Indigenous Designs: Fair Trade, Organic Clothing

| Tuesday December 4th, 2007 | 8 Comments

Scott Leonard founded Indigenous Designs over 14 years ago on the backbone of imported fair trade organic clothing. When he told people that was his business he was rebounded with blank stares and expressionless “okay” replies. In a time when organic food was still an unknown he pioneered this do-good business and conitnues to operate strongly today.

In 2007 his fashion line has reached sales of $4 million in revenue with distributors like Whole Foods and the Sundance catalog. His bottom line is increasing rapidly as more and more people are becoming aware and begin to put their consumer dollars where it counts; for their own well-being and a better planet.

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AskPablo: Should I buy a hybrid?

| Monday December 3rd, 2007 | 16 Comments

hybridpic.jpgThis week a frequent reader presented me with a common dilemma. “Does the fuel economy improvement of a hybrid really justify paying the price premium?” I’ll take a look at several different car models that are available in both hybrid and standard versions in order to come up with an answer.
I began by researching the prices and fuel economy of five hybrid vehicles and their non-hybrid counterparts: Ford Escape, Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, Saturn Aura, and the Toyota Camry. The Saturn Aura Hybrid is not priced much higher than the standard model but some research showed that this vehicle is a bit of a joke in the hybrid vehicle world. It’s mpg increase is not impressive, the electric motor is weak, and the vehicle can apparently only run in fully electric mode up to 3 miles per hour. For these reasons I have excluded the Saturn Auro from the results. The Toyota Prius is also notably absent, a decision made due to the fact that the Prius is a hybrid specific vehicle and there is no non-hybrid baseline vehicle to compare it to.

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Global Warming Warrior: Phytoplankton

| Friday November 30th, 2007 | 7 Comments

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In May of this year, WEATHERBIRD II, a 115-foot research vessel trolled the Pacific Ocean dumping more than 20 tons of iron dust into the water near the Galapagos Islands. Why? The project is the first large-scale effort in a controversial field, known as geoengineering, which aims to actively combat global warming. This also proved to be the first attempt to profit from this long studied however unproved iron-seeding antidote to the global dilemma. This is an idea spawned by the company, Planktos, which is spearheaded by D. Russ George, a former Greenpeacer and environmental project manager with the Canadian government. Planktos Corp. is a public company (OTCBB:PLKT) engaged in the development of global eco-restoration projects to revive dwindling forests and ocean plankton ecosystems. The company harnesses the power of green plants and photosynthesis to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s planned restoration of ocean plankton blooms are intended to produce carbon offsets for sale into both regulated and voluntary climate change markets around the world.
This solution seems a bit more than strange, but when approached from a scientific perspective, it actually makes sense. The iron rich water would stimulate the growth of phytoplankton upon the ocean’s surface which should, in theory, then suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by the tons and sink it deep into the ocean. Phytoplankton is in many ways a plant, and as such, actively absorbs the carbon dioxide in the air and converts it to oxygen. Dumping iron sulphate in the ocean to cause plankton blooms might not seem an eco-friendly way to tackle the global warming crisis. But, according to the most in depth trial of the technique so far, it could prove an effective one.

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The Efficiency Conundrum

| Friday November 30th, 2007 | 7 Comments

I need more Power!It’s a bit like the dieter who buys a box of low-fat cookies and ends up eating the entire box in one sitting. So much for the diet.

A report released on Tuesday by CIBC World Markets Chief Economist Jeff Rubin states that despite the overall gains in energy efficiency since the 1970’s – 50% per unit of GDP from 1975 to 2005 – those gains have been spent, and then some, in more gadgets, bigger cars, larger houses, and more energy consumed. Total energy use in that time has actually risen by 40% Rubin says.

The conclusion is that energy efficiency alone is not a solution to climate change or dwindling sources of oil and must be combined with actual conservation. But will efficiency ever lead to conservation? Are we going against the grain of human nature to expect it to?

In their book The Bottomless Well, Peter Huber and Mark Mills think the idea of efficiency as a means to conservation is misguided. Not that efficiency is bad or shouldn’t be pursued, but that it is never a means to conservation; “energy efficiency leads to more consumption, not less”. The report by Rubin seems to bear out Huber and Mills’ assertion.

It is clear that efficiency is but a means to an end, but how to make the consumer understand – or care about –  this efficiency paradox is a sticky wicket.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to have one more cookie. After all, it’s low fat…

A pdf of the complete Rubin report is available here

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Tornado Power: Wild Alternative Energy

| Friday November 30th, 2007 | 10 Comments

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When people think of tornados they think of mayhem and destruction. A man named Louis Michaud would rather create constructive tornados, very big ones. Louis is a Canadian engineer who intends to turn tornadoes into power plants by creating and containing tornados. Imagine descending into an urban environment aboard a commercial aircraft and seeing a 30 foot-wide, miles high spinning vortex of hot air as if it was meant to be there. These man-made turbulences could generate enough electricity to power thousands of homes; just hope your pilot has planned a way around them on his flight plan.
This so-called atmospheric vortex engine will suck in hot air through a series of ducts at the base and channel it into an open roof arena. This would lead to the production of a tornado-like funnel of air that would provide the turbulent push to turn power-generating turbines.

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The Vanishing Bees

Shannon Arvizu | Friday November 30th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Many of us have heard snipets in the news of vanishing bee colonies in our agricultural-rich states over the past year. The occurence is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In some states (as well as in Quebec and parts of Europe), up to 25% of total bee colonies used to pollinate crops for domestic and export consumption disappeared between 2006-2007. Several causes, including pesticide use, malnutrition, depressed immune system, GMO crops, mites, and increasing temperatures are believed to have contributed to the problem. Given that many crops are dependent upon bee poliination for survival, the economic and public health impact of CCD could potentially be catastrophic if the present trend continues.
An upcoming documentary, “The Vanishing Bees,” takes a close look at CCD in a thought-provoking and engaging manner. I encourage all of Triple P readers to take a look at the trailer posted on their website. The producers of Hive Mentality Films have done a superb job in showcasing this disturbing phenomenon.

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IT’s Drive to Go Lean, Clean & Green

| Friday November 30th, 2007 | 3 Comments

Vitruvian%2520Man%2520small.jpg Hats off to Google…I’ve been around a while now and I’ve never seen what has so quickly grown into such a large, influential organization be so openly idealistic, agile, innovative and committed, not only to green tech but to corporate social and environmental responsibility in general. Better yet, leading IT companies in general are making real and substantial commitments to becoming more energy efficient, reducing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, and minimizing pollution. It’s a good thing and it couldn’t come at a better time as by instituting such change transnational IT industry leaders can blaze a clean and green tech trail in developed and developing nations alike.
There’s a lot to “green” in the global IT industry, however. And we’re going need to reliable, accurate, timely and comprehensive carbon and environmental business monitoring, accounting and reporting if market mechanisms are to function and capital is to be allocated effectively, as has been pointed out in previous posts. Released in August, 2006, Greenpeace’s quarterly “Guide to Greener Electronics”report “has shamed many companies — Apple, in particular — by pointing out their less-than-environmentally friendly practices, such as using toxic materials in products and offering inadequate or no e-waste recycling, disposal or take-back programs,” as pointed out in a TechNewsWorld article.
Fortunately, technological advances, increasing public awareness in countries around the world and new domestic and international government incentives and programs, coupled with green and clean tech’s rising prominence on the corporate agenda is creating a business environment in which companies are increasingly able to reduce costs and create new business opportunities by re-fashioning themselves into leading clean and green tech proponents.

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SafeTouch Insulation: So Long Fiberglass

| Thursday November 29th, 2007 | 10 Comments

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A brilliant new product has hit the market in the form of insulation without the irritating fiberglass found in its predecessors. This material caters to all those do-it-yourself handymen and women out there who have long dreaded installing insulation thanks to the glass dust and itchiness associated with fiberglass. Dow Chemical Company has recently introduced the solution. Welcome SAFETOUCH, fiberglass-free insulation.
It is a plastic fiber batt insulation that has the same R-value as fiberglass minus the common side effect of dust and itching. The only tool required is a utility knife, and let’s not forget, you can toss your goggles, work gloves and face mask because it’s just that simple to work with. Having trouble with those tough to reach spots and drafty little gaps, no problem, just rip off a piece and stuff it in those crevices and narrow, irregular spaces. As like any good batt insulation this material can support its own weight and hold itself into the desired position when placed in a stud bay. It’s so easy to use just about anyone can create a more comfortable and energy efficient building.

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The Fort Collins Dilemma: Nuclear or Solar?

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday November 29th, 2007 | 5 Comments

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The New York Times reported today an intriguing article on what’s happening in Fort Collins, Colorado – a city that prides itself on being a bastion of green living. The town’s motto, “Where renewal is a way of life,” is more than just a metaphor. The city is heavily involved in promoting carbon-free energy production. They currently have two proposals on the table – an innovative solar panel production plant and a uranium mining project for nuclear power. Although the energy that wil be generated from each project will be carbon-free, the processes of production and/or extraction each have their own environmental hazards. Should the town support nuclear, solar, or both? And what about the NIMBY factor? Should the town expose itself to possible health hazards for the sake of local job creation and global carbon-free energy production?

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Renewable Energy: Talk is Cheap and Google Puts Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

| Wednesday November 28th, 2007 | 2 Comments

Innovative Thinking - Against the CrowdGoogle “renewable energy” today and you’re likely to come up with – Google. (How many companies can claim both a verb and a noun for their name?)

As everyone reading this blog (or any blog) knows, it wasn’t that long ago that anyone even uttering such a phrase as “Just google it”, would have probably been met with muffled titters, sideways glances, and quiet whispers questioning the utterer’s grip on reality.

Google has since changed that reality and aims at, just possibly, doing it again. This time in the area of renewable energy.

The company announced today their Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative (or RE<C) with the stated goal of producing 1 gigawatt of renewable energy, enough to power the city of San Francisco, and to do it within years, not decades, as some less ambitious pundits claim such a goal would require.

Google says it will commit “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the effort in hopes that doing so will spur innovation and make renewable energy sources like solar and wind an economic rival to coal.

Google’s effort is one of environmental vision as well as fiscal responsibility, as the term sustainable IT takes on a pragmatic dimension for server rooms across the globe beyond merely “being green”. Much like any truly sustainable business model must be.

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MagLev Wind Turbine

| Wednesday November 28th, 2007 | 8 Comments

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MagLev wind turbines, the next generation of wind turbines is capable of generating power from wind speeds as low as 1.5 m/s and reported to operate in winds reaching 40 m/s. This large wind turbine from maglev industries will also increase generation capacity by 20% at the same time decreasing operational costs by 50% over the traditional wind turbine. Maglev also claims that this particular turbine will be operational for 500 years, a staggering claim.
The MagLev wind turbine was first unveiled at the Wind Power Asia exhibition in Beijing. The unique operating principle behind this design is through magnetic levitation. Magnetic levitation is supposedly an extremely efficient system for wind energy. The vertically oriented blades of the wind turbine are suspended in the air replacing any need for ball bearings. The turbine operates via “full-permanent” magnets. electromagnets eliminating the need for electricity to run the machine. These full-permanent magnets consist of neodymium magnets of the rare earth metals which lose no energy through friction. This combination of magnetic components and reduction of moving parts should reduce maintenance costs and increase the life of the turbine.

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Connecting the dots between mind, body, and green

| Wednesday November 28th, 2007 | 0 Comments

mbg_logo_beta.gifBeginning while I was a student at the sustainability focused MBA program Presidio School of Management, and on into my work in the world at GreenSmith Consulting, I’ve often noticed an ironic trend: For people that are so focused on increasing the wellness of the planet, and the conserving, reusing, and reconfiguring of the use of resources in innovative ways, there is often a distinct lack of personal sustainability practiced. As in taking care of yourself. When you spend all your energy on circumstances external to yourself, you’re less able to make a powerful impact in the very areas you’re seeking to make a difference.
A recent visit to the San Francisco edition of the Green Festival seems to be a bellwether of a major shift in this orientation. Along with sustainability stalwarts such as Paul Stamets giving presentations, wellness heavyweights such as Deepak Chopra were also represented there, distinctly making the connection between mind, body, and sustainability. Being such a large indicator of trends in the realm of all things green, it seems natural that at this same time the new website Mind Body Green has been launched.

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Willie Wonka and the Chocolate (biodiesel) Truck

| Tuesday November 27th, 2007 | 0 Comments

The route that BioTruck will take on its journey to TimbuktuTwo men left England last Friday on their way to Timbuktu in a truck powered by chocolate.

For the sake of accuracy, the truck is powered with biodiesel fuel made from “waste chocolate” (I never knew there was such a thing as waste chocolate!).

Leaving from England on a ferry across the English channel, the team of Andy Pag and John Grimshaw plan to make their 4.500 mile journey in approximately three weeks.

Using cocoa butter extracted from a confectioner’s misshapen chocolate “rejects”, the truck will carry 454 gallons of biodiesel fuel.

The Ford Iveco Cargo truck is carrying two smaller vehicles for the final hard slog across the Sahara desert, all powered with standard engines fueled with biodiesel. The final cost of the fuel is calculated at about $1.16 per gallon.

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So You’ve Decided to Reduce Your Company’s Carbon Footprint…

Shannon Arvizu | Tuesday November 27th, 2007 | 0 Comments

carbonstrategies.jpgIt seem as if all of us Triple P bloggers have carbon on the brain this week. This is no surprise given the Fourth IPCC Report findings recently released. If we are going to somehow attempt to reduce the 70 million tons of carbon released globally into the air each day, it is time that managers become intimately familiar with the nitty-gritty business of carbon reduction strategies. For this, we can look no further than the concise and practical guide entitled: Carbon Strategies; How Leading Companies are Reducing Their Climate Change Footprint, by Andrew Hoffman.

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Renewable Energy Shortfalls

| Tuesday November 27th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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Renewable energy is all the big push these days and yet the sudden demand cannot be met thanks to poor planning and the ebb and flow of trends. Lacking the foresight in many states the demand for renewable energy is outstripping supply in turn racking up prices making the move for cheap alternative energy a growing obstacle. The result is that some states might not be able to meet the clean-energy mandates by the appointed deadline. The bull behind the shortage is the rapidly growing number of bandwagon states requiring utilities to house clean energy in their power mix, not to mention the surge in demand from big business and homeowners alike.
The National Energy Renewable Lab reported recently that clean-energy demand will outpace generation by at least 37% come the year 2010. The laws in 25 states dictate that clean energy – such as wind, biomass and solar – must constitute up to 30% of a utility’s energy portfolio in five to 15 years. In addition to this, awareness and trends have led consumers and businesses to boost clean-energy purchases by 46% a year since 2003. Much of this is fueled by corporations, which have increased green purchases by 25 fold since 2001. Is it really any surprise that demand has grown faster than anyone expected? Who wouldn’t want to save the planet, have cheap and renewable energy available to them? The blame is not meant to lie on the shoulders of any one group or government; this is the nature of the teetering supply and demand game that our economy thrives on. Why plan ahead like many intelligent foreign countries when we can just wing-it on our sheer American action-reaction attitude?

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