Tag Archives: Green Vancouver

The Best Green Claim

Win With the Best Green Claim!

Submit the best green claim and win a Seventh Generation Healthy Home Starter Kit!  I’ll be reviewing these Seventh Generation home products.  These include multi-surface cleaner, disinfecting wipes, shower cleaner, paper towels and a few other items.  If you’re claim wins you will receive this great package of products for your home.  The winner will be announced Monday, April 12th.  So get your claims in today!  Read More HERE >>>

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A Responsibility Revolution Extra: The Truth About Transparency

Guest Post from Jeffrey Hollender & Bill Breen

Timberland CEO Jeffrey Swartz and CSR Strategy Manager Beth Holzman: The Truth About Transparency A Responsibility Revolution Extra

During the two years they spent writing The Responsibility Revolution, authors Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen conducted an intensive series of interviews at key companies on the leading edge of the corporate responsibility movement. In this bonus excerpt from Bill’s conversations with Timberland CEO Jeffrey Swartz and Timberland CSR Strategy Manager Beth Holzman, they share some of the additional insights and perspectives these encounters provided.

No company can claim to be authentically responsible if it doesn’t dare to get a little naked. Radical transparency—revealing your good, bad, and ugly impacts on society and the environment—is the first step toward turning critics into collaborators and collectively inventing aggressive ways to operate sustainably. As we show in The Responsibility Revolution, few publicly traded enterprises have done as much as the Timberland Company to innovate around transparency.

Along with Nike and Gap, Timberland was among the first big brands to reveal the locations of its suppliers’ factories and open them up to outside scrutiny. More recently, Timberland developed its Green Index, modeled on a nutrition label, which rates many of the company’s hiking boots and shoes on their environmental impact. There’s also the quarterly phone dialogs with CEO Jeffrey Swartz, in which callers query him about hot-button issues like eco-labeling and sustainable sourcing, and many more strategies for building a glass house.

When Bill Breen and I reviewed his interviews with Swartz , and other corporate-responsibility execs, we found that they’d dug into five essential truths about transparency. Each comes through hard-won experience.

Transparency is often irritating, difficult, and scary.

Swartz: Our efforts to be more transparent around our good and bad impacts on society and the environment started with the disingenuous discourse between activists and brands about where our factories are located. It was kind of a silly argument. It’s not hard to figure out where 300 million shoes are manufactured in China. Ten minutes with a phone book would give you the addresses. I didn’t want to have that conversation. And the best way to not have the conversation was to simply reveal the damn locations.

Holzman: When it came to releasing our factories’ locations, our biggest fear was that it might reveal secrets to our competitors, or they might learn of factories that they hadn’t considered sourcing from. But by 2005, the truth was inescapable: If we really are trying to improve the conditions in these factories and build trust with the stakeholders who are our biggest critics, we need to put it all out there.

Transparency starts conversations, which spurs collaboration.

Swartz: The important thing wasn’t the factories’ locations. The important question was the next question, Should [activists] see how these factories operate? That’s a good idea. Because once inside, they’d see that factories are dirty, smelly, noisy, and sometimes dangerous. I wouldn’t be in them unless I had made a judgment that I could defend to my kids. But the solutions to improving factory conditions are nowhere near as simple as we’d like them to be. Innovation can come from any seat in the orchestra, and by creating more of a three-dimensional dialogue with outside groups, we open up real opportunities for innovation that we wouldn’t otherwise capture.

Holzman: As it turned out, our competitors were in many of the very same factories that we were in. So we began to pool our resources to work collectively to improve conditions, instead of working individually on a one-off basis. For example, we’ve collaborated with Levi-Strauss and other brands on auditing the factories that we collectively source from. This frees up resources for our assessors and the factory management to focus on longer-range challenges, such as developing worker-training opportunities and upgrading management systems. The resulting improvements inevitably impact conditions on the factory floor.

Transparency depends on data.

Swartz: To be more transparent, you first need to gather lots of information. If you look at the environmental footprints we have in manufacturing only footwear, the volume of what we’ve learned—in an effort to go back to activists to say here’s what we know—has amazed us at almost every turn.

Gary Hirshberg first alerted us to the fact that we were wasting time looking inside our factories, that in terms of our environmental impact it’s all about the cows. Methane emissions from cows are our single biggest source of greenhouse gas, by far. The problem is, nobody slaughters a cow for its hide.  They slaughter it for its meat. The hide and especially the leather that goes into our boots is a derivative product. But still, we have a derivative responsibility. Cows emitting methane might be only 20% of our problem, but we need to be accountable for our entire supply chain, from cows in the field to shipping the final product.

Timberland is not a cow company; it’s a shoe company. But it turns out that the best way for us to be a more sustainable company is to innovate around the cows—to find ways to use less leather.

Holzman: We had a lot of pressure from stakeholders on leather.  So we needed to have a lot more transparency around where that leather comes from and how it’s procured and tanned, since there’s a lot of chemicals and processes involved. As a result, we are now working with several other brands through the Leather Working Group to establish better protocols and measurements. If you don’t have the data and you don’t have those deep partnerships, your transparency initiative won’t win much credibility.

Transparency promotes accountability.

Swartz: I got the idea for the design of our Green Index labels from the signage at Whole Foods. The signs were very simple in their assertions: Here’s where this produce comes from. Here’s why it’s organic. I thought, Why can’t we put some kind of signage or label on our products, as a way to show their environmental impact? All the regulatory folks at Timberland told me my idea was dumber than dirt. We’d be admitting that we pollute, that we aren’t good at what we do. They argued that we don’t have a legal requirement to disclose, so why do it? But I believe naively that if you tell the truth, most people will applaud.

Holzman: The Green Index is obviously an eco-label that communicates to the consumer, Here’s this product’s environmental footprint. But the Index is even more of a tool for our designers. By publicly scoring the environmental impact of our products, the Index pushes designers to choose raw materials that go into the product, such as organic cotton, that are less harmful. That visibility makes all of us at Timberland accountable; it’s a powerful incentive for promoting sustainability.

Transparency is a potent competitive weapon.

Swartz: When we say that 5% of our energy is renewable, were also admitting that 95% of our energy isn’t. So I asked our team, How does that 5% compare to Nike? Their answer: there’s no way to know. My reply: There’s one way to know, let’s put the number on a label, and if consumers decide that that’s important, Nike will have to tell them.

Now, Nike is competitive, and they won’t want to disclose their energy from renewables unless it’s at least 1% higher than ours. Putting the label on our products is not about the consumer. Because honestly, the amount of pushback from the consumer has been minimal. But as an action-forcing mechanism inside our industry, it’s been dramatic. If Nike gets to 6% renewable, we won’t have a problem as long as we get to 7%. In other words, transparency can force all of us to try to get from 5% to 15% to 50% renewable energy. That’s a conversation that couldn’t have been forced until the motivation was market-based.

At the end of the day, if the consumer doesn’t care about this, it won’t work. But the consumer is really a proxy to spur the industry to push the envelope on sustainability.

Jeffrey Hollender and Bill Breen are co-authors of the recently published book, The Responsibility Revolutihttp://www.jeffhollender.com/responsibility-revolution. Bill Breen is the Editorial Director, and Jeffrey Hollender is the Co-Founder and Executive Chair of Seventh Generation. Jeffrey is also the author of The Inspired Protagonist, a leading blog on corporate responsibility.

Recycle, Reuse, Rejoice!

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Marriott’s Green Keys And 47 Million Recycled Pens

At the recently concluded Globe 2010 Conference, one of the topics discussed was “Consumption and Retail.” David Cheesewright, CEO of Wal-Mart, Canada, pointed out that a philosophy of “buy less” isn’t one that will resonate all that well with retailers…or consumers. Still though, as Jeffrey Hollender, CEO of 7th Generation, the Vt.-based poster child of sustainable corporations, said, there truly can be a path followed of “how to be a less bad business.”

Marriott’s Green Keys, literally…

Marriott International has come up with a way to combine consumption with their environmental standard of doing business and they’ve done so by putting their sheer weight in numbers and purchasing power in practice by purchasing sustainably.

Greener key cards. Marriott has “unlocked” the door to a greener hotel stay by purchasing 24 million key cards made of 50 percent recycled material, saving 66 tons of plastic from being dumped in the landfill.

Marriott International and its sister property, Renaissance Hotels, spend about $10 billion each year buying products and services for its more than 3,500 hotels around the world. “Recognizing this purchasing power, we’ve teamed up with our vendors to introduce these ‘greener’ solutions at no extra cost.”

Recycled pens. The 47 million pens that Marriott purchases for its guest and meeting rooms in the U.S. and Canada are made of 75% recycled material.

The Inn & Conference Center by Marriott, at the University of Maryland in D.C., earned its U.S.G.B.C. LEED certification thereby distinguishing it as the first environmentally-friendly hotel and conference center in the U.S. Marriott’s Headquarters, also in D.C., was the first site in the D.C. area to introduce Connect by Hertz which makes SmartWay cars available for employees who use public transportation or carpool for their use during the day. http://www.marriott.com/marriott.mi?page=green_buildings

Conferences and meetings are two areas Marriott International has focused considerable attention on in terms of waste, energy and carbon footprint reduction. It has been awarded more Energy Star labels than any other hotel company and it has committed to reducing greenhouse gases by 40,000 tons annually.

The average meeting at a Marriott Hotel:

Has 1,000 attendees, spans 3 days, produces 12 tons of trash, uses 200,000 kilowatts of power and 100,000 gallons of water. Here are some best practices Marriott has put in place to lighten that waste, energy and carbon load:

  • 100 % post-consumer fiber writing pads
  • Meeting rooms set with pitchers of water rather than bottled water
  • Bic Ecolutions pens made from recycled content and biodegradable ink
  • Access to recycling containers in or near meeting rooms
  • Boxed lunches in recyclable containers including biodegradable cutlery, kits and napkins
  • Organic, sustainable and natural food and beverage options including Fair Trade teas, coffee and chocolate options for meeting rooms.
  • Banquet buffet tables go linenless and are made of 49% recycled aluminum and are 99% recyclable
  • Safe-to-donate food given to designated food banks

Marriott's Green Meetings and Conferences

When you stop to realize that we need 11 earths to sustain our current level of consumption habits in North America, all these shifts help and help considerably. Consumer behavior change is key.

Marriott’s Four Green Keys designation also earned its being chosen as an Olympic Family Hotel – the IOC stayed at the downtown Vancouver property as well as the Olympic Broadcasting Service. At that property, they have switched out all the TV sets to energy efficient TVs, they compost and donate that to urban gardens, and they use biodegradable cleaning supplies. They’re also nestled up against the water and overlook Stanley Park, two inspirational landscapes that nature freely displays. “Vancouver is already a natural beauty destination,” is a pervasive feeling visitors to the city are easily overcome with.

Kodak Theater, Hollywood, Adjacent to Renaissance Hotel

In Hollywood, the Renaissance Hotel abuts the Kodak Theater, home to the annual Academy Awards, and therefore the ready choice of accommodation for attending guests, family and friends.

A few more things they’ve shifted with their Marriott purchasing muscle:

Low VOC Paint. Marriott buys nearly one million gallons of paint that are low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which are safer and less polluting.

Eco-pillows. Marriott began replacing last year the 100,000 synthetic pillows that it purchases with those filled with material made from recycled bottles.

Coreless toilet paper. By the beginning of April, 2010, 500 hotels will offer “coreless” toilet paper, thereby eliminating 2 million cores a year, saving about 119 trees, nearly 3 million gallons of water, and 21 tons of packaging waste annually.

Earth-friendly towels. The one million towels Marriott purchases in North America don’t need to be pre-washed, thanks to a unique manufacturing process, saving six million gallons of water.

We were assured by Marriott that they are “happy to look at fresh ideas.” We’ve got three for them: Uniforms could be made from eco-textiles; In-room bath amenities could be organic and packaged in recyclable containers; Bathrobes could be made out of organic cotton or another eco-friendly fabric.

When you’re talking about quantities like 47 million pens, these are no small green things.

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The West Is The Best

The West is the Best? Leaking carbon from the patchwork quilt

By Adam Bumpus Mar 24, 2010

A patchwork of climate regulation may be a way forward in the wake of COP15 and the US rejection of economy wide cap and trade at the federal level. Individual systems must be joined or harmonized across space to avoid leakage in the gaps.

Movements at the federal level in the US have shown that a nationwide cap and trade system – recently thought to be virtually inevitable – is “dead”, in the words of Senator Graham, a proponent of a new climate bill (see here). The senate simply did not have enough political votes in favour of cap and trade for nationwide regulation to pass. As we saw in Copenhagen (see here), the binding agreements that cover countries and societies that are economically linked are hard to come by. There are too many interests that pull such complex negotiations toward stalemates, even though the multinational companies that link many of these economies may be helped by comprehensive climate policy (see here). Instead, we end up with a variety of regional initiatives that create regulations in one area, none in another and, at the moment, are not harmonized to create comprehensive coverage. The patchwork quilt of carbon reductions has some distinctly large gaps in it.

While DC figures out what a comprehensive climate bill might look like, regional efforts continue apace, defining emissions reductions and placing a price on carbon. The Western Climate Initiative signed by independent jurisdictions, states, provinces and Native Sovereign Nations (see here) aims to put a price on carbon by 2012 with its own cap and trade system. It will be four times bigger than any existing cap and trade systems in the US (see here). Good news: pretty comprehensive cover for these jurisdictions: reducing emissions and spurring the green economy.

Western Climate Initiative connects into the eastern electricity markets and creates opportunities for carbon leakage.

But, recent WCI analysis has pointed to the fact that because of the way WCI jurisdictions in the East (see attached picture) trade electricity with the Eastern states (Eastern Interconnection), an increase in the price of carbon in WCI jurisdictions (and therefore short term electricity prices), means fewer electricity exports (see here). Therefore non-WCI electricity generation and carbon emissions go up. This is known as leakage (emissions ‘leak’ out of an area not covered by regulation). However, if the WCI jurisdiction places an energy import tariff (what is called in the report: FJD, First Jurisdictional Deliverer) on non-WCI energy (i.e. east to west electricity), leakage is reduced because non-WCI energy becomes less competitive to import. Interestingly, the reductions in non-WCI emissions weren’t affected by the amount of the tariff – as long as it was there, leakage would be reduced, but never eliminated. Where there is a price on CO2 allowances in the WCI, even import tariffs won’t eliminate increased emissions in the East. As the study shows, the best way to reduce overall emissions is by linking with other regulatory schemes (such as the RGGI, MGGRA – see here for overview), or a federal system that places a price on carbon everywhere. >>> READ MORE HERE >>>

Adam Bumpus is pursuing Advanced Research Work with the distinguished Sauder School of Business UBC.

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Earth Awards, Calling All Entries!

By Marissa Moss

Calling all sustainable designers – The Earth Awards wants you! The 2010 Earth Awards are on a global mission to discover creative and sustainable design solutions and innovations and bring international attention to the designers who created them. The grand prizewinner receives $50,000 and category winners take home $10,000, so if you think you make the cut you must submit your designs by May 10th. The six entry categories are: built environment, fashion, products, systems, future and social justice. Submissions must also meet the following criteria: achievable, scalable, measureable, useful, original and ecological. The 2009 winner is Neri Oxman, founder of Materialecology, an “interdisciplinary design research initiative at the interface between science, art and design. Submit your design and find more information at www.theearthawards.org. The Awards will take place in London on September 16, 2010.

Submissions Deadline: May 17, 2010

Marissa Moss is a public relations consultant for GriffinSchake based in NYC. She is also a freelance journalist.

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Green Oil And The Globe

The Globe 2010 Conference put on by the Globe Foundation dealt with a diversity of green topics but mostly it dealt with the topic of the Future of Energy. Green oil and the globe. Sort of has a “green eggs and ham” ring to it, doesn’t it? Sounds paradoxical, properties you wouldn’t normally put together – green oil/ green eggs…it sounds, well, it sounds downright Dr. Seussical.

But Green Oil, and, to the point, green energy is what a healthy showing of some of the world’s biggest oil and energy companies came out to talk about and did so on stages in front of thousands of people.

Alberta, Canada Tar Sands

It’s tempting to state that because the conference took place on the home court of the Tar Sands Oil industry, the topic dominated the conversation. But it’s more accurate to say that tar sands simply dominate the conversation at present because of the enormity of the reserves, mostly in Canada, and because the infrastructure for distribution is already in place.

Some Facts before we continue:

  • Oil sands in Canada are 2nd only to Saudi Arabia in terms of reserves.
  • Oil sands will be the primary energy resources for the next century.
  • Half of the freely traded energy reserves is in the oil sands.

Canada sits on an unrivalled energy resource base in the politically, economically free world. The following are excerpts from presentations and a discussion given by some of the corporate stakeholders’ CEO’s:

“An energy strategy can be a climate change strategy,” said Steve Williams, COO, Suncor Energy Inc., based out of Calgary. He stated that Suncor has big investments in renewable energy, is, in fact, one of the biggest investors in renewable energy. “We’re skating to where the puck is,” he said, quoting a famous hockey player.

Mobility is the issue. The discussion is not renewables, was the consensus. When we talk about renewables really what we are talking about is how to move people, smarter, better, more efficiently.

To that point, in a related panel, Bill Smith S.V.P. Energy Sector, Siemens Canada pointed out that we are talking about the “electrification of personal transportation” and its supporting infrastructure. For example, he can see a day when people re-fuel at charging stations set up at Tim Horton’s [Am. Transl. = Dunkin’ Donuts].

Natural Gas, A Transitional Fuel

Natural Gas is another big dog when it comes to any present day practical discussions about transitioning from a fossil fuel economy to one based on renewables. Greg Ebel, President and CEO, Spectra Energy, drove home the point that there has been considerable transformational changes in natural gas on all fronts even just in the past two years. “We met two years ago but with all the changes in natural gas, it could have been two decades ago.” He explained that with the technology we have today to go after the natural gas reserves, as opposed to just two years ago, we now have increased our N. American gas supplies by 58%. Those supplies can last N. America a good two centuries longer, he said.

“What was grand and impossible 18 months ago is now commonplace. Technology doubles every 18 months.” – Greg Ebel.

He also pointed out that a greater use of natural gas appliances will represent a huge energy efficiency. For example, 65 million homes heated by Natural Gas today equals 35 million homes heated by coal in 1970.

And insofar as policy makers go regarding fuel efficiency and renewables, “If you’re using a policy playbook 12-36 months out of date then you can’t take advantage of a changing opportunity.” – Ebel

Steve Snyder, President and CEO of TransAlta Corporation, Calgary, put it simply: “It is the technology, stupid,” he said, to no one in particular and everyone at once.

Based in Calgary, Alberta

His emphasis was that we are not in such the rush as we think we should be. “Oil, gas, electricity will still be here in 40 years. This is a 50 year issue, not a two year issue.”

An aspect of the fossil fuels/renewables/ GHG emissions conversation he hammered on was that we are identifying large problems and then jumping right in with micro-level solutions. “For example when we come up with proposed solutions to shut down the oil sands, everybody ride a bike, change a lightbulb and close the coal factories, these might be missing the mark.” To note, TransAlta was one of Canada’s first companies to make a significant investment in wind energy.

Snyder is a big supporter of Smart Metering. One of the challenges renewable energy poses to consumers is its potential for sporadic delivery. The wind doesn’t blow, the sun don’t shine and you’ve got no light or heat, goes the average consumers’ commonsensical thinking. And as consumers, we tolerate no room for error. We, at least in N. America, have come to expect power delivery 24/7. An expectation that California voters expressed only all too clearly a few years back in a special gubernatorial election.

The Smart Grid and Smart Metering looks like it will prove to be a technological solution to this challenge. Snyder suggested we accept the fact that a certain amount of government subsidies for renewables is necessary. He pointed out that the energy sector now [oil, yes] is subsidized and always has been. “Accept the science we have time,” he added.

Clarence Cazalot, Jr., President and CEO of Houston, Texas based Marathon Oil, said that reducing GHG emissions 17% by 2020 is “Tougher than putting a man on the moon.” He pointed out that the energy demand increase, primarily in the economically developing world, will be 40% between 2010 and 2030. “That’s equivalent to adding two United States to the global energy demand.”

When asked what he thought about Natural Gas as a viable transitional fuel, he responded that Marathon Oil is in the business of Tar Sands Oil, not natural gas. Marathon Oil is heavily invested in Alberta’s Tar Sands Oil industry. He also stated that, “We don’t need elected officials picking winners or losers. Waxman-Markey Bill picked winners and losers.” That bill in the U.S. is also known as the Clean Energy and Security Act.

Read More Here >>>We’re going to look back in 30-40 years and see that this was a much easier problem to solve than we thought.” – Nicholas Parker, Executive Chairman, CleanTech Group, S.F., California.

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Where The Puck Are We Going?

I guess it could be said that at last week’s Globe 2010 Conference, people were watching their p’s and q’s…and f’s…and still finding a way to tell it.

One of the most heartening awakenings to come out of the conference was to see corporate leadership acknowledge the fact that we can’t solve these problems with the same minds that created them.


Nicholas Parker, Executive Chairman, Cleantech Group LLC, based out of San Francisco stated that, yes, much of these issues of fuel efficiency, GHG emission reduction and Climate Change are questions of technology. “The technology is interpersonal neurobiology.” [Meaning the way we think.] “This is the technology. [here he tapped his forehead] We’re not going to solve the problems with the minds that created them.”

He added that we need “hypergrowth in happiness.”

“Climate change is not a problem. It’s a symptom of a problem. We have an accounting problem. We’re liquidating the assets of our resources and calling it income…The failure to imagine the future is what’s getting us here. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there? So, where the puck are we going?” he asked the large audience assembled to hear him and others speak on the Town Hall panel. “We are going to look back in 30-40 years and see that this was a much easier problem to solve than we thought. We need to think along the lines of an abundance economy and we need to be inclusive.”

Joining him in the discussion was David Runnalls, President and CEO, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Ottawa, Canada, “The fact is we don’t have much time. We have to make a major dent in GHG emissions by 2020. 2050 is too easy a goal because we’ll all be dead by then. We have to get going on this idea and do something with it. We can’t just fiddle around with it.”

Stay tuned for Globe 2012

Tony Manwaring, CEO of Tomorrow’s Company, London, UK noted the instability that comes from the world heating up – food scarcity issues, national security. He defined a green economy as one where “economic, social, spiritual and environmental capital are valued.”

He stated that “two years ago [the Globe Conference is every two years] we were talking about getting real. We need to bring the future into the present.” He shared that he missed his kids. An interesting point given that most of the panels were dominated by male speakers with a light sprinkling of the occasional woman and no kids were featured. Given that we are discussing to ad nauseum the future of the Earth’s resources, it would make sense to include in that discussion some of the people who will be around living on it. Or is that just my particular brand of logic?

Manwaring continued by pointing out that there needs to be established relationships between government, business and civil society. Runnalls chimed in noting that there is a false dichotomy of top-down or bottom-up instigation for change and shift. He called out the “constipation of the international process. Sooner or later we have to come to an international agreement to reduce GHG emissions that has a greater amount of equity globally.”

On another panel, “Now What? Dialogue On Implications For Business From Cop 15,” Graeme Sweeney, Exec. VP, CO2, Shell International Petroleum Co., Ltd. noted that “This is an AND conversation. Not a dialectic. It’s not governments or corporations. It’s governments and corporations.”

Speaking on the same topic, Dan Hendrix, Pres. And CEO of Interface Inc. showed some empathy for the little guy when he said that, “The reason why companies don’t get on board with it is because the CEO doesn’t get on board with it. And you have to have a board [of directors] that goes along with it. Interface is now the darlings of Wall Street – because we’re green!” His lieutenant, Dianne Dillon-Ridgley spoke at the women’s networking luncheon, as well.

Fast forward to Friday, the final day of the conference, back at the Town Hall Meeting. Moderator Christopher Henderson, Pres. Lumos Energy, Ottawa, inspired attendees when he said that “We’re going to make our luck today.” He also posed the challenge, “What are you going to take away from the conference? What are you going to do on Monday?”

British Columbia’s Minister of State for Climate Action, John Yap stated that it’s all about choices. “Green is mainstream,” he said, “Climate change is the challenge of our generation.” He cited the example of a new condo development in Victoria that is using geothermal energy for its power infrastructure, thereby significantly lowering its carbon footprint. “The consumers who choose those condos will be paying for the geothermal rather than, for example, granite kitchen countertops. Choices. It’s about choices.”

*Note: Christopher Henderson’s book on First Nation’s Energy Rights is due out in August. The book discusses his area of expertise which is “legal proceedings and aboriginal rights” as they pertain to land holdings and renewable energy sources.

Read More Here >>> Green Oil And The Globe

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Masdar City Models A Sustainable Globe

“Environmental problems are business opportunities,” is the Globe Foundation’s approach and that which underlies its ginormous Globe 2010 Conference, now in its 20th year, which just concluded on Friday in Vancouver.

Certainly one of the sexiest stories – and sponsors – to make its showing at Globe 2010 is Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City. It takes the Globe approach even further by applying it to design and infrastructure as well as business opportunities.

Masdar City aims to be the world’s first clean-technology cluster located in a zero-carbon, zero-waste and 100% renewable-energy-powered city. The city will be home to academics, companies, and inhabitants from across the globe where current and future technologies in the fields of renewable energy and sustainability will be funded, researched, developed, tested and commercialized.

This special economic zone of Abu Dhabi, a $22 billion economic zone, seeks to become a global center for innovation, research, product development and light manufacturing for renewable energy and environmental technologies.

Frank Wouters, Chief Executive of Masdar Power, introduced Globe 2010 attendees to the concept of Masdar City at the Opening Plenary speech, alongside John D. Wiebe, President and CEO, Globe Foundation, and James Suciu, President Global Sales Marketing, GE Energy, also a sponsor of Globe and an anchor partner of Masdar City where they will build its first EcoMagination Center. The Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, rounded out the opening statements.

The Globe Foundation was established in 1993 in Vancouver to promote the business case for sustainable development. This year, the conference boasted its most prominent speakers to date, with a total number of 200, and played host to 10,000 participants which included 2,000 conference delegates and 400 exhibitors including a range of countries such as Japan, Korea, Germany and Russia.

The Globe Foundation has three guiding principles:

  • Environmental problems are business opportunities.
  • Companies that can provide clean technologies and solutions will prosper.
  • Proactive organizations that embrace environmental sustainability will be more competitive.

One of the Globe Foundation’s projects it is championing is its Endless Energy project which is an exploration of the implications of energy self-sufficiency for British Columbia by 2025, based on indigenous renewable and clean energy sources and conservation measures.

This year’s conference was organized around theme clusters: Corporate Sustainability Toolkit, Climate Change + Carbon Management, the Future of Energy, Financing the Low Carbon Economy, and the Urban Infrastructure Revolution.

Masdar City does a brilliant job of integrating all of these themes into one very handsome package.

The Arabic word, “masdar,” means source. Wouters pointed out that the former King of the UAE was, in fact, an environmentalist.

“We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country, our history and our heritage. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in the environment. They were able to do so because they recognized the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live and to preserve it for succeeding generations.”  –  Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 1918-2004

Masdar City, a six-kilometer-square city, will be home to leading multinational companies in the cleantech sector as well as small- to medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurial startups. It is anchored by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an advanced research and educational facility, developed in collaboration with M.I.T. (Mass. Institute of Technology) which is focused entirely on education and research in alternative energy and sustainability. Its first 100 students began its curriculum this past September and will move into the city proper for the next year’s term. They will be Masdar City’s first official residents.

“At Masdar we have the intention all along the value chain for clean and renewable energy,” said Wouters who also quoted Bloomberg’s projection for a $200 Billion worldwide investment in renewables for 2010, up from $155 Billion in 2008. For green building, there is a $1.4 trillion investment forecast by 2014. He emphasized that Masdar’s philosophy is one of inclusivity. “We approach partnerships like a Catholic marriage: a long courtship and then once a partner is chosen, we are very loyal. In addition, because of the cultural heritage, we are not limited to one partner.”

Masdar’s David Bonn, who works on the capital investment side, explained that Masdar seeks to be an exporter of renewable energy and education. He reiterated the rhetorical question about CleanTech heard often at the conference: Is it the new space race? He also mentioned that Masdar tends to invest in companies that can demonstrate proof of concept. Masdar City offers zero percent taxes on companies and individuals, illustrating that it definitely has “friend with benefits” characteristics.

Masdar City will be the world’s largest test bed for new technologies by setting sustainability targets not attempted by any other project.

“A new era is upon us, challenging us to venture beyond the achievements of the past and meet the needs of the future. Masdar aims to become a source of energy, knowledge and innovation in order to maintain Abu Dhabi’s position as a global energy leader.” – Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Chairman, Masdar

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Yap Announces New Climate Action App

British Columbia’s Minister of State for Climate Action, Honourable John Yap announces new mobile app contest

This morning on the final day of the Globe 2010 conference on Climate Change, British Columbia’s Honourable Minister of State for Climate Action, John Yap, announced the Apps4ClimateAction contest.

So, in fact it’s even more fun and groovy than simply one new mobile app to download, because what B.C. is doing is launching a contest for developers to come up with the best  mobile app – AND they’ve got $40,000 CDN in cash and prizes to give away to the ones who do it well.

“This will appeal to a lot of people, especially the young and the creative,” commented Minister Yap at the morning’s press conference. “The contest allows for software developers to access government data sets to develop mobile apps that can then be downloaded for use on iPhones, Blackberries, and other mobile devices.  We expect to see developers come up with a range of apps from games to measuring tools. They are limited only by their creativity.  There are 500 data sets that have been made available to developers. It’s a way for us to get the message out that all of us as individuals can take ownership of Climate Action.”

The contest’s $40,000 in cash and prizes are spread across five categories: best mobile app, best web app, people’s choice, best of B.C. and overall best app.

It’s sort of like British Columbia’s version of the X Prize for Climate Action Apps.

James Mack, B.C.’s Climate Action Secretariat explained that the 500 Data Sets that have been made available for designers are all in readable code and are app-design friendly. They are also Open Source Code friendly. “We’ve outlined some broad themes that the design community can use as guidelines but mostly it’s up to the community to show innovation and elicit public engagement,” he said at the Vancouver Convention Center this morning.

Partners who have helped provide the cash prizes and funding are: SAP Canada Inc., who is the gold sponsor of the contest.  “We believe we have a dual role with sustainability, as exemplar and as enabler,” said Kirsten Sutton, managing director SAP Labs Vancouver.

Other partners are: Microsoft Canada, Inc., Analytic Design Group, David Eaves Inc., Netscribe Communications, TELUS Corporation, Harbour Air Ltd., and Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center.

Submission deadline for Apps4ClimateAction contest is July 25, 2010.  Be sure to register to vote for the People’s Choice Award for favorite App by August 20, 2010.  Winners announced September 2010.

For deets on contest rules and prizes:  www.Apps4ClimateAction.gov.bc.ca.

“Bringing together British Columbia’s data resources and the creativity of the software community opens up the potential for people to see climate change in entirely new ways,” said Yap. “The great prizes and support of our sponsors will give us web and mobile apps that educate people about climate change and help motivate them to reduce their own carbon footprint.”

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Climate Change A Matter Of Global Security

by Joe Magee

What is more dangerous, climate change or terrorism?

We are all too familiar with the consequences of terrorism and few deny the earth’s climate is changing.  In today’s social discourse both ideas are loaded and politicized.  Neither phenomenon is universally defined and the approach to each is emotional and controversial.

Consider the causalities of each to determine which is more dangerous. As expected there is a fair amount of difficulty in calculating how many people die from either terrorism or climate change. The data is far from perfect, but is important to compare the threats each pose. Unfortunately, both suffer from ambiguous definitions and each is riddled with disagreements of their effects. For instance, some figures include fatalities in the war zone of Iraq when considering terrorism. Others might consider deaths from hunger as circumstance of climate change.  Conversely, terrorism might occur in a war zone while malnutrition can be a result of climate change.

Joe Magee is the co-founder of PineMark.com, a Southern California based environmental start-up. PineMark is the first green lifestyle certification, think LEED for people. They incentivize individuals to reduce their ecological impact while rewarding those who commit to sustainable living. Twitter @PineMark


The Body Count:

In the Anatomy of a Silent Crisis, released by the Global Humanitarian Forum, it is estimated that 300,000 people die per year due to climate change. This is a conservative estimate that mainly accounts for weather-related disasters such as drought, floods, heat waves, desertification, and rises in sea levels.

The Worldwide Incidents Tracking System, a counter terrorism database, recorded about 11,400 deaths as a result of terrorism in 2009 and 15,800 in 2008. The National Counterterrorism Center that operates the database defines terrorism when “groups or individuals acting on political motivation deliberately or recklessly attack civilians/non-combatants.”

The Problem:

If climate change is predicted to kill almost 25 times more people than terrorism, why does the US spend upwards of 15 times more money on combating terrorism than researching climate change? ($55 billion projected in 2011 on counter-terrorism versus a yearly average of $3.4 billion spent on climate change research and technologies). The fact is 99% of causalities relating to climate change occur in developing nations. It is an absolute tragedy that 50 of the least developed nations emit less than 1% of the world’s carbon (Anatomy of a Silent Crisis). The media and our government share some responsibility for the perception of these problems. Regardless, as global citizens we have a duty to be informed about the consequences of our actions.

It is expected that the US would dedicate more money to counter-terrorism. The United States has an obligation to protect its citizens and the immediacy of terrorism is a grave threat. However, if the numbers tell us anything about climate change, it is that we need to dedicate more resources to its solution. Domestically we might not experience the adverse effects of climate change for a few decades. This is all the more reason to start addressing the problem immediately.

The Solution:

The unpredictable nature of climate change and terrorism make them difficult to prepare and anticipate. In addressing these issues one would hope for better data and analysis because both are linked much more closely than previously thought. The Pew Charitable Trust recently created a separate institute to discover the intersection of terrorism and climate change; I previously posted the video they released, Climate Patriots. This is at the crux of solving these global issues. No matter what your political views or how you previously felt about “global warming”, climate change has a direct link to terrorism. The fact is that climate change creates disasters; disasters create civil unrest, and civil unrest breeds terrorism.

Terrorism and climate change are not so far removed from our daily lives. It boils down to how we as a community view and address these issues. You do play a role in their solutions. We, as citizens of the greatest country in the world, have an obligation to demand the truth and be informed of the causes and consequences of both climate change and terrorism. Try to step back from your preconceived notions of each and search out different points of view, weight conflicting statistics, and always consider the source of your information. The more these issues are discussed, argued, and challenged the more transparent they become and progress is made.

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