Combating Climate Change: Help Wanted

| Monday August 4th, 2008 | 4 Comments

CC_logo_small.jpgClimate change is one of the most profound challenges of modern times. So why is it that there is such a serious shortage of greenhouse gas experts, climate-change strategists, and professionals in the field? After all, climate change will certainly affect all of our lifestyles and the way we do business. And while it’s undoubtedly important to develop rigid, international standards for greenhouse gas monitoring and management, it’s equally as important to have skilled workers in place to ensure these standards are put into practice correctly.

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California Helps Set Future Course and Forecast for Efficiency and Renewable Energy

| Monday August 4th, 2008 | 0 Comments

California PUC sets efficiency targets and approves renewable energy contractsThe California Public Utilities Commission announced last week energy efficiency goals for 2012 through 2020, estimating that the targets will save 4,500 megawatts of electricity generation, equivalent to the output of nine major power plants.

The targets set by the Commission will be updated in 2010, with the current interim goals going to the California Air Resources Board as part of  implementation of California’s “Global Solutions Act” climate change legislation (AB 32).

PUC president Michael Peevey said in a prepared statement:

“Energy efficiency is the state’s preferred way to meet our growing energy needs, as outlined in our Energy Action Plan. California has one of the most aggressive energy efficiency plans in the nation and today’s decision improves those efforts to reflect a coordinated and comprehensive approach toward energy efficiency in order to maximize saving in the coming years.”

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Bank of America: Green or Greenwashed

Sarah Lozanova | Monday August 4th, 2008 | 8 Comments

cash.jpgAs the largest consumer and small business bank, BofA (NYSE: BAC) can have a major positive or negative impact on the environment. Since March, 2007, the bank has taken on a $20 billion initiative to “encourage environmentally friendly business activity” over the next decade. Applauded by some and criticized by others, just how green is this bank?
Crystalline Tower Office Building in Manhattan
BofA’s new 2.1 million square foot tower is being heralded as the world’s greenest skyscraper. The building features a passive solar design, the use of recycled and renewable materials, and work stations with individual climate controls. Natural elements include the use of rain water and a green roof reduces energy use for heating and cooling.

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Why the Sustainability Community Needs Social Networking

| Monday August 4th, 2008 | 1 Comment

social-networking.gifOver the course of the past 4 years I have had the opportunity to work with or share market strategies with executives at social networking companies such as LinkedIn, Spoke Software, Visible Path, and BranchIT. Of particular interest to me was the ability to develop and leverage what I referred to as “Relationship Capital Management”; the opportunity to develop, foster, and share relationships within an organization (or ecosystem) for the purposes of optimizing knowledge management and revenue generation. (I posted some columns on this trend a couple of years ago on “Relationships as Assets” and Relationship Capital Management and CRM).

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The Bees Knees: Honey for Social Change

| Friday August 1st, 2008 | 1 Comment

beeline-honey.jpgImagine ex-cons doffed in beekeeping garb. Sweet Beginnings is a social enterprise that truly encompasses the triple bottom line, employing formerly incarcerated men and women to run all aspects of the business, including carefully cultivating bees to create high end honey.

Owner Brenda Palms Barber from the Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale (where 1 in 4 is unemployed and 6 in 10 have had run ins with the law), was frustrated watching the revolving door of men being incarcerated, released, and incarcerated again due to the lack of available jobs in her community. She wanted to make change in her own backyard and worked with other community activists to create the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN). Each year, the admits about 200 people who have had run ins with the law into their jobs training program, U-Turn Permitted. They offer traditional job skills training like resume writing and interviewing skills, along with specialized classes in anger management, and cultural adjustment coaching.

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City of San Francisco Takes Integrated Approach to Sustainability

| Friday August 1st, 2008 | 1 Comment

sf-green6.jpg“Half way is no way” pronounced Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at San Francisco’s Department of the Environment in reference to his ambitious integrated systems approach to sustainability initiatives for the city. The Mayor held a press conference to announce and provide updates on about a dozen sustainable initiatives San Francisco has currently committed resources to. He also articulated specific challenges to implementing and “synergistically” connecting a number of those initiatives given the complexity of the current structures of governance processes.
 
As the second most sustainable city in the nation, according to SustainLane, San Francisco maintains a healthy sense of competitiveness with top ranked Portland, says the Mayor. Cities were ranked based on 15 categories, such as green building, city innovation and air quality. San Francisco gained its ranking based on such sustainability initiatives as a comprehensive recycling program, large-scale composting, bike transportation, green buildings, and solar initiatives. Although the city by the Bay is setting the standards for municipal sustainability vision and implementation, some of the challenges to fully realizing the 10 year old Sustainability Plan are a shortage of affordable housing, less then adequate and efficient public transportation and congestion. 

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Silver Tips And Eco-Prima Tea Goes Carbon Neutral

| Thursday July 31st, 2008 | 0 Comments

tea.jpgNew York regulars at Silver Tips Tearoom and buyers of Eco-Prima Tea are from now on purchasing products that are fully carbon neutral. Silver Tips, which sells over 150 kinds of teas online and runs a Tearoom in Tarrytown, signed a partnership with Carbonfund.org recently which completed its process of reducing its carbon footprint to zero.
The tea company is a brilliantly transparent example of how a regular business turns carbon neutral. The company, which runs a wholesale operation -Eco Prima Tea- since 1995 and opened a gourmet tea store four years later, has long been actively trying to reduce its carbon footprint.

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Government Marketing of Organics – in the EU

| Thursday July 31st, 2008 | 0 Comments

euro-flag.jpgFood Navigator, a European-focused food news site, reports that The European Union Commission has launched a marketing program aimed at building awareness of organic produce in young people. The main slogan of the program is: “Organic farming: Good for nature, good for you.” However, even with that slogan the commission insists it is not claiming any health benefits for organics but rather supporting the growth of the organic sector. It’s an interesting concept that a government agency might try and support two different approaches to providing the same product in one sector – conventional and organic produce. Is there a conflict of interest here when these two products are competing for the same consumer monies?

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Kraft Foods Offers Money To Customers Depositing Foodwraps At Recycling Centers

| Thursday July 31st, 2008 | 4 Comments

terra.gifA brilliant idea does not necessarily have to be a successful one. In the recycling world this logic is as cut throat as competition is on the high streets; a lot of brilliant ideas and materials still go to waste when they’re not backed by the same people who actually gave birth of the landfill problem in the first place.
Kraft Foods, the food company, appears to have understood this problem and has become serious about tackling recycling by taking a refreshingly new approach; finding a niche in the recycling world. Focusing on upcycling, Kraft Foods is going to recycle its own packaging and materials that are known as hard to recycle. Kraft signed an agreement with TerraCycle.net, an upcycling specialist, which creates high quality but affordable items such as umbrellas, backpacks and purses from Kraft’s packages.

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SF Cracks the Nut: Free Solar Within Reach!

| Wednesday July 30th, 2008 | 0 Comments

solar-roof.jpgSomebody better call Google and tell them their RE<C project may be already happening, albeit not the way they expected: a new rebate for renewable energy in San Francisco has now made the idea of clean energy cheaper that coal a reality, by making solar power essentially free.
Earlier this summer, the City Board of Supervisors passed a rebate that grants up to $6,000 on top of other incentives. They also inadvertently cracked one of the toughest nuts to growing the urban solar market: giving landlords and tenants a reason to work together to install PV. The kicker? By stacking all the incentives the right way, the net cost to the landlord is zero. That’s right – free solar power.
As first reported in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the new $3 million a year program offers an escalating incentive depending on the location of the electrical meter, and who does the installation. And it also gives tenants and landlords – often at loggerheads in this rent-controlled city–a strong motivation for working together.

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San Francisco to Vote on Clean Energy City Charter on November Ballot: Why is “Green” Mayor Gavin Newsom Opposed?

| Wednesday July 30th, 2008 | 3 Comments

City of San Francisco can lead the way in public renewable energyThe City Board of Supervisors voted 7–4 last week to put the San Francisco Clean Energy Act on the ballot this November.

The measure, authored by Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Aaron Peskin, requires 51% of the City’s electricity consumption to come from renewable sources by 2017, rising to 75% by 2030, and finally to 100% – “or the greatest amount technologically feasible or practicable” – by 2040.

The Clean Energy Act further mandates an initial feasibility study be done to determine the best way to generate this green, clean, renewable energy to meet those goals.

The study could weaken utility Pacific Gas & Electric’s hold on the market, and PG&E is already engaged in an active campaign to defeat the measure. As Supervisor Mirkarimi puts it, the PG&E's campaign to defeat San Francisco renewable energy charterfeasibility study is important, “Otherwise PG&E has a monopoly until the planet dies”.

We don’t usually get much lightning here in San Francisco, but the measure proposed by the Supervisors has shaped up to be a lightning rod, and the source of the lightning sparking it comes from, not surprisingly, Pacific Gas & Electric and, surprising indeed to many (though not all), mayor Gavin Newsom.

Newsom told reporters that “We have other things we should be focusing on” adding that we should “…call it what it is. It’s a power takeover of PG&E.”

Really?

Gavin is never slow to remind us of his forward-looking vision for the City (sometimes, for this writer, his self-congratulatory tone goes on ad nauseum); I guess as long as you don’t screw around with PG&E’s monopoly, that is.

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Memo To: New pedestrians, In re: Your skills

| Wednesday July 30th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Hi there! And welcome aboard. I haven’t seen you much on the train/bus/bike lane before – you must be one of the new people. I hope that’s not offensive. I mean, there are a lot of you, um, “refugees,” if you will, and it’s quite a change for all of us. While there are bound to be some hiccups along the way, I want you to know that I, for one, will endeavor to make your transition to your new life as a pedestrian as welcoming and comfortable as possible.
The first thing to remember about your new life is that you are likely very attached to your old way of living – not that there’s anything wrong with that! – but, because of this attachment, you are also likely to experience some culture shock; this is a natural part of the adaptation process. For starters, pedestrians are quite different culturally from car people. Like, you can actually bump into us on the street! Quite a bit different than running into or over us, I’m sure.
You will also come to notice that we have certain social norms, habits and customs that are quite distinct from your native land of freeways, traffic jams, road rage and parking lots. We probably seem like a curious tribe, what with our backpacks, books, bike helmets, ankle straps, monthly transit passes and sidewalk maneuvering techniques.
But with a little effort and a lot of patience, you too can fully assimilate into pedestrian culture. In time, I think you’ll find it’s a superior lifestyle. So in an effort to help speed and smooth the transition for you, I’ve drafted the following pointers and tips, designed to help you gain some basic skills; for those of you who are former pedestrians who “fell off the wagon,” so to speak, consider this a refresher course in “Pedestrian Skills 101.”

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Algae Based Biofuels in Plain English: Why it Matters, How it Works.

| Wednesday July 30th, 2008 | 17 Comments

algae%20based%20biofuel.jpgAlgae based biofuels. You’ve probably heard the term tossed around, and have maybe even said it in a sentence or two yourself. But have you ever really understood what it means, what the implications are, and on a basic level, how it works and if it has even the slightest chance to be a viable large scale player in supplying for our fuel needs? For many of you, I’m imagining the answer is no. Even I, a green business consultant, was quite fuzzy about it all. Until today.
Today I came across a video put out by the folks at Valcent, which makes absolutely clear, and absolutely exciting, the what, how, and how much of algae based biofuels, and in particular how their method, via High Density Vertical Bioreactors, they will do it much better. Say what?
In plain English, with their Vertigro system, they change the plane of producing algael biofuels from horizontal to vertical, keeping the liquid medium it’s growing in constantly moving. And this matters why?

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Spain to Put 1 million Electric Cars on the Road

| Wednesday July 30th, 2008 | 4 Comments

Pluginelecvehicle.jpg Spain intends aims to put 1 million electric cars on the road by 2014 as part of the Zapatero government’s plan to save energy and boost energy efficiency, minister of industry, business and tourism Miguel Sebastian said Tuesday.
The Plan, which Spain’s Council of Ministers are expected to approve August 1, will be enacted this year and carry on through 2011. Spain will save between 5.8 and 6.4 million tons of oil over the three-year period as a result, according to industry ministry estimates.
“The electric vehicle is the future and the engine of an industrial revolution,” Sebastian told members of the national industry commission. Higher oil prices and growing use and intensity of fossil fuel cost Spain some 17 billion euros last year, according to the minister.
Consisting of 31 measures and at an estimated cost of around 245 million euros, legislators are also looking to provide incentives that will increase use of public transportation, promote substitution of incandescent light bulbs with lower consumption bulbs, and provide mobile phone coverage in subways. Also among the measures being considered are reducing fuel exports 11% and reducing speed limits in cities, according to a Reuters news report.

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The Big Business of Compost

| Tuesday July 29th, 2008 | 3 Comments

compost.jpgIf the word “compost” conjures up images of decaying food, bugs and the smell of rotting vegetables, keep reading. I used to be the same way, but I have come to embrace my green bin because not only is compost cool, it’s big business.

A couple weeks ago I got the chance to visit the Jepson Prairie Organics facility in Vacaville, CA. Jepson is a wholly owned subsidiary of Norcal Waste Systems, the company that contracts with the city of San Francisco and many other Bay Area communities to manage waste, recycling and compost pick-up programs. The facility processes all the food and green waste collected in San Francisco’s green bins. On the day I visited the processing facility, it was over 100 degrees and the air smelled faintly of peat.

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