Ecopod: The Smart Compactor

| Friday December 21st, 2007 | 0 Comments

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Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a recent convert to eco-friendly products, you’ll love the 21st centuries’ answer to the “old-school” trash compactor. Meet the Ecopod, recently made available this past fall, this innovative appliance provides an efficient way to crush, store and redeem recyclable beverage containers, particularly plastic bottles and aluminum cans. The design is simple and functional, not to mention sleek and attractive. It crushes with ease and comes with the engineering strength and smarts of the minds behind BMW.
Designed by BMW Designworks, USA, it provides a convenient foot pedal to initiate the compact of your bottle or can. Once compacted, the container falls into an internal bin, which can then be later removed for redemption or curbside disposal. Each storage pod will fit about 50 crushed containers. The upper compartment houses extra room for other recyclable materials (i.e. newspapers or glass bottles). This is the perfect energy efficient and well-built system for the home.
The nicest feature to the unit is the simple fact that it allows the users to see just how much recyclable waste they create; be it either a shocking revelation, or hopefully further inspiring efforts to reduce one’s footprint. Green and smart companies would be wise to also use this cheap and shining tool in the office. I see it as a simple way to get green by making room for one of these sleek units in the break room. Start the eco-trend in your office or business by promoting recycle solutions for your employees or co-workers. Awareness is the critical component to reducing waste in the internal work environment which, I might add, can potentially lead to increasing the profits of your bottom line by fostering eco-creativity and simple office solutions.

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Does Increased Tech Efficiency Lead to Greater Resource Use?

Shannon Arvizu | Friday December 21st, 2007 | 2 Comments

When companies decide to cut their carbon emissions, one of the easiest and most effective steps they can take is to implement eco-efficient technology. But does this increased efficiency lead to greater energy/resource use? Put another way, does cheaper/cleaner energy lead to more energy consumption?
This conundrum is known as the Jevons Paradox, named after William Stanley Jevons (The Coal Question, 1865). Jevons discovered that improved efficiency in coal use made it more cost effective an energy source, thus leading to further coal consumption.

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The Sustainable Circus

| Thursday December 20th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Cirque du soliel seeks to be an If you haven’t been fortunate enough see one of the many productions of Cirque du Soleil, either in Las Vegas or one of their touring shows criss-crossing the globe, you’ve missed out on a real treat. In terms of production value, Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil upholds the highest possible standards.

The stated mission of the organization is to bring those same high standards to their sense of “global citizenship”. Recently, environmental advisor Sebastian Gautier announced that the Cirque intends on being “an agent of change” in efforts to lighten the environmental footprint of their global operations.

Efforts include a water recovery system at their Montreal headquarters, recycling of used circus tents for donation to children’s theaters (one assumes whole tents aren’t given to one single theater), and slicing scrap costume pieces into colorful bits and made into holiday ornaments that are sold in their gift shops (how cool is that? Souvenir sales from scrap!), though the question remains what happens to these material downstream. Efforts are also underway to use biodiesel for transporting shows. Simple things like having recycling bins on site at show venues become somewhat more complicated when you’re a world-traveling circus and need to coordinate with dozens of local entities, but they do currently have bins setup for two of their productions.

In terms of sustainability, there’s no business like show business.

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Plantic: Plastic you can eat

| Thursday December 20th, 2007 | 5 Comments

plantic_logo.gifA few years back, as a student at the sustainability focused MBA program at Presidio, we were doing a project to create a mock proposal/presentation to Ghirardelli Chocolates on how we saw them introducing an organic, fair trade line. My component was the packaging. At the time I recommended Plantic, an organically based, biodegradable plastic that was currently being used in Cadbury candies for the tray.
It was an amazing material, capable of dissolving when in contact with water, effectively eradicating the issues that arise when someone chooses to throw out, rather then recycle, plastics. Not merely turning into smaller, still toxic molecules, as petro based plastics are known to do, this begins, and ends, as benign, organic, even edible material.
So it was a pleasure last week, when I was interviewing Jason Wachob of Crummy Brothers Cookies for Ecopreneurist, that after I recommended they look into Plantic for their packaging needs, I checked into what they’re up to, and found that things have expanded quite a lot for them, to a broad range of executions and uses.

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EPA vs. California: A Follow-Up on Carbon Emission Regulation

| Thursday December 20th, 2007 | 1 Comment

EPA reject waiver for California lawI reported last week on the latest court ruling establishing California’s right to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions. Sixteen other states have similar laws on their books and in four occasions, including the ruling last week, courts have consistently found in favor of states’ rights on this issue. Additionally, the Supreme Court has ruled that regulation of greenhouse gases falls under the agency’s purview.

Thus, it seemed all that was now needed was for the EPA to grant the required waiver allowing California (and the 16 other states) to implement their legal rights and move forward with steps to curb CO2 emissions.

Not so fast. Yesterday, after a delay of two years, the EPA denied the waiver and the roadblock in Washington remains.

This is very disappointing to me and emblematic of the sort of leadership George Bush has offered on climate change throughout his tenure as president.

If you’re interested in the scope of that disappointment, read my full post on the decision at GlobalWarmingisReal.com (be forewarned, I let my politics hang out at GWIR!)

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Education and the Rush to Catch Up With Pressing Environmental, Economic & Social Needs

| Thursday December 20th, 2007 | 0 Comments

You have to be quick to adapt these days when it comes to business and commerce. That’s been increasingly the case in education as well. Educational institutions – certainly in the US, now in Western Europe and increasingly in developed and developing countries around the world- are usually pretty damn quick to adapt and develop programs in-line with current topical trends.
And that’s been the case as rapidly growing interest in and concerns about climate change, environmental degradation and how to support a world population approaching 7 billion has quickly given rise to a bevy of new degrees and programs, some with some rather odd, even seemingly oxymoronic, combinations of words in their names.
When I first read about NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science & Technology’s MSc. in Industrial Ecology the joining of “industrial” and “ecology” struck me as an unlikely and incompatible combination. The more I looked into it, however, the more it struck me how appropriate, and meaningful, their juxtaposition is.

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Chevron, Pension Funds, and Shareholder Activism (Part 2)

| Wednesday December 19th, 2007 | 1 Comment

Chevron receives another shareholder resolution“The central question, then, is not whether we want Big Business, but what we want of it; and what organization of Big Business and of the society it serves is best equipped to [help us] realize our wishes and demands…”
-Peter Drucker

On Monday Shannon reported here on 3P how shareholder activism has forced companies like Target, Apple, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond to stop using harmful chemicals in the products they manufacture.

And then there’s the case of Chevron, who was issued a shareholder resolution last Friday by NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr on behalf of New York City Pension Funds. The pension fund owns 6,676,009 shares of Chevron stock, one of its largest shareholders, worth more the $612,000,000.  Of particular concern in the resolution are ongoing operations in the Niger Delta, violations in Kazakhstan, oil spills in Angola, despoiling the Amazon in the ‘70’s, and responsibility for the final clearing of primary forest in Asia.

“Corporations that conduct business in an irresponsible manner by polluting the environment pose significant risks to investors”, Thompson said, “It does not make financial sense for Chevron to continue to pay large fines and legal settlements when many of these pitfalls can be avoided by company-wide adherence to the highest environmental standards.” 

The Resolution demands a review of the process Chevron uses to assess the laws and regulations of host countries in terms of their own environmental policies and procedures and to account for the gap that exists between those policies and regulations, and what actually happens on the ground.

By its very nature, a large, multi-national, resource-extracting corporate behemoth can transcend the effective jurisdiction of any one nation’s environmental regulations, even while technically bound by them. The enormous economic resources and global reach of Chevron, with operations in 130 countries, makes paying fines for ongoing or past violations of environmental policy – or even hiring what amounts to a mercenary army – merely a “cost of doing business”, with little regard for the long-term consequences.  Therefore, simply at a pragmatic level, it becomes the task of shareholders to see that corporations take into account all aspects of its policy and operation, including those with potentially adverse impacts on the long-term profitability of their investment. Particularly if it breaks the law. As the kids say: Like, Duh.

I admit I really didn’t know much about “shareholder activism” beyond my investments in PAX World Funds and the social responsibility index fund in my 401K portfolio at work.

Then I saw Shannon’s post and the press release about this shareholder resolution, and I got curious. Over the past couple of days, I set out on a journey to find out more about what makes up shareholder activism , how it evolved, and its role in corporate governance.

What follows is my journey…

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Waste Footprint II: By the numbers

| Wednesday December 19th, 2007 | 5 Comments

Waste: By the numbers
In 1990 the average American was sending 3.1 pounds of trash to landfills each day. On the brighter side, today that figure has been reduced to 2.5 pounds but only because the recycling rates have doubled in the past 17 years. However, it is fair to say that our amount of trash has not been reduced at all, only re-distributed and recycled which still costs us in time and energy. Roughly 1.5 pounds of garbage is now either recycled or composted while the remaining .6 pounds is incinerated.
Packaging is far and away the largest source of household waste. Between the plastic, glass, paper and metal that accompanies your products from the manufacturer to your doorstep, one third of these packaging materials end up in your garbage can. An additional quarter of your receptacle is filled with nondurable products, such as shoes, newspaper, etc. The remaining space is filled with an array of major items such as appliances, yard waste and food scraps.

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Carbon Credits: U.S. market poised to start trading BIG

| Tuesday December 18th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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Say hello to the green exchange, spearheaded by a leading cast of energy and environmental brokers -investors- who are launching a new exchange for trading credits that offset the global warming greenhouse gas emissions.
This exchange is expected to rapidly broaden the reach of the booming market for trading greenhouse gas as well as renewable energy credits. The exchange is staged to start in the first quarter of 2008. The affliated partners in this venture are Nymex Holdings and Evolution Markets, the biggest broker of environmental credits. Also, notable investment banks are involved such as Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan and Credit Suisse.

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Nanotechnology and Meeting Our Energy Needs

| Tuesday December 18th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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The US electricity distribution grid is around 100-years old and aging faster than new construction renews it while peak demand for electricity is projected to rise 19 percent nationally during the next decade–capital investments in electrical generation, transmission and distribution are forecast to grow by only 6 percent over the same period, according to the Electrical Power Research Initiative.
Researchers at E2TAC, the Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center at the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) are researching and developing a range of leading edge nanoscale technologies that hold out the promise of realizing greater yields at lower costs across a range of conventional, as well as renewable alternative power generation technologies.

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Incubate and Activate Your Social Entrepreneur

Shannon Arvizu | Monday December 17th, 2007 | 0 Comments

banner5_01.jpgYou’ve been pondering the idea for months now. Maybe you’ve devised a way to get cleaner drinking water to drought-striken regions or built an eco-emergency shelter for refugees. How do you mobilize your social entrepreneurship idea into the strategic and implementation phase? Apply now to attend the Global Social Benefit Incubator 2008, sponsored by the Skoll Foundation and Santa Clara University.

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Shareholder Activism to the Rescue!

Shannon Arvizu | Monday December 17th, 2007 | 1 Comment

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Shareholder activism is a primary reason why several large companies are eliminating harmful toxins from their plastic products. In a recent investigative series launched by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reporters found that lax governmental regulation of Bisphenol-A and PVC plastic has led to their proliferation in a wide range on consumer products – including baby bottles and toys. In the last two years, however, shareholders have launched and won a record number of resolutions to get corporations to remove these toxins from their products.

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AskPablo: Disposable Cups vs. Reusable Mugs

| Monday December 17th, 2007 | 24 Comments

Recently I have been getting more and more questions regarding my very first AskPablo post. Michael and Phil both asked me about paper cups, which were not included in the initial analysis, and I also received an e-mail from Anna. So this week I will recap the results from my very first post and will incorporate an analysis of paper cups as well.

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South Africa Sees Potential in a Hydrogen Economy

| Friday December 14th, 2007 | 3 Comments

ppp018spshutt.jpg The Dept. of Science & Technology (DST) is instrumental in charting the future course of development in South Africa. Of late, it has been busy finalizing a national Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Strategy that aims to take advantage of some of the natural advantages South Africa’s rich mineral resource base confers.
News broke nationwide end of November that South Africa’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was joining with North West University to establish a hydrogen-fuel cell “Centre of Competence”. The news, however, was “a bit premature,” according to a DST executive.
Two other hydgrogen research centers have already been established but have not been officially announced publicly. The CSIR-North West center represents the third leg of a national strategy that entails undertaking applied research in the areas of hydrogen and fuel cell production, distribution and applications in industrial, commercial and consumer sectors of the economy.
The premature news release pre-empted in part the DST minister’s plans to announce the national Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Strategy in January. DST plans to officially announce and provide additional information about its overarching national strategy early next year. The plan has been approved by the national cabinet and allocated a ZAR 60 million budget for its first year; capital resources that may eventually expand to ZAR 300 million over three years, according to the DST executive.

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Air-Pooling Politicians?

| Thursday December 13th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Car-pooling is so 1990’s… The eco-conscious politicians of today are sharing their private jets in the name of protecting the climate. This week Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen reportedly flew together to sign the Lisbon Treaty. Another private jet transported the leaders of Estonia and Finland to Portugal and the leaders of the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium are also rumored to be traveling together. But don’t expect this sort of altruistic behavior from US politicians anytime soon. Too many people here still believe that there even is a debate in the scientific community about the human causes of climate change. Until that changes the politicians will continue to drive their black suburbans and fly in their own planes…

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22232138/

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