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Starbucks accused of big-time water-wasting

Starbucks wastes some 6.2 million gallons of water each day through a health policy that requires a constantly running tap at each store, says a breathless indictment in British tabloid The Sun. A Starbucks spokesperson confirms the use of a dipper well, which uses "a stream of continuous cold fresh-running water to rinse away food residue, help keep utensils clean, and prevent bacterial growth." Dipper wells are common at coffee and ice-cream shops, but the gigantuousness of Starbucks' global operations is such that, according to the The Sun, the amount of wasted water could sate the thirst of "the entire …

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How is Lehman Brothers like a cod fish?

We have another billion-dollar resource at risk: the ocean

The financial collapse of the past couple of weeks offers striking parallels to the collapse of ocean wildlife. How is what's happening in Wall Street and in financial capitals around the world like what's happening in our seas? Lehman Brothers and Canadian cod aren't coming back The word "collapse" appears in nearly every thoughtful report on the financial crisis, and it's also a common metaphor in the scientific reports on fishery depletion. It's accurate in both cases because the notion that you can borrow more than you can afford, or spend more than you earn, inevitably produces a sudden and …

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Carbon offsets still booming despite financial crisis

The carbon-offset market in the United States is still booming despite the financial crisis, with offset sellers reporting continued gains even in the face of rising offset prices. Analysts say the carbon market's relative strength could mean consumers' green guilt knows no bounds or that the country's recent economic troubles have not hit most would-be offset buyers -- typically college-educated upper-middle-class folks -- as hard as others. Offsets have also remained popular among businesses as an easy way to buy a slice of sustainability and boost the ol' public image. "This is an issue that a lot of people care …

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U.S. hits solar snooze button

Sharp to boost thin-film solar capacity six-fold to 6,000 MW by 2014

The world's second-largest maker of solar batteries plans a massive increase in capacity to meet soaring demand. Bloomberg reports: The company will raise the capacity to 6 gigawatts as early as 2014, from 1 gigawatt estimated for 2010 ... Sharp, which lost its market-leading position to Thalheim, Germany-based Q-Cells AG last year, is focusing on expanding its solar-cell output through thin-film technology. This uses 1 percent the amount of silicon needed for conventional models ... One gigawatt of power is enough to light up at least 200,000 households of four people in Japan ... Yes, the United States created the …

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ReGeneration Roadtrip: Moos you can use, video

Methane digesters make dairy good sense

When Shawn Saylor was in high school, he built a science-fair-sized solar-powered home, complete with tiny solar cells and working lights. (He got an A.) These days, Saylor is a fourth-generation dairy farmer working on an entirely different renewable energy project. The Hillcrest Saylor Dairy Farm in Rockwood, Pennsylvania, produces some 6,000 gallons of milk a day. But the farm's other export isn't made in a milking room -- it's made in an underground tank 16 feet deep and 70 feet in diameter. Saylor describes his methane digester as a "high-efficiency stomach" processing the leftover energy the cows weren't able …

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Bear markets and bull clean-tech investments

Cleantech venture investment hits record $2.6 billion in third quarter

And what are the three hottest technologies? Smart grid, algae (advanced biofuels), and, surprise surprise, thin-film solar. Venture capital investment in clean tech has been soaring in recent years because of high energy prices along with the growing concern and growing action on global warming. You might think that VC investment would be hurt by the financial downturn, as credit freezes up and capital markets lose money. But in fact VC investment is aimed at payoffs in the three- to five-year time frame and beyond. People who understand that oil prices are inevitably going up in the medium-term (assuming we …

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Shortages to the left of me, shortages to the right

Demand for green products exceeds supply

My relatives in the D.C. area are on a Prius waiting list. People wanting to build their own electric bikes are on waiting lists for parts. If you're planning to put up some solar panels, well, get in line. According to Rich Bunch, at Silicon Solar Inc, their next shipment of solar components is due on Oct. 15 and 90 percent of it is already spoken for. I'm guessing that this shipment, like most shipments, is coming from China. Shortages not only trip up building schedules, but they also inflate prices. I recently received an estimate of about $9,000 to …

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Green, Inc. author says big environmental groups have sold out to big business

For my money, there's nothing more delicious than a book that lays bare the rot of a corrupted industry from an insider's perspective. In the hands of a skilled observer, the subject can spring to life. Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis's hilariously disturbing account of Wall Street's investment-banking industry in the late 1980s, comes to mind. Green, Inc., by Christine MacDonald. Lewis's book traces its lineage to Mark Singer's Funny Money, a masterpiece of nonfiction that exposed the double-dealing and corruption that led to the collapse of the savings and loan industry. Singer's impeccable reporting and lively writing carries the reader …

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ReGeneration Roadtrip: A Green Exchange of ideas, video

Constructing a green space for green biz

Driving along I-90/94W out of downtown Chicago, you can see London, France, the old Vassar Swiss Underwear Company building now under construction. A sign adorning the highway-facing façade tells you this will soon be the Green Exchange, a retail and office facility that will house some 100 businesses, all of them environmentally and socially responsible. To fully see the potential for this place, Todd and I were fitted with hard hats and given the hand-wave tour: you know, "this over here" and "that over there" and "imagine here, if you can." As we stepped over dust and debris in this …

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ReGeneration Roadtrip: Buffers and biomass, video

Streamlining the agricultural process in Iowa

This is a guest post by my travel partner, Todd Dwyer, head blogger for Dell's ReGeneration.org, where this post originally appeared. ----- I have a shocking piece of news for you. You may want to sit down for this: Agriculture is big business in Iowa. Did I say "big?" Maybe that's an understatement. Of the state's 35 million acres, 31 million are used for agricultural purposes, and Iowa stands amongst the world's most altered land in the world. What was once described by our forefathers as an ocean of tall grass and prairie land is now almost entirely made up …