AskPablo: Desalination and the Water-Energy Relationship

| Monday August 13th, 2007 | 8 Comments

desal.jpgThis week Gary writes “my city is considering a desalination plant to provide drinking water. I have heard that desalination is very energy intensive. How does it compare to delivering water by pipe?” Luckily I recently came across a report that will help me answer this question.

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Corporate Sustainability Reports Emphasize the “Upside” of Climate Change

| Tuesday August 7th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), together with consulting firm KPMG, has recently released, Reporting the Business Implications of Climate Change in Sustainability Reports, the results of a survey that analyzes sustainability reports published in 2006 by 50 leading international companies. It is an interesting read – well-organized and complete with charts, graphs, and mini case studies.
Key takeaway: The survey found that while almost all companies included climate change issues in their sustainability reports, they focused far more on potential opportunities vs. financial risks. The authors note that, “This is in stark contrast with recent new evidence that climate change presents serious global economic risks if measures are not taken.” On the other hand, “…a surprising two-thirds of companies reported new business opportunities from climate change, mostly in the area of emissions trading and carbon credits.”
An article posted on the socialfunds.com website a few days ago discusses the report and its findings. The article’s author, Anne Moore Odell, quotes an SRI fund executive who believes that companies may be reluctant to acknowledge climate changes risks because they prefer to treat losses from droughts, hurricanes, etc. as extraordinary events and therefore “below the line.” Admitting that climate change is causing such disruptions may require accounting for them above the line, which could have significant financial impact.

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TreeHugger Aquired by Discovery (A Personal Message)

| Monday August 6th, 2007 | 4 Comments

discovery.jpgWell folks, this is old news by now, but a lot of people have been asking about the TreeHugger/Discovery deal and what it means and here’s my brief take. When we started TreeHugger.com, 3 years ago I always knew it was going to be a cool, fun site. With what I learned at Gawker, plus Graham Hill’s financial backing and out-of-site eye for design, I figured we could build something a bit more popular and a bit more successful than the average blog. Within a year I realized I could actually make a (very modest) living from TreeHugger and that with the quality of writing that was going into it the thing might actually turn into a real media presence and actually play a real role in “mainstreaming” the basic principals of an ecologically conscious lifestyle. The last year has been spent building that presence, finding new and creative ways to communicate the green message to more and more people. As the audience has grown, and as explained by Graham here, TreeHugger started getting the attention of some major media brands. As you all know by know, Discovery Communications picked us up last week and will essentially make TreeHugger the flagship component of their green efforts online, and I think it works out as a pretty good match. Graham and Ken Rother will continue to manage it for the foreseeable future, and I’ll probably be less and less involved, if at all.
So there you have it. “Doing well by doing good” rings a little louder today.
PS – A million thanks to the vision of Graham Hill who took the risk to found and fun this incredible venture that has really touched the hearts and minds of literally millions of people.
PPS – I’m taking off for the week so there may be a shortage of posts here on 3P until the following week wherein 3P 2.0 may finally launch along with the help of Pablo, Joe, Stacey, and others…

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AskPablo: Is this a god dam?

| Monday August 6th, 2007 | 0 Comments

dam.jpgThis week I got an e-mail from Ken. He wants to harness the creek on his property to become more energy independent and lessen his personal impact on global climate change. I am going to examine the variables that will determine if Ken should go ahead with this project, and how much it might cost him.

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Shell’s Eureka Film – Utter Greenwashing or Interesting Progress?

| Friday August 3rd, 2007 | 3 Comments

home-eureka.pngA while ago I got a copy of Wired Magazine with an interesting DVD inserted into the package. It turned out to be a highly polished 10-minute advertisement/film for Shell entitled “Eureka”. You can watch the whole thing yourself below.
What first struck me about the film is that the production value is incredibly high, and the story they weave is actually compelling and mostly believable, though painfully cheesy. It tells the story of Jaap Van Ballegooijen, a Shell engineer who apparently came up with a less invasive method of drilling for oil – inspired no less, by his son’s drinking of a milkshake with a “bendy straw”.
The message, of course, is that heroic Shell engineers will keep devising ways to get at oil no matter what, and the kids will be alright in the end, and you really don’t need to worry about anything. No mention about the actual burning of the oil and any of the effects thereof. These guys are too practical for all that…

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Johnson Controls New Facility Finally Walks the Walk

| Wednesday August 1st, 2007 | 0 Comments

jon_con.jpgI’ve suggested before that of all the major companies out there, Johnson Controls is among the best positioned to become a real leader in the field of sustainability by virtue of their roll developing energy systems for buildings. They recently launched a blog about energy and have been slowly moving forward with various sustainability initiatives.
Now, it looks like they’ve taken their talk to the next level and are planning an expansion of their Glendale, WI, headquarters that will be nothing short of a showcase of green building principals. There isn’t any straw bale that I can see, but the facility will feature a sizable solar array, wind demonstration areas, green roofs, porous pavement, rainwater catchment, and a geothermal field. Let’s hope it’s more than just a pretty exhibition.

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CNN Article Moves Green Even More Mainstream

| Tuesday July 31st, 2007 | 1 Comment

solarIndia.jpgHave a look at this article on CNN: “Solar Power Makes Tiny Village Beam“. It’s a fantastic story featureing not only environmental progress, but human happiness and bottom of the pyramid economic progress. But if you spend any time reading TreeHugger, this blog, or many others, the story isn’t a whole lot unlike the dozens we dig up every day.
What makes this one significant is that all afternoon it’s been the featured story on the CNN front page. What’s going on? Either there haven’t been any terrible disasters lately, or some editor has finally taken a big leap and grabbed a typical 3P/TreeHugger piece and brought it to the next level of mainstream consciousness. This can only be good for all concerned. What’s next?

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AskPablo: Land Use Changes

| Monday July 30th, 2007 | 7 Comments

tree.jpgThis week Tyler asks: “What is the climate change impact from deforestation, land-use changes, and reforestation?” This topic is quite relevant these days because many carbon offset organizations offer to plant trees to mitigate your personal carbon emissions. Are you really getting what you pay for? And what is the impact of cutting down a forest? These are the questions we will explore in this week’s AskPablo.

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Pepsi Bows to Pressure, Labels Aquafina “Public Water Source”

| Friday July 27th, 2007 | 1 Comment

aquafina.jpgAlthough I’m partial to a bottle of Pelegrino from time to time, I generally eschew bottled water as basically a gimmick. Much of it is, after all, literally tap water. PepsiCo’s major bottled water brand, Aquafina, is indeed tap water, and will now state it’s source on the bottle.
The change in labeling (somewhat subtle though it may be) is a direct response to Wednesday’s “Pepsi Call-In Day” by an organization called Corporate Accountability International. The activist group has been pressuring Pepsi and other bottled water manufacturers to state clearly that, despite the alluring mountain peaks on the bottles’ labels, the water is in fact municipal tap water, perhaps lightly filtered at best. Their website ThinkOutsideTheBottle.org sums it all up.
I applaud Pepsi for responding to these reasonable demands and suspect that they’ll earn some kudos for the move from many sources. Perhaps they’ll make a Pepsi-branded water container that you can fill up at your own tap and carry around?

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Socially-Conscious MBA Students Aim to Avoid “The Trap”

| Friday July 27th, 2007 | 4 Comments

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have read a number of reviews of the new book, The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, by Daniel Brook. The most interesting of these was written by Astra Taylor on Salon.com.
I have not read the book, but Taylor offers a good summary and analysis of its key points. The Trap argues that 20-somethings are now being forced to choose between living by their ideals or making a living. Taylor observes that,

Brook’s primary point will be familiar: Compared with our parents at the same age, we’re working longer hours for less money, reduced job security, slashed benefits and fewer social services… Let your student loans fall into default, rent a cheap, dingy room, go without healthcare, plan on staying childless; that’s the price you pay for following your passion or adhering to your ethics.

Socially-conscious MBA students may beg to differ with Brook that the only options available to young workers today are to be a “sellout” or a “saint”. According to the recent Net Impact survey, “MBA Student Opinions on the Relationship Between Business and Social/Environmental Issues“, 79% of students say they will seek socially responsible employment at some point during their careers; 59% say they will do so immediately following business school.
But…will they find jobs to match these ideals? A Newsweek article posted yesterday reports that graduates of the class of 2007 are finding the job market is receptive to those who want to do good by the environment.

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IMB to Enter the Solar Cell Space?

| Thursday July 26th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Cleantech blog had a great scoop yesterday suggesting the imminent entry into the solar market by IBM. The evidence gathered in this well researched piece cites a number of recent patents by IBM in various areas of high-tech solar cell development as well as the obvious market trends toward solar technology in general. It sound’s like one of the smartest things big blue could do given their technical ability, and if it’s as big as cleantech blog suggests, it’s another major leap forward for solar technology.
(Read the rest)

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Visualization of Ecological Footprint by Country

Sheila Samuelson | Thursday July 26th, 2007 | 0 Comments


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Ecological Footprint
Worldmapper has created a series of 366 world maps, each showing the proportion of a single variable in each of 200 territories, encompassing 99.95% of the world’s population. The maps are density-equalising cartograms, which allow direct comparison of one map to each of the others. The above comparison of current world population (top) with ecological footprint (bottom) gives a clear visual representation to just how out of balance consumption in the US has become. If you’ve read that it would take six Earths to support a world population that lived like the average American citizen, this shows why.
Other map categories include population histories and future projections, income, wealth, poverty, education, resources, manufacturers, pollution, health, and much more.

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Burning Man Corporate Controversy – Selling Out or Evolving?

| Tuesday July 24th, 2007 | 4 Comments

bman.jpgThe bulk of San Francisco’s creative social scene revolves around the monumental once-a-year event known as Burning Man. This year, Burning Man will have a “Green” theme which expands their already strong environmental policies to try to become a closed-loop event. Nonetheless, there is also great controversy this year, as Burning Man will feature a “worlds fair of clean tech” wherein companies have been invited to show off their wares.
Since its inception has been explicitly non-commercial in spirit (commerce of most kinds is banned at the event, logos banished, and a ‘gift economy’ proclaimed) so the invitation to corporations has many long-time burners seeing red.
The fear is that this act will be quite literally a death blow for the event – that corporate interests are so inherently contradictory to the philosophy of Burning Man that they simply can’t co-exist. On the other hand, with a logo ban still in effect, and companies required to turn over their products to artists who will have free reign over how and where the items are displayed, perhaps it’s not that big a deal and it’s the corporations that will really be changing for the better – or, more specifically, ideas that will be changing and evolving for the better into new and different kinds of companies.
Here’s what Money Magazine says. and here are two discussions about it [1][2] that take a different view.

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Intel Launches CSR Blog

| Tuesday July 24th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Intel has launched a new blog on corporate social responsibility called CSR@Intel. There hasn’t been anything particularly interesting up on the blog yet, but I’m happy to see any company moving in the direction of more transparent communications, especially in the realm of CSR. Intel actually has 8 blogs on various subjects linked to from their sidebar (see them all here) which might be overkill depending on how stratified they perceive their audience to be.
Anyway, as will all communications outreaches of this type, I encourage Intel to take some risks with it, raise some issues that the company might not have a rehearsed answer for and to not be afraid to say they don’t have an immediate answer. And I’d encourage readers to get on board too.

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AskPablo: Black Google

| Monday July 23rd, 2007 | 17 Comments

blackle.jpgThis week’s question comes from Julia. She asks “is it really true that a black Google page would save energy?” She is, of course, referring to a very popular article written by Mark Ontkush back in January. He claims that turning the Google page black would save 3000 MWh per year! As a result, Blackle was created. While it may be true that a CRT monitor uses 15 watts less with the black screen Mark does admit that only 25% of the world’s monitors are CRT. What about the rest of us, with shiny new LCD monitors?

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