movement and responding to Architecture 2030 Challenge, IES on May 14 announced the release of VE-Ware, freely downloadable software that enables building owners, facilities managers and architects to analyze, better understand and take steps to increase the energy efficiency and reduce the carbon emissions associated with existing and planned buildings.
The free version of the tool provides limited, but potentially valuable, access to IES’s Virtual Environment (VE) Apache thermal analysis software. Users input specs on their buildings’ geometry and use it in tandem with international data on climatic conditions and typical characteristics of different building, room design and systems types to assess energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
Simulated assessment outputs include a comparison of buildings’ energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions with the US benchmark for the Architecture 2030 Challenge, which shoots for realizing 50% reductions in energy usage for all new buildings and major renovations.
Model inputs currently have to be exported from Autodesk’s Building Information Modeling Revit platform but IES intends to expand the range of input options over coming months, according to a company press release.
“I expect VE-Ware to make a considerable difference in helping reduce the energy consumption of buildings throughout the world. As a direct response to the Architecture 2030 challenge and other international green building regulations, standards and codes, VE-Ware gives everyone the capability to get involved in mitigating climate change,” Dr. Don McLean, IES founder and managing director stated.
Friends of the Earth and five other national environmental and public interest groups are stepping up efforts to block what they contend are at least $544 billion in taxpayer subsidies for the nuclear power industry included in the Lieberman-Warner bill, which is expected to be considered by the Senate in early June.
The subsidies are couched in vague language in a category called “zero and low carbon energy technologies,” according to FoE and lobby group members, which includes Beyond Nuclear, Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace, Nucelar Information and Resource Service and Public Citizen.
“Nuclear is the only energy industry that could fall under this category that does not have a specific carve elsewhere; funding for renewable energy is identified separately in the bill,” according to an FoE press release.
“Although the word ‚Äònuclear’ has been carefully omitted from the bill, it is clear that this is a covert attempt to bolster a failing nuclear power industry in the name of addressing climate change,” Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth stated. “It’s time to focus on real global warming solutions like solar, wind and energy efficiency, not to further fatten the moribund nuclear calf.”
“After 50 years of unresolved safety and waste disposal issues, it perplexes many Americans why Congress would support massive subsidies for the nuclear industry,” added John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.
“Nuclear power is a dirty and dangerous distraction from real global warming solutions. When both Wall Street and Warren Buffet think nuclear is a risky investment, Congress should not waste American tax dollars to further subsidize this 1950s technology.”
I have to believe that somewhere between living off-the-grid in a cabin in Vermont a la Henry David and hopping in a private jet between palaces in Manhattan and Monaco is something approaching a middle, sustainable ground for the American lifestyle. As a culture, we seem to suffer at times from what I would call a kind of Consumption Bi-Polar Disorder. We either want next to nothing or everything all the time.
The Voluntary Simplicity movement is a case of the former.
Today’s Wall Street the latter.
But neither, I would argue, is an exemplary path. Three hundred million people can’t live like Thoreau; that’s why we created cities and suburbs, to say nothing of electric grids – efficiency has its virtues. Likewise, the billionaires of the Blackstone Group and capitalist icons like Donald Trump are not the kind of role models that lend themselves to scaling. Imagine tens of millions of Mar-a-Lago’s spread across the landscape. Doesn’t work.
If nothing else, the TBL credo is about balance, about finding the sweet spot between too much and too little. Something like the ideal of The American Middle Class. But as we’ve seen in recent decades, it’s getting harder to maintain the middle; the pull of the poles, the Haves and Have-Nots, seems to be getting stronger.
But it shouldn’t be rocket science, achieving the balance. Livable wages, affordable health care and housing, quality public education, clean air and water. Pretty basic stuff. TBL stuff. You shouldn’t have to live in a tent or the Taj Mahal to feel like you’ve got it.
A pioneer in social entrepreneurship and sustainability, William Shutkin is the inaugural Chair in Sustainable Development at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. He also serves as the Interim Executive Director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a Partner of the Innovation Network for Communities and a Research Affiliate at MIT. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his wife and two kids tele-skiing, flyfishing and gazing at trees.
ClimateCounts.org, a non-profit organization funded by Stonyfield Farm, has a mission to “bring consumers and companies together in the fight against global climate change”. The principal tool used to achieve that is the Climate Counts Company Scorecard rating the “climate commitment” of 60 major corporations across 9 industry sectors. In collaboration with Clean Air-Cool Planet, ClimateCounts released their first annual scorecard last year.
Last week ClimateCounts released their second annual scorecard showing that, overall, businesses have improved since one year ago. The average company score rose 22%, or a 39 out of 100 (0 = really [really] bad; 100 = phenomenal (to which no company comes close).
Some companies are a bit cool to the whole idea behind ClimateCounts. Amazon, who managed to pull their score from a zero all the way up to a blistering high of five, shrugs off the rating, citing “significant progress” in reducing their carbon footprint. (five being infinitely better than zero).
Companies like Google, who has pledged to become carbon neutral, showed a bit more enthusiasm for the project, and rightly so, rising 38 points from last year to 55.
A breakdown by ranking shows Nike at the top with an 82 and Wendy’s International in a dead heat for last place with Jones Apparel Group, Darden Restaurants, and Burger King, all scoring zero.
Something I thought I would pass along to readers of TriplePundit:
Joel Makower of GreenWorldMedia just sent notification of a research initiative from The National Environmental Education Foundation with an invitation to participate in a survey prepared “…to gauge more broadly how leading companies approach internal employee education and engagement.”
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Kleiner Perkins, the monolith of venture capital, released a 1.2B dollar green fund, and yet, what is the likely result? Clean tech companies getting big, fat, juicy checks. Mind you, one of these clean tech ideas will revolutionize the way energy is produced and therefore help to transform our society, but isn’t there more to “green” than energy generation and storage? The question on my mind is whether VCs are genuinely good for the sustainability movement, outside of the clean tech arena. The answer: probably not. If you’re a clean tech company, possibly. If you have a truly altruistic company that shouldn’t have a 3 year horizon on an investment, emphatic no.
So, given that, where do you go for money if you’re a green company looking for success without VCs? The answer: nowhere. Angels likely won’t “get” your company and finding one that does is often like the proverbial needle in a haystack; most VCs won’t care and you likely don’t have the dough yourself. The result: get a job and leave the green stuff to the big boys.
But, wait, the big boys aren’t getting it done either. When was the last time you were genuinely affected by a newly funded, market-penetrating green company (especially an online play)? Do we simply give up on the sustainability movement like Adam Werbach poignantly alluded to in his seminal “Is Environmentalism Dead?”
A recent annual survey into the carbon reduction efforts by suppliers has revealed that business leaders dread the potential impact of emissions legislation on their activities. The survey, carried out by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a transatlantic not for profit organization, covered responses of 144 supply companies to multinational corporations. Only 26% of the suppliers have actual plans in place to achieve greenhouse gas reductions. But more than double that number (58%) was tracking their emissions. Around 33% of all the surveyed suppliers has a dedicated board member in place dealing with climate change issues.Click to continue reading »