Sustainable Biofuels: Oxymoron or Reality?

Shannon Arvizu | Friday May 2nd, 2008 | 2 Comments

bio.jpg Biofuels have been both lauded for their eco-potential and criticized for their eco-inefficiency. Proponents of biofuels point to the possibilities of sequestering carbon through crop growth and energy independence from foreign petrol sources. Major criticisms against biofuels point to the high petroleum inputs required for production, the use of crops for fuel instead of feeding the global poor, and increased deforestation. Biofuel production has been blamed in the media for this year’s tortilla riots in Mexico, increasing pork prices in China, and the loss of tropical forests in Bali. To what extent is this true? Is it possible to produce biofuels sustainably? These are the questions that Ralph Simms (of the International Energy Agency) asked in a recent post on RenewableEnergyWorld.com His remarks are based on the recently created Sustainable Biofuels Consensus, the outcome of a collaboration of biofuel experts that convened in late March 2008 to assess the state of the field.

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Social Media meets Social Responsibility

| Friday May 2nd, 2008 | 2 Comments

 

At a recent Web 2.0 Expo discussion, someone commented, “As there is an explosion of clean tech, there’s also an explosion of social media.”
Since that comment, it got me thinking about how social media can be a vehicle to move social change forward in the enterprise or non-profit. After all, it’s the biggest viral marketing machine that we got, especially if your organization’s resources are super limited.
This story involves an organization called Epic Change founded by Stacey Monk, who hopes to make her organization “big”:

Give us 3-4 years & imagine Kiva (except bigger loans to grassroots leaders of community improvement efforts rather than individual entrepreneurs) mixed with the RED campaign, (except our product designs will be designed to share the stories of children like Gideon and Glory).

EpicChange, like most non-profit organizations, needs to encourage more people to get involved. She used Twitter pretty well, even though some say it is an over-hyped social networking tool.
Why am I writing this? I agree with Dennis Howlett–this is an innovative approach to social change promotion, and it’s something social entrepreneurs could use to their advantage.
Read on and share your stories with us in the comments box.

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Taco Bell Taking a Step into Sustainability

| Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 3 Comments

taco-bell.pngTaco Bell recently announced their plans to install new “Grill-To-Order” cooking machines in all of their locations. The company is making this step to not only reduce water and energy usage, but also improve cost efficiency. Each installation is estimated to save $5,900 a year in electricity cost per store. System-wide Taco Bell expects to save more than $17 million a year.
Taco Bell has released figures that their new system will save around 300 million gallons of water per year (the equivalent of supplying every household in Atlanta with water for a day) and roughly 200 million kWh of electricity (enough energy to power every household in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC and Dallas for one day). The new equipment will also save more than 1.2 million therms of gas each year.

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Is there a better way?

Steve Puma | Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 1 Comment

The following was recently posted on Steve Puma’s new blog, ThePumaBlog, where he writes about technology, sustainability and the future:

When I first saw this video, I thought it was coming to me through one of the sustainability blogs that I am subscribed to. Turns out, it came through that constant stream of absurd and funny videos, BoingBoing.net, which just goes to show you just how absurd it really is…Check out this Wall Street Journal Online report of Mazda destroying over 4,000 brand-spanking-new cars, after the transport ship that they were on spent several weeks at a 60-degree list.
Perhaps there is a better way?

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CDP, Supply Chains, Emissions and Climate Change

| Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Charter members of the Carbon Disclosure Project’s Supply Chain Leadership Council are leading the way forward when it comes to fostering greenhouse gas emissions accounting and disclosure practices, emissions reduction targets and the formulation of climate change strategy across their multinational supply chain networks.
Back in January the CDP Supply Chain Council’s 12 founding members – leading manufacturers of global brand name products such as Cadbury Schweppes, Proctor & Gamble and Dell – launched Phase 1 of their program and began working to design and distribute a greenhouse gas emissions and climate change survey to their suppliers (see post).
Spanning 22 economic sectors including chemicals, computer components, food and beverage, and containers and packaging, the results were released today. Among the findings, suppliers are expecting extreme weather conditions to adversely affect their operations and hinder productivity. Ninety-six percent of the 144 suppliers that responded see greenhouse gas emissions regulation as a potential risk – taxes and emissions caps being the measures most commonly reported. That said, just 26% have established greenhouse gas reduction targets.

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What is Responsible Business, Really? Perspectives from Stonyfield Farms and Clif Bar Founders

| Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 0 Comments

Erickson_Gary2.jpgTuesday night, sustainability leaders from all over the Bay Area made their way to the Berkeley facility of Clif Bar and Company to hear Gary Erickson, Kit Crawford (the husband and wife co-owners of the pioneering Clif Bar and Company) and Gary Hirshberg (President and CE-Yo of the tremendously successful and equally pioneering organic dairy producer Stonyfield Farms). The event, organized by the Good Business Network aimed to reveal the stories behind entrepreneurs who built wildly successful companies, from both financial and non-financial perspectives.
The stories they shared were inspirational, of course, many of which I’d heard before or read in their books, Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World, published this year by Hirshberg, and Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business: The Story of Clif Bar & Co. I left convinced, however, that Clif Bar and Company and Hirshberg fundamentally disagree on the role of social responsibility in a company. The event by no means turned into a bloody fist fight (in which case my money would have been on on Kit), but left at least a few of us with an unsettled feeling that even some of the most respected people behind values-driven companies aren’t really working together.

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UK Scientists Develop Technology To Cut UK’s GHGs By 4%

| Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 0 Comments

UK scientists have developed new technology which they claim can reduce their country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 4%. The method they devised converts waste carbon dioxide into cyclic carbonates, a chemical compound, which is in high demand by paint manufacturers and biodegradable packaging producers.

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3P SoundBite – May 1, Brian T. Mullis of Sustainable Travel International

| Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Sustainability is a journey, not a destination

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.
Recently, I talked to Brian T. Mullis, a former tour operator who co-founded Sustainable Travel International with Peter Krahenbuhl. Learn more about what Brian has to say about being an entrepreneur and the non-profit’s choice to be a 501(c)(3) organization.

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Sebastián Piñera: Chilean Businessman, Politician, and Environmental Philanthropist

| Thursday May 1st, 2008 | 0 Comments

pinera.jpgEarlier this week, Hilary Clinton stood in front of a crowd of steel workers in a small town in Indiana and spoke of the mettle of the country. “So this is not just about steel,” she exhorted, alluding to the famous poem inscribed on a wall in the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the south, Chilean presidential candidate, Sebastián Piñera was equally inciting famous passages of his own.
Often known to quote former British PM Margaret Thatcher and Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Pi√±era has lately been proponing his Nuevo Trato, or New Deal, which is likened to FDR’s infamous namesake nearly a century ago. It is comprised of sweeping social, political, and economic changes for a country that is still constructing its identity in the decades after the Pinochet dictatorship. From both sides of the political spectrum, it is difficult to consider Pi√±era anything short of a visionary. A child who grew from rags to riches, he is now a billionaire business impresario, and a veteran of the country’s increasingly growing elite class. He was the first to bring credit cards to the country in the late 70’s and if you ask most Chilenos about Pi√±era, they will likely tell you he is a majority stakeholder in the largest airline in country. Others might tell you he is one of the owners of Colo-Colo, Chile’s most successful football team of late. What you might not as easily hear is he is also one of the largest protectors of Chilean wildlife.

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Al Gore’s Climate Solutions Fund Closes $638 Million

| Wednesday April 30th, 2008 | 13 Comments

gore.jpgGeneration Investment Management has closed $638Million in initial funding for its Climate Solutions Fund. The company is chaired by former vice president Al Gore and serves to be a leader in investing in sustainable enterprises with a slant toward solving various environmental problems.
According to the Financial Times:

The fund will be focused on equity investments in small companies in four sectors: renewable energy; energy efficiency technologies; energy from biofuels and biomass; and the carbon trading markets.

Although a chorus of cynics can be heard claiming this is Gore’s way of capitalizing on hysteria, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that investing in clean energy, efficiency, and solutions to problems is a good idea with a sizable long-term payoff. If Al Gore makes a lot of money of this type of investment, my glass is raised to him. I might even throw a few bucks in myself.

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Tsunami Birdhouses? A Lesson In Innovative Social Enterprise

| Wednesday April 30th, 2008 | 1 Comment

Tsunami%20Birdhouse.pngThey say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well in the case of P2P Rescue, they’ve done just that, making Tsunami Birdhouses. Come again? Yes, first begun when multiple countries suffered from the effects of the December 2004 tsunami, they are selling birdhouses made from materials scavenged from the wreckage of that tsunami in Sri Lanka. Though the tsunami is long gone, people’s troubles are not, as ethnic conflicts with the Tamil population continue to cause unnecessary loss of life.
What’s in a name? As they put it so well,

“P2P” is a well-known acronym in technology circles standing for “peer-to-peer” networking, or digital communication between two or more roughly equal computers or networks. P2P (People-to-People) Rescue was created to provide support to people in need with an emphasis on a similar notion of equality coupled with innovation.

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Mitigating Climate Change: Capitalist Sham?

| Wednesday April 30th, 2008 | 4 Comments

down2earthcover.jpgThose that have been instrumental in building the institutional edifice to mitigate climate change and facilitate greenhouse gas emissions reductions come in for a severe and thorough verbal lashing in Down to Earth, a publication put out by New Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment.
As climate change, environmental degradation and economic development have gained currency the resulting international processes and organizational structures have been hijacked by the international political, media and corporate jet set, CSE claims. Worse, the resulting measures taken to date are not only ineffectual but serve only to further enrich those that are primarily responsible for these problems in the first place, i.e. the captains of multinational business, industry, political leaders and the media.

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Green Business Cards – Some Creative Inspiration.

| Tuesday April 29th, 2008 | 5 Comments

business card handoffDespite the advent of bluetooth-enabled blackberries and other modern technologies, the ritual of handing out business cards remains an integral part of establishing business relationships. When I was working on TreeHugger.com, Graham Hill designed a sexy card which used half the paper of a regular business card, and (but of course) was printed on 100% post consumer paper with soy based ink. To top it off, all the cards were generic – you had to manually write your name in a box on the card.
The latter bit proved to be a bit laborious, but added a nice personal touch which, coupled with the cute size of the card, made them hard to forget.
Getting creative and making a ‘green’ statement may cost extra money, but can be well worth it.

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1001 Standards: Who writes them, who approves them, and what are they for? ClimatePULSE with ClimateCHECK

| Monday April 28th, 2008 | 2 Comments

CC_logo_small.jpgWithin the greenhouse gas market, not only are there a lot of different standards, they’re also referred to as protocols, methodologies, and guidelines. There are far too many standards to cover in this post, so please excuse us if we don’t mention your favorite here – this post explains many of the different types of standards, whereas future posts will discuss specific standards in more detail.
For consumers and companies that want to purchase carbon offset credits the “quality” of those offsets is of utmost importance. This seemingly routine detail is not actually that routine, and it can affect the validity of business claims to be “carbon neutral” and can compromise the good will of voluntary carbon offset market participants. In the carbon market there are standards and protocols, broadly “what you are required to do” and “how you do it” but those lines frequently get blurred. This week’s ClimatePulse with ClimateCHECK will help you sift through the carbon standards world.

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Google ends eco-search engine support

| Saturday April 26th, 2008 | 6 Comments

ecocho.jpgSydney-based Ecocho founder Tim Macdonald had an idea; build a search engine based on Google and Yahoo technology and use the ad revenue to plant two trees for every 1,000 searches, offsetting tons of carbon dioxide.
However, the practice of “compensating users for viewing ads or performing searches, or promise compensation to a third party for such behavior” is a violation of Google AdSense policy and Google decided to pull support of the site, on Earth Day no less. Macdonald claims Google is not enforcing its rules to other “green” search engines such as Blackle, though Blackle is not making the same claims.
Pablo has addressed the
effectiveness of Blackle in the past. And while stopping support for Ecocho on Earth Day may seem heartless, rules are rules. And besides, Google is addressing energy and carbon issues on a much larger scale. Google claims their data centers use half the energy of a similarly sized data center and that they are conducting energy audits and investing in carbon offsets. They made a big splash in November when they announced an R&D team was working to produce 1 gigawatt of renewable energy at a price cheaper than coal. They are giving grants to renewable energy companies like eSolar Inc. and Makani Power Inc. to meet this goal. Killing off smaller, seemingly well-intentioned search engines may make Google look monolithic and draconian, but Google is able to fund sustainability initiatives in ways Ecocho would never be able to. It’s not really about who is greener anyway; it all boils down to an untimely and unfortunate violation of policy.

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