AskPablo: Coal-Fired Power Plants

| Monday September 10th, 2007 | 13 Comments

This week I am going to examine the world of coal-fired power plants. Coal is an energy-dense substance found deep underground. Like oil and natural gas it is made from prehistoric organisms and biomass under intense heat and pressure. The living precursors to these fuels sequestered CO2 from the atmosphere, as plants do today, and have locked it away for millions of years, making the atmosphere conducive to life as we know it. In extracting and combusting these fuels we are returning that CO2 into the atmosphere. Is one fuel just as bad as the others or is coal just evil? Let’s look at some numbers and find out.

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Billions for Great Lakes Cleanup Actually Makes Money

| Wednesday September 5th, 2007 | 1 Comment

greatlakes.jpgThe Great Lakes are a mess. Invasive species such as the dreaded Zebra mussel have turned the lakes’ ecology upside down. Sewerage overflows have pumped billions of gallons of filth in to the lakes. Industrial pollution, channel dredging, and all sorts of other culprits have all added to the lakes’ misery.
The charge to clean it all up? $26 Billion.
But, as this article so simply states, it’s not a cost at all but an economic investment that not only repairs much of the damage done, but pays for itself at least two-fold in direct economic benefits to the region.
This is a great example of more holistic thinking when it comes to both economy and environment (and recreational culture for that matter) and it’s the kind of thinking that can cut through political differences because it’s just plain common sense.
UPDATE – Check out the PDF with the full report.

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Guest Post: Basic Green Building Principals

3p Contributor | Friday August 31st, 2007 | 2 Comments

greenbuilding33.jpgBy Mary Eisenhart

These days, when we’re considering a home building or remodeling project, we’re thinking about the same issues that have driven homeowners for centuries: making the place more compatible with our taste and lifestyle, keeping up with necessary maintenance, enhancing the home’s resale value. We also have to consider the ever-growing pile of local regulations likely to have some impact on our plans. And, definitely on our radar: the project’s impact on the neighborhood, the community, and the planet.

Some projects clearly hit the sweet spot. Replacing windows and doors with more energy-efficient models not only reduces your energy bill and planetary impact, it’s been found to pay for itself when you resell your home. Installing a garden of native plants fed by a drip irrigation system reduces your water consumption (and bill); it helps maintain the local ecosystem, and it drastically cuts the time you spend on garden maintenance. Solar water heaters for swimming pools – great investment, great citizenship. The list goes on.

Each project offers its own opportunities for long- and short-term benefits – social, environmental, financial and more. Here are a few possibilities:

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The End of Paper Airline Tickets? Finally?

| Wednesday August 29th, 2007 | 4 Comments

planeticket.jpegIt remains amazing to me that paper airline tickets have persisted as long as they have. It’s merely testament to the complexity of bureaucracy and arcane technology trumping common sense and communication I suppose.
Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that IATA (the authority which governs such things) has finally, magically, dealt a final blow to the persistence of paper tickets and they will officially be a thing of the past by June 1st. The result will save untold numbers of trees, a lot of hassel, and apparantly $9 per passenger. No word on whether you’ll see that $9 though. Read the rest on Reuters.

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Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship – Guidelines Posted

| Monday August 27th, 2007 | 0 Comments

skoll.jpgThe Skoll Foundation (created by Jeff Skoll, the first employee and first President of eBay) is now accepting new applications for its social entrepreneurship awards. These three-year awards “support social entrepreneurs whose work has the potential for large-scale influence on critical challenges of our time: environmental sustainability, health, tolerance and human rights, institutional responsibility, economic and social equity, and peace and security…. Skoll social entrepreneurs are innovators who have tested and proved their approach and are poised to replicate or scale up their work.”
Past recipients include an impressive group of social enterprise pioneers: Benetech, College Summit, Global Footprint Network, Institute for OneWorld Health, Room to Read, and TransFair. It is worth a visit to the site to learn about the enterprises they have supported in the past. Even if you are not quite ready to compete for this award, it is a good one to keep on your radar.
To be considered for funding in advance of the 2008 Skoll World Forum, applicants must submit their Online Application no later than September 24, 2007.

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Terrapass Customer Survey Challenges Carbon Offset Myths

| Monday August 27th, 2007 | 2 Comments

tp-logo.jpgAlthough I still think there’s a lot of uncertainty in the “carbon offsetting” business, especially when individuals are concerned, the idea that people only buy offset to assuage guilt for an otherwise un-green life is looking more like a myth. Take a look at this PDF from TerraPass’s recent customer survey. The results show that people who’ve bought offsets from TerraPass are, generally speaking, making a lot of significantly green changes elsewhere in their lives. It’s not a huge surprise to me, but for those who might doubt people’s sincerity, it’s a good document to pass around. More on the TerrPass blog….

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AskPablo: Wave Power

| Monday August 27th, 2007 | 6 Comments

wave.jpgAugust 13th’s article on desalination received a lot of great feedback. On reader informed me of a technology that uses wave power to pump sea water, at high pressures, through a reverse-osmosis filtration system, using virtually no fossil fuel-based energy. He also informed me that the same technology is being used to pump seawater uphill into large storage tanks. When electricity is needed the water is run back downhill and through a turbine generator. Brilliant! But how much energy can we get from the waves and how do we go about figuring that out? Well, that’s what I’m here for. Read on to find out…

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Trilby Lundberg: Got Reliable Sources?

| Thursday August 23rd, 2007 | 4 Comments

bush_exxonmobil.jpgOnce in a while, it makes sense to check one’s “sources”.
With the glut of information that is continually flooding my mind space from a seemingly endless array of sources and mediums, it is necessary to develop a system for both cataloging and qualifying information. The “system” I have developed is a hybrid of intuitive sense and objective reasoning.
For example, if I am reading about a current event, I intuitively account for the particular slant (political/philosophical, etc) of the publication and I also look for 3rd party verification of information presented. Off the top of my head I can think of several such 3rd parties that are used in the media to validate information—Gallup, BBC, Zogby, New England Journal of Medicine, etc. Another “source” that I hear quoted on at least a weekly (if not daily) basis is the Lundberg Survey, which is often used in reference to U.S. fuel prices (gasoline and diesel) as well as a source for a myriad things relating to the Oil Industry.
Somehow, I have been cajoled into accepting the Lundberg Survey as an unbiased source for market research relating to the Oil Industry. My Mistake. This past week I was shocked when I came across the Ms. Trilby Lundberg’s pontifications on oil consumption, conservation and climate change being reported by none other than CNN.

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Cost of Building Green GoesDown

| Tuesday August 21st, 2007 | 1 Comment

eartrh.jpgPerception has held for a long time that “building green” was always more expensive than building in so called “traditional” manners. Of course, we’ve always argued than almost all extra up-front costs are accounted for before too long, and those that aren’t are paid for indirectly via PR, HR or other less easy to quantify benefits.
Well, according to WBSBD those tangible, financial costs may be over-stated by as much as 300%! That should be more than enough to get most construction projects thinking a little harder about engaging in at least some basic green practices.
The whole report is available here. The bottom line suggest that the 17% premium originally suggested for “green” projects is really more like 5%.

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AskPablo: Commuting

| Monday August 20th, 2007 | 5 Comments

traffic.jpgThis week Calvin Tran wrote to AskPablo about commuting. He wrote: “I spend a lot of time in traffic because of bottlenecks in the highway system (three lanes going to two lanes). How much gas (and $) could be saved in removing these bottlenecks?” What a great question. I have been pondering this on my own commute since I frequently get stuck at one such bottleneck. Let’s explore the numbers…

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Online Bill Pay Saves More Than Just Trees

Sheila Samuelson | Friday August 17th, 2007 | 2 Comments

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Scientific American points out that the benefits of online banking and billing reach beyond saving trees. Reducing paper use also reduces the resources needed to make, ship and discard the paper.
Imagine every US household opting to receive no paper bills or bank statements. The fuel saved (26 million BTUs) in this scenario would power San Francisco for a year, and 16.5 million fewer trees would be cut down annually. 20,000 swimming pools full of water would be saved and 56,000 garbage trucks of solid waste would be eliminated. Air pollutants and particulates would be cut, contributing to increased air quality. And the cost? Just displacing a few electrons to receive your bills and statements online.
53% of households do their banking online already. If you’re ready to go paperless, ask your bank, utility, phone and cable companies, etc. how to stop paper mailings on your account.
Article from One Shade Greener

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Four (Green) Stars at Kimpton Hotels

Sheila Samuelson | Monday August 13th, 2007 | 1 Comment

greenhotel.jpg

“We know that we can still perform at a high level using our skills, resources and intelligence to operate our business and, at the same time, make a positive contribution to save the planet. We know this because we are already doing it with success stories across the country.” – Kimpton website

Recently, we pondered the inefficiency of a standard hotel room. Here we have an example of a supra-standard boutique hotel company that considers their environmental impact in all of their operations, from their sustainable buildings, down to their organic shampoos and natural cleaning products. And they haven’t just jumped on the green bandwagon, they’ve been doing this since 1985.
Kimpton Hotels, based in San Francisco with over 40 three- and four-star boutique hotels around the US, has made a life-long commitment to environmental responsibility. They’ve proven that operating with sustainable values won’t stop them from delivering a premium guest experience. In fact, polled hotel guests say they are loyal to Kimpton because they appreciate the sustainable ethic. A good portion of their clientele are business travelers whose companies have also adopted CSR strategies, and are committed to consuming products and services with the least impact.

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AskPablo: Desalination and the Water-Energy Relationship

| Monday August 13th, 2007 | 8 Comments

desal.jpgThis week Gary writes “my city is considering a desalination plant to provide drinking water. I have heard that desalination is very energy intensive. How does it compare to delivering water by pipe?” Luckily I recently came across a report that will help me answer this question.

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Corporate Sustainability Reports Emphasize the “Upside” of Climate Change

| Tuesday August 7th, 2007 | 0 Comments

GRI.jpg
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), together with consulting firm KPMG, has recently released, Reporting the Business Implications of Climate Change in Sustainability Reports, the results of a survey that analyzes sustainability reports published in 2006 by 50 leading international companies. It is an interesting read – well-organized and complete with charts, graphs, and mini case studies.
Key takeaway: The survey found that while almost all companies included climate change issues in their sustainability reports, they focused far more on potential opportunities vs. financial risks. The authors note that, “This is in stark contrast with recent new evidence that climate change presents serious global economic risks if measures are not taken.” On the other hand, “…a surprising two-thirds of companies reported new business opportunities from climate change, mostly in the area of emissions trading and carbon credits.”
An article posted on the socialfunds.com website a few days ago discusses the report and its findings. The article’s author, Anne Moore Odell, quotes an SRI fund executive who believes that companies may be reluctant to acknowledge climate changes risks because they prefer to treat losses from droughts, hurricanes, etc. as extraordinary events and therefore “below the line.” Admitting that climate change is causing such disruptions may require accounting for them above the line, which could have significant financial impact.

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TreeHugger Aquired by Discovery (A Personal Message)

| Monday August 6th, 2007 | 4 Comments

discovery.jpgWell folks, this is old news by now, but a lot of people have been asking about the TreeHugger/Discovery deal and what it means and here’s my brief take. When we started TreeHugger.com, 3 years ago I always knew it was going to be a cool, fun site. With what I learned at Gawker, plus Graham Hill’s financial backing and out-of-site eye for design, I figured we could build something a bit more popular and a bit more successful than the average blog. Within a year I realized I could actually make a (very modest) living from TreeHugger and that with the quality of writing that was going into it the thing might actually turn into a real media presence and actually play a real role in “mainstreaming” the basic principals of an ecologically conscious lifestyle. The last year has been spent building that presence, finding new and creative ways to communicate the green message to more and more people. As the audience has grown, and as explained by Graham here, TreeHugger started getting the attention of some major media brands. As you all know by know, Discovery Communications picked us up last week and will essentially make TreeHugger the flagship component of their green efforts online, and I think it works out as a pretty good match. Graham and Ken Rother will continue to manage it for the foreseeable future, and I’ll probably be less and less involved, if at all.
So there you have it. “Doing well by doing good” rings a little louder today.
PS – A million thanks to the vision of Graham Hill who took the risk to found and fun this incredible venture that has really touched the hearts and minds of literally millions of people.
PPS – I’m taking off for the week so there may be a shortage of posts here on 3P until the following week wherein 3P 2.0 may finally launch along with the help of Pablo, Joe, Stacey, and others…

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