Forget sending everyone a check for $100. What might Congress do that could benefit anyone, be flexible, and reduce per capita gasoline consumption year after year? By now most people have figured out that the only hybrid car that makes economic sense to own and is widely available is the Toyota Prius. A tax code that favors hybrids benefits primarily one brand and technology. That leaves out every other maker and other worthy technologies like diesel. Given the poor likelihood of picking up a used hybrid, what Congress has been considering in the last week is so far off the mark from being fair and of value for most drivers it’s laughable. What approach would solve all these problems? Here’s a hypothetical approach that could work for everyone and drive positive, continuous change.Click to continue reading »
It’s great to see a nice big article on the front page of CNN about green roofs. The presence of this kind of article is a nice reenforcement that we are very much at a tipping point when it comes to knowledge about environmentlly better ways of doing things. With the “Green Room Industry” growing at 70% a year, it’s also a fantastic business opportunity to get involved with!
This is a rather interesting story, featuring innovation, boom and bust, recycling & reactionst behavior. (See WBCSD) Chinese companies are on the lookout for lead anywhere they can get it. The lead is for car batteries, and apparantly you can recycle old car batteries for their lead content (I didn’t know this!). So, Kenyan car battery scavengers are making a killing by selling old batteries to Chinese buyers instead of on the local market which pays about half as much. This sound’s like a great thing – Kenya exporting something, batteries being recycled, and a very undeveloped economy getting some cash.
However, the local recyclers are up in arms because they can’t pay the Chinese rates and are finding themselves battery-less, and therefore out of jobs. As a result, they are calling for bans on battery exports. So where does all this balance out? How big is the Kenyan car battery supply anyway?
Read on at WBCSD.
World Changing’s Alex Steffan wrote an outstanding essay on earth day which encourages us to see beyond superficial consumer changes. He’s dead on right. If all we do is recycle our beer bottles, we won’t be going anywhere. Still, with most people’s environmental consiousness at practically nil, the bulk effects of superficial changes can still be positive and can be a great first step toward something greater. I think that as business leaders, there is a dual responsibility. One is to understand the high level thought that is going on in Alex’s essay and truly strive to move in that direction. The second is to recognize the realities of our imperfect system, and work with it in a way that does not alienate people, however long that takes.
If there’s anything worth reading today, read Alex’s essay, and read the comments too.
Lest we get lulled into complacency and overflowing optimism that the world advances only by the invisible hand of unfettered commerce, check out this article. The synopisis is that activism is indeed an effective and necesary agent of change that should not be dismissed as an irrational nuisance. Activism opens doors to many optional futures, in addition to providing “diversity for when the mainstream runs into trouble.”
Sometimes you have to say things over and over again before they sink in. Speaking of sinks – saving water is not only going to become increasingly important, it also saves companies money immediately. It’s also easier to do than most people realize. Joel Makower’s Grist column today illustrates this nicely.
Water reduction, reuse, and recycling investments often have quick paybacks, especially when one considers the multiple business benefits water efficiency can provide
As reported in the Retail Bulletin, the vast majority of UK retail employees say that it’s important for their companies to have an active policy with regards to climate change. The report also shows that those same employees lack leadership that would both satiate their desires as well as save the company money.
Everyone is impressed by the success of the Prius, and its abilty to change the makeup of the world’s fleet of vehicles and make other car companies scramble to copy it. But it wasn’t just an “idea” that everyone at Toyota immediately found appealing. According to Fortune Magazine, “Toyota had to overcome punishing deadlines, skeptical dealers, finicky batteries, and its own risk-averse culture to bring its hybrid to market”. No easy task for a conservative Japanese company, but something which is paying off big-time. Check out the article in Fortune to read more. Hopefully GM and Ford are reading it too. (thx Bob!)
The graph above comes from a recent Gallup Poll which says that Americans “See the Environment as Getting Worse” but can’t be bothered to do anything about it because economic growth is a priority. My opinion is that this is a totally useless poll to begin with because it starts off right away framing environmental matters as necesarily opposed to economic matters. It also suggests that “compromises” need to be made in order to have a better environment. Says who? We definitely have to change things, but I wouldn’t call them compromises.
Economy and environment are NOT in opposition. If you trash the planet, guess what happens to your economy? Likewise, if your economy is a mess, the environment will likely suffer as short term thinking starts to kick in, but that only starts you on a mutual downward spiral. Both economy and environment need to be considered in order for progress to be made on either. (thx John)
With Earth Day coming up it’s always a good idea to brush up on ways to save energy and live a greener life. The Sierra Club has some cool tips on their website which you can pass on to others:
http://www.sierraclub.org/coolhome/ – Tips on saving energy at home.
http://www.sierraclub.org/coolcities/ – Find out about steps your city has taken.
http://www.sierralclub.org/housecooling/ – A nifty sweepstakes.
http://www.sierraclub.org/petition/energysolutions/ – A petition for better government leadership.
The “Cold War” pitted developed nations against each other for a half-century, sustained by a small number of corporate surrogates who designed and supplied defenses. The “Hot War” era now emerging is driven by serious and immediate resource shortages and climate change at a global scale: things indivdual governments are very poorly positioned to control. The “Hot War” era will pit large corporations and small businesses against each other with great intensity of competition. As in recent times, occasionally corporations will band together to use national governments as surrogates in this struggle, advocating policies scripted by a Cold War era progeny called the “Think Tank”.Click to continue reading »
The only negative thing about Wal*Mart and other large retailers embracing organic food is the fact that they may seek legislation that waters down the definition of “organic”. The Organic Consumers Association is calling for a boycott of organic brands that are lobbying to weaken organic laws and taking advantage of loopholes in the organic standards. Horizon Organic and Aurora Organic are the two companies specifically targeted for allegedly purchasing the majority of their milk from feedlot dairies where the cows have little or no access to pasture. I don’t know a lot, specifically, about this particular issue, but things like this were bound to come up with the odd marriage of organics and mass retail. Will this start another cat-and-mouse game? Or will retailers improve transparency?
More information here: www.organicconsumers.org/nosb2.htm. (thx Mary!)
I went to a hearing today at San Francisco City Hall concerning the striping of bike lanes on a certain section of Market Street. The bike lanes have been desired for many years by cycling advocates who note that Market St. remains a forbidding place to ride. This section in particular is a notorious bottleneck during rush hour which causes numerous close-calls and riding on the sidewalk. In a city that ought to have much better bike infrastructure given its supposed reputation as a progressive leader, it’s rather surprising that it’s taken so long to get these lanes on the drawing board.
What was even more surprising was that a great many local merchants came out to speak against the lanes. The reason was that parking spaces would have to be moved from in front of their shops to adjacent blocks (with no net loss of spaces). Numerous merchants came out to testify fervently that this moving of parking would cause them to lose business and suffer no end of hardship. They were so convincing that when it was my time to speak I could barely collect my thoughts and didn’t really say much. The board of supervisors remained commited to the idea, however, but with certain considerations, most importantly the need to preserve loading zones for people buying large items, which is perfectly reasonable.
Then I got to thinking…
When I was at Ecosa, one of the coolest projects we did was a redesign of ink cartridge packaging, which is absurdly wasteful. In many cases it took up more plastic than the cartridge itself. We learned that this was a theft-prevention measure as, amazingly, they were the number one theft item at the Staples we did our reaserch at. We also learned about a local company that would refill almost any ink cartrige for you for a fee (less than buying new) which seemed like both a great eco-friendly idea and a great business!
Anyway, I got to thinking about the demand for these things, which, given the amount of spam I recieve on the subject has to be monumental. I came up with a crazy business idea to sell them from vending machines with extremely minimal packaging made of whatever recycled material was at hand. The same vending machines could take-back your empties and give you new ones at some kind of discount. And the thing could be solar powered, etc…. I still think it’s a good idea for highly urban areas where people might walk from their offices to a machine, but for most of America, it might not work so well.
Enter “Cartridge World“…
With bike to work day coming up, this article in GreenBiz is all the more pertinent. There’s an EPA program called the “best workplaces for commuters” which outlines a host of ways in which companies can make commuting easier and more flexible on their workforce, from telecommuting a few days a month, to flexible hours, to bike parking and shower rooms at the office. There are a ton of different ways to make commuting easier and healthier, but the bottom line is that by offering alternatives to being stuck in traffic, companies wind up with happier, more productive employees – and the stronger financial performance that comes with it.