Current EcoTuesday Cities

Positive Change Happens

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Each time a participant comes to EcoTuesday, learns something new, and then shares it with colleagues, family, and friends  - positive change happens. Each time a participant comes to EcoTuesday and shares information with other participants about a new plan, product, or service that contributes to a new way of doing business - positive change happens. Each time a speaker comes to EcoTuesday and shares their knowledge and a few personal stories about the industry they represent - positive change happens.

Green Your Office: Beyond the Basics

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Green OfficeMany of us work in small offices or even home offices and have taken a few steps to make our workspaces green. It's time to take these actions a step further - beyond the basics of recycling our paper and printing using double-sided printer settings.

Here are a few tips that will help you decrease your office's energy output, become more efficient, save money, and create a more comfortable work environment for you and for others:

  • Leverage teleconferencing and instant messaging technology (decreasing commutes and carbon emissions)
  • Reduce indoor air pollution (allow proper ventilation, use non-toxic cleaning supplies)
  • Form a green office committee (even if it's just a few people - it's amazing how many great ideas are created once people strategize with one another!)
  • Beware of electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) and radiation coming from computers (use headsets when talking on the phone)
  • Eliminate "Phantom Energy" (save money by turning off appliances when not in use)

Do you have a great tip for greening your office - above and beyond the using reusable water bottles and utensils? Please share these tips with others at EcoTuesday this month. We'll be meeting in cities across the country on Tuesday, May 24. Please register beforehand - we always like to know you're coming.

Green Initiatives At Adobe

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Erica Priggen showing a clip from The Story of Bottled Water

I was delighted to be able to host last month's EcoTuesday meeting at the San Francisco office of Adobe Systems, where I work as a Program Manager. The evening's featured speaker was Erica Priggen, Executive Producer at Free Range Studios. This organization has a knack for conveying powerful messages in a concise, engaging, and entertaining manner and is responsible for such hits as the award-winning The Story of Stuff. At the EcoTuesday gathering, we got to see a sampling of their work.

Though the focus of the evening wasn't the venue, it quickly became apparent how appropriate this location was for an EcoTuesday meeting. Before the featured speaker, we had a short introduction to Adobe's sustainability initiatives by Meera Ramanathan, Global Sustainability Manager with Cushman and Wakefield, Adobe's facilities management firm. The few minutes she spoke weren't enough to detail all that Adobe is doing in this area, but they were enough to make me feel good about where I work. Some examples:

  • Erica Priggen and part of the audience, with the backdrop of Adobe's LEED-certified building

    Adobe was the world's first business to receive 4 platinum-level LEED certifications, including one for the building in which this meeting was held; 601 Townsend, built in 1905, received the first platinum LEED for an existing building in San Francisco and is the oldest LEED-certified platinum building in the world. The company is now at 11 LEED certifications overall -- 9 of those at the platinum level, 2 at gold.

  • Adobe has reduced use of electricity by 35%, natural gas by 41%, domestic water by 22%, and irrigation water by 76%, in addition to recycling or composting up to 95% of solid waste -- for a total reduction in pollution from all sources by 26%.
  • The San Jose headquarters has installed both wind spires and Bloom Energy fuel cell energy servers, known as "Bloom boxes." These Bloom boxes are expected to provide about 30% of the site's power over time.
  • Electric car chargers have already been installed at some Adobe locations.
  • Janitorial products used at Adobe satisfy the American Society for Testing and Materials Cleaning Stewardship for Community Building Standards and meet the Green Seal Cleaning Products Standards.
  • As many companies are finding now, following green practices can cut costs. Significant savings have been realized by measures such as retrofitting air-conditioning systems, installing digital electric meters that closely monitor electricity use, and cutting water use.
  • Adobe has adopted standards for maintaining recycled content levels in products and purchases; 60% of all office product purchases contain recycled content, and all materials installed in Adobe buildings must meet strict green specifications.
  • Employees receive vouchers for transit services, railways, and buses.
  • Water bottles have been replaced with reusable bottles and glasses, with water provided from filtered coolers.
The EcoTuesday introduction circle

Maybe I sound like I'm bragging, but I have to admit I'm impressed by all that Adobe is doing, especially given that what I've listed here is just part of the story. Adobe is clearly a leader in sustainability when it comes to corporate America. That's good news, but even better is the fact that we're not alone. Other large companies, even such unlikely ones as Walmart, have made huge strides in this area, as they find that "the bottom line of green is black" and that by adopting sustainable practices, they can realize intangible but significant benefits in addition to dollar savings. It's our job as employees to encourage companies to continue along this path -- and it's our job as inhabitants of the earth to spread the word everywhere we can about the benefits of going green.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the position, views, or opinions of Adobe.

Women in Sustainability

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Over the past few years, women have made great strides in all areas of sustainability. For example, women hold key positions in large solar companies, are driving sustainability initiatives in Fortune 500 companies, and have started businesses that have greatly impacted the food industry.

There's still so much more to accomplish!

Making Connections at EcoTuesday

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I always learn something new at EcoTuesday. I've learned how to dispose properly of electronics, how to find candles that don't pollute, where to buy sustainable seafood in San Francisco, and much more. Even if I'm tired after a long day of work and don't feel like going out, I'm always inspired and energized by the end of the evening. It's great to meet so many people who are trying to promote sustainability in all kinds of ways.

 

One of the most inspiring organizations I've learned about at EcoTuesday is one that I hadn't heard of until last spring. Erica Mackie, co-founder of GRID Alternatives, explained how GRID provides solar power to low-income families, both empowering them (pun intended!) and helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. I'm interested in solar myself and am on the long road of trying to get panels for my condo development. But GRID goes beyond this in also helping low-income communities. When Mackie mentioned that their annual fundraiser and volunteer event was coming up, I was intrigued.

 

SolarthonSo I signed up, set up my fundraising page, and e-mailed almost everyone I knew to tell them about the GRID Alternatives 2010 Bay Area Solarthon. It was easy to ask for contributions for such a worthy cause. And the Solarthon turned out to be both fun and instructive, as I met lots of great people and participated in installing a solar system for a family.

 

A friend of mine who's a green architect was inspired by my experience to nominate GRID for the Green Building Super Heroes awards given by the U.S. Green Building Council. And eventually we got to attend the awards ceremony -- a great evening in a beautiful venue, the California Academy of Sciences. But for me, the highlight was when GRID won the Outstanding Community Organization award. I had no doubt they deserved it, but with so many outstanding nominees, it's an especially remarkable achievement. GRID stands out because they cover so many areas at once: they're helping low-income families, training them and others to be future solar workers, and helping to promote clean energy -- which itself helps solve many of our most serious problems. So GRID provides a lot of bang for the buck. Congratulations to GRID on this recognition!

 

I plan to continue volunteering with GRID, and I'm working with my employer to get them to become a corporate sponsor. I hope that others will take note of their success and start similar organizations around the country. It's this kind of work that can give us, as we say in the corporate world, high ROI.

 

If I hadn't attended that EcoTuesday gathering last spring, I might still not know about GRID, and they might not have been nominated for the award they so thoroughly deserve. And this is only one story of what can happen at EcoTuesday. Just a few years ago, EcoTuesday didn't exist, and now it's providing a way for so many people to connect in meaningful ways. This shows what the vision of a couple people can create. Whoever thinks they're powerless to make a meaningful difference should look at what Nikki Pava and Oren Jaffe have done. It's often a simple idea like this that can have a broad effect -- as is true of both GRID Alternatives and EcoTuesday.


Green Going Mainstream at the San Francisco Green Festival

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It would be interesting to see which other U.S. cities could draw as big a crowd as the one at the 9th annual San Francisco Green Festival last weekend. The expansive Concourse Exhibition center was packed with the usual suspects and more: the generous smattering of hippies in dreadlocks and flowing organic cotton fashions was only part of the varied crowd, which seemed to encompass all the demographics you'd normally find around town.

 

While this festival is partly a showcase and marketplace for just about any green product you can think of -- from jewelry, clothing, and towels to food and drinks to the latest electric cars -- and may therefore seem less serious than the more businesslike green conferences in the Bay Area, it serves an important function in getting so many people involved and engaged. There's a lot to be said for making green more mainstream. And in between shopping, you can also choose among talks on a wide range of subjects. The ones I attended exemplified the energy and message of the festival, and the theme of personal and global engagement.

 

There's an urgency to environmentalism today that can't be denied. As Bill McKibben of 350.org reminded his audience, climate change is happening faster than we'd thought -- and while we have the technology to solve many of our problems, the political will isn't as easy to come by. John Perkins, author of Hoodwinked, pointed out that this is the first time in history that the whole world is confronting the same crisis. But it's also the first time that we're all communicating with one another, in a way that wasn't possible even a few years ago. As an illustration of this, 350.org has more than once virtually gathered people from all around the world -- their Global Day of Action was called "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history," and this year their Global Work Party drew people to 7,347 events in 188 countries.

 

We all have tremendous power to make changes. If you don't believe that, just look at the many examples of people who have helped change the world. Rallies organized by 350.org's predecessor in 2007 helped convince political leaders to set a goal of cutting carbon 80% by 2050. In Florida, as Perkins recounted, the head of an environmental agency had the courage to take a stand against a coal-powered plant, and the people stood behind her. The coal company got the message and is now the largest wind and solar company in the U.S. While they used to spend millions against CO2 taxes, now they fight for them -- because the people spoke.

 

So what can you do? It depends what your passion is; it's up to all of us to get involved in any way we can and do whatever makes the most sense for us. Connect with others who are trying to do the same things; volunteer to install solar panels; join organizations that force corporations and governments to change. It took just a few people to convince the administration to put solar panels back on the White House; imagine what we can do with many more of us. If we all engage in activities like this and make our voices heard, change will happen. And events like the Green Festival, which bring so many green-minded people together, can help facilitate that and inspire us all to keep pursuing our goals.

The Votes Are In - Back to the State Level For Clean Technology

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It was a win/lose election for clean technology and sustainability this month. Californians rejected Prop 23 taking a major step to protect their state against climate change and support it’s blossoming green economy.  Additionally, they voted Democrat Jerry Brown as the new California governor, who’s expected to be a strong supporter of green innovation in the state.  It’s being said the huge defeat of Prop 23 (despite the vast sums supporters spent on the initiative), sends a strong message to future potential efforts to roll back progressive, clean tech-promoting initiatives around the country.

However, on the national level many of the advocates for climate change and proponents of the Waxmen-Markey bill lost their seats this time around.  The change, particularly in the House, will likely jeopardize the federal funding that’s helped fund solar, wind and other alternative energy projects across the country.  As the next two years of a Republican controlled House play out, the industry may find itself leaning more on individual states to pick up the federal slack. Massachusetts and California are leading examples of this. 

While for some a scattered execution of growing the American green economy is less than ideal, it’s really on the state level where green economic incentives start and have the most impact anyway. 

Cleantech Policies By State

On a state-by-state basis, clean energy policies are represented in every state.  While some have more policies and others less, each is doing its own work to support our emerging green ecomony. Out of a list of 15 identified clean energy policies, 22 states have 11 or more in place, with California leading the pack.

The green sector may have two years to wait out this Republican lead Congress and in the meantime, it should redouble its efforts to build groundswells locally, that federal politicians find impossible to ignore.

Mixed Results in California's 2010 Elections

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For some, knowing that California's Proposition 23 was largely funded by two Texas oil companies (along with the Koch brothers) might have been enough of a reason to vote against it. Similarly, Proposition 26 got major funding from big oil and tobacco companies. But what does the recent defeat of Prop 23, and the passing of Prop 26, actually mean? And why was one defeated and the other similar one approved, by the same voters?

 

Prop 23 would have suspended AB32, signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006, which requires California to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. AB32 is expected to have benefits in these areas -- some of which we've experienced already:

  • Jobs and economic growth: Although the proponents of Prop 23 called it a "jobs initiative," it would have probably led to a loss of jobs in California. Before Prop 23 was defeated, a group of 118 economists signed an open letter stating their belief that AB32 will stimulate California's economy along with having many other beneficial effects. In fact, AB32 and similar policies have already attracted business to California and encouraged the creation of hundreds, maybe thousands, of clean-energy jobs. Because of such policies, California has the most vital clean energy economy in the United States. Venture capitalists are more likely to invest here with AB32 in place; according to State Senator Mark Leno, AB32 attracted $11 million in venture capital to the state even before being implemented. Companies like Sungevity have made California their home, rather than other solar-friendly places such as Germany, in part because of AB32, which creates a climate that encourages clean-tech business.
  • Environment and health: As the 118 economists put it in their letter, "policies that reduce global warming pollution are likely to provide immediate benefits to the health and welfare of residents by reducing local pollutants." So all Californians will benefit from AB32, not just those employed in the clean-energy industry.
  • National security: Promoting clean energy in California, the 8th-largest economy in the world, reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Doing so greatly enhances our national security -- which is a major factor that led George Shultz to become co-chair of the No on 23 campaign.

Perhaps you don't live in California. Why should you care what happens here? Because California has a history of being a leader in innovation and clean energy, and what we do here will spread elsewhere. Supporters of Prop 23, almost all from other states, knew this when they backed the measure, and that's why they targeted California. The Republicans' nationwide gains at the polls last week will make it harder to enact climate-protecting legislation at the federal level, so it's all the more crucial for states to take the lead.

 

Proponents of Prop 23 were clever, though misleading, in calling it a "jobs initiative." In an equally clever move, opponents rebranded it the "Dirty Energy" proposition. This is a wonderful example of how we can reframe a message to get people to think differently about an issue: no one likes the sound of "dirty energy." The No on 23 campaign also bombarded the media and social networking sites with creative, forceful ads, some of which you can see here.

 

The same effort, unfortunately, didn't go into defeating Prop 26, branded the "Stop Hidden Taxes" initiative, which many of us heard about as an afterthought long after we'd gotten the scoop on Prop 23. Prop 26, now approved by California voters, reclassifies some environmental fees as taxes requiring approval by a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature. And we all know how popular taxes are.

 

It's not clear how the passing of Prop 26 will affect AB32, though some fear that it will make it harder to impose fees intended to implement AB32. There are reasons to hope that won't be the case; Prop 26 applies only to laws enacted after January 1, and AB32 has been in place since 2006. It could still affect fees levied in the future to support AB32. And even if it doesn't erode AB32, if allowed to stand Prop 26 will have serious consequences, as detailed in a study by the UCLA School of Law. In addition to adversely affecting transportation, law enforcement, and public health, Prop 26 is an attack on the environment. That's because it makes it much harder to impose fees on polluters, now a major source of funding for health and environmental programs. And that leaves taxpayers to pay for the harmful effects of industries like oil companies.

 

But another challenge remains for Prop 26, and that's its basic legitimacy. It's likely the proposition could face challenges in court -- both because it's badly written, leaving interpretations up to the courts, and because it contradicts Prop 23, which had such a resounding defeat. Still, we'll have to wait and see what happens with Prop 26.

 

Why did Prop 26 succeed while the similar Prop 23 failed? Anyone who's faced a long California ballot knows how confusingly written most of the propositions are, so it's likely that voters didn't realize they were making contradictory votes. The best antidote to such confusion seems to be good advertising, but Prop 23 got the lion's share of publicity while Prop 26 was left to prevail silently.

 

This shows the power of not only good publicity but also strong bipartisan collaboration. Perhaps what put the No on Prop 23 campaign over the edge, and enabled the clever strategies used, was the huge collaborative effort among progressives and conservatives, activists and energy companies, Republicans and Democrats. Many of us do have common goals, and the success of Prop 23 shows that if we collaborate on those goals, even when we're dealing with big oil companies and their deep pockets, we can win.

 

While last week's election results were mixed, in both California and the rest of the country, defeating Prop 23 was a major win for environmentalists, and it will have far-reaching effects that extend throughout our country and even beyond. The election of Jerry Brown as governor will help promote environmental efforts. In this election, California won the right to continue leading the world in clean-energy innovation. Let's all do our part to ensure it remains this way. As Bill McKibben of 350.org noted at the San Francisco Green Festival this past weekend, it's up to all of us to get involved in any way we can. His organization, in addition to hosting worldwide days of action, helped convince the administration to put solar panels back on the White House -- showing that grassroots efforts can make a difference. If we all engage in activities like this and make our voices heard, change will happen. It happened with Prop 23, and we can make it happen again.

DailyCleanTech: Calvin Souther Fuller and the Birth Of the Solar Cell

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Calvin S. Fuller, one of the investors of the solar cell

On October 28, 1994 Calvin Souther Fuller passed away at his home in Vero Beach, Florida.  He was 92. 

Born on May 25th, 1902, Fuller's legacy includes 33 patents, including how to purify silicon.  Some have called his inventions a pivotal step in the founding of semiconductors, the evolution of the personal computer and the development solar cell.   In his 1994 New York Times obituary, AT&T spokesman Robert Ford said Fuller's invention of the silicon solar cell...

"...helped make the space program practical, because space vehicles could get power from readily available sunlight."

Born in Chicago, Fuller attended the University of Chicago he received a B.S. and a Ph.D.in physical chemistry.  He joined Bell Labs (then called Bell Telephone) in 1930, where his work included research in organic insulating materials and investigations of the molecular nature of polymers.


Working with Bell Telephone scientists Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson, Fuller diffused boron into silicon to capture the sun's power.  The invention of the 'solar battery' resulted in a 600% improvement in previous technologies to harnessing solar power and convert it into electricity.  The inventors used several small strips of silicon to capture sunlight and render it into free electrons.


Here is a story told by Calvin S. Fuller's oldest son Robert W. Fuller as part of the speech preparation for Calvin S. Fuller's May 2008 induction to the National Inventor's Hall of Fame:

"In 1954, I was home from vacation from college to visit my parents. That night my father, Calvin Souther Fuller, came home with something that looked like a quarter with wires sticking out of it. This was a device that connected to a small electric windmill that stood on the table. He shined a bright flashlight on the quarter-like object, which was actually silicon solar cell, and the blades of the windmill started turning. It was so exciting to see the flashlight power the tiny windmill. While this device looked like a quarter to anyone else, it was actually the world’s first silicon solar battery - a device that later become known as the silicon solar cell."

The solar cell was given a public demonstration at Murray Hill in 1954. The first public service trial of the Bell Solar Battery began with a telephone carrier system in 1955 in Americus, Georgia. By 1958, the US Department of Defense wanted solar cells to power vehicles and satellites in space. The first time the cells were put on board an operational space vehicle, and used, was in 1962, on AT&T's Telstar communications satellite.


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Join Us at The Enlightened Business Summit

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The business world is evolving and those in leadership positions are becoming more and more aware of the impact that their actions have on the social and environmental aspects of their companies. Many of these leaders will be participating in The Enlightened Business Summit, a virtual global telesummit that will take place next week (October 25-29), which will explore the leading edge of entrepreneurship and conscious business. Speakers include Chip Conley (Joie de Vivre Hospitality), John Mackey (Whole Foods), Tim Ferriss (author of The Four Hour Workweek) and Steven M. Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). We hope you can join us!