Greenwash, Green Certification and Consumer Responsibility

| Wednesday March 5th, 2008 | 3 Comments

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Commenting on a recent “Countering Greenwash” post, one insightful reader pointed out how “green” product certifications, such as the EPA-backed, Green Electronic Council’s EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) and the United Nations led StEP (Solving the E-Waste Program) – can be an excellent means of getting past the greenwash. I can only agree, depending of course, on the quality of the criteria and the rigor of any green product’s assessment.
With support from the EPA, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) in March, 2006 released IEEE 1680 “Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products”, the first in the U.S. set of standardized criteria to assist purchasing departments and other organizations reduce the environmental impact of the computers they buy, use and discard.
On January 24, 2007 President Bush issued an executive order mandating that all federal agencies buy EPEAT registered green electronic products for at least 95% of their needs. This January, the federal government incorporated the EPEAT requirement into its Federal Acquisition Regulations, which stipulates the purchasing requirements of all federal organizations.
On Feb. 25, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Directive 08-01 which aims to “limit the environmental impact of the lifecycle of equipment, from production through use to disposal. Actions called for in this Directive aim to reduce municipal government’s ICT-related greenhouse gas emissions by 24% by 2012,” according to a media release. One aspect of the directive is that, come April, city departments will only purchase computers and monitors that at minimum qualify for EPEAT’s Silver standard, but preferably can meet the criteria required for Gold standard status.
Some 509 electronic products – including desktop PCs, notebooks, integrated systems and monitors – have been awarded EPEAT bronze, silver or gold certifications to date. The fact is, though, that a large majority of consumers in the U.S. continue to simply throw used PCs, laptops, cell phones and the myriad other electronic devices in the trash. They’re then taken to landfills where they are mixed in, broken up and left to decay in the overall waste stream, leaving municipalities -and the taxpaying consumer to pick up the costs – monetary, environmental and ultimately those related to health care.

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“Plastic Soup” Debris in Pacific Ocean

Shannon Arvizu | Tuesday March 4th, 2008 | 29 Comments

annasampleJPG.jpg Here’s another reason for retailers to charge for plastic bags. The swirling debris of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean has now grown to a size that is twice as large as the continental U.S.

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To All Major Retailers: Start Charging for Plastic Bags, NOW!

| Tuesday March 4th, 2008 | 7 Comments

bagthebag.gifOver the past year, many leading companies have taken proactive steps to minimize their use of resources that clutter up our landfill. European retailers IKEA and Marks & Spencer have started charging customers up to 10 cents per plastic bag.
Not only are these companies realizing the environmental benefits of charging for plastic bags, but also seeing the financial benefits, along with the positive branding, and philanthropic benefits (Marks & Spencer donates profits to improve parks and play areas across the country) as well.
Am I missing something here, or is this a huge WIN/WIN for everyone involved? Charging for plastic bags supports people, planet, AND profits. Click below to read my solutions!

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How to recycle your cell phone, painlessly

| Tuesday March 4th, 2008 | 5 Comments

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Last week I participated in a ritual that’s becoming increasingly common these days: replacing a (mostly) functional cell phone. Bluetooth and my beat up phone were not playing nice, and I need to have a headset to filter out noise as I talk to clients, colleagues, and co-conspirators.
So now I find myself with a semi recent vintage RAZR huddling in my miscellaneous drawer, gathering dust. Fortunately for it, I happen to be someone who knows a bit about what to do with such a device, as I wrote about here so it will be going off to Second Rotation. Or someone else who cares to pay me a better price for my old gear. Paid? For your old cell phone? Yes.
But what if you aren’t aware of such options, and the only ones that come to mind are ones that involve going to a store and paying for the privilege of recycling your phone? Or perhaps there’s having to search the depths of your closet for that envelope that came with your old phone to send it back? Right.
It’s probably not going to happen. And so your phone joins the estimated 125 million cell phones thrown away annually in the US. Add to that all the other places in the world with even higher percentage of cell phone users, and you’ve got a sizable amount of waste on your hands. Waste that could be easily, painlessly diverted.
Sherwood Folee has a better idea:

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Railroads and the Creation of National Parks

| Tuesday March 4th, 2008 | 3 Comments

amtrak3-glacier.jpgBe sure to say happy birthday to your favorite national park, for 136 years ago, on March 1, 1872, the very first national park in the world was born. Yellowstone National Park was created on this day in green history when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill that created the park.
The U.S. is well known for producing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, two documents that so famously incorporate the ideals of democracy. These documents have been used as models for many other nations. Perhaps less famously, the U.S. incorporated the ideals of “landscape democracy” when lawmakers created the first national park. In its fullest extent, “landscape democracy” is the concept that the most scenic parts of the landscape belong to all citizens, and that all citizens have the duty to protect these landscapes. Like the idea of democracy, the idea of the national park has also been copied by many nations. Wallace Stegner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, wrote that “national parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”
But how did the concept of the national park come into being? Well, that is a more complicated question than you may think, and one that involves some surprising players.

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Body Heat…and Power

| Sunday March 2nd, 2008 | 1 Comment

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Concerns about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are instilling a new dynamism – and fueling something of a renaissance – in alternative energy research and development. It’s increasingly apparent even to lay observers like myself that there’s potential energy – in widely varying degrees and at widely varying scales – in natural processes all around us.
Researchers in Erlangen, Germany, for instance, are developing circuits and medical sensors that can generate electricity from body heat. Actually, scientists and engineers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits – working with colleagues from the Institutes for Manufacturing and Applied Materials Research, and Physical Measurement Techniques – are using semiconductor elements to build thermoelectric generators that tap into small temperature differentials to produce low voltage electrical currents.
Temperature differences in the tens of degrees are typically required to generate enough electricity to power a cell phone or smaller piece of medical monitoring equipment, which require at least one or two volts.
Conventional TEGs (thermoelectric generators) are able to produce currents of roughly 200 millivolts but the researchers combined components in a new way to create circuits that can operate on 200 millivolts, according to Peter Spies, manager of the IIS sub-project. “This has enabled us to build entire electronic systems that do not require an internal battery, but draw their energy from body heat alone,” he said in an interview.
The researchers are now looking to apply these TEGs in other ways. “Electricity can be generated from heat anyplace where a temperature difference occurs. That could be on the body, on radiators to meter the heating costs, when monitoring the cooling chain during the transport of refrigerated goods, or in air conditioning systems,” Spies said.

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3form: Resin Encapsulated Technology; High-End Fashion Design

| Friday February 29th, 2008 | 6 Comments

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I was introduced to the 3form company at a local green gathering recently. The company produces materials for the architectural and design community and is working nicely in a green direction. I really liked the materials they used and the massive variety of applications for them. Their unique products cast a very modern and stunning image.
One of my favorites worth highlighting is “100 PERCENT” – it is low environmental impact material composed of recycled HDPE. In other words, it’s waste transformed into a very sexy and stylish design. It truly is beautiful and unique, but aside from the aesthetics, it’s tough, green, and clean.

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Quick Presidio Business Survey

| Thursday February 28th, 2008 | 0 Comments

Small businesses have unique needs when it comes to implementing sustainability practices. MBA students at Presidio School of Management are working to address these needs with a new and innovative web-based service. If you are part of a company of 100 or fewer employees, and have 10 minutes to offer your perspective for market research, click here. (The survey will close next Friday, March 6.)
Thanks for your participation! Please click here for the survey.

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Richard Branson’s new push, biofuels; coconut oil fueled airliner

| Thursday February 28th, 2008 | 13 Comments

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Richard Branson, the business man that makes headlines seemingly every week. This time, it is for a green cause, he made history by becoming the first commercial airliner owner to fuel a flight with a partial load of biofuels.
The debatable point is this, it took the oil of 150,000 coconuts and some babassu palm oil to power only 20% of one of four fat tanks on one of his 747 Virgin Atlantic airliners. The headlined trip launched at Heathrow airport and touched down at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, making the mark on what some would claim could be a revolution in environmentally responsible aviation.

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Green Loop: green apparel, footwear, accessories

| Thursday February 28th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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GreenLoop, the website for your green apparel, accessory and footwear needs. It is a portal to eco-friendly poducts for head to toe. An interesting company that provides a wholesale service to consumers for a wide variety of green wearable products.
The business is a no-nonsense green provider, it provides a portion of all sales to green causes and is far cry from green-washing compared to the standard business industry. All in all, I have been pleased with the customer service and the direction this relatively new green company is taking.

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VIVAVI: Eco-friendly furnishings, design, build, connections

| Thursday February 28th, 2008 | 3 Comments

vivavi-logo.jpgThose of you with big wqallets and a strong desire to go green with furnishings in your home or office should not overlook Vivavi.com. It is a site that offers a large variety of modern green furnishings from some of the industry’s top designers and manufacturers. I myself simply had a great time shopping through the site and viewing the unique and inspiring green pieces they offer. From vine-wrapped lounge chairs to bamboo dining sets and LED lighting, Vivavi offers it all in a convienent and user friendly online hub.
The site is very simple and yet sophisticated. The founder, Josh Dorfman, created a user firendly and versatile site that offers more than meets the eye. Not only is it a portal for green funishings but it also offers access to home design, architects, green builders, realtors and remodelers. Secondly, it even connects users to geen apartments, condos and residential communities. This site is worth checking out for the green enthusiast.

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America’s Toxic 10 Corporate Polluters – A Story of Contradictions

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday February 28th, 2008 | 5 Comments

condenast.jpg America’s “Toxic 10,” a special report put out by Conde Nast portfolio.com, demonstrates that we have entered a new realm of corporate environmental governance. We frequently read headlines that highlight corporate sustainability initiatives, like “Ford’s New Green Roof Initiative” or “Boeing’s New Fuel-Efficient Airplanes.” But the sad reality is that corporate giants, by and large, continue to commit egregious crimes against human health and nature. Almost every company listed in the “Toxic 10″ has promoted some form of corporate greening, but this article shows that these may be attempts to legitimate and continue their polluting practices more than anything else.

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Public & Private Sector Renewable Energy Leaders to Gather in D.C.

| Thursday February 28th, 2008 | 0 Comments

With energy costs, efficiency, security and climate change looking like they will be on corporate and political agendas for quite some time to come, government officials and executives from industry and commerce are increasingly networking to find ways of reducing energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions – both operationally and by implementing organizational polices and best practices.
Cabinet level officials from more than 70 countries will be gathering alongside representatives from private sector, non-governmental organizations, the media and the public in the nation’s capital March 4-6 for WIREC 2008, the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference.
Conference focal points are organized around four themes: Market Adoption and Finance; Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development; Technology, Research and Development; and State and Local Government Initiatives, each intended to provide a forum for examining policy initiatives that can facilitate a rapid ramping up renewable energy sources.
“This agenda has both the breadth and depth necessary for international leaders to address energy security, environmental quality, and wealth creation in rural areas.” said Thomas C. Dorr, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development, in a media release.

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FuelMeister II: Personal Biodiesel Processor

| Wednesday February 27th, 2008 | 9 Comments

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One problem consumer’s face when wanting to use biofuels is building an in-house processor for creating biodiesel to further shave costs. This is no small feat so Renewal Biodiesel has created a second generation do-it-yourself system that makes it a snap. The system is aptly coined the FuelMeister II. The biggest benefit to this system is cost savings, producing your own biodiesel fuel can bank you as little as .70 cents a gallon!!
The FuelMeister II is faster, safer, and easier to operate than its older sibling. The FuelMeister creates biodiesel out of used cooking oil, methanol, lye, electricity and tap water. With these ingredients properly blended the FuelMeister can kick out 80 gallons of clean-burning fuel every day. This fuel can be used to power your vehicle or even your home or both.

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How to get clean water: Play on a merry-go-round!

| Tuesday February 26th, 2008 | 7 Comments

We in the West take it for granted that you turn on the faucet, and water comes out. But for many people, it’s not a given. In fact, in many places, you have to walk for miles, scooping it into a large jar, then carry it back. And there’s no guarantee of it’s cleanliness. This results in a large number of deaths each year. But it simply doesn’t have to be that way. The irony is, for many, water can be found, right where they are, albeit deep in the ground. How? Not via an electricity or generator powered water pump. Too expensive, and generally there’s a lack of infrastructure in many places to support such a thing. What then?
How about a merry-go-round and a prefab water tower. Come again? Yes, it’s called the Play Pump. What is it? Basically, it’s a water pump, that utilizes the energy of children (and anybody else who cares to play on it) spinning around on a playground style merry-go-round, that serves as the motor behind the pump. Rather then give them away, these reasonably priced devices whose water tower has nice large flat surfaces could double as a billboard, providing income to cover the maintenance of them, and publicity for local businesses.
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What happens as a result of these?

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