While the current financial crisis has stoked worries about our economic future, the need for an innovative approach to economic growth is taking root in places like Newark, New Jersey.
In a city where 40% of the men are unemployed and 31% of children live in poverty, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, asserts that sustainable economic development offers a wealth of opportunity. Mayor Booker’s effort to make Newark a “showcase of sustainable development” was solidified by the Green Futures Summit, a two-day event focused on initiatives to green the community and bolster the city’s lagging economy.
The Apollo Alliance, the City of Newark, and the Clinton Global Initiative hosted the Green Futures Summit to spur dialogue around the creation of Newark’s sustainability roadmap. Agenda items included economic development, workforce development, green building, open space, and community and youth initiatives.
TriplePundit: Reporting on the Triple Bottom Line & Sustainable Business News
While the current financial crisis has stoked worries about our economic future, the need for an innovative approach to economic growth is taking root in places like Newark, New Jersey.
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After getting over the natural beauty and comfort of the Welsh woodlands home pictured here, the first thought I had was that it looked like the kind of place where the Bagginses, that world famous family of hobbits immortalized by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, would live.
Just as Tolkien’s novels and recent films based on his work have influenced millions upon millions of people around the world, so too I believe that the message embodied in this home, as well as the commitment and work of its owner-builders, deserves as wide an audience as possible, particularly in today’s fast-changing world.
As cracks and fissures appear in the foundation of a globalized economic system and evidence of potentially sharp, severe climate change continues to mount, counter-trends antithetical to globalization and societies built around mass market industrialization and commercialization, such as organic farming, low impact building and architecture, localized self-sufficiency and appropriate technology, have been rejuvenated.
Net Impact, a group of future and current leaders who use business to create positive change invited student and professional members to compete in the annual Net Impact Green Challenge. The task: to use their business skills to reduce their organization’s environmental footprint. Midori Connolly of Pulse Staging and Events, did just that. Here’s her story:
Can a simple, mother-to-two, small business owner have a notable “net impact”? Can she catalyze change for an entire industry simply by acting on her beliefs? Apparently, it’s possible.
When I first saw the invitation to enter the Green Challenge from Net Impact, I admit – I was deeply intimidated! After reading the impressive results from prior winners, I was unsure if I could compete. However, as I considered the concept of the Challenge more, I realized that there was no reason why I shouldn’t try. Even with the knowledge that I’d be facing some of the corporate “heavyweights” whose numbers would likely inspire more gasps of excitement than my project, I was willing to give it a shot. Knowing the grassroots meets big business, open-minded nature of Net Impact, I felt that I could share my journey of greening a highly non-green audio visual staging industry and receive a fair evaluation of my efforts.
My Green Challenge experience was unique in many ways. You see, I didn’t know when the realization would hit that I had to change an industry’s shameful, wasteful ways. I absolutely didn’t know implementing that change would be at the outset of a surprise pregnancy! Besides pregnancy, I also had the unique position of operating without the support of a team or even my industry. I faced friendly razzing and muffled laughter from colleagues who saw my attempt to create a set of guidelines for greening A/V staging as a creative marketing scheme.
Perhaps it’s the fact that my name means “Green” in Japanese, but I didn’t see anything funny or creative about what was happening. Witnessing crews throwing away handfuls of batteries, freezing my way through ballrooms excessively cooled to 64 degrees to mitigate the heat of incandescent stage lights…not funny. Not tolerable. So, after a year of quietly doing what I could to green the events we were involved with, I set out on my journey.
This is the first post of our latest addition to the 3p team of writer-visionaries — Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, named by Inc. Magazine as the “Coolest Startup in America — The ultimate growth company, built on garbage, run by a kid, loved by investors.” 3p interviewed Tom in August and he will be writing regularly on his experiences as a social entrepreneur and visions for business and technology that leave the world better off right here on TriplePundit.
Everyone experiences those formative “A-ha!” moments when a scene or image strikes us in a profound way. Many spend their lives building beliefs and passions stemming from that very moment. My life’s dream, to champion the triple bottom line business model and eco-capitalism, was inspired by very two similar moments in my formative years. My family left Hungary as political refugees in eighties and after a brief stop in Holland, settled down in Toronto. It was in this environmental progressive city that my first moment occurred. Wandering, as children do, through my family’s apartment building I found a stack of old televisions ready to be thrown away. In Hungary, a TV of any kind was a luxury, so I was taken a back that these perfectly fine TV sets were being discarded simply because they were outdated. I found the wastefulness of this image staggering, that people would freely discard goods or materials that must still have value seemed unfathomable.
The second occurred years later when I moved to America to attend Princeton University. One night my freshman year, as I walked to my dorm, I saw large tubs of cafeteria food being discarded in dumpsters. I thought of all the energy, work, money and raw materials that went into making and cooking that food and how all of that was going to waste. It really shook me! It seemed environmentally harmful, socially careless and incredibly economically wasteful (how much of my tuition went to buying and cooking food that was thrown away!) It was that moment that I knew that garbage was my key to making a difference in my world and that instantly inspired me to find ways to work with waste. Only months later I was digging through the very same dumpsters for food waste to feed to my worms and TerraCycle was born.
Kraft Turns Cheese Waste into Energy
Everybody loves cheese. And here’s one more reason: Natural gas purchases for two Kraft plants in New York will soon by reduced by one third through a process that produces energy from used whey. The company will also reduce costs and carbon emissions by avoiding the need to haul the waste away.
GM Gives a Sneak Peak at the Chevy Volt
An “extended range electric vehicle”, the Volt’s lithium-ion battery provides a top range of 40 miles before a small gas engine kicks in to extend its range to an estimated 360 miles. Top speed is 120 miles per hour. You can’t get one yet – hopefully by 2010 – but you can let GM know you’re waiting and interested.
New Bosch Rexroth Website Drives Sustainable Manufacturing
Bosch Rexroth has launched a website to help drive sustainable manufacturing in the machine automation industry. The company plans to use the website to communicate initiatives aimed at improving the environment and green manufacturing. The site will also highlight products Bosch Rexroth has developed that utilize alternative energy sources.
Driving a Low Carbon Commute
The Portland, Oregon law firm where Barnes Ellis has worked since 1963 has helped him break a bad habit. Ellis now uses mass transit for his ten mile commute instead of driving. It’s free for Ellis; for the law firm, Stoel Rives, it’s a wise investment in employee retention and productivity. Oh, and it’s great for the environment. Stoel Rives is just one of a growing number of companies realizing what a great idea this is. It’s the triple bottom line, before you even get to work.
Kettle Foods LEED Gold Plant Sees 20% in Energy Savings
Last October Kettle foods opened a LEED Gold certified manufacturing plant. In its first year of operation, the plant has reduced energy consumption 20%, reflecting a $110,000 savings in natural gas and $51,000 in electricity. Water reclamation has captured and reused 3.4 million gallons of water, saving the company another $34,000. Every month 2,300 gallons of waste oil is recycled and converted to biodiesel to power the company’s fleet of “BioBeetles”. I’ll stop here, I’m hungry for a bag of chips.
United States, China, and Australia Discuss Energy Cooperation
The president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Bjorn Stigson, addressed a high level meeting of representatives from the U.S., China, and Australia on Thursday to discuss how best to cooperate on issues of energy security and cutting carbon emissions. Stigson said that world energy systems are on an increasingly unsustainable path. He called for a “global energy revolution”, saying that the next ten years are critical.
In 1841 a Scottish surgeon, Dr. Campbell planted the first tea garden in the Darjeeling region of Northern India. For a century, the tea industry in India thrived, and Darjeeling tea was prized. After independence in 1947 the tea gardens fell into disarray under the Indian government’s policy of “rapid industrialization.” However, it is now thriving again thanks to organic farming methods and fair trade sales.
On the Makaibari estate the descendants of the Nepalese immigrants brought to India in the 19th century work in a tea garden that is India’s first organic certified tea plantation. Makaibari is one of the oldest tea gardens in India. Owned and managed by Rajah Banerjee, a fourth generation owner, it is has been 100 percent organic and biodynamic since 1991.
By a vote of 236 to 189 Democrats in the House of Representatives have successfully led an effort to pass “The Comprehensive American Energy Security & Consumer Protection Act,” a bill that’s touted as providing federal incentives that will lower costs to consumers, foster development of clean, renewable energy sources, expand domestic energy supply and promote greater energy efficiency and conservation.
Key features of the Act include a 15% Renewable Electricity Standard, extension of investment tax credits for wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable energy resources, as well as incentives for green building and home energy efficiency and conservation and expanding offshore drilling but protecting sensitive areas such as Georges Bank. The Bill also calls for establishing a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve, funding for which would come from ending some subsidies and tax breaks for Big Oil.
There’s nothing like Green to attract Green. In this case, the just concluded AlwaysOn Going Green 2008 Conference attracted a slew of VC and Biz Dev money looking to invest their portfolios in green tech. The summit as a whole brought together serious money looking for innovative ideas but to say that all the ideas and companies behind them offered true green innovation and philosophies would be somewhat akin to out-and-out greenwashing.
Early conference sessions including the solar breakthrough panel discussed various solar advances such as the Mono-crystalline silicon solar cells yet dialogue seemed rather low key and needed a jolt.
The “abundant clean green water” session got a little splashier and brought out honest panel responses such as “The water industry is dysfunctional. Like a train wreck.” To us it seemed appropriate with the water price gouging, privatization of water companies and the like that the panel compared the water policies of many companies to Pyongyang economics.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of their purchases. “Green” products line the shelves in just about every type of store for customers to purchase and carry home in their re-usable shopping bag. While the shift to more environmentally conscious shopping is great, it is important for consumers to consider the steps required to manufacture and dispose of products as well – this is called a life cycle assessment.Click to continue reading »
The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade has filed a suit to block a measure to go into effect on October 1st that would mandate all new taxis to have a fuel efficiency of at least 25 miles per gallon. According to the press release put out by the group, the suit is based on the findings of a report by C. Bruce Gambardella, who previously consulted for the City of New York and several automakers. The report “exposes the risks and dangers of riding in New York City’s hybrid yellow taxicabs.”
Hybrid taxis in New York have been consistently making news for the past few years, notably with the announcement last year by the mayor’s office that all of the city’s taxis would be hybrids by 2012. Not to mention the mini-fleet of Ford Escape hybrids that entered operation in 2005, donated by Yahoo!.
GreenBiz reports that hybrids currently make up 11% of New York’s taxi fleet. Yet, both in terms of policy as well as safety, the taxicab board argues that the city is making a tragic mistake with the new mandate.
Do you remember in the film Back To The Future, when the doctor came back with an updated car that could be powered by trash? Well it seems that that’s now not so far fetched, if the makers of the Cyclone Green Revolution steam engine have their way.
“Excuse me, steam engine?” I can hear you saying. Yes. It’s an external, rather than the typical internal combustion engine. The heat created while burning the fuel acts on deionized water inside the engine, heating it up enough so that the resulting high pressure steam turns all the pistons, etc, creating power. Apparently, since the combustion is external to the engine, it can use nearly anything as fuel – liquid or gaseous. They claim that in initial tests, they used fuels derived from orange peels, palm oil, cottonseed oil, and chicken fat.
Imagine you’re in a shop and not certain whether the product you’re about to buy deserves the green credentials the packaging indicates it has. You get out your iPhone and key in the name of the product. The next moment you’re presented with all the scientific information about the ingredients, manufacturing processes and much much more. In the next few weeks, that’s going to be reality if all goes to plan with new startup company Goodguide.
Having only just been launched, Goodguide combats greenwashing by sending product information directly to consumers on the spot. The company is still in beta but its promise is wildly alluring. Because rather than having to go back and forth to your computer to research certain products, Goodguide simply delivers you product information as and when you need it.
Goodguide, which emerged from Berkeley’s Sustainability Information Lab, says it provides real, verified scientific data about health, social and environmental products. The information in Goodguide’s database is vast. It was compiled during the last ten years by scientists who researched the ins and outs of the supply chain, accessing 200 public and private data sources. The result is an as yet basic metrics model assigning datapoints for what classifies as green.
Which online social networks do you use? Facebook? MySpace? LinkedIn? How much time do you spend there? Is it time well spent? Your mileage may vary, but I find I get more return on time invested on networks that focus on a specific professional niche or interest. These are places where I can do some like-minded linking to connect and collaborate on topics of shared interest. A growing number of online networks are taking this niche approach – bringing together peer networks of professionals working in comparable job functions.
Would you use a professional online network focused on green collar workers? Furqan Nazeeri, CEO of Viridus, is betting you will. He launched Viridus in January of this year to create an online forum for green professionals. But it’s about more than just connecting; it’s about collaboration and impact – Viridus aims to take the professional network beyond just networking to provide members a forum to share solutions “where collective knowledge helps members create a meaningful impact – for the environment, their employer and themselves.”
I recently spoke with Furqan at his office in the Boston area.
Illustrative of a growing trend in renewable energy systems, Vancouver’s Carmanah Technologies Corp. on Sept. 12 announced that it had received a million dollar order from French telecom provider Twist to supply solar power systems for a telecommunications project in an unnamed North African country.
Brought into the project by Solergitech, its regional distributor, Carmanah’s off-grid, stand-alone solar power systems will be used to power a network of telecommunications towers in remote locations. Each telecom tower is to be equipped with a fully integrated solar power system that includes solar modules, controllers and batteries suitable for use in remote locations and exposed to harsh environmental conditions, that include one bane of solar panels – dust and grime.
The deal may turn out to be worth as much as $6 million to Carmanah over three years. And it’s a positive sign for the company as it seeks to expand its business internationally.
“As Carmanah extends its offerings throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East, we’re finding a great interest in our stand-alone solar power systems for all types of communications applications,” company CEO Ted Lattimore, stated in a media release.
“Considering the remote locations of many of these installations, it’s easy to see the appeal. A solar power system is durable, reliable and convenient; just install it wherever you need power — with solar, there’s no need to worry about grid access, fuel deliveries or generator maintenance.”
Researchers Announce Nanotech Material Breakthrough Could Double Energy Storage Capacity for Renewables
Research scientists at the University of Texas at Austin announced today a possible nanotech breakthrough for a carbon material structure only one atom thick that could help accelerate the growth of renewable wind and solar power installations.
The new material, called “grahene”, could double the capacity of ultracapacitors, an energy storage device similar to a battery. But where batteries store electrical energy chemically, utlracapacitors store charges electrostatically.
While used increasingly in commerical applications, ultracapacitors are not as widely known as their battery counterparts. Current uses include energy recovery for regenerative braking in vehicles or providing short bursts of power for acceleration and hill-climbing. Ultracapacitors can also be used in conjunction with batteries to prolong battery life.
Researchers at UT Austin are hopeful that graphene-based ultracapacitors could help spur development of renewable energy power generation.Click to continue reading »