B Corp gives legal structure for green companies

B Corp (Bcorporation.net) allows entrepreneurs to legally protect their value and morals based businesses from sell-out to dollar hungry investors.

Stanford GCEP Symposium inspires a Green Technology Future

The GCEP Research Symposium (http://gcep.stanford.edu/) held Sept 30 - Oct 2, 2009 provided a perspective on green technologies to come.  Jeff Keller from GE set the stage with his talk on the future of Green Technologies, 
"Three things need to happen to enable a Green Technology Future:
1) Carbon needs to be counted  (policy measures needed)
2) Commercial Capacity needs to be expanded
3) Technological Advancement is needed." 
Today, we are indeed far away from a sustainable way of life.  Technology innovation is our fastest, and most likely, ticket there before the ocean rises, and GCEP inspires a positive outlook on such a future,

Four segments of papers were presented, they were Biofuels, Carbon Capture and Storage, Solar Energy and Energy Storage.  The symposium was heavily energy focused.  To set the stage for these papers, GCEP's Global Exergy and Carbon Flow Charts provides a blueprint from which scientists can identify potential research areas. The flow charts map global energy and carbon flows in one large diagram.  The data was extremely eye-opening and informative.  The charts are publicly available at http://gcep.stanford.edu/research/exergy/flowchart.html. 

A vast array of projects with a 5-10 year implementation horizon was presented.  Nate Lewis of Caltech argues that Solar energy of all forms, including solar thermal, PV, solar water splitting and solar fuels is the only reliably sustainable energy on Earth, since the sun's energy is Earth's only energy external input.  "We need solar technologies that can scale like paint, carpet and newspaper," said Lewis.   As such, solar fuels (biofuels) were on the bottom of the list due to its lack of scalability and inefficiency at converting solar energy.  PV in the long term, especially radical new thin film structures, and solar thermal in the short term remains the most viable and efficient solar harvest techniques.  Solar water splitting is a radical technology for transportable fuel in the very long term horizon.  Energy storage continues to be the Achilles heel of renewable energy, which is seasonal and variable and therefore unable to sustain base load needs.  Many papers attempt to address this concern with experiments ranging from nano structures on battery cathodes and electrodes to catalysts for solar fuel cells.  Many of these technologies will not begin to commercialize until 2015, but each holds dramatic impact to our advancement in energy technologies.  One thing is clear, a lot more work is needed before we can sit back and enjoy our sustainable ocean front view on planet Earth.

Green Jobs?

This post is in response to a question posted in a forum:
Question: In your opinion which are the most promising new jobs for the green economy in the following areas:
distribution and logistics

My Answer:
I believe manufacturing, design (research) and services are the most promising NEW jobs for the green economy. I define NEW as sectors that did not previously exist. Distribution and logistics, retailing and government green jobs are not new in the sense that existing professionals in those roles will simply adapt to the new green trend. I need to first clarify that government in this case mean politicians and policy makers. Researchers that receive new government grants for green technology are to be considered NEW jobs. The existing policy makers however will consult with industry experts are move towards a green agenda, therefore no new jobs exist in that arena. The same is true for distribution and retailing where existing professionals in that space will consult with green experts to buy green products. New jobs exist for innovation and manufacturing in the green jobs front. Entrepreneurship, research, design and services positions need to be filled. We are in an economic lull right now. If we take a hint from the Great Depression of the 30s, paired with the current green energy trend, we can expect a vast green energy infrastructure to be funded by the government and built. This in turn creates opportunities for innovation, manufacturing and installation.

MBA in Sustainable Management

What is an MBA in Sustainable Management?  It is business school through the lens of sustainability.  Imagine classes such as Accounting, Operations, and Economics taught from the perspective of questioning the status quo and  applying theory in business such that we can enable all people on Earth a thriving future.   Presidio School of Management based in San Francisco offers one of five such programs across the US.  

Eat veggies to save the world

You can half your family's carbon footprint by eating less meat. The production, preparation and packaging of meat is easily 10 times that of fresh veggies. Give up the meat but not the great taste! Try some very tasty veggie dishes like this one I made for dinner. Israeli couscous paired with green beans and mushroom in wine sauce. I promise you will go back for seconds! It only took 30 min to prepare.

Sautee the israeli couscous in butter with shallots, cinnamon (1/2 stick) and bay leaf (1) till brown. Add vegetable stock and simmer until soft. Remove from heat. Toss with some lemon zest and parsley and voila!
While couscous is simmering, use a different pot to soften green beans in hot water and drain. Then stirfry some mushrooms and greenbeens together. Throw in some wine and let it evaporate. Salt and serve!

Design and function

Here is an example of beautiful design combined with great function. Often great designs can improve sustainability too! In this example the storage becomes more efficient, thereby saving on space and necessary HVAC, lighting, etc. Can you think of other great designs that improve function, aesthetics and sustainability?

What are biofuels, and how could they contribute to sustainability?

Biofuels include any plant generated fuel. Usually the plant, such as corn, is not directly consumed but instead fermented to create ethanol. Ethanol is useful because of it is stored energy and can be transported. Other renewable energies including wind and solar are difficult to store. Thus ethanol plays a niche in the renewable energy portfolio.

Biofuels are net zero in carbon emissions. The plant sequesters carbon during its growing life and releases the same amount of carbon when consumed for fuel.

The disadvantages of biofuels stems from its relation to the food supply. Land previously used to create food supply is now re-purposed for fuel creation. Since corn for fuel rather than for food demands a higher price on the market, farmers would rather grow corn for fuel. This creates an unfavorable economic situation towards feeding the poor parts of the world.

Biofuels continue to be a debate in the renewable energy circle. However, unless storage methods can be found to harness solar and wind effectively, biofuels remains the only easily transportable and renewable energy source.

The Three ways to Home Composting

You can help the environment by home composting.  In a typical home, the garbage ratio is 40% food scraps, 40% food containers and 20% non food related garbage.  Therefore if you can compost your food scraps at home you will eliminate the transportation cost for almost half your garbage stream!  I'm going to describe how I compost at home.

There are several ways to compost at home.  1) Regular pile compost (hot or cold) 2) Dig-a-hole Compost  3) Vermicompost.  OK, I named the second one myself, but it is basically as described.  If you have access to ground (a small yard, somewhere with soil) you can perform the first type types.  If you live in an apartment and have no yard go straight to the Vermicompost description below. To Do #1 or #2 is very simple, all you need are 4 things - GREENS, BROWNS, AIR, WATER.  Greens include any vegetable scraps, green leaves, etc.  Browns include naturally fallen leaves, paper, etc.  You basically want a 1:1 ratio on Green:Brown.  Mix it, put it outside on some soil, and water it once in a while.  I threw some worms on my pile to start and I don't even have to turn the pile.  The pile smells great, like the soil after a rainfall.  If you want to turn the pile once in a while to introduce Air, it helps decomposition, but you don't have to.  If you don't have room and want to hide the compost pile, just dig a hole and drop it all in there.  I do something in between, I dig a shallow hole, mix the veggie scraps with the soil, and put brown leaves on top (see picture) to conceal the food.    It works wonders.  Soft items are gone in a few days.  Banana peels disappear after 1 week.  Corn cobs take several weeks and require me to break it down after it dries.

If you're indoors you can do #3) Vermicomposting, which is composting with worms.   I do this at home as well and you can see my bin in the picture.  It's a bin from Wriggly Wranch and I have decorated it.  I keep this bin inside during the winter to keep the worms alive.  There are other creatures working for you besides the worms, but you mainly only see the worms unless you observe closely.  This one is also very easy and fun, and you only need one ingredient: GREENS for this method.  I bury about 1 cup of food scraps every few days and the worms eat it up.  I don't feed my worms tough to eat stuff like corn cobs or avocado skin.  Nor do they like too much citrus.  The composting speed is slower than the outside pile.  But it works all through the winter.

I hope you will explore home composting, it's fun, educational and green!

Amazing TED talk on a new model for business environments


An amazing talk showing mismatch of today's incentive system to solving today's business problems, and how ROWE- Results based work environment- creates stunning results.

Hong Kong's Solar Ferries

Growing up in Hong Kong, one of my favorite pasttime was riding the ferries. The sea breeze, the lull of the waves and the fantastic saltiness of the water... And now, the ferries are going solar! Kudos for combining my two loves...

Recycle your brita filters

You can now return your old Brita filters for recycling at participating Gimme 5 stores, most of which are Whole Foods.

Improve yours and Earth's health - Go shopping on your bike with the Topeak trunk bag!

You too can contribute to your own good health and carbon reduction on Earth. Dust off your bike and go riding this summer. This Topeak trunk bag for your bike easily slides onto a bike back-rack also sold by Topeak. No hassle no mess. Normally a very compact trunk bag, the sides fold out as shown in the picture into more room for your books, laptop, groceries, etc. Yes, I can fit my regular sized laptop into this, as well as half a week's worth of groceries. The trunk bag comes off the bike's back-rack with one click and has a shoulder carrying strap for carrying around.

I installed the associated back-rack in 15 min with no help and one allen wrench, then spent 5s slipping on the trunk bag, done! Then I went bike riding with my friend, shopped with it at my neighbourhood grocery store and met the nice folks there. And then we got ice cream! What speaks summer more than riding around on your bike and stopping at the ice cream store? While you're at it, bring your laptop and get some work done at the local coffee shop! Give up your car and get out there on your bike this summer!

Walmart to assign Green Ratings

According to this article Walmart will be making all its suppliers reveal their environmental performance through a Green Ratings system.

Walmart has been taking the lead on many green initiatives in the past several years, sending shock waves up and down their massive supply chain. This new initiative will impact their 100,000+ suppliers.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the new rating system. I do hope it will bring some clarity to the eco-footprint questions I have when I stand in front of a shelf of different brands. The labeling will certainly make shopping at Walmart a more transparent experience.

Ecoenvelopes - a return ticket for your mail!

Sending mail in both directions? Make it easier and save some paper with ecoenevelopes.