Despite government incentives and a known payback period, many companies still find the startup costs associated with going solar to be prohibitive. A group called “Developing Energy Efficient Roof Systems” has emerged to challenge that concept. Starting with a major General Motors facility in southern California, they have assumed all the financing, risks, and installation costs for a huge solar array to be placed on the roof of the GM factory. In return, GM signs a contract to buy electricity and a certain rate from the company (DEERS). It’s a pretty brilliant idea. Read more in the NYtimes.
There were people fearing that Jeffrey Skilling was going to get off easy, but the ex-Enron CEO was sentanced today to 24 years in prison. Ouch. You’d almost feel bad for the guy until you see the (literally) thousands of people he hurt or crushed financially, not to mention the immense cost to business in both reputation and added costs associated with Sarbanes Oxley. Hopefully this sends the message that needs to be sent regarding breaches of ethics and the outright greed that has come to pollute the business world in the past decades.
Monday, monday monday… carnival of the green time! Pop over to “how to save the world” for this week’s reading.
Not only is China’s richest person a woman, but she made her fortune by recycling paper. The Financial Times has an inspiring profile of Zhang Yin who’s company, Nine Dragons Paper, thrives by collecing scrap paper in the United States, recycling it, and selling it in China. Talk about trash to cash – her empire is now worth an estimated $3.4 Billion dollars.
(Also Reported on Treehugger)
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This week on AskPablo I address the question: “Why does burning one kg of gasoline in my car’s engine result in more than 1 kg of tailpipe emissions?” Well, you could dust off your college chemistry textbook and figure it out yourself, or you could leave the headache to me.
If you only read the Financial Times once in a blue moon, tommorow might be a good day to pick it up. There’s a special “Energy Report” coming out which lays out the ‘pros and cons’ of alternative energy. Knowing the FT’s influence, this is going to be an interesting issue – one we may either love or criticize to death. Grab a copy tommorow and let us know what you think!
Yes, Seventh Generation has a director of corporate consciousness, and his name is Gregor Barnum – one of the most interesting and articulate business leaders I’ve ever met. Jacob at TreeHugger has conducted an outstanding interview with Gregor which I highly suggest you drop over and check out. Link Here. Seventh Generation is in the enviable position of having a truly inspired group of folks behind the scenes who are really trying to revolutionize the way a business can be run and function in a new, sustainable economy and ecology. It sound’s cheesy. It’s not, check out the interview.
Sustain Lane, the emerging portal on sustainability recently let me know about an exciting new project – Sustainlane.us, a growing database of best practices for local goverments interested in sustainable development.
Having made a name for themselves with interesting “top ten” lists like the “top ten most sustainable cities”, Sustainlane seems to be begining to reveal their full plan – a massive user generated review system. The website has recently changed to reflect this. Will they be able to compete with the likes of Yelp, who have no “green tendencies” of course, or Alonovo the green amazon filter? Either way, they’re moving gung ho in that direction and it’ll be very interesting to see what happens.
The government portal will become a huge database on best practices for anyone in local office – the only price to join is to submit a best practice of your own. So far this seems like the most useful thing on the SustainLane site, but we’re bound to see more in the near future.
In an article worthy of Pablo, the New York Times today brings our attention to a fascinating study by University of Palermo researches into the environmental cost of wine. The research team spent most of a year at a particular Sicilian vineyard measuring every imaginable facet of the winemaking process from pesticide use to labeling of bottles. The findings:
The production of a bottle of Terre della Baronia created more than a pound of waste and put 16 grams of sulfur dioxide into the air. Producing the 2004 vintage of 100,000 bottles generated 22,000 pounds of plastic waste, 11,000 pounds of paper and oceans of wastewater.
The findings also show that, despite large companies being labeled cuprits, 60% of commercial waste comes from smaller businesses. As a result, this particular winemaker has already made changes in several areas of the process to be less wasteful, and more profitable. But more importantly, the process that was used on the winery can be duplicated in many operations, agricultural and not. Plans are underway for a database of findings. Full article here.
We’ve been familiar with market based trading schemes for emissions such as sulpher dioxide and CO2, but here’s something I hadn’t head of before – Water Quality Trading. The concept, like airborne emissions trading, is to find an efficient and cheap way to improve water quality in a given watershed. If a company faces high costs to reduce their pollutants, they can pay a more efficient company to reduce their pollutants instead, resulting in essentially the same thing. Like a CO2 emissions cap, a given watershed can have a goal established that all polluters in the watershed must achieve together. For more information check out this 120 page handbook put out by the EPA.
This was brought to my attention by a nifty new green blog – the Green Wombat.
I frequently get ask about H2, and I’m not talking about the Hummer H2 (that 8 mpg thing is dead to me), I’m talking about hydrogen. By the way, many tractor-trailers that you see on the highway get around 5 mpg, which is pretty good considering the huge load that they carry. This week I’ll be writing all about the problem of energy storage and other energy-related issues that we are facing in our carbon-constrained society.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element, and accounts for 75% of the mass of the universe. Hydrogen is found in concentrations of only 1 ppm in our atmosphere because it is actually so light that it can escape our atmosphere, however it does make up about 1/8th (by weight) of each H20 molecule. Many people make the mistake of calling hydrogen a fuel. Unlike hydrocarbon-based fuels, hydrogen does not naturally occur in any usable concentrations and must therefore be created chemically, or by electrolysis. I consider hydrogen more of an energy storage medium than a fuel. Unfortunately the problem of storing hydrogen is the major obstacle keeping us all from driving Hypercars. Hydrogen is very light but also takes up a lot of space. In addition to these two problems it has a very low energy density (around 286 kJ/g, or 68 kCal/g) so, even if you give up your entire trunk space, you would have trouble going anywhere even close to 300 miles on a single tank.
A couple years ago the Nobel Peace prize was awarded to Wangari Muta Maathai. It was the first time the prize had been awarded to someone whose primary work was in the field of environmental studies and sustainable development and it symbolizes the relationship between a healthy ecology and thriving peace and democracy.
This year, the prize is equally significant: Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus has been awarded the prize for 2006. The Grameen Bank popularized the concept of micro-lending – giving out many small, high risk loans to people of very limited means in Bangledesh which has been profoundly instrumental in bringing thousands of people out of poverty. WIth the revolutionary work of the Grameen Bank (and other microlending instututions that have followed it) countries like Bangladesh, India, and Egypt have a a much more thriving middle class, and entrupreneurial sector which is the key to stable democracy, society and indeed a healthy environment.
Worldchanging is one of the best blogs out there on environmental matters and is one of my daily reads. Last year, I was honored to have been chosen to be a contributor to their first offline production, a book called “Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century“. If you know anything about the website, your bound to love the book – a coffee table sized tome that just might change the world, whether that sound’s cheesy or not. To hazzard a wild guess, as I haven’t yet seen the book, it’s going to be the perfect reference book for greening the 21st century – from business to architecture, from agriculture to education.
Read more about the book on worldchanging, or pop over to Amazon to grab a discounted advanced copy today!
The worldchanging crew is also embarking on a cross country tour that’s bound to be worth checking out. Check out the whole schedule here.
The Orchard Garden Hotel is new hotel in San Francisco, adjacent to a parent property “The Orchard Hotel”. It claims to be the first “green” hotel in the area, and is indeed LEED certified, tobacco free, toxin free in the laundry and a few other things that are not especially remarkable.
However, one practice that The Orchard Garden introduces to the city and possibly the United States is the “key card energy system”. This is common at virtually every hotel in Europe and is one of the more brilliant ideas around – one whose absense in the United States baffles me, with or without a green concern. It works like this: You use your keycard to enter the hotel room. Then, in order to turn on the lights you have to stick the card in a slot just inside the door. When you leave, removing the key card automatically ensures the lights are out. As a bonus, it’s impossible to lose the card while in the room because you remember exactly where you left it. For that reason alone, this hotel gets major kudos as far as I’m concerned. Take a peek.