act2: The evolution of eco friendly laptop cases

| Wednesday November 7th, 2007 | 4 Comments

SleeveStackShorter.jpgThese days, there seems to be an abundance of green alternatives to a myriad of products. Food, cars, clothing, energy, even web hosting. And for the most part, they don’t, unless you want to, trumpet their greenness. What about laptop cases? If you have a look, there’s plenty of them out there: Hemp, recycled tires, even pillow cases. But what if you’re well, normal, and you just want a case that you can take to work, while keeping true to your values? Up until now, you were largely out of luck. Sure, there’s the new line by Targus, but it falls short, largely defining itself by what it is not, in this case, it has replaced the PVC…with what? It doesn’t say.
This is where act2’s GreenSmart cases come in. Rather then go this route, they made a series of conscious decisions in their choice of materials, going deeper. They did their homework, asking questions of those who would make their bags, how does this compare to the conventional choices? Does it save energy or resources? Or is it simply just not petroleum based, but equal or perhaps more consumptive of resources? After extensive research, they came to their choice: Recycled soda and water bottle based fabric. It passed this test, and beyond that, proved as strong as, an in many cases stronger then the conventional option.

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IBM: Silicon Waste To Solar Power

| Wednesday November 7th, 2007 | 0 Comments

On Tuesday, International Business Machines reported that it had developed a process to recycle discarded computer-chip wafers into solar panels. The good news, IBM can now recycle a percentage of the some three million silicon wafers used to build computer chips that have been discarded annually in the past. The major benefit from recycling this waste product is that 13.5 megawatts of power can now be generated from the solar panels or enough power to supply roughly 6,000 homes! The use of silicon in the semiconductor industry is in the form of imprinted patterns on silicon wafers in order to build the chips used in our electronic devices. The scrap wafers that have been etched with patterns that companies consider intellectual property are most often crushed and discarded in landfills.
The newly developed recycling process uses the existing wafer-polishing equipment to erase the patterns, said Thom Jagielski, the environmental manager at IBM that developed the technique. He said that this allows the wafers to be reused internally for equipment testing purposes and then can alternatively be sold to solar panel manufacturers. “It’s a simple process but it really returns benefits on so many different levels,” Jagielski said. “Not only do we reduce our overall use of silicon, but then to be able to create a raw material for the solar panel industry is kind of a good story all the way around.”

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Desiccant Systems: A new way to cool

| Wednesday November 7th, 2007 | 2 Comments

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There is a new form of cooling and heating on the horizon that is hoping to replace the inefficiency of the current systems that dominate the market. Desiccant systems, also known as thermally driven air conditioning, what? Desiccants remove moisture to reduce humidity, improve air quality, and energy efficiency. Desiccant materials are those that attract moisture due to differences in vapor pressure. Desiccant materials can be dried, or regenerated, by adding heat supplied by natural gas, waste heat, or the sun. How does it work? A wheel that contains a desiccant turns slowly to pick up humidity from incoming air and discharge that humidity to the outdoors. A desiccant system can be combined with a conventional air conditioning system in which the desiccant removes humidity and the air conditioner lowers air temperature.
One promising desiccant cooling system is being developed in conjunction with energy recovery ventilators (ERV). An ERV is designed to recover energy in a mechanical ventilation system during the heating season, more specifically, recover heat and humidity from indoor air to preheat and humidify incoming fresh air. The combination of desiccants and ERV’s provide year-round energy recovery for buildings with mechanical ventilation increasing energy efficiency of the heating and cooling process.

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The Future of Cap-and-Trade Markets and Nuclear Power in the U.S.

Shannon Arvizu | Tuesday November 6th, 2007 | 0 Comments

co2-sign.jpgAt last week’s Point Carbon Conference in New York City (October 29-31), policy professionals and industry leaders met to discuss present and future trends in the carbon market and policy realm. Two important likely developments emerged: (1) the U.S. government will implement a cap-and-trade market system, probably by 2009, and (2) the energy sector will meet the growing energy crisis by developing nuclear power plants.
Experts from the Pew Center for Climate Change presented an analysis of the most prominent of the seven cap-and-trade proposals in the 110th Congress. (For a side-by-side comparison, see the Pew Center for Climate Change cap-and-trade proposal chart http://www.pewclimate.org/) They remarked that the “tide is turning” in the U.S. House of Representatives when it comes to addressing climate change. Most of the debate between the plans involves devising a system to maintain environmental integrity in a way that fosters economic development. Senate and House members hope to reach consensus on a bill that they intend to pass during the 2008-2009 congressional calendar year. However, without administration input, this process is akin to “playing blackjack without a dealer at the table.”

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Net Impact Wrap-Up

| Monday November 5th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Last weekend’s Net Impact conference at Vanderbilt was the best one I’ve ever attended with over 1,700 in attendance and more excellent panels and discussions than ever. Vanderbilt’s Owen School has been live-blogging the event since last Thursday and I wish I’d known about it sooner. Check out their awesome series of videos and links here. One I liked in particular was the rection video to Yvon Chouinard’s Keynote speach. Check it out here:

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San Francisco Carpet Recycling – An Entrepreneur in the Making

| Monday November 5th, 2007 | 7 Comments

carpet-recycle.jpgSan Francisco set the ambitious goal of 75% waste diversion by 2010 and has already achieved 69%. Since carpet currently makes up anywhere from 2%-5% of what goes into landfills in California, carpet recycling stands to make a good dent in that remaining 6% diversion goal. As it turns out, that 6% offers a nice niche for an enterprising entrepreneur to enter.
SF Carpet Recycling was launched today, and owner, Ellen Raynor points out, “For every 10 million pounds of carpet that is recycled, 70 million pounds of greenhouse gases are avoided and 50,000 cubic yards of landfill is saved. Carpet recycling is creating jobs in San Francisco, feeding a sustainable cradle-to-cradle product, and less costly than the landfill.”
Much of the carpet that the company will accept is recycled into new carpet and the remaining carpet and pads are down-cycled into various other products.

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Green Mortgage FYI

| Monday November 5th, 2007 | 1 Comment

a%20green%20mort.jpgWill going green save the real estate market and help lenders recover from the sub-prime credit crunch? In the wake of the sub-prime mess, and the decline in real estate sales there is a silver lining…or better yet…a ‘green’ lining. From Green homes to green mortgages, going green will change the world and the way we live in it. Going Green, just like having a .com, is here to stay.
“Saving the planet” and being ‘environmentally aware’ used to be for the extremists, tree huggers, or environmental groups, but not any more. Energy bills are becoming a large part of the expense of a home. Lenders have taken notice. Financing that provides incentives for buyers, builders and lenders to practice green building and developing is the next step in the green building arena.
Mortgages are pooled together and sold to Wallstreet through Mortgage Backed Securities, both residential (MBS) and commercial (CMBS) These securities or bonds are separated or ‘tranched’ in to several different risk types determined by the rating agencies like Duff & Phelps, Fitch, Moody and Standard and Poor’s. This process is a large part of what makes the real estate market so lucrative.

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AskPablo: Putting a Lid on Bottled Water

| Monday November 5th, 2007 | 6 Comments

PET.jpgWhen we read the words “Water, water everywhere, nor a drop to drink [sic]” from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” we can almost feel the maddening thirst that a shipwrecked sailor must endure in the middle of a salty, salty sea. Equally maddening, but sadly far more common, is the fact that millions of people around the world do not have access to clean and safe drinking water. A great deal of the world’s potable surface water is polluted with man-made chemicals, dangerous pathogens, or in the worst cases, completely absent altogether.
It has been said that the issues surrounding water will be the next big thing after climate change. We can be certain that the awareness of climate change will continue to grow, but combine it with growing global resource struggles and the future is anything but bright. Currently over 1/6th of the world’s population routinely lacks access to safe and clean drinking water, that’s about 1 billion people. Meanwhile, western cultures shamelessly extract and transport water over great distances for convenience and novelty (See my previous article on the impact of Exotic Bottled Water). How much do we spend on bottled water annually? How much would it cost to provide clean and safe drinking water to 100% of the world’s population?

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You Can’t Eat Scenery: Economic Progress, the Environment & Indicators

| Monday November 5th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Well, it may not be as beloved or popular as The Year’s Ten Best Films or Ten Worst-Dressed Academy Awards attendees, but from its lofty seat on the shores of Lake Geneva, the august World Economic Forum has issued its Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008, ranking 131 national economies based on a survey of 11,000 business leaders and according to factors grouped into 12 categories.
The United States comes out on top in the overall ranking of economic competitiveness, followed by Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland and Singapore, respectively. According to the World Economic Forum’s calculus, “The United States confirms its position as the most competitive economy in the world. The efficiency of the country’s markets, the sophistication of its business community, the impressive capacity for technological innovation that exists within a first-rate system of universities and research centres, all contribute to making the United States a highly competitive economy. However, some weaknesses, particularly related to macroeconomic imbalances, continue to present a risk to the country’s overall competitiveness potential, and to the global economy as a whole.”
The Report draws attention to our reliance on hordes of statistical indicators and rankings not only to define and assess fundamental concepts such as economic competitiveness, progress and quality of life, but how they are ingrained in political, economic, social and, by their inclusion or exclusion, environmental decision-making processes of the highest order and largest magnitude.

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Powershift 2007 – Students Lobby for Bold Climate Change Legislation

| Sunday November 4th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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By Lorna Li
Climate change activism has taken to the streets this weekend. Saturday November 3rd was the National Day of Climate Action, which saw hundreds of student rallies on campuses across the nation.
On Monday, November 5th, 3,000 students will descend upon Capitol Hill for the largest youth lobby on global warming ever – Power Shift 2007. Tomorrow, students will demand of Congress a bold and comprehensive climate change legislation that will put America back on the path to a clean and just energy future.
On this day, these youth will deliver an action-oriented, concrete proposal to move our country forward, based on the comprehensive priorities of the 1Sky campaign:
1. GREEN JOBS NOW!
Create 5 million green jobs conserving 20% of our energy by 2015
2. CUT CARBON 80% BY 2050
Freeze carbon pollution levels now and cut at least 30% by 2020
3. NO NEW COAL
Enact an immediate moratorium on new coal-fired power plants

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What I want in a new home

| Sunday November 4th, 2007 | 2 Comments

1house.jpgIf I’m going to sign my life away on a mortgage for freshly built house to live in; I want a house that is more than just a roof over my head, more than just a slapped together stick frame with some extras like granite counter tops a solid wood front door, and one tree with 50 square feet of grass as part of my up-grade package! How come these homes cost so much anyway?
I want a house that gives back, not just in terms of equity, but in terms of energy and healthy living. I want a house that I can leave the lights on all night without sweating over my next $200 power bill, or rest assured that the air inside my house is actually cleaner than the air outside of my house.
I think it’s about time people start demanding more ‘value’ for their money. If you buy a green home that is well insulated (not just to code) but really well insulated and designed with utility bill saving features like passive solar heating, solar power, tankless hot water heaters and/or solar hot water heaters, Autoclaved Aerated Concrete and/or ICF’s walls and low-e windows with energy and water conserving appliances, LED and fluorescent lights, and a water-wise landscape design with ‘sub-surface’ and/or drip irrigation system. I believe the value will not only increase exponentially over the next few years, but your utility bills are manageable, your life is less stressful and you can actually feel great about spending your hard earned money on a house you’re proud to call home.

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Pension Fund Looks for Increased Climate Change Disclosure

| Friday November 2nd, 2007 | 0 Comments

Business and Global WarmingThe consequences of global warming are becoming an increasingly important variable for institutional investors when assessing a company’s economic viability.

In a recent statement, Calpers (the California Employees’ Retirement System) said that voluntary disclosures from companies citing general “climate risk” in reports is not enough. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission was petitioned in September by Calpers and others to mandate disclosure of specific climate–related risks to facilitate a consistent and effective approach in analyzing a company’s true exposure to risk.

I am not an MBA or expert in business analysis. As a layman, what strikes me is the apparent disconnect between the insistence on the Bush administration that aggressive action on global warming endangers economic growth, while many in the private sector begin to acknowledge the dangers of inaction or, at best, ineffective action.  

Business may not always welcome government intrusion into their activities. But it seems that many businesses and investors are beginning to understand that choosing between economics and environmental concerns is most often a false choice and that leadership in effectively addressing global warming, from both business and government, is required to maintain true economic viability in the marketplace.

Tom Schueneman writes on environmental issues at GlobalWarmingisReal.com and Hugg.ca. He also publishes the HistoryBlogProject. 

 

 

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Ol’ McDonald had a Farm (Bill)

| Thursday November 1st, 2007 | 1 Comment

Farm%20Bill.jpe For most of this year, Congress has been debating what to include in the 2007 Farm Bill, but there is still time for you to contact your legislators and have an influence. This opportunity to shape what food is grown, how it is grown, who grows it, and who can afford to eat it only comes around once every 5 years! Farm Bill policy is controversial and it helps to understand why. Food & Water Watch’s Farm Bill 101 provides an easy-to-read 1-page history of the development of farm bill policy.

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“Design is the Future of Business”

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday November 1st, 2007 | 0 Comments

cca.jpgCalifornia College of the Arts has launched an M.B.A. in Design Strategy that brings together design techniques and business approaches to encourage “meaningful, sustainable social change.” This new program is meant to provide students with applicable experience in creating/managing projects that create social and environmental value.
The marriage of design, business, and sustainability in one program is truly unique in scope and practice. Traditionally, business students go to business schools and design students go to design schools. When they meet in the workplace, designers and business professionals don’t usually “speak the same language.” To create products and services for the green economy, however, aligned strategies in usability and profitability are more important than ever.

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New Urbanism Meets Goldrush Wisdom

| Thursday November 1st, 2007 | 0 Comments

I recently moved to the town of Grass Valley, California , population ~12,000. You’d be in good company, not knowing where it is. It is approximately an hour Northeast of Sacramento, the same west of Tahoe. Coming from living in Oakland, this Gold Rush era town surrounded by trees, rivers, farms and ranches feels small, livable, and beautiful. And yet, something is afoot: With this charm comes increased population growth. And I am part of that. To some, I am the “enemy,” changing the face of this once primarily rural place into what they consider increasingly “urban,” though from my eyes it looks suburban, with the Burger Kings and KFCs.
So it’s ironic that the source of some very smart development, with an eye for sustainability, is a ranch. Loma Rica Ranch, to be precise. The ambitious owners of this 450 acre property could easily have gone the typical route, subdividing their property into tiny parcels, covering it in identical tract houses, making a tidy profit while congesting the roads, decimating the land, and obliterating the character of the area. There’s thousands from the ever sprawling Sacramento that would eventually, as it becomes fuller down south, see this as just fine.
Loma Rica Ranch has chosen a different, much more inspiring path:

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