Greenthinkers noted the other day that “carbon neutral” may become the next hot phrase in business-environmental circles. But what does it really mean, and how do you approach it? There’s some great information on the venerable David Suzuki’s website. There are also outlines of several programs that can help your company achieve a carbon neutral goal.
Paper, that most basic of products is also one of the most commonly recycled, reused and wasted. As your business tries to be more sustainable, choosing paper wisely is an important task. This handy guide from Celery Design should help a lot in exploring the differences between brands and types.
Remember though, “100% recycled” means essentially nothing – you have to look for the phrase “post consumer” if you actually want paper that was really recycled from the waste stream. Also, the guide mentions paper that comes from certified sustinable forests. Assuming a forest is properly managed, virgin pulp is not necesarily any worse than recycled, and in some cases is better!
(found via Mitra)
Earlier we reported on the apparant demise of the electric car. We may have spoken too soon – Mitsubishi is planning an all new electric car for the Japanese market in 2010 (source – green car congress). The test vehicle (based on the Colt) is said to hit 94mph and goes about 100 miles on a charge. (company press release)
A sophomore at a Cortez, Colorado high school has created a model car powered by hydrogen. The football-size car runs on distilled water. A solar panel provides energy to begin the reaction that splits hydrogen from water, so it can drive around and create hydrogen at the same time. As a result, the fuel source is never depleted, and the car never needs a fill-up.
“When it’s running, it’s making water,” Biard said. “When it’s stopping, it’s turning it back into hydrogen.”
Why didn’t I learn this stuff in High School? Read article here.
ED NOTE – May 14:If only it were that simple. One of the greatest things about the blogosphere is the virtually instantaneous system of fact checking that exists. No sooner was this post published than avid readers brought it our attention that this kid did little more than put together a ready-made kit. (see comments below) Still a neat demonstration of technology, but hardly a newfound prodigy (sorry kid).
The idea of using human waste as fertilizer is as old as time, though in modern cities this practice has largely been lost. Nonetheless, the Milorganite company has been profitably making fertilizer out of treated sewage from the city of Milwaukee since 1926. It’s mostly used on golf courses because certain chemicals that are flushed down the john may pose a health risk if used on food crops.
Still, it all sounds good. My only concern is that I never hear anything about Milorganite from environmental circles, which makes me wonder if they’re either doing something wrong or have just been incredibly modest in their 75 years of operation. If you know somthing I don’t know, please post a comment.
As reported yesterday on Worldchanging, the New Zealand governement has imposed a NZ$11 per ton tax on carbon emissions. The tax ammounts to about NZ$2.90 per citizen, but is expected to be balanced out by other tax cuts. Also, as a tax on waste, it provides the right incentives for companies to become more efficient to reduce costs.
There’s another great article in Wired Mag today about personal energy independence – you know the idea of slapping up some solar panels and a wind turbine then sitting back and popping open a (freshly chilled) cold one. The best incentive about a properly designed energy system is that in most states, you can literally become a neighborhood power station, when the sun is bright, your electricity meter literally runs backwards, making you money and not the other way around. The resulting hybrid energy grid, or “hygrid”, is a lot more reliable the more people get involved. It also means that homeowners and business don’t need to buy a bunch of toxic and costly batteries to store electricity in their basements, the grid essentially becomes the battery, buying up excess and returning it in the form of cash.
The Voltaic Solar Backpack, despite being fairly expensive, has been a great success for entrepreneur Shayne McQuade. It’s also an interesting case study in how to launch and market a sustainable product.
Note – I did a little work for the Voltaic a while ago (hence the sponsorship banner on 3p), but this success story is inspiring enough to merit a few words from the founder:
The are few socio-economic situations as complex and frought with problems as those of many African nations, and solutions remain scarce. From an article on Enviropundit about the well intentioned, if often misguided efforts by Rock Stars and other celebrities to ‘save’ Africa with aid, I stumbled up a fantastic weblog called the Timbuktu Chronicles. In the words of blogger Emeka Okafor, the site offers
A view of Africa and Africans with a focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, technology, practical remedies and other self sustaining activities.
I’m no expert on the continent, but from what I’ve read, this is the kind of effort that seems to be doing the most good.
According to today’s Wall Street Journal (may require subscription to read), the large truck market has been showing steady signs of weakening in what is arguably its most fashionable home: Texas. High gasoline prices are clearly the main reason, rather than a sudden affection for cute volkswagons. Nonetheless, it’s a real market shift in one of the strongest big-car holdouts, and it’s likely to continue for the indefinite future.
As reported by Joel Makower on Worldchanging yesterday, General Electric has just launched a major initiative toward sustainability, something they call “ecomagination“. It’s more than a trivial effort – the website is full-scale rebranding of GE from the top-down led by CEO Jeff Immelt. There is a strong message associating ecologically reposponsible innovation with good business. The messaging promises a real, long-term commitment to sustainability by GE. It will be interesting to see how will this stragegy pays off both in environmental terms, and in terms of shareholder value.
If you would like to see the advertisement. It’s here: Ecomagination Singing in the Rain
Alterra Coffee is a local Milwaukee roaster with a reputation for the best cup around. They’re also wildly succesful despite the presence of no less than 17 nearby Starbucks franchises.
What are they doing right? Well, for one thing, they’ve returned a lot to the community, which results in loyal customers. They’ve recently begun costly renovation of a historic building that represents a direct investment in a central city neighborhood. That’s only the latest in an amazing list of civic and environmental accomplishments.
Consumer watchdog magazine Consumer Reports has launched a web site dedicated to the environmental impact of consumer products, called Greener Choices. It provides health and environmental information (including an energy efficiency rating) on cars, food, garden products, consumer electronics and home appliances.
An online survey of 1,200 adults found 70 percent are willing to pay more to recycle large products such as TVs and computers. The Kansas City Star reports that 43 percent are willing to pay more for electricity from environmentally sound sources, and the survey suggests that people are seeking energy-efficient appliances, as well as organic foods and are trying to avoid dangerous chemicals in the products they buy.
Greener Choices director Urvashi Rangan says:
While consumers do not want to be labeled green, they are searching for green labels… [and] not only do consumers care, they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
In appropriately patriotic spirit, the Treasure America project has launched. In a nutshell, it’s a project to look at the economic impact of oil dependency on the country and to consider economically viable (or better) alternatives for the people on the North Slope, as well as the country in general. It may or may not be too late to head off the current legislation, but project leaders still think there’s still plenty of room for education and with a little luck, the possibility of making a big difference.
I’m going to be leading the media aspect of the project, and you’ll see plenty of info on our progress here on 3P (and hopefully a lot of other places) as the summer approaches. The project is still looking for a few more team members, so if your summer plans aren’t yet ironed out, get in touch!
Xerox has joined the long list of major companies commiting to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The company has committed to a 10% drop in emissions from 2002 levels, a feat that will require a 30% improvement in efficiency. CEO Anne M. Mulcahy put it succinctly: “it is the right thing for Xerox to do”. (From businesswire press release)