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

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“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

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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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AskPablo: Is this a god dam?

| Monday August 6th, 2007 | 0 Comments

dam.jpgThis week I got an e-mail from Ken. He wants to harness the creek on his property to become more energy independent and lessen his personal impact on global climate change. I am going to examine the variables that will determine if Ken should go ahead with this project, and how much it might cost him.

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Shell’s Eureka Film – Utter Greenwashing or Interesting Progress?

| Friday August 3rd, 2007 | 3 Comments

home-eureka.pngA while ago I got a copy of Wired Magazine with an interesting DVD inserted into the package. It turned out to be a highly polished 10-minute advertisement/film for Shell entitled “Eureka”. You can watch the whole thing yourself below.
What first struck me about the film is that the production value is incredibly high, and the story they weave is actually compelling and mostly believable, though painfully cheesy. It tells the story of Jaap Van Ballegooijen, a Shell engineer who apparently came up with a less invasive method of drilling for oil – inspired no less, by his son’s drinking of a milkshake with a “bendy straw”.
The message, of course, is that heroic Shell engineers will keep devising ways to get at oil no matter what, and the kids will be alright in the end, and you really don’t need to worry about anything. No mention about the actual burning of the oil and any of the effects thereof. These guys are too practical for all that…

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Johnson Controls New Facility Finally Walks the Walk

| Wednesday August 1st, 2007 | 0 Comments

jon_con.jpgI’ve suggested before that of all the major companies out there, Johnson Controls is among the best positioned to become a real leader in the field of sustainability by virtue of their roll developing energy systems for buildings. They recently launched a blog about energy and have been slowly moving forward with various sustainability initiatives.
Now, it looks like they’ve taken their talk to the next level and are planning an expansion of their Glendale, WI, headquarters that will be nothing short of a showcase of green building principals. There isn’t any straw bale that I can see, but the facility will feature a sizable solar array, wind demonstration areas, green roofs, porous pavement, rainwater catchment, and a geothermal field. Let’s hope it’s more than just a pretty exhibition.

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CNN Article Moves Green Even More Mainstream

| Tuesday July 31st, 2007 | 1 Comment

solarIndia.jpgHave a look at this article on CNN: “Solar Power Makes Tiny Village Beam“. It’s a fantastic story featureing not only environmental progress, but human happiness and bottom of the pyramid economic progress. But if you spend any time reading TreeHugger, this blog, or many others, the story isn’t a whole lot unlike the dozens we dig up every day.
What makes this one significant is that all afternoon it’s been the featured story on the CNN front page. What’s going on? Either there haven’t been any terrible disasters lately, or some editor has finally taken a big leap and grabbed a typical 3P/TreeHugger piece and brought it to the next level of mainstream consciousness. This can only be good for all concerned. What’s next?

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AskPablo: Land Use Changes

| Monday July 30th, 2007 | 7 Comments

tree.jpgThis week Tyler asks: “What is the climate change impact from deforestation, land-use changes, and reforestation?” This topic is quite relevant these days because many carbon offset organizations offer to plant trees to mitigate your personal carbon emissions. Are you really getting what you pay for? And what is the impact of cutting down a forest? These are the questions we will explore in this week’s AskPablo.

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