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green and sustainable business

Archive for October 2009

GoGreen gets to North America

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dhl_gogreen11DHL’s GoGreen climate change program has reached North America’s shores, but not the U.S.  A year after the GoGreen launch in Europe the German package express delivery and logistics has made it available in Canada.

DHL Express Canada’s GoGreen service is described by the company as a “carbon-neutral” shipping option that “enables Canadian businesses of all sizes to ship their goods internationally without leaving an environmental footprint.”

DHL adds that the value-added service that makes use of carbon offsets and low emission transporation technologies provides companies with a seamless, eco-friendly friendly shipping option; it’s available from anywhere in Canada to more than 220 countries around the world.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

October 27, 2009 at 3:46 pm

EPA action dooms largest mountaintop coal mine?

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coal_mountaintopThe Environmental Protection Agency really is taking on Big Coal in a big way.

More proof came last week when it moved to halt the Clean Water Act permit for the nation’s largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mining site, the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia.  That followed a decision last month to delay action on 79 mountaintop coal mining projects.

EPA told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and mine owner Arch Coal it “has reason to believe” that the Spruce No. 1 mine, as currently authorized, “may result in unacceptable adverse impacts to fish and wildlife resources.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

October 23, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Posted in environment, regulation

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DOE pegs $750M for Renewable Energy Loan Guarantees

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greeninvestimageNow we’re talking about some real money.

The Department of Energy is launching a new loan guarantee program that will provide $750 million in Recovery Act spending as seed money designed to accelerate the development of conventional renewable energy projects.

At that level of funding, the loan guarantees could support as much as $4 to $8 billion in lending to eligible projects, according to DOE’s announcement.

The department also says it will invite private sector participation to accelerate the financing of the renewable energy projects.

To make this happen it has created the Financial Institution Partnership Program, or FIPP, which it describes as a “streamlined set of standards designed to expedite DOE’s loan guarantee underwriting process and leverage private sector expertise and capital for the efficient and prudent funding of eligible projects.” Eligible projects include hydropower, wind power, geothermal, solar, biomass, and trash-to-energy.

On Thursday (Oct. 22) the department has scheduled a webinar to “help companies navigate the process of applying for loan guarantees” under FIPP. During the webinar, scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. eastern time, the DOE’s Douglas Schultz will address questions and  concerns regarding the new program.  Click here to register.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

October 20, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Lighten the load, save the planet

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ANAHere’s my offering for Blog Action Day:

There’s All Nippon Airways’ bizarre initiative urging passengers to visit the terminal restroom and “lighten the load” before boarding their planes. These pre-flight emissions apparently will help reduce fuel and carbon emissions, according to a recent report in the UK’s Daily Mail.

Seriously, the Japanese airline says lighter passengers mean lighter aircraft, which means less fuel consumption. It has a kind of Fox News logic to it maybe, but then … never mind.

Nippon hopes the one-month trial, which started Oct. 1, will reduce carbon emissions by five tons in 30 days. It might be interesting to delve into how ANA came up with that number and the science and measurement techniques used, but then… never mind.

It’s just another dumb thing that passengers are subjected to the minute we enter the airport. I know – let’s require all passengers to disrobe entirely before boarding and carry-on a maximum of 10 pounds of stuff and no baggage. (That would also make going through security much more fun and a breeze, so to speak.)

How about requiring that we go on a diet and lose at least five pounds before every flight? That would lighten the load considerably and contribute to the general health of the populace.

Then once aboard, instead of pretzels during the flight airlines could serve beans because after all, they need the gas.



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Written by William DiBenedetto

October 15, 2009 at 11:47 am

Costco’s first CSR

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corporatesustainabilityCostco Warehouse Corporation has completed its first corporate sustainability report; it’s a worthy first effort but even the company execs admit there’s more work ahead for the world’s eighth largest retailer.

Shopping at Costco’s massive retail warehouses has always been a low-tech, do-it-yourself experience.

Paper or plastic is a question unasked at the checkout line; the best one can do is opt for a recycled cardboard box that might once have contained kumquats, underwear, olive oil or detergent.

So in that respect the Issaquah, Wash., retailer has taken a somewhat sustainable approach since its 1983 inception that also saves on overhead.

In its first Corporate Sustainability Report, which covers the 2007-2008 period, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dick DiCerchio admits that Costco’s environmental reporting “is still evolving. We recognize the need to report more environmental metrics information in future reports.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

October 13, 2009 at 9:31 am

Shining industrial rooftops

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Prologis2Warehouses and distribution facilities may be emptier inside than usual these days, but the rooftop space above is a great and largely untapped solar energy resource.

Distribution facility developer ProLogis, which was hard-hit last year by the collapse of the real estate industry, is on the cutting edge of what could and should be a bright business and  sustanability opportunity in the logistics and warehousing arena.

The Denver company has formed a Global Renewable Energy Group that will oversee the procurement, development  and management of new eco-friendly properties while providing management services for renewable energy projects, including a major push to provide rooftop space for solar energy installations.

One of the group’s first management efforts was announced recently: A new, 4.8-megawatt (MW) solar project that will be installed on eight rooftops at the ProLogis Park Sant Boi in Barcelona and ProLogis Park Alcala in Madrid, Spain. It’s a co-development arrangement with San Francisco’s Recurrent Energy that also marks Recurrent’s first foray into Europe.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

October 7, 2009 at 11:52 am

IBM, Stockholm and intelligent transport

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ITSIntelligent transport systems, or ITS, mix an odd and confusing  combination of words that perhaps infer more than they mean or can possibly deliver, like smart grid, or smart bombs. They are reminiscent of the old jokes asking why we drive on an parkway or park in a driveway.

Anyway, with some recent impetus from IBM there are positive ITS results to report on two fronts: city congestion and pollution. But not in the U.S.

The controversial debate about using taxes and fees to control wasteful driving habits while helping the environment could enter a new phase with the example of the Stockholm Congestion Charging System, which was created by IBM and launched in Sweden’s capital more than two years ago.

The system has significantly improved access to the city by cutting waiting times on access roads by one-half. City traffic is down 18 percent and CO2 emissions in the city were cut between 14 and 18 percent. These are the results of a study on the system by the Stockholm City Traffic authorities, IBM says.

Further, the number of “green” tax-exempt vehicles such as hybrids has almost tripled, with the study showing that the congestion charging system is the most influential factor in the decision to choose a green car.

It also found that the number of commuters using public transport increased by around 7 percent or 60,000 passengers per day. Last year about 82 million vehicle passages were handled by the congestion charge system at an accuracy rate of nearly 100 percent.

IBM was the prime contractor for the system design, development and initial operation. It worked with the Swedish Road Administration and the city of Stockholm to develop the congestion charging system that was rolled out in August 2007.

“It is quite clear that the positive effects of the congestion charging system are continuing. Reducing traffic volumes, decreasing CO2 emissions and improving accessibility is bringing significant benefits to the city, its visitors, and residents, and has been a factor in Stockholm being awarded European Green Capital for 2010,” says Ulla Hamilton, Vice Mayor of Stockholm city responsible for traffic and environment. “It is also satisfying to see that the retail business in the city has not suffered as a result of the congestion charging system.”

The congestion charge is a national tax that will raise an estimated $84 million in 2010. The money is invested in the Stockholm region for traffic investment.

“Intelligent transportation systems like the Stockholm solution are key to effective traffic management and sustainable cities,” says Jamie Houghton, IBM’s Global Leader for Intelligent Transport Systems.

The Stockholm system is the largest of its kind in Europe, with 18 barrier-free control points around the inner city equipped with cameras to identify vehicles around a 24 square kilometer (9.3 square mile) area.

An IBM research report released  in Stockholm during the ITS World Conference says as the world becomes more urbanized – with 70 percent of the population living in cities by 2050 – many cities are struggling to keep pace with increasing traffic and congestion.

The IBM report, “Intelligent Transport: How Cities Can Improve Mobility,” found that most urban leaders favor the increased use of enhanced public mass transit systems and other alternatives to private vehicles. In addition, most leaders interviewed agree that infrastructure investments are necessary to build more effective transport systems.

But tight capital budgets are driving an increased focus on the need to better manage transport demand and supply through deploying technology-based intelligent transport systems (ITS).

“The majority of cities are at an early stage in understanding and realizing the full potential of ITS,” the report says. “There are significant gaps between the progress of the typical city and the leaders.”

In addition to working with Stockholm, IBM is also assisting the cities of London, Singapore and Brisbane to address traffic management and congestion challenges.

“The Stockholm scheme will continue to be a major influence on many other cities considering managing the challenging urban development without incurring the costs of building new roads,” Houghton says.

ITS research was conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value in 57 cities, with a focus on a range of economic indicators and an evaluation of their transport systems. Interviews with senior transport and city officials were conducted in 15 cities selected to represent a geographical spread and varying stages of economic development and maturity in transport infrastructures and intelligent transport systems. The cities are located in Australia, Chile, China, Egypt, Italy, India, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

Where’s the U.S. in all this research and evaluation? When it comes to intelligent transport, we’re in the slow lane.



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Written by William DiBenedetto

October 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Posted in environment, transportation

Tagged with , ,

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