Business & Technology

Paterson’s Bold Carbon Gamble

California’s state budget gap was about $40 billion this year. New York’s some $50 billion. Every state in the Union is struggling with drastically lower revenues and higher costs for services of every kind, washing state capitals with red ink. At the polls next year, governors who are facing elections – – including Governor David Paterson of New York – – may find themselves politically drowned by such gargantuan deficits. So, faced with closing schools, hospitals, fire stations, and kicking struggling families off of welfare roles, governors are turning instead, like the famous bank robber Willy Sutton, to wherever the …

How the green economy can help low income women

This past week Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress released a seminal report on the emergence of women as primary wage earners for millions of families. The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, marks a promising step forward in the evolution of a society that for too long has failed to adjust policies and practices to women’s growing presence in the workplace. Left in the shadows of this otherwise comprehensive report, however, were the unique obstacles faced by those struggling most to make ends meet-low-income single mothers trying to support their families on paltry wages in jobs …

Nothing like a good profit motive to accelerate public policy

Performance anxiety

It’s not just the ads showing a baby-boomer couple sitting in matching bathtubs on a beach at sunset where you can find performance anxiety these days. Try looking in the hardware aisle and at the gas station. Rather than ban inefficient incandescent light bulbs, for example, California lawmakers set an efficiency performance standard — which was adopted by the feds — so in 2012, you won’t be able to buy energy-wasting bulbs. That spurred Phillips to develop and market their “Halogena Energy Saver” incandescent bulb that is 30 percent more efficient than conventional versions. The performance standard approach — instead …

Mountain climbing for CEOs

Green-biz pioneer Ray Anderson says sustainability literally pays for itself

Ray Anderson set out to make his business sustainable long before green was the flavor of the month.  Reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce in 1994 literally changed his life, inspiring him to overhaul his carpet company, Interface, and aim for zero waste and zero environmental impact.  Now, with his new book Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, he wants to spur other business leaders to “climb Mount Sustainability.”  Anderson recently dropped by the Grist office and we asked him how his own ascent is going so far.  —– Q. You’ve been working for the last 15 years to make …

Investors and companies should pay attention to the service industry that’s emerging to meet these massive new demands for information.

You can only manage what you measure

A decade ago, health-conscious consumers forced manufacturers to list nutritional information on food packages. We’ll soon be able to make buying decisions based on carbon content too - - taming our waistlines and “waste lines” at the same time.

A new direction on research at the USDA?

Last week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave a speech on the role of research at the USDA at the launch of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the research arm of that agency formerly referred to as the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). Vilsack had this to say in his kick-off speech: The opportunity to truly transform a field of science happens at best once a generation. Right now, I am convinced, is USDA’s opportunity to work with the Congress, the other science agencies, and with our partners in industry, academia, and the nonprofit …

Clean tech reality check

Paging Dr. Chu, venture capitalist

Silicon Valley is by nature an optimistic place. After all, inventing the carbon-free future and making boatloads of money along the way is fun. And even though California is slouching toward apocalyptic collapse these days, there’s always another innovation wave to ride. In Chu We Trust? It may take big bucks from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to fun some of the renewable energy projects that California entrepreneurs have on the drawing boards.Photo Illustration / Tonya RicksSo it’s always interesting to get a more-or-less unvarnished assessment of the state of green tech, as happened last week when a group of …


Richard Wiswall on the business of organic farming

With the economic downturn and increase in the desire for a relationship with our food, farming has become a popular lifestyle among young people opting out of the corporate world. And while these people are new to life on the land, others have made a life of it for generations. But either way, growing food is rife with politics and economic stresses. Look at the dairy farms in Vermont filing for bankruptcy, the family businesses going under in the midwest, and the monopoly of small farms by corporate agriculture! It sort of looks dismal out there. And while sure, it …

Open for Business

Cleantech Open has $100,000 for a green startup idea

Corrections below The Cleantech Open has helped more than 100 startup companies find their footing since it launched in California three years ago.  Now the business competition is expanding in some interesting ways. Earlier this year it added regional events in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains. This fall it also launched a global “ideas competition,” open to anyone with a rough clean-tech concept, with or without a business plan. The winner gets marketing support, legal advising, and other help turning an idea into a business, all valued at $100,000. One big quirk: the ideas part of the competition is …

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