Al Gore, the Nobel Peace Prize, and Global Warming

| Monday October 15th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize along with the Intergovernmetnal Panel on Climate ChangeBy now it has been widely reported that Al Gore, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in alerting the world to the very real and growing danger of climate change.

As an essentially political figure, Gore has taken a lot of flak for his stance on global warming, even before his movie An Inconvenient Truth was released, but since then especially. Many detractors as well as supporters focus more on Mr. Gore and his political ambitions, real or imagined. Even after being awarded the Nobel for his work on global warming, the mainstream media buzz was more about whether this means Gore will run for president than the actual issue of climate change.

While much of the criticism of Gore has been vitriolic bombast from a vocal fringe, there have also been some more reasoned and reasonable concerns raised on the substance of Al Gore’s message on global warming. Lisa Dilling, writing in the University of Colorado’s blog Prometheus, gives a good example of this.

In her post she raises a principal concern that Gore’s message, as seen in An Inconvenient Truth, is light on effective solutions to Global Warming. While doing a good job communicating the problem, he doesn’t do so well in communicating the tough choices faced by the reality for which he has helped alert us.

I have other concerns as well.

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AskPablo: What is the Cost of Carbon?

| Monday October 15th, 2007 | 1 Comment

GD3153294%40Benxi-steel-mills-blo-3862.jpgThis week’s question comes from Richard. He asks how the price of Carbon Dioxide is determined. Unfortunately for me this is not an easy question to answer since there are many different prices for carbon. I will give it my best and hopefully you will be satisfied…

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Ever Wonder Where All those Foreign Aid and Development $$$ Went?

| Monday October 15th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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“The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.” George Washington
Corruption, institutionalized corruption in particular, has been a plague on societies for, well, since societies began to develop, I’d imagine. And while it almost surely exists in every country today, its scope and scale, and whether or not authorities publicly discredit and have the means and motivation to actively try and stop it, varies greatly between nations. And that makes a big difference in terms of how pervasive and damaging corruption’s effects are on the often fragile fabric that holds together the just functioning of any given society.
Just how sizable corruption has been, in monetary terms, during the recent past is being revealed to a greater extent than ever before by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery initiative. Intended to assist developing countries recover assets stolen by corrupt leaders and deposited in foreign, often Western, banks.

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Watch out wood, make way for AAC!!

| Sunday October 14th, 2007 | 3 Comments

aircrete.jpgA unique product called Autoclaved Aerated Concrete or better remembered as AAC is coming to the Wild West. A fan of this intriguing product described AAC as concrete that thinks its wood. It differs from standard concrete mainly by the millions of tiny air cells which give AAC it’s amazing insulating properties. Although the advantages over wood seem to be many this funky building material is rarely used and few developers have even heard of it. Availability and education are to blame, but that will all change rather quickly as the word spreads and as the industry brings the superior product to the masses. The West’s first plant will be opening in Kingston, AZ in 2009.
Some highlighted features follow:
Energy-Efficient- low in embodied and operational energy, thermal advantages
Fire Resistant- can withstand direct flames up to 1900 degrees F
Sound Absorbent- thanks to a pore content of approximately 80%
Weather Resistant- wind tough, water and moisture resistant
Long-Lasting- durable as concrete
Environmentally Sound- recyclable, non-toxic, high raw material-product ratio
Pest Resistant- say goodbye to termites
Easy to Use- workable as wood, comes in pre-cut panels or in blocks
Versatile- easy to work with and can be cut and shaped with hand tools
Lightweight- a dry density of 550kg/m3, weighing in at one-fifth normal concrete

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Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2007 Rankings Out Now

| Friday October 12th, 2007 | 0 Comments

wsj-image.jpgEveryone loves rankings, and when the prize is the honor of being the most highly regarded source for an environmentally and socially sound business education, the honor feels especially good. This year, the glory falls upon Stanford who will receive top honors in the biennial “Beyond Grey Pinstripes” rankings put out by the Aspen Institute.
This year’s evaluators combed through thousands of pages of data to arrive at their conclusions taking into consideration the number of classes where sustainability is a key component to the published works of faculty members. The rest of the top 10 are the University of Michigan, York University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Notre Dame, Columbia University, Cornell University, Duquesne University, Yale University, and Instituto de Empresa.
Puzzling however, is the absence of three newer MBA programs who have devoted 100% of their curriculum to the study of sustainable business practices – The Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Dominican, and The Presidio School of Management.

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Green Home Building Pioneers

| Friday October 12th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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In the quaint city of Saratoga Springs Utah, I found a developer bold enough to tackle the traditional building system and step out of what he calls the “wooden box” for his residential housing project. Dave Christenson, Co-owner of Coyote Creek Estates is planning to build 24 luxury Green homes with a firm resolution to have the most eco-friendly homes in Utah. When asked why, Mr. Christenson said, “I simply cannot wrap my head around doing things the old-fashioned way.” The project is designed around a country modern platform to blend in with the native surroundings and an equestrian center already under operation. The big news, a Coyote Creek home will reduce total energy consumption by more than 70%. If you think that is a bold undertaking think twice, because Dave says, “it’s doable.” Ok, so it is possible to build extremely energy efficient homes but is it profitable as well?
Further prodding into the question of profitability I discovered that statistically a green home is more likely to appraise at higher values and sell accordingly. With regards to Coyote Creek Estates this statistic rings true. Mr Christenson has already reserved half the lots on his estate for anxious buyers of his green homes. But are these homes affordable for the less than affluent consumer? When asked directly, Dave C. said that his homes will cost upwards of 10% more than the energy sucking equivalent. All the homes in the development are competitivley priced between $500,000 and $700,000. To this end, I propose this question, if going green is not as difficult or costly as one might consider then why are we not seeing truly green homes becoming the standard?

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The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Animal Welfare Value-Chain Improvements

| Friday October 12th, 2007 | 3 Comments

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A few weeks ago, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. parent company, CKE Restaurants announced it will begin purchasing eggs and pork from suppliers who do not keep animals in cages or crates, said spokesmen for Hardee’s and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Jeff Mochal, of Hardee’s said, “We take animal welfare concerns very seriously…When you meet with PETA they make a pretty good case. We want to stay consistent with where the industry is at now and where it’s heading.”

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Energy Demand & Emissions Reduction Requirements: Where to from here?

| Friday October 12th, 2007 | 0 Comments

sky322.jpgExempt from the mandatory emissions reduction cuts required of developed countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol, pressure is being put on developing countries to make more significant efforts to increase energy efficiency and reduce their greenhouse and other polluting gas emissions.
It turns out that South Africa, relatively speaking a beacon for wildlife conservation and with one of the world’s biggest ecotourism industries, also ranks high up on the worst polluters’ list: A recently released report pegs the country as the 15th-larget emitter of carbon dioxide, ahead of developed countries such as the UK with much larger economies. Like most of its counterparts, the South African government is looking at expanding the use of new, cleaner coal and nuclear power to reduce emissions per unit and supply growing demands for electrical power and fuel.

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Green Roofed Gas Stations?

| Friday October 12th, 2007 | 0 Comments

grass1012_125x75.jpgWhether or not a gas station can be LEED certified, I’ve no idea, but this creative entrepreneur in Port Washington, WI plans to give his gas station a green roofed touch. Not only that, but he plans to build it into a hillside so that the roof becomes the “front yard” of the building higher up the hill (which happens to be his house). That way, not only is he combating drainage and doing away with an “eyesore”, he’s also differentiating his product.
Like Al Johnson’s Sweedish Restaurant, famous for not only having a green roof, but for having goats on it to keep it “mowed”, that extra touch may be what it takes to make his station stand alone from others in town. I can picture kids begging their parents to stop for gas there so they can stand under the green roof

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Beyond Economics and Values: Why do companies really behave in socially and environmentally responsible ways?

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday October 11th, 2007 | 5 Comments

By now, most managers are familiar with the rhetoric of sustainable business practices. In books, conferences, MBA programs, and business journals, the “buzz” around the 3P approach has helped raise the consciousness of the business world. There are two main arguments often cited for why a company should implement sustainable practices: (1) companies can save and/or generate more revenue and (2) values matter and operating in a socially and environmentally responsible way is the “right” thing to do. To date, many Fortune 500 companies have made significant steps towards implementing sustainable business practices. But are ethics and financial self-interest primarily responsible for this transition?
Companies do not exist in a vacuum. They are greatly influenced by what others in the business world are doing. Businesses learn to “walk the talk” by operating in an environment where others are doing the same.

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Sustainability in Space?

| Tuesday October 9th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Earth and moon. Should we exploit and pollute the moon?

I recently completed a quiz at EcoFoot.org, one of several websites designed to give users an idea of their environmental footprint. Long story short, even though I’m greener than your average American, if all my fellow humans lived my lifestyle, it would require 3.5 planet earth’s to maintain. Sobering.

A recent post in ScientificBlogging.com discuses two emerging patterns of thought on sustainability: environmentalism and ecologism (a very interesting discussion of which is here). Citing an article by Rasmus Karlsson in International Journal of the Environment, ScientificBlogging suggests there is a third route available to a sustainable future, and that route is up; specifically in space, with virtually unlimited access to mineral ores and space to dump our trash. Why stop at 3.5 earth’s?

I don’t share ScientificBlogging’s enthusiasm.

It almost strikes me as the addict’s reaction to their incessant craving: just a little more will do the trick.

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Clinton Climate Initiative Boom Hits All Economies

| Tuesday October 9th, 2007 | 0 Comments

earth-443.jpgThe Clinton Climate Initiative’s C4O program is a $5 Billion fund to make 40 selected cities significantly more energy efficient by promoting greener building and other best practices. The money is coming from several of the world’s largest banks and a number of companies will be involved in providing engineering, consulting and auditing services.
It’s an obvious boon to the cities in question, as well as to other cities who might learn by example or get free advice, not to mention the long term economic and environmental benefits of simply saving on energy consumption. Here’s another story that hits home – smaller economies, such as Milwaukee’s (as described in this article) which does not fall on the list of recipients, will benefit hugely by virtue of the fact that Johnson Controls is headquartered there and has chosen to jump on this opportunity. Kudos to them, and kudos to the author of the article who is helping to turn local sentiment greener by making mention of this.

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Corporate Green: Perception or Reality?

| Monday October 8th, 2007 | 0 Comments

foundry.jpgSome interesting newspaper articles about “Greenwash” have appeared in the Cape Town press in recent weeks, including one in October’s “Street Trade, Not Aid” motivated The Big Issue, which is sold on the streets by formerly unemployed and often homeless hawkers.
Cape Town columnist Quentin Wray in his October 5 Business Watch column questions the Green ethics and broader credibility of companies such as transnational steel giant ArcelorMittal. Wray writes that while boasting on its South African website of having achieved ISO14001 certification in recognition of its “world-class environmental systems,” it is also the only corporation in the country facing a criminal investigation for “repeatedly ignoring instructions from authorities to stop dumping hazardous waste on an un-permitted site” at one of its plants.

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AskPablo: How many trees does my office Kill?

| Monday October 8th, 2007 | 17 Comments

trees.jpgThis week I was asked by Craig how many trees his office kills each year. In order to give him an answer I had him collect some basic information, like how many reams of paper they use each week. His office uses around 60 reams per week, an average of 100 sheets per person and 30,000 sheets in total (a ream holds 500 sheets). Over a year the office would use 3000 reams, or 1,500,000 sheets! But how many trees gave their lives to make it possible for old people to print every e-mail they get? Well, let’s find out…

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Green Buildings are a Start, but How do we Get There?

| Thursday October 4th, 2007 | 0 Comments

transport.jpegHere’s a really great article on BuildingGreen.com about the environmental externalities involved with transportation. That in an of itself isn’t anything super new, but the reason it’s worth re-visiting is this: When we talk about “building green”, one of the most important “green features” we often over look is quite simply whether or not the people who use that building can get there in a “green” way.
The idea is that constructing your factory or corporate headquarters in a traditional manner with few architecturally “green” considerations might be a “greener” choice than building a high-level LEED certified building which is sited in a manner that forces their occupants to use cars. Simply by choosing an urban setting in a walkable or transit friendly neighborhood, a builder has automatically chosen a very environmentally (and socially) sound building practice regardless of what the building is actually made of.
If you are remodeling or reusing an existing building, then you’ve done even better.

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