Ready for Winter? Brrrrr…

Now that we are seeing frost on the ground and newscasters are trying to scare us by mentioning snow, I guess Winter is just around the corner. Winter brings us hot apple cider and a big bowl of clam chowder; but most of us dread the thought of turning on the heat because of costly oil prices.

An alternative to traditional heating is the use of Geothermal systems. This is an economical way to heat and cool any kind of building, heat water and provide refrigeration. Here is how it works:geothermal

The Earth absorbs and stores much of the energy it receives from the sun. This causes underground temperatures to remain constant at a point between 45-75 degrees Fahrenheit, depending where you are in the world. By installing an underground exchange system, this energy can be used to provide heat or air conditioning. According to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it can lower energy bills 30 percent to 40 percent.

Hart-Boillot recently partnered with ECS to provide a visual identity and brand roll-out for Terraclime Geothermal. Terraclime provides geothermal heating and cooling systems, maintenance and tracking systems for proper operation.

After a design process of brainstorming, concepting, tweaking, and exploring color, here is the Terraclime Geothermal logo:

Logo_RGB

To learn more, visit www.ecsconsult.com.

Climate Change Update – Synthesis Report

For those of us who might like to get news as tweets, soundbites and 3-minute newspaper articles, this might be a long read at 36 pages. It’s the Synthesis Report from the international congress on climate change, called “Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions,” held in Copenhagen, 10-12 March 2009.

But when you consider that the report has 12 authors, 24 reviewers and over 100 references, it’s a short read: densely packed with relevant information to personal, business and political thinking for the years ahead. The report derives its information from 16 plenary talks given at the Congress as well as input from over 80 chairs and co-chairs of all 58 of the Congress’ parallel sessions.

The report will also serve as a useful primer for anyone interested in The United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009. If you’re interested in climate change and want some insight into its many facets and consequences (both current and predicted), don’t miss this read.

The Color Wheel Becomes Clean-tech

Color plays a major part in our lives – it influences our mood, style, and personality and brings value to our daily life. As a designer, I flip through color books hoping that someone might discover a new color. It won’t happen, but it’s fun to imagine.

Are white and black colors? This is highly debatable and depends on who you ask. A scientist might say, “Black is not a color as all colors are absorbed while white is a color as all colors are reflected.”

But is it possible that color could help global warming?

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that global warming could be slowed by a low-tech idea that has nothing to do with coal plants or solar panels: white roofs. Chu said that a white roof “changes the reflectivity . . . of the Earth, so the sunlight comes in, it’s reflected back into space.”

Dark roofs absorb and hold more than 80% of solar energy, while white ones can reflect 75% of it away. The reflected light then escapes through the polluted atmosphere. Therefore, a building will remain cooler and save on energy costs (of course, in a cold climate, having a darker roof can lower heating costs). Take a look at the beautiful island of Mykonos in Greece, where every building is white.

Research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found that painting approximately 63% of the roofs white in 100 large, temperate climate cities would provide similar climate benefits to removing all the world’s cars from the road for 10 years.

There is much more to consider than the color of your roof when it comes to the issue of global warming. But, inspiration can come from anywhere. Maybe next year white will be the new green.

The Green Chemistry Narrative

Dr. John Warner begins his presentation with a description and photo of his 11-member family, the 35-cousins who lived within two miles of his childhood home, and his high-school band.

Dr. John Warner

Dr. John Warner

He then takes you through his nearly happenstance run-in with chemistry, and then his meteoric rise into academia and industry — breaking records for the numbers of papers he publishes in high-school, undergraduate and graduate school, and authoring over 100 patents.

Then he shows two photos of a little boy, his son, who passed away at the age of two. He asks you to imagine how he felt the night after his son’s funeral, as he wondered which of the thousands of substances he had handled might have caused the liver condition that killed his child. In all his years of training, of work and of unbridled academic and scientific success, from Princeton University to the the Polaroid Corporation, John Warner had never been required to take a course on toxicity.

Green Chemistry Book CoverI had the privilege to hear John Warner tell his story at a recent Renewable Energy Business Network event at Warner’s company, the Warner Babcock Institute. During the first part of the evening, [Read more…]

Sugar Cane Saves Trees

sugar1Over the past few years, our clients have joined us in producing printed materials on environmentally friendly paper, both because it’s the right thing to do and because our clients’ constituencies take note of what they are doing as individuals and businesses.

Obama’s inaugural invitation was printed on a FSC-certified paper called Nennah’s Classic Crest. Do you remember hearing in the past about the kind of paper the President chose for his invitation? (Though Neenah has provided the paper for the last three presidents’ inaugurations). Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone will be recycling this valuable keepsake — but then again, it’s not likely to end up in landfills either.

Queensland University of Technology researcher in Australia discovered a new way to make paper. It uses bagasse, the fibrous sugar cane waste from sugar production. The bagasse fiber is made into pulp for the production of paper, board, structural and packaging materials like tableware that fast food vendors can use. This “treeless” paper is 100% biodegradable and compostable, and it gives sugar cane producers another industry into which they can sell.

Technically, sugar cane was first used by the Egyptians for producing paper, but the process was lost when the technology of using wood fibers became widely adopted. With tree-made paper accounting for more than 90 percent of the world’s paper production, this valuable research is crucial. The use of sugar cane helps to preserve our forests and turns out to be cheaper than using wood. Not to mention the fact that using recycled paper also saves up to 64% of energy costs. Incidentally, many new energy companies are focusing on bagasse as an ideal material for biofuel.

Every time you make a paper selection, you have the power to help protect our environment.

Energy efficiency vs. production

The March 26 Wall Street Journal published an excellent piece on how electricity companies are rethinking power plant plans and providing an opening for renewables. The piece addresses how power plants are a huge consumer of water, accounting for nearly half of all water withdrawals in the US — much of which is returned to waterways with the loss of 2% to 3% (which is substantial — 1.6 to 1.7 trillion gallons of water per year). New technologies are helping power companies build plants that require far less water. The article mentions a power plant in Northern California with a cooling system that can “cut its water intake from 40,000 gallons a minute to 1.6 gallons.”

Such systems are part of what we at Hart-Boillot think of as the clean-tech supply chain, and are a critical part of moving to reduce consumption and the global human carbon footprint. Many pundits feel that even without developing alternative sources of energy, we have the technology and ability to make massive reductions in our usage — some claim that such reductions would preempt the need for alternative sources which by themselves are energy intensive to build and deploy.

Amory Lovins, head of the Rocky Mountain Institute and one of the most compelling speakers I have ever heard (clean, green or anything else), published this paper in 2005: Energy End-Use Efficiency. He starts with: “Increasing energy end-use efficiency—technologically providing more desired service per unit of delivered energy consumed—is generally the largest, least expensive, most benign, most quickly deployable, least visible, least understood, and most neglected way to provide energy services.”

Lovins distinguishes efficiency from conservation — efficiency meaning to do more with as much or less energy — and spends some time on how much economic benefit can be derived from efficiency gains.

Pieces like the Wall Street Journal article and the Lovins white paper remind us of the important role our clients play in the clean-tech supply chain. Devices such as Vicor’s power supplies and LEM’s wireless energy meters may not have the sex appeal of solar panels and wind turbines — yet they are critical to raising efficiency in numerous markets and delivering a cleaner, greener world.

Strategies for the Green Economy — the new Joel Makower book

I had the good fortune of seeing Joel Makower speak at a recent Renewable Energy Business Network event. He’s not only an excellent speaker, but an excellent writer. I have been reading his blog, Two Steps Forward, for a while — his simple style draws you in, but unlike many “activist” writers, Makower doesn’t shy away from complexity — presenting numerous sides of every issue in an even-handed manner.

Among the many gems in this book is the appendix, “The Ecological Roadmap — Earthjustice Findings on Environmental Values,” by Cara Pike. This is a MUST READ for green or clean-tech marketers. It presents the results of research into environmental worldviews, breaking the US population down into 10 separate categories and detailing their attributes and beliefs, along with suggestions for what and how to market to each category.

Here are three other gems that stuck with me from Makower’s book, Strategies for the Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges in the New World of Business.

  • No green deed goes unpunished: Makower gives several examples of organizations that are getting green but cannot publicize their good deeds because doing so would shed light on more significant problems, thus inciting previously untapped criticism from environmental activist groups. This can lead to not talking about environmental efforts, called “greenmuting” by McDonald’s Bob Langert.
  • The Greenwasher in all of us:” Quoting directly, “While it’s generally a good thing to maintain high standards for companies seeking to claim environmental leadership, I can’t help but ponder the hypocrisy of it all — how much more we expect of companies than of ourselves.” Makower goes on to discuss how his audiences are often railing against businesses but rarely implementing greener practices in their own lives.
  • A Tale of Two Circles: This is the title of one of the book’s chapters, which addresses “how the public and companies can focus on a set of environmental issues or aspects of corproate operations that may not necessarily have the biggest environmental impact. And it offers a warning to companies that have been telling the wrong story when the public’s focus changes.” Makower goes on to show how public discourse focuses on the amount of waste that ends up in our municipal landfills. What we don’t talk about is the industrial/commercial/agricultural waste. As the author notes, “It’s only a matter of time before […] the public recognizes that for every pound of trash that ends up in municapl landfills, at least 65 more pounds are created upstream by industrial processes — and that a lot of this waste is far more dangerous to environmental and human health than our newspapers and grass clippings.”

Pointing out these few important pieces of Makower’s work does not do justice to a book that reads beautifully and is literally filled with facts and figures that will make you think, act, and potentially adjust your business and marketing strategies.

Get Your Green On!

We recently completed work for a new Green Initiative for the Office for Sustainability at Harvard University. The program kicked off with a University-wide celebration featuring a keynote address by former Vice President Al Gore.

To promote the event, we designed an eco-friendly poster that drove home the message: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. RETHINK.

We look forward to continue helping Harvard’s Office for Sustainability to effectively communicate the “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. RETHINK.” message as part of a campaign to reduce the school’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, here are five small things that make a big difference:

1. Adjust your thermostat: Dress for season, and take it easy on the thermostat. Turn down the heat when not in your room. Rooms warm up quickly when heat is turned back on.

2. Eat less meat: As global consumption of meat has risen, so too has the farm animal population, placing incredible strain on the planet’s resources. Livestock are a major contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Reducing the quantity of meat in your diet can significantly decrease your own GHG footprint.

3. Wash clothes in cold water: Most modern liquid laundry soaps work well with cold water. Up to 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes toward heating the water.

4. Ditch the plastic: Avoid the disposable water bottles and use refillable containers.

5. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. RETHINK.

Solar Power International Conference

The Solar Power International Conference, held in San Diego last week (Oct 13-16) blew me away. It reminded me of what dot.com conferences were like in the 1990s. How vibrant is the solar industry? Here are some anecdotal indicators, based on my two days at the conference:

  • There were lines everywhere: lines to get in before the doors opened, lines at many booths, lines for food, for the bathrooms, and long waiting lists for local restaurants at lunch and dinner;
  • Many of the excellent sessions were filled to capacity, standing-room only;
  • Aisles were crowded, and it was hard to move around;
  • Most people were smiling, despite being exhausted from the frenzy;
  • I had meetings planned with ten exhibitors. Among the meetings that were scheduled as “let’s just meet at the booth,” several had to be rescheduled because booth traffic was so heavy;
  • Attendees and exhibitors even crowded the display of “industry magazines,” grabbing up all the solar and renewable energy titles;
  • The industry magazines were thick with content and advertising — much like the electronics or Internet/networking publications during the 1990s.

My first appointment was scheduled at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, when the exhibit doors opened. The man I met with was practically vibrating on his feet, and his first words were: “I don’t know about you, but I am so pumped!”

From one end of the conference to the other... crowds everywhere!

From one end of the conference to the other... crowds everywhere!

Even late in the day, the crowds thronged the exhibits

Even late in the day, the crowds thronged the exhibits

The beauty of this event is that it brought all groups from the vast solar community together: contractors, installers, consultants, and manufacturers/suppliers of all types: solar (photovoltaic) panels, robotics, inverters, casements; display kiosks, publishers, researchers, scientists, non-profit groups and government organizations.

As the industry matures, I hope to see the conference maintain its appeal to all these members of the community, though I fear that we will eventually see some fragmentation, and that certain segments will group together and create their own conferences (installers, PV manufacturers, etc.). While this will be a result of huge industry growth — it will also mean a potentially less colorful conference. But for the time being, I couldn’t recommend this conference more highly.

McCain and Obama on Technology

If you focus on technology markets that touch healthcare, clean technology, renewable energy and high-tech, it’s worth reading a recent (September 2008) report published by the non-partisan Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

The report, “Comparing the Candidates’ Technology and Innovation” can be downloaded from the foundation; or right here. It details how the candidates have positioned themselves on a host of topics including tax, innovation and R&D, digital transformation, broadband & telecommunications, e-government policy, workforce reform, energy and environment, education and more – all focused on how technology plays out in the candidates’ positions. Might sound like a tough read, but it isn’t – and it may affect the way you vote.