Is it environmentally better to keep my 1986 Mercedes-Benz W126 or buy a new hybrid?
This is a question I have gotten a lot, and one that I have wondered about myself. You see a modern-day tie-dye aficionado puttering along the highway in his VW van with black smoke spewing out the back, and you have to wonder if we wouldn’t all be better off if he traded it in for a Prius. The consensus among some environmentalists — perhaps ones who drive late-’60s Mustangs — seems to be that driving your old car creates significantly less pollution than the manufacture of a new car. I wish it were that easy.
The Argonne National Lab, a U.S. Department of Energy research center, has analyzed the material intensity and energy consumption of manufacturing vehicles and vehicle fuels. Their work is packaged in GREET models (for greenhouse gases, regulated emissions and energy use in transportation). According to the models, the average conventional internal combustion engine vehicle is made up of 61.7 percent steel, 11.1 percent iron, 6.9 percent aluminum, 1.9 percent copper/brass, 2.9 percent glass, and around 13.6 percent plastic/rubber. This information helps determine the energy required to produce a vehicle.
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TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line
Is it environmentally better to keep my 1986 Mercedes-Benz W126 or buy a new hybrid?
Hot on the heels of their acquisition of Burt’s Bees, among the more respected “green” brands out there, Clorox has now partnered with the Sierra Club to launch a new line of products called “Green Works” which the Sierra Club will validate as “natural”. Both organizations joined together this morning at the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell as part of Earth Week celebrations.
There’s a lot to digest here. Can Clorox succeed in launching a new green brand alongside leaders like Seventh Generation and Method? Will the Sierra Club’s endorsement come with a critical eye to make sure the GreenWorks products are as good as Clorox claims? Or will this all go down like a cup of bleach? As usual, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. What do you think?
In California, a combination of state incentives, a federal tax credit, and a new solar leasing program could create the perfect storm for the state’s solar industry. SolarCity is changing the landscape of the residential solar market in California and the Phoenix metropolitan area by offering solar leases, which significantly reduces the upfront cost of going solar.
“Customers have called for alternatives to solar purchasing, and our innovations in financing will allow them to get the benefits of renewable energy quickly, easily and affordably,” said David Arfin, Vice President of Customer Financing at SolarCity.
After four years of heads down work to find answers where it appeared that only questions existed, Adam Werbach followed up his highly controversial 2004 speech, “Is Environmentalism Dead?” just over a week ago at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The speech, titled “The Birth of Blue,” was frustratingly brilliant, asserting that the answer to the change we all seek is in incremental shifts in consumer behavior, trading Twinkies for carrots, then organic, locally-produced carrots, in search of a greater sense of health, both personal and environmental. Without really putting the finger of his eloquent voice on it, I believe Werbach stumbled on the inspired answer the audience had waited four years to hear.
For those who don’t know Werbach, some of his most notable accomplishments include becoming elected the youngest president of the Sierra Club, America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization at the age of 23. He’s since become the poster child of the green movement, founding Act Now Productions (acquired by Saatchi and Saatchi this year) to work with corporate titans like Wal-Mart to incorporate the principles of sustainability derived from an all-talk environmental activism movement that he swore off four years ago.
Werbach’s speech entertained and inspired the audience of sustainability consultants, LEED developers, non-profit staffers, and greater Bay Area public. He reflected on his 2004 eulogy for environmentalism and the many attacks that followed, including a recent one titled “Adam Werbach makes me puke.” The full text of the speech is available on Grist.
So, you have been tasked to procure carbon offsets for your organization. You have your shopping list that includes the key ingredients for success; the number of offsets, a budget and outlet locations. Well, time to get to work and evaluate the best route to achieve the offset objective.Click to continue reading »
First, a disclaimer: the Wall Street Journal’s news reporting on climate science, clean energy and related environmental issues is and has always been stellar. To a person, the reporters are subject matter experts in each of their relevant beats and are the lodestars of accuracy, healthy skepticism and a desire to understand the complex, cascading set of issues.
Then there’s the Journal’s editorial page. The page is known for its unabashed defense of … well, of its own quirky ideology. They’re not exactly capitalists: they like profits when they’re privatized, as long as the related costs (especially if it’s infrastructure, pollution or poor labor conditions) are socialized. They disdain partisan politics, unless the partisan in question is bashing Democrats or those God-forsaken liberals.
Usually, the wacky, unsigned opinions on the Journal’s editorial page give little insight into the personalities behind their “unique” outlooks. At least, that was the case, until they started recording themselves on video and posting it on the internets.
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Having designated 2008 the “International Year of Sanitation,” the United Nations is among the most prominent of a growing number of international aid and economic development organizations on a crusade to address poverty in developing nations around the world by facilitating projects that aim to provide poor communities access to basic and sustainable water, sewage and sanitation services. Long taken for granted in developed countries, concerns about water supplies, sewage and sanitation services are intensifying in cities, counties and municipalities in the US, Europe and developed countries around the world as well however.
Private sector investments and M&A activity in ecological sanitation solutions and clean tech’s wastewater treatment sector have surged as a result. A global industry of multinational companies is emerging, which in turn is stimulating growth of new, innovating start-ups, such as Israel’s Aqwise, that are pursuing ways of giving natural ecological processes a helping hand by cultivating growth of the biota naturally present in wastewater streams to remove polluting organic materials.
Aqwise last month raised an additional US$3.6 million in capital to support its growth plans, which center on use of its AGAR (Attached Growth Airlift Reactor) technology and ecological water sanitation process for municipal, industrial and aquaculture wastewater treatment. Last week, Triple Pundit got the chance to interview Aqwise CEO Elad Frenkel.
In an example of the power shareholder activism, Ford Motor Company has made public their plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their fleet of cars and trucks 30% by 2020.
Shareholders pushing for action include the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Investor Network on Climate Risk. Climate change resolutions from shareholders were withdrawn upon Ford’s agreement to outline their plan to address climate change.
Other automakers such as General Motors are also feeling the heat, as it were, from activist shareholders. The Big Three (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) are members of the US Climate Action Partnership and, along with other US companies, have agreed to cut carbon emissions 60–80% by 2050. Ford is also a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange.
To the automaker’s credit, Ford has reduced their GHG emissions from their facilities worldwide by 39% from 2000 to 2007.
John Viera, Ford’s director of of Sustainable Business Strategy, says “The CO2 reduction levels we have adopted represent our contribution toward meeting 450 part per million (ppm) to 550 ppm stabilization pathways.” Unfortunately, many feel that a target of 450 and especially 550 ppm simply isn’t good enough.
While Investor Network on Climate Risk director Mindy Lubber applauded Ford’s efforts, she cautions us not to “fool ourselves… Ford – as well as General Motors – need to do much more, and quickly, to reclaim their leadership role in the global marketplace. It’s not just a coincidence that these two corporate icons, once the embodiment of American innovation, are each worth less today in terms of their market capitalization, than First Solar, a nine-year-old solar company in Arizona.”
Nissan Motors has adopted a 40% reduction in GHG emissions from its vehicles by 2016 and 70% by 2050. Honda’s reduction goal is 10% by 2012.
It was early for a Friday to be at the PG&E auditorium in San Francisco, Calif. to talk about the dire state of our planet. Hosted by the US Green Energy Conference (USGEC) and the Asia Society, it started with a pleasant breakfast spread of fruit, bagels and coffee, and continued via two serious panel discussions. One on policy and increasing energy efficiency and the second on business and tech development.
And while there were the usual issues discussed about cleantech (wind, solar, biomass) and their tradeoffs, this certainly wasn’t your every day panel about sustainability issues.
EcoTuesday is a forum for sustainable business leaders to come together to network, collaborate, and engage with one another in a structured environment. Here’s how it works: Participants arrive and settle in, taking a few minutes to get a beverage and see old friends and meet new ones. We start the evening with a speaker from one of the many areas of sustainability, who will share news, tips, and information about their area of expertise. The topic is different each month. After the speaker is done, participants have the opportunity to ask questions to gain more information. After that, everyone in the room gets into a circle and shares their name, their affiliation, and one thing they’re passionate about regarding sustainability. It’s is a great way for you to learn about everyone in the room, and for everyone in the room to learn about you!
After that, we have time to meet all of the people we learned about in the introduction circle.
It’s held on the 4th Tuesday of each month – and we’re growing! Look for an EcoTuesday event in your city!
You must RSVP in order to attend (see RSVP links below):
a) San Francisco
b) Los Angeles
f) Marin County
If your city is not listed, get in touch with EcoTuesday about becoming an ambassador today. Don’t forget to mention you heard about it on Triple Pundit.
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In short, it all begins with education from the bottom up, and regarding everyone involved in a building process. First of all, consumer awareness on green building is murky for the majority. For example, I have several prospective clients and or builders ask me each week what green building means to me. Many assume that being green means the use of cfl lights and solar panels. Or, some think it is low-flow water and reduced waste of some form or another. In a sense, they are right I tell them, those are all green aspects but I define our green buildings by far more than that.
The importance of all this is simple really, if a consumer wants some green elements in their building envelope then that is an improvement and I support them no matter how green they wish to be. For the sake of argument, in regard to what I might briefly classify as “green without comprimise” or “green from the groud up,” I would say that education is severely lacking in the system. In fact the one system that provides some guidance that many are becoming slightly familiar with is LEED, but beyond that it is an open gate for a flood of green bits and pieces and all are quick to use it in reference to their projects.
Ever wondered where all the investment in clean energy and cleantech is going? As in, the physical terminus of all that cash? If one were looking for work in the industry, it sure would be handy to know where to start.
Well, if you’ve been wookin’ pa nub in all the wrong places, wook no further. Our good friends at Earth2Tech have developed a most highly excellent Google map that gives the precise locations of most of the major companies developing solar technologies, clean fuels, storage, smart grids, clean chemistry, ad infinitum.
View Larger Map
The map is a bit U.S.-centric – believe it or not, there’s a lot of cleantech activity in Europe, India and China these days – but I think it’s unlocked, so add your favorite cleantech company to the list.
The weak housing market, turmoil in the financial industry, the credit crunch and economic slowdown are hitting renewable energy investment but sizable amounts of capital are still flowing into the sector, according to research published by London-based New Energy Finance this week.
Some US$ 2.4 billion of investment flowed into renewable energy in this year’s first quarter compared to US$ 3.7 billion in Q1 2007. Private equity investments fell sharply – down 64% – to US$ 878 million while venture capital investors put US$ 1 billion to work in the renewable energy sector in Q1 this year as compared to $668 million in Q1 last year, a 57% increase.
New equity issuance in the public markets came to a virtual standstill after Iberdrola Renovables’ US$ 7.2 billion IPO in December. US$ 807 million was raised via public IPOs in Q1 compared to $5.2 billion in the year ago quarter.
In terms of sectoral investment, investors put more capital to work in solar power this Q1 – $3.2 billion – than they did in the corresponding period last year, when $1.9 billion flowed into solar power projects. Solar thermal electricity generation is the new darling of the sector, according to New Energy Finance.
Wind power investment fell to US$ 6.6 billion during Q1 from $7.2 billion in the year ago quarter, as industry participants and investors in the US await Congressional action to renew the Production Tax Credit, which is due to expire at the end of the year.
Growing resistance and questioning of US biofuels targets, policies and standards led to sharply reduced investments in the sector. Investment in US ethanol plants shrank to US$ 311 million in Q1 2008 from $1.7 billion in Q1 last year. Newer markets are developing in countries such as Mozambique, Russia and Thailand, however, and biofuels investment continues to grow in Brazil, bringing total biofuels investment to $3.1 billion in Q1, down 15% year-to-year.
Mergers and acquisition activity increased sharply along with growth and development of what’s emerging as a global renewable energy market and industry. Corporate M&A transactions more than doubled, to $7.7bn, compared to $3.5 billion in the year ago period. Large acquisitions, such as Scottish & Southern Electric’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Airtricity helped make Q1 2008 the second-largest quarter after last year’s third quarter in terms of M&A activity, according to New Energy Finance.
At first blush many may ask “who’d want to eat a green hamburger?”, but the truth is there’s a growing market for green burgers, as well as fries, milkshakes, fajitas, pizza – all manor of fast food is, in fact, turning green.
Or at least greener – and that’s a great thing.
Fast food has become emblematic for much of what ails modern society – attaching “Mc” has come to mean too much of a bad thing.
But in Ode Magazine’s April issue, writer Mary Desmond Pinkowish shows, in her article Not the Same Old Drive-Thru, how that is changing.
There’s Chipolte, founded by Steve Ells, who opened his first restaurant near the University of Denver in 1993, Burgerville, with 39 stores throughout the U.S Northwest (famous for its milkshakes made with seasonal and locally-grown berries – from strawberries in the spring to raspberries, blackberries, and finally hazelnuts in the winter), or San Francisco-based Sellers Markets to name but a few fast food joints serving the triple bottom line.
So what actually happens to make a burger green?Click to continue reading »
3P SoundBite is a new series of short interviews to be featured here on Triple Pundit and written by Clara Kuo. Enjoy…
Who: Sean Stannard-Stockton, principal and director, Ensemble Capital: “I’ve always been fascinated by finance and by social change and philanthropy. I noticed that those two areas didn’t really mix…it’s been fun seeing that organizations are starting to recognize that (they can mix).”
What: Ensemble Capital is a wealth management firm empowering individuals and families who want to make positive contributions to society with the best social and financial ROI. “If someone says they are interested in dealing with homelessness, but doesn’t know where to dedicate their funds, we can guide the process and help set up a foundation.”