Friday, April 30, 2010

Bio-Inspired Design in Action

Guest post by Shanolda Yancy

The human bone structure is an important part of our everyday lives. Over time, researchers have studied the properties of human bones and their connective tissues. They have also studied how bones reform on their own.  This is all part of a new wave in design termed biomimicry or bio-inspired design.

During their studies, researchers have learned to create unique designs for items such as chairs and automobiles from the structure of the human bone. The designs of our bones have been the inspiration of the design of many items we use today. The designs are made possible with the help of computer software programs, CAO (computer-aided optimization) and SKO (soft kill option), developed by Claus Mattheck at the Karlsruhe Research Centre in Germany. One researcher’s design became an inspiration for the blueprint of the Eiffel Tower. This particular design was of a crane by the famous head of The Swiss Technical University in Zurich, Karl Culmann. Mr. Culmann came up with his design while watching a physician friend engaged in cutting a section of a femur bone.

As we know, bones are durable, strong and light weight. While experimenting with the human bone structure, researchers broke down the chemicals of our bones which led them to a great discovery. From their testing, they derived an artificial bone material that is so divine that the material is almost impossible to distinguish from that of an actual human bone structure.  This was done by a method known as bone remodeling. "Bone remodeling is the result of the coordinated activity of osteoblasts, which form new matrix, and osteoclasts, which resorb bone,” according to Ask Nature Beta.  A good application of bone modeling is the use of self-healing material such as concrete and ceramics. Another application of bone modeling is the use of adjustable building materials that allow for removal of such material as needed to obtain a desired shape. The use of bone structure, as it is indicated here, is a great way to show how our bones not only serve its significant purpose, but how they also serve us all in ways we once never imagined.

S.E.C Adds Climate Risk to Disclosure List

Guest post by Verna Hale

The Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) is proposing to add climate risks to the current list of disclosures public companies should report.

Properties along the coastline may be affected by hurricanes and banks or insurance companies that invest in coastal property could be affected by storms or rising seas and would therefore be a good example of a climate risk disclosure. Investors have a fundamental right to know which companies are well destined for the future and which are not and they should essentially get information on climate-related impacts, including regulatory and physical impacts.

Although S.E.C. Chairperson, Mary Schapiro, stated the S.E.C. was not taking any particular political side by adding climate risk to the disclosure list, investors and environmental groups did petition the agency to have this item added to what companies need to disclose and hence stay warned.

The Petition for Interpretive Guidance on Climate Risk Disclosure can be read here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kraft Sheds 150 Million Pounds of Packaging

Guest post by Rancharese Whitaker

Kraft Foods has found a way to reduce material from its supply chains, targeting 150 million pounds two years ahead of schedule. Kraft Foods is using a new tool, the "Packaging Eco-Calculator,” to help it design packaging more efficiently, said Jean Spence, Executive Vice President, Research, Development & Quality.

As an example, Oscar Meyer Deli Creations now uses less paperboard, which reduces 1.2 million pounds of packaging out of landfills annually. In Europe, removing packaging layers from Milka chocolate bars reduces 60 percent of the shipping weight. In the UK, Kenco coffee is now offered in refillable bags along with the traditional glass jars instead of cans. Speaking of coffee cans, Maxwell House, Yuban and Nabob no longer use them either. Instead they’ve gone to paper board to reduce weight. In Australia, Kraft salad dressing bottles were redesigned and eliminated 100,000 pounds of plastic a year.

Kraft has partnered with RecycleBank and TerraCycle to improve the recycling rate in the U.S.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Green Electronics

Guest post by Latasha Pinkney

Residential fuel cell systems, projectors made without mercury, and outlets that can be controlled through the Web were just some of the most sought after green consumer electronics at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.

Panasonic's residential fuel cell systems can be controlled through a home energy management system, generate electricity and heat through fuel cells and store solar power in lithium-ion batteries.

Another example is ASUS' Super Hybrid Engine technology, which reduces power usage 43 percent below the Energy Star specifications for PCs.

Casio's green lean high-brightness projectors are the first to get rid of the "unfriendly mercury" and function with a hybrid LED and laser light source.

ThinkECO is an electronic outlet that can be controlled from a Web-based application, allowing users to set schedules for whatever is plugged into the outlet.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FDA and Industry Lobbyists on BPA concerns

Guest post by Sheneaka Murphy

The FDA has expressed concerns about the safety of Bisphenol A. Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in plastic containers such as baby bottles, sippy cups, sport bottles and other plastic food containers and even the linings in canned food items.

There has been growing evidence which has linked to a broad array of health effects in low doses during critical windows of development. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) stated on the developmental effects of BPA exposure that it had "some concern" for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current levels of human exposure.

Companies will be now facing a situation where they must find new ways of producing their products with an alternative for Bisphenol A. Companies may reduce the amount of BPA placed in their product. Other companies will experience a slow transformation as the research and cost for substitution for epoxy resins containing BPA that are used as can linings will be an obstacle. Cost factors involved in this substitution can easily be overcome by scale economies.  For example, Heinz is already using a substitute to BPA in some of its can linings.

There is always a friction between the industry lobbyists and the FDA. Companies eager to gain market share and competitive advantage can take advantage of the wave of growing consumer awareness.  The reputation of retailers is better retained by adopting a proactive approach thereby earning customer-loyalty and citizenship.

Monday, April 26, 2010

UPS Brings it by Bike

Guest post by Jennifer Shelby

In California and Oregon, a few UPS district managers made a decision on a local level to use bicycles with a trailer attached to deliver packages during the Christmas of 2009.

By making the decision to switch to bicycles, UPS could have saved $45,000-$50,000 in truck rental fees, maintenance, and fuel expenses. The bicycles took the place of 20-25 trucks that would have had to be rented for the extra workload of the Christmas season. Not only did this save UPS money (UPS declined to give actual figures), but it is predicted that just using bicycles in those few local markets will have an impact on the overall efforts of UPS to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

UPS has been looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since 2008; however, using bicycles are not in that plan presently on a corporate basis. In 2008, the fuel from delivery trucks accounted for 33% of the greenhouse emissions. Since that time UPS has implemented a software program that eliminated left hand turns. By eliminating left hand turns UPS saved 3 million gallons of fuel and 28 million miles.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Solar Plays role in Haiti Relief Efforts

Guest post by Elizabeth Borovcik

Sol, Inc., a solar lighting systems provider, is donating $400,000 with aid from suppliers and a solar light matching program to Haiti victims. Solar powered lighting system contributed by Sol will help hospitals, food distribution centers and relief camps to operate even after the broad day-light. In addition, one thousand solar-powered phones were contributed by Intivation and Digicel to help earthquake survivors and to help aid workers communicate.

For more information of the timeline of Sol's Haiti recovery efforts, please click here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis powered by Solar Panels

Guest post by Elizabeth Borovcik

Royal Caribbean, the world’s second-largest cruise company, is high on solar panel investments for its cruise ship, Oasis. The 21,000 square feet of thin solar film produces enough power to light the ship’s Royal Promenade and Central Park areas. The goal is to make energy efficient lighting of cruise ships, reduce emissions, and do “future proofing,” or utilize existing technology as a bridge while waiting for better future technology.

The company has not just limited itself to solar panels, but also has reduced emissions by using smokeless gas-turbine engines which can reduce the exhaust emissions of nitrous oxide by 85 percent and sulfur oxides by more than 90 percent. Other sustainable efforts are air-conditioning systems that can turn off automatically when balcony doors are left open too long.

BAM Solar Power, certified distributors of BP Solar and GE Energy, provided the lead on the Royal Caribbean $750,000 installation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Repurpose Your Used Pens, Markers and Other Writing Instruments

Guest post by Jacinda Gregory

TerraCycle has teamed up with leaders in the writing instrument industry such as Sharpie, Paper Mate, and EXPO to be the first to create the world’s first program to collect and reuse writing instruments. It will reduce the amounts of these products that end up in landfills around the world while raising funds for schools, charities and other non-profit originations. Each collected instrument is worth two cents and will be paid to the organization of the participant’s choice.

Participants will start by setting up collection centers called “Writing Instrument Brigades” at large corporations and schools around different areas. Once the collections have been made, each collection centre will have the opportunity to print off pre-paid shipping labels from TerraCycle’s website allowing them to be sent back, disassembled and reprocessed to make new products.

TerraCycle has also teamed up with other consumer goods manufacturers including 3M, Mars and OfficeMax, to collect and recycle their products.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hybrids Featured at the Detroit Auto Show

Guest post by Diane Barber

Car companies are working toward the goal of a cleaner car market by offering new hybrid vehicles and  electric vehicles with zero emissions to the general public. Some of the concepts shown at the 2010 North American International Auto Show were real vehicles that can be purchased now; others were conceptual cars and will possibly be offered in a few years. One concept car featured a gas-powered engine that shuts off when it is not needed, allowing the vehicle to run solely on the electric motor.

Ford Motor Company is one of the leaders in green technology and showed its continued commitment by announcing plans to increase current investments in cleaner technology vehicles to almost one billion dollars.

Toyota has had success with its Prius hybrid and announced plans to create an entire line of plug-in hybrids, all-electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles. Hyundai is on track to achieve a fleet average of 35 starting miles per gallon by 2015.  Audi, Volkswagen, and Honda have also entered the race to bring more green cars to market.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Green Fashion

Guest post by Michael Bradshaw

"The fashion industry leaves behind a huge trail of environmental spillover, from the pesticides used in cultivating cotton and the leached chemicals from the toxic dyes, to the landfill impact of clothes that wear out and the energy required to produce each unit," according to TreeHugger.

Instead of conventional cotton, people should use more sustainable fabrics sourced from bamboo and hemp in order to offset carbon and chemicals. People should also make an effort to stack their closets with Cruelty-free and Fair-Trade labeled clothes.

Proponents of green fashion in a lot of ways will do justice to humanity and animals as well. Buying organic and renewable fibers will reduce toxicity and waste and will do more good to the planet Earth in terms of energy and resources savings. Cold wash with biodegradable detergents and keeping the dryer and dry-wash at bay is the other side of the coin.

Thrift store shopping can serve as a true green fashion idea. These thrift stores often resell older, vintage items as well as some newer eco-friendly pieces. Cool fashion trends and more commonly Halloween costumes that have only been worn once can be found with ease, which undoubtedly saves a lot of money and time by not having to wait in incredibly long lines at other Halloween Superstores.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Walmart Fleet Runs Hybrids

Guest post by Ben Jackson

Wal-Mart continues pursuing its goal of doubled fuel efficiency of its fleet since2005. It will test four new types of hybrid and alternative-fuel heavy-duty commercial trucks and pledge to double its fleet efficiency by 2015 from a baseline the company set in 2005.

Wal-Mart is testing several fuel efficiency options within its fleet including dual-mode diesel-electric , reclaimed grease fuel made with waste cooking oil from Wal-Mart stores, 80/20 blend of biodiesel made of reclaimed yellow grease waste, liquid natural gas in larger metropolitan areas like Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Apple Valley, California, Atlanta, and the Washington-Baltimore region.
Wal-Mart improved the efficiency of its private fleet by more than 25 percent and attributes its success mainly to the use of new fuel efficiency technologies.

Wal-Mart’s new CEO Mike Duke asserted during a conference that efforts such as cutting waste and energy use and requiring suppliers to do the same would continue under his leadership.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Florida Making Headlines in Sustainability Budgets

Guest post by David Hancock

Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist has signed three executive orders directing cuts in Florida’s greenhouse gas emissions and put $2.1 billion into efforts to promote clean energy and protect the state’s resources.

According to the state’s 2010 budget, Florida’s primary focus appears to be on the utilization of solar power, to the tune of $44.4 million dollars, which includes solar panel installation for education facilities and tax rebates for solar energy. Other aspects of the budget’s energy initiatives were clean energy from such sources as natural gas fueling stations, providing clean energy grants, and wastewater treatment to which Florida allotted upwards of $50 million.

Wastewater treatment was of particular concern due to the survival of an ecosystem that covers nearly a quarter of the state, Florida’s Everglades region. The state is proposing spending $20 million in matching funds on projects related to wastewater management and water quality programs.

As we continue restoring America’s Everglades and investing in renewable energy, Floridians will gain a cleaner and safer environment that will endure for generations to come,” Crist said, in a statement.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Method Introduces First Cradle to Cradle Certified Detergent

Guest post by Chris Dodd

Almost every store’s detergent shelves are filled with laundry detergent that is 2X concentrated. Method's patent-pending Smartclean technology found a way of drastically slashing the amount of liquid needed to wash a load.

Instead of using the conventional route to make laundry detergent (adding ingredients to water), Method has found a way to put the water inside of the ingredients in its new 8X concentrated detergent. The new Method Laundry Detergent is a plant-based formula made with 95 percent natural and renewable ingredients and requires 33 percent less energy and oil to produce and product's package is completely made of HDPE (the widely recycled #2 plastic).

Method’s unique selling point, apart from the sustainable aspect, is its small size and a pump instead of a cap for dispensing detergent.

Through Method's efforts to reduce water, energy and other resources, this will be the first detergent to earn Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Minnesota Twins Team Up with Pentair to be “The Official Sustainable Water Provider”

Guest post by Chris Plyler

The Minnesota Twins are teaming up with Pentair and GreenMark to become more environmental friendly by addressing environmental concerns like water scarcity and quality.

GreenMark is sponsoring a new technological system, designed by Pentair, which can harvest rainwater and recycle it by treating it through a filtration system. It will be used in irrigating the field and cleaning after games. The purification technology will be so advanced that harvested rainwater can be purified to the level of potable tap water. The system is expected to enhance water quality and reduce the use bottled drinking water.

Pentair will donate and install a custom-designed Rain Water Recycle System (RWRS) that will capture, conserve and reuse rain water at Target Field, the new world-class home of the Minnesota Twins in April 2010. Pentair’s RWRS is estimated to reduce the need for municipal water at Target Field by over 50 percent, helping the ballpark to qualify for LEED certification and saving more than 2 million gallons of water annually.

"With Pentair's cutting edge technology and GreenMark's enlightened approach to sponsorship, an entirely new category of sports sponsorship can be launched that is a win-win for the environment and sports franchises."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Walmart Funds Green Supply Chain Research

Guest post by Cheryl Lee

WalMart has teamed with the World Resources Institute by awarding the Institute a grant of $420,000 to better serve the world by providing companies with the accounting tools to measure their supply chain carbon emissions. The president of WRI, Jonathan Lash stated, “Sustainability is becoming a driver of business strategy for smart companies.” Sustainability is a must if a company wants to survive in today’s economy. Some of the grant money provided from WalMart will aid in helping Chinese suppliers become more environmental friendly. WalMart wants to get their 100,000 suppliers on board as well and help them to become more sustainable. WalMart has put together a Sustainability Consortium comprised of universities, NGOs, and government business interests to assist in providing research for future products.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Top Seven Sustainability Practices

Guest post by Brooke Bledsoe & Travis Roe

The top seven sustainability practices have been identified by communications and stakeholder engagement firm, SDialogueSDialogue reports on the interconnectedness of these best practices and how they help companies realize sustainability.

The top sustainability strategies being used are:

  • Setting sustainability goals and measuring success: Accessing value and cost that sustainability would create in order to make an investment decision and aligning the adopted measures with the corporate goals. 
  • Stakeholder engagement: Stakeholders who need to be engaged and informed should be identified by social media. 
  • Sustainability issues mapping: Identification of sustainability challenges, issues, sources and opportunities. 
  • Sustainability management systems: Setting of Performance objectives that can be audited 
  • Product life cycle assessment and product-design: Determining full set of environmental and social damages so that the delivery of product or service is safe. 
  • Sustainability/corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting: Developing a formal sustainability report (web version) 
  • Integrating sustainability into brands: Unique selling Proposition

In it's report, Top Seven Sustainability Practices: the Sum > the Parts, SDialogue also explains the role that social media plays in sustainability-related communications. Building trust is one of the key aspects of a good corporate sustainability program.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Levi's to Trace Source of Cotton in Clothing

Guest post by Brittney Banks

Levi Strauss is currently working on a pilot program in conjunction with Historic Futures searching for sustainably and ethically sourced cotton for use in its clothing. Historic Futures teamed with Wal-Mart on a similar supply chain study of jewelry.

While addressing UC Berkley-Haas School of Business students, Levi's CEO, John Anderson put forward the company’s biggest challenge of sustainable sourced cotton. Levi's purchases materials from 150 textile mills, which in turn purchase materials from multiple sources. The program will follow the cotton in every stage of production right from cultivation to factories.

According to Levi's, if the pilot program tracing the supply chain is successful, it will be able to affix a certificate of sustainably-sourced denim with each pair of jeans sold under the program. Levi's is trying to convince customers of the benefits of cold-water washing to save energy as another sustainability endeavor.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Goodbye Incandescent Lightbulbs, Hello CFLs

Guest post by Amy Meier

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will begin phasing out traditional incandescent light bulbs, starting January 1, 2012. More and more Americans are buying energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and are aware of the energy-saving benefits.

GE says its Energy Smart CFLs use a quarter of the energy consumed by incandescent bulbs, last as much as 10 times longer and give off less heat.

According to GE’s research, about 75 % of 1519 homeowners surveyed were not aware of the impending federal requirement for greater energy efficiency that starts in two years. This Act will lead to the phase out of 100-watt incandescent bulbs starting January1, 2012.The next phasing out of seventy-five-watt traditional bulbs will be in 2013, followed by 40- and 60-watt bulbs in 2014.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Taking a Stand Against the GM Food Movement

Guest post by Karen Flores

It is nothing new to hear about the growing control that multi-national corporations (MNCs) are having over our food industry with genetically modified (GM) foods, which are infiltrating every aspect of the consumer food market. It is increasingly difficult here in the US to find foods that have not been genetically modified in some way.

What is new to hear is that more and more countries are willing to take a stand against the giant MNCs and ban GM crops in their countries. With entire countries enacting bans against GM crops, this is an enormous leap in making arguments known over the concerns of GM foods. Ireland has made the decision to ban GM crops and offers a voluntary labeling system that identifies food which are GM-free. Ireland’s decision is based on many factors from the obvious to the more subtle.

Clearly there are health concerns revolving around GM foods and what kind of long-term health issues that may arise. But additionally, Ireland recognizes that its local farmers would not be able to compete against the giant subsidized food industry as is seen in the US and Canada. Over time, the MNCs would gain control over much of the economy and Ireland’s local businesses would be suffocated and eventually become extinct. Another beneficial reason for Ireland to ban GM crops is that with consumers increasingly demanding natural foods, Ireland stands to be a good source country for non-GM foods that can me exported to other countries. It will be clear that foods grown in Ireland or other countries with a ban against GM crops will be naturally produced.

Ireland will likely face an uphill battle against MNC giants, such as Monsanto. Last year, Monsanto filed a suit against the German Government when it enacted a ban against GM corn. Monsanto is clearly trying to preserve the economic opportunities in Europe and is willing to battle it out against countries that ban GM crops; realizing the potential influence these bans would have on other European countries that may be flirting with the idea.

As more countries start to ban GM crops and take a stand for additional testing and research, there may be a glimmer of hope toward more natural food choices and less control by MNCs.

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