The American Solar Energy Society reports that by 2030 one in four workers will be wearing green collars at work. The report estimates the creation of up to 40 million green collar jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.
Giving that report a gentle push was the announcement last week that GE Power Generation in New York state plans to expand its renewable energy division, investing $39 million and creating 500 new jobs.
Another unit of General Electric, GE Energy Financial Services, has plans to build a 120–megawatt wind farm in Texas, with completion of the project in April of next year.
And for a little icing on the cake, First Solar, whose initial public offering sold for $20 a share a year ago, soared up to the almost Google-like heights yesterday past $200 as share, finishing at $224.43 based on solid earnings reports (okay, maybe not Google-like – if only I’d gotten in on Google when it was “only” $200 a share).
And First Solar isn’t alone, the market appears to be getting hot for a number of solar ventures.
But despite the enthusiasm, a press conference by House GOP members today had a noticeable lack of any mention of solar or renewable energy, pressing Democrats for an energy bill with “energy in it”; apparently under the impression that energy only comes from carbon and essentially blaming Democrats for the surge in crude oil prices. ANWR will forever remain in their sights.
Fortunately, it seems the private sector isn’t waiting for leadership in Washington.
Commercial and urban buildings have a large variety of different exterior applications available, also known as it’s “skin.” Some buildings are painted in order to preserve and protect the surface exposed to the elements. The problem with painting applications is that it degrades over time and releases harmful toxins into the environment. With the endless array of environmental products and innovations that are prevalent in today’s world, it’s no wonder there is a new paint on the cusp of bucking the damaging trend of its predecessor. Imagine a paint that can make a positive contribution to the environment and urban ecology in particular. How? By cleaning up the pollutants that are transported in the air, more specifically, by reducing the levels of nitrogen oxides in the surrounding atmosphere. Millenium Inorganic Chemicals, a British R&D firm has developed what they intended to appropriately name “Ecopaint.” This paint utilizes the same photo catalytic process of the anti-smog cement developed and under going testing in Italy. However, it has the advantage of being applicable to many different surface applications.
A new marketing study reveals that conscious consumers expect accountability and transparency from companies that claim to be “green.” Companies that fail to do so put themselves at risk of a consumer backlash. Who are these “conscious consumers”? According to the inaugural BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, almost 90% of Americans say this term describes them well. When shopping for products that are of equal value and price, these consumers would choose items that are energy-efficient, promote health and safety benefits, support fair labor and fair trade, and are made according to environmentally-friendly standards.
When managers consider how to reduce the carbon footprint of their products, distribution methods and packaging should be near the top of their list. A new study that evaluates the carbon footprint of wine shows that, although manufacturing processes are important, the manner in which wine is shipped and packaged makes all the difference. Tyler Colman (aka Dr. Vino) and Pablo PaÃàster (our very own AskPablo author) show in their new study for the American Association of Wine Economists that shipping by container or reefer ship has far less of a carbon impact than shipping by train, truck, or airplane. In addition, shipping in bulk or in larger bottles also reduces the carbon footprint of wine.
Principals have no real force except when one is well fed -Mark Twain
For many years I’ve harbored a nagging sense of futility in what I’ll call my “environmentalism”. For every plea to help forestall another environmental catastrophe comes the growing, somewhat melancholy, understanding that long-term solutions don’t lie in constantly reacting to current crisis.
The home improvement project will have to wait until after we put out the fire. But there’s always a fire.
That there is another way to look at what we call environmentalism is the subject of the book Breakthroughby Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.
“Complaint-based” environmentalism focuses on the fatalism of an overpopulated world constantly in the throes of the next ongoing environmental catastrophe; that ultimately, in terms of our energy-intensive modern society, things are as good a they’re going to get and will naturally get worse much faster for those it was never that good in the first place. It is a belief in limits, NIMBYism (or here), and anti-growth, dooming the impoverished of the world to perpetual struggle.
As was brought up in my previous post, the release of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2007-2008 draws attention to the prominent and crucial role socio-economic statistics play in formulating policies that will determine our collective futures, as well as that of the environment which sustains all forms of life on earth. The preeminence of GDP as “the be-all and end-all” measure of a nation’s health and progress is certainly understandable from the viewpoint that it measures the total output of goods, services and capital, at least some portion of which makes life better, easier and more comfortable for more people than ever before – and it’s forecast that there will be 7 billion of us come 2012, the vast majority on the lower end of the material possessions and consumption scale. What by definition GDP doesn’t even attempt to include or measure has always been a valid and serious source of criticism that led researchers to try and develop more comprehensive, socially and economically representative and useful measures. Such efforts have taken on an even greater urgency with the likes of Brazil, China, India, Russia and a host of other countries shifting to consumer-driven economies. Ignoring the costs to biodiversity, environmental quality and health of economic activities, economists’ and policy makers’ reliance on GDP or any other limited and strictly traditionally defined economic statistics can only result in a blueprint for fatally flawed mispricing and misallocation of capital and resources and, eventually, environmental and social catastrophe.
These 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.
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.”
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.
At 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.”
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:
San 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.
Will 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.
When 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?
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.
Los Angeles: Oct 28 – Oct 31 Sustainatopia Consisting of 5 Conferences and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability like no other single event. Register here.
London: Nov 3 – Nov 5 Sustainable Brands London 2014 Connect with Sustainability Executives, Brand Strategists, and Design & Innovation Leaders as the Sustainable Brands London Conference convenes to drive the innovation that leads to enhanced business. Discount with code: NW3pSB14LRegister here.
New York: Nov 4 – Nov 6 BSR Conference 2014 BSR 2014 will explore how transparency can transform supply chains, energy and climate, consumer engagement, community impacts, and more. Register here.
Redwood City: Nov 12 Corporate Philanthropy Institute 2014 Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Grantmakers bring together many of the country’s leading CSR professionals to discuss changing expectations of corporate citizenship, strategic local and global programs and assessing the impact of community investments. Register here.
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