One of my favorite topics is the developing world’s energy needs. If developing nations take the same path toward energy production that we’ve chosen, the whole planet is likely doomed. So, finding a fair solution that makes everyone happy is one of our most pertinent challenges. According to this WBCSD piece, it’s quite possible to meet the developing world’s needs without increasing carbon emissions, but that article doesn’t talk a lot about how to go about doing it. In my opinion, it’s most definitely in the best interest of weatlhy nations to make investments in renewable energy infrasctucture everywhere, not just at home. That’s one way to get going.
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The TED Conference recently happened in Monterey, CA – it’s one of the most amazing (not that I’ve been) conferences of the year. You can read all about it here. But this post is about the bags. A super cool conference needs super cool bags, and who better to provide them than Timbuk2.
Anyway, the bag they gave away at the conference is designed to embrace the first stages of the “cradle to cradle” philosophy of William McDonough – produced with sustainable materials, and totally recycleable at the end of its life into useful material. It’s only a start – “totally sustainable” is wishful thinking at this point – but according to their literature, phase II of the project will bring it one step closer.
Download a lengthy PDF about the bag here.
What happens when climate change policy intersects with the war on terror? Here is a sampling of what we’ve been saying to the world.
‘The Kyoto Convention is fundamentally flawed because developing nations don’t have to do their part’.
‘Developing nations can’t be trusted to enrich uranium to produce their own carbon free energy. They might use it to produce weapons of mass destruction’.
‘It’s OK for India to use nuclear technology to produce electricity because that will free up oil to meet transportation demand in the US’ (hint that something is amiss: oil is little used to generate electricity; natural gas is).
‘China can’t buy a US oil company but they can buy all the oil and gas they want from Iran, so that it [China] can make the goodies we want’.
‘American industries can sell nuclear generating station equipment to China and India: a good thing for balance of trade and because nuclear energy is carbon-free’.
Is your head spinning yet?
In Gil Friend’s recent newsletter he alluded to 2005 as being the tipping point for sustainability. In 35 years of tracking the “sustainability trajectory”, Gil says last year may have been the “year of critical mass”. Among his observations:
- Major, and vocal, steps toward eco-efficiency by manufacturers such as GE and Boeing
- Major investments by financial institutions in renewable energy and efforts to combat climate change
- The highly significant developments at retailers such as Wal Mart and Starbucks
- And the reality check that the 2005 hurricane season thrust upon us.
It’s not all glowing, guaranteed optimism from here on out of course. Pop over to Gil’s site to read the rest!
Catallaxis was recently brought to my attention as a new blog on “integral economics” by Daniel O’Connor. The site looks at the idea of markets, and the polarized way that various camps of people tend to view them. By looking at markets, and other economic issues, in a more integral manner, the site suggests a more open minded approach to addressing the problems and disagreements that plague economics. It’s well worth putting on your reading list!
The story behind the name is especially interesting.
Given the intensifying impacts of an unstable climate, it is obvious to many financial leaders that the ultimate viability of the global economy depends on government intervention to promote the necessary changes in the world’s energy infrastructures. If government fails to intervene, insurance losses and defaulted business loans are the ultimate outcome, leading to a very damaging shrinkage of markets for goods and services, especially in developing countries.
That quote pretty much sums it up. But more importantly the article emphasizes that companies making efforts ahead of any expected government intervention stand to be in a far better position than those who lag behind.
The “Cradle to Cradle” concept pioneered by William McDonogh has been more of an ideal theory than anything that has yet been put into practice. That’s quickly changing. A brand of diapers called gDiapers has been awarded the first ever “Cradle to Cradle” certification for a consumer packaged product.
Disposable diapers are one of the most problematic trash items we’ve got, accounting a surprisingly huge amount of any given landfill. These new diapers, which are still disposable by means of flushing down the toilet, are apparantly quickly biodegradable in a way that does not introduce any harmful chemicals into the water system. You can read more about it on their website. But, with the support of McDonough, who is one of the strictest evaluators for this sort of thing, I’m taking their word for it.
Fellow Presidio MBA student Ed West and I interviewed Hunter Lovins for Treehugger two weeks ago week. In the first section, Hunter talks about her work creating sustainable local economies and what she’s been up to in Afghanistan. In the second part, Hunter talks about her work with the Presidio School of Management, DriveNeutral and offers some great insight into the problems of “business as usual”. If there’s one thing worth reading today, this is it. Have a read.
If you have a few minutes, please take the survey that Ed set up about the Afghan carpet market.
Aluminum manufacturing is one of the most massively energy intensive operations around, but Alcan, the big Canadian firm who won the 2005 Globe award, are managing to do it in better ways. WBCSD has an interesting Environmental Impact Assesment on their operations. The assesment concerns the manner in which Alcan balances its massive hydropower facilities in Canada with the needs of the people who live around the lakes – particularily concerning shorline erosion.
Say what you will about the fact that the lakes are artificial to begin with, and that developing cottages and condos around them may not be the most sustainable practice. Still, the level of communication that the company is having with the local community and the steps they seem to be making to reach out is worth applauding.
It seems perfectly obvious that any old shredder could be placed atop the recycling bin, but evidently, if you want super top-secret shredding, the paper fibers are typicially damaged beyond the point of being easily recycled. So… according to my favorite Japanese news source (Japan for Sustainablity) Fuji Xerox had solved the problem with something called the Trust-Eco 1500 which not only shreds paper beyond recognition at an astonishing rate, it’s also low on power consumption, and the fibers remain inintact enough to be recycled. Interesting!
More interesting news from the Financial Times (via WBCSD) about the win-win payoff being enjoyed in the microfinance sector. According to the article, what was once considered a low-scale “good dead” is now becoming a hot investment opportunity. The rise of firms like prosper.com comes to mind, as well as the sizable microfinance programs that major lenders like Citibank are now involved with. Interestingly, though returns maybe somewhat lower than other forms of lending, risks are far lower than one might expect. From the article: “It turns out that poor rural women are better credit risks than many companies, meaning that default rates are low. Accion [A major microfinance find ]reports a historical repayment rate of 97 per cent. No Accion or Calvert investors have lost money to date.”
Need a small loan? There’s an interesting business that just cropped up called “Prosper” which proposes to allow the general public to deposit money in an account and then make it available for small loans… sort of like a bank, but with a lot more input from the people who’ve deposited the funds. The whole thing functions sort of like eBay, but people can band together in groups, and can also offer only partial funding for a loan if they don’t feel like funding the whole amount. Potentially, this kind of operation could result in lower interest loans for people in need, provided they can present their idea effectively to the lending-side of the Prosper communitey. Pretty cool! www.prosper.com
Recycle Bank is one of the coolest business ideas I’ve seen in a while. I was tipped off by this recent New York Times article about it. Basically, it’s a system wherein your recyling bin gets weighed, and you recive a coupon that’s redeemable at various stores for purchases. The arrangement is described in the article, and works so well that in the frst pilot neighborhood, participation stands at 90%, and the city (Philadelphia) is saving money on waste costs – all while the two entrepreneurs running Recycle Bank build a successful business.