Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Economist; more "Green America"

Waking Up and Catching Up

More big time press on the green movement gaining momentum in the good ol' US of A. It really is about time that the vaunted entrepreneurial spirit of the country that helped usher in the industrial revolution. After all, this bastion of capitalism and creating business opportunity should be looking at the massive opportunity to commercialize technologies and services that potentially solve the climate change problem.

I have had a few acquaintances remark that the 2008 elections will usher in a dramatic change in US energy and climate change policies. The political and business leaders think about it for economic reasons, which is the right thing to do. They will package it as a way to create jobs and protect our children to get votes, and that's fine. Let's face it, whether anyone thinks environmental issues are a morally imperative thing to focus on, it can be viewed as another special interest, with vested interests and maneuvering organizations.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Looking back... normally not something to do very often. I found myself looking backwards as I reviewed all the junk on my Palm Zire 72s. In the techno-gadget continuum, it was quasi-cool about three years ago, but now it's lame. Anyway, as I looked through the stuff that I had on it, I came across some photos and audio recordings I made when I was enamored with the technology and did not have much else to do. In fact, the color photo I took of my desk with the Palm at Seven Cycles back in the fall of 2005 is at the start of this post. Somewhere in the annals of this blog, there is a B and W version nearly identical to this one.

I have a funny audio recording that I made while waiting in line at the Las Vegas airport after Interbike 2005, but I have not been able to figure out how to upload it. An angry traveller was in line next to me and loudly expressed his displeasure at the length of the line along with the fact that he was carrying a fair amount of his wife's "junk". Maybe I'll be able to figure out how to get it on here in the future. I guess that makes me pretty old-fashioned and technically illiterate; not part of the Millennial Generation.

Now that the Zire is "outdated", what happens to it? This looks good, but it does not mean they do not get tossed? Who owns it?

At the end of a product's life, society is left holding the bag. This is the question that gnaws at me in unreasonable ways sometimes. It can be overwhelming when one thinks of the environmental effects of every item we use, since we use a LOT of items. Focusing on the small things we can change is the way to go. If only I listened to this advice more often.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Green Electronics Manufacturing

I have mentioned RoHS and WEEE initiatives that are in place to govern the end-of-life manufacturer responsibilities for electronics manufacturing before. These are just the first steps in creating the manufacturing systems that supports our microprocessor based technological advances without continuing to deplete the earth's resources. I stumbled across this article, The Green Fab Challenge: An ISMI-led Initiative to Explore Sustainable Manufacturing in the Semiconductor Industry By James Mr. Beasley addressing the need for semiconductor manufacturers to step up and lead the charge in the effort to create low, and eventually zero-waste, manufacturing.

Domani's Catherine Greener challenged the industry at the meeting to step up and accept the challenge of creating an industry that not only lead in the products they provide, but in the way they make their products. Why not? While there are technologies that are developed that benefit societies in many ways (check out the use of cell phones as a way to organize markets, allowing fishermen in India access to fair prices for their goods) certainly their are many uses of microprocessors that are merely gadgets and distractions.

Either way, an industry that prides itself of technological breakthroughs and manufacturing excellence, should be at the vanguard of the trend to create an environmentally effective and efficient manufacturing system.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Work Related Greenery

I flew from Boston to Washington National (Reagan?) and traveled around northern VA with coworkers, from DC to Manassas to Alexandria, Richmond, and Petersburg. What will that cost me to offset? Oh, and I trucked a few hundred miles around the area separately as well. I'll tally everything up at the end of the month and see if setting up my Carbonfund is possible.

The article, Cell Phones Getting Greener, presented through the WBCSD website from IPS News, reminded me of my entry into the coolness of multi-function phone technology. I received my new Motorola Q cell phone (note the way cool page intro). Mind you, the phone I used up to this point was manufactured by Nokia sometime before steam power was harnessed by man. In fact, the 1100 is the phone often supplied in pre-paid programs where you simply throw the phone away when the minutes are used up. Sweet!

In any case, it is good to see that the tougher EU regulations affecting electronics with nasty substances like cadmium and lead in them are making an impact on the products we use every day. I certainly do not foresee a reduction in the number of portable electronic devices strapped to every available human, so this may be something of a step in the correct direction.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New Car Shopping

The quest for functionality, efficiency, and style.

Let's face it, the purchase of an automobile for most people is less about function than it is about perception. We have ceased to shop for a transportation service, which is really what a car is, to shopping for something that fulfills an emotional need. Sure, the vehicle gets us around and serves its utilitarian purpose, but it also reinforces our personal statement to the world around us. Other than our homes, it may be the ultimate consumer product.

My wife and I are in the process of buying a new vehicle. I say "new" only in that it will be new to us. We are looking at wagons of the used variety, with a short list narrowed to the Volvo V70, Subaru Legacy, and 2004 Passat 1.8T.

Why these models? Because Consumer Reports said so.

Why wagons? Because there was no way in hell we would buy an SUV (not necessarily because I am a closet greeny), and minivans are way too lame (shades of gray), yet we wanted decent storage capacity and gas mileage.

We've driven a Volvo V70, a Legacy, and an Outback. All of them are capable cars, the Legacy/Outback gets better highway mileage, about 28 MPG, while the larger Volvo comes in at around 26-27 MPG. Of course, it all depends on how heavy the foot is under acceleration as well as how well the car is operating. Neither one is a hybrid, but we were not in a position to make the large investment in a hybrid SUV, especially what is considered a depreciating asset. At least buying a used car is a form of recycling!

Going back to what a car says about the person driving it:

  • I am certain that the V70 says, "we are in our thirties going on 65 and believe safety equipment will make us better parents."
  • The Legacy say, "we are slightly hipper than the 50 year olds we really are."
  • The Outback says, "we like to pretend we're outdoorsy, but our tent and sleeping bags are currently used to hold the barn door closed."

I am curious to determine what sort of people we are.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Life Work; Balance?

OK, so you probably cannot read the attached article from the Wall Street Journal. What caught my eye about it was that it echoes the sentiments of an article I read in The Economist in their Special The World in 2007 issue. Seems that we have nothing to expect but more hours and less flexibility, thought the WSJ article offers up some hope. Now, when it comes to discussions of sustainability, isn't the ability to mesh one's career with one's "life" something to take into account?

Work-life imbalance
Lucy Kellaway

From The World in 2007 print edition

Farewell to the flexibility fad

If you don’t have an office of your own already, 2007 may be the year in which you finally get one. Your new office won’t be large, as your company will remain devoted to keeping costs low. There will be no shiny mahogany desk, and the partition walls may be flimsy, but there will be a door and it will be acceptable for you to shut it. This is to make no prediction about your personal career advance: your office will simply be a sign that some of the old ways of working are on the way back.

Ten years ago corporations were preparing for a revolution in the way in which their managers worked. This was to be brought on by three things: a flattening of the hierarchies, which would introduce democracy into offices; the fear of losing talented women, which would make companies willing to offer part-time work; and technology, which would mean most work could as easily be done from Starbucks as from the office. Under these new working conditions, people would work where and when they liked. Teams would be virtual and offices flexible. (see link above for the rest of the story)

Office Equipment

With the start of the new job back in December comes the accoutrements that create a remote professional salesperson, Dell laptop, home office H-P printer/scanner/fax machine, company demo equipment, and the biggest of them all, an automobile. The laptop and the printer are finally completely installed, while the shopping for the new car is earnestly in process.

Though my efforts at being a carbon neutral employee are in their fledgling state, I am mildly excited that both Dell and HP are making some attempts at reducing the ecological footprint of their equipment. In fact, just yesterday evening, I read this press release on CSRWire about Dell, DELL, and Conservation Fund Partner to Offset Carbon Dioxide Produced by Computer Use. Here's an excerpt:
Through the program, a customer donation of $2 for a notebook and $6 for a desktop computer will offset carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to powering the average computer for three years. Dell will remit 100 percent of the donations received from the “Plant a Tree for Me” program to The Conservation Fund and to be used to plant trees. “Dell recognizes that offsetting carbon dioxide emissions with tree planting is an effective and inexpensive way to fight climate change,” executive director Eric Carlson said. “The beauty of this program is that anyone can do it and make a difference.”
Earlier this week Michael Dell outlined a new Dell Environmental Initiative. It appears to contain information about the "Plant a Tree For Me" initiative listed above along with some other topics related to the environment. How is Dell doing by the way? Not so hot since early 2005. Will this make a positive impact long-term? The test will be to determine if these environmental initiatives are a core part of their business strategy or some window-dressing that can easily be discontinued.

Another interesting tidbit, the Dell press release found its way to CSRWire along with the WBCSD which picked it up from GreenBiz. They're communicating!
More to follow with some H-P comments...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy New Year (again)!

The New Year of 2007 is here. The fireworks have been launched, the sparkling wine has been popped and imbibed, and the wheels of business continue to turn, though they appear to turn in a slightly relaxed way as the pause that accompanies the holidays wears off. In many ways, these first few weeks of the year are the most important time of the year. They set the tone for what is to come and all the plans laid down and agreed to now will be evaluated for success or failure in a mere 12 months. Though the feeling may be somewhat subdued, it is only because we are all finalizing our plans for the year.

As part of my effort to offset carbon emissions associated with business travel, I logged my mileage for December and came up with a mere 420 miles, including a long day for a customer visit and a few days of commuting to the office. Of course, regular commuting miles are not part of a business expense reimbursement, but I am committed to logging all of my business related mileage. I also managed to fly good ol' Continental Airlines from Boston to Cleveland and then from Cleveland to Newark, NJ for a wedding in NYC. I add that here since airline travel (good ol' Norway!) is getting more attention for its contribution to carbon emissions and I may decide to offset some personal travel as well.

I listed two stories from late in 2006 that touch upon the continuing developments in carbon offsets. One about a new report on the voluntary offset market for corporations and one about an organization choosing an organization to help them offset their emissions. As I discussed with a fellow attendee of the last minute Green Drinks event in Boston yesterday evening, carbon offsetting mechanisms come in mutliple varieties with no clear standard that offsetting organizations follow and potential customers understand. Perhaps there will be a double counting lawsuit filed in the next few years that will result in a legal precedent for everyone to follow.

BSR and Ecosystem Marketplace Publish "Offsetting Emissions: A Business Brief on the Voluntary Carbon Market"

Walden Asset Management Offsets its Carbon Emissions with