Business & Technology

Gold in them piles

Businesses struggle to profit from sewage sludge

Part 2 of Grist’s special series on poop. “We’re trying to get the pieces bigger — ideally the size of pencil erasers,” said John “Rus” Miller, handing me a plastic packet of a brown, dry, crumbly material with the texture of couscous and the odor of manure. That’s because it was manure — in the form of dried sewage sludge. To me, it looked and smelled like shit. But when Miller looked at the pellets, he saw coal. I was visiting a company named Enertech‘s plant in Rialto, California, because I was searching for alternatives for what we currently do …

A Real, Big Scale Solution to Climate Change Individuals Can Pull Off

Utility rate structures can be fun

Let’s say you were a very powerful being, something called Utility God. And let’s pretend you realized climate change was a big problem, and that it was something that needed to be solved using big strokes, not small measures. One of the big things you’d want to do, at least for the average Joe, would be to create a situation where homeowners would want to, would actually love to, save energy in their homes. You’d also use your magic wand to create a situation where renewable energy systems like solar panels had a much better payback than they currently do. …

The Future of Driving?

Shai Agassi: Green’s Steve Jobs

The more you talk to Shai Agassi, the more the Steve Jobs comparison seems apt. Shai AgassiCourtesy Better PlaceLike his fellow Silicon Valley impresario, Agassi, the founder of electric car infrastructure startup Better Place, is as much a green-tech visionary as entrepreneur bent on cashing in on the “Next Big Thing.” Just as Jobs elegantly married hardware and software to create the iPod and iPhone and disrupted the telecommunication-entertainment industrial complex, Agassi aims to do the same with transportation. In case you missed the spate of national magazine stories on the former software executive and his company, Better Place has …

Green Light: Charge it

Nissan to bring EV network to Seattle

Like many other urban places, Seattle will welcome an electric vehicle network to the Emerald City. In a nonexclusive partnership with Nissan North America, the city of Seattle will promote the development of electric-charging infrastructure. “The city is committed to creating an environment that is kind to EVs,” said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (D). However, the agreement between the manufacturer and the municipality does not go so far as to commit to any specifics. Instead, Nissan will take the lead in establishing local working groups to evaluate sites for possible charging stations. The city will in turn “consider” adopting those …

RUSSELL CROWS

Russell Simmons on harnessing the power of hip-hop to change the world

Courtesy Global GrindHip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is the co-founder of Def Jam Records, a sometime reality star, and an entrepreneur who’s launched a number of successful ventures including clothing lines Phat Farm and Baby Phat. He’s also a yoga-practicing vegan who’s hoping to use his resources to make change in the world of hip-hop — and the world at large. Describing himself as “hip-hop to the bone,” Simmons is quick to hail the power of that community in influencing politics, pointing to a recent change in drug policy in New York State. “That was because Jay-Z and Puffy and Rev …

Stir-fried pork

Chinese agribiz giant eyes Smithfield takeover

Want some Chinese dollar reserves in that ration? Like a pig pumped full of antibiotics, gorged on corn, soy, and industrial byproducts, and stuffed into a room with thousands of its peers huddled over a lagoon of their own waste, the U.S. meat industry is feeling a bit haggard just right now. Like many U.S. industries, Big Meat has relied heavily on easy credit for years, and is getting pinched by the credit crunch. Also, recession-straped consumers are eating out less and opting for cheaper items down the food chain, slowing the growth of meat consumption. Finally, corn and soy …

Brainstorm Green

Policy chatter is on everyone’s lips at Fortune’s green-business conference

Fortune Magazine‘s annual Brainstorm Green confab in sybaritic Southern California locales brings together Fortune 500 types (naturally), green tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and environmentalists. As such it’s a barometer of sorts for the state of green in the Green State. At last year’s conference, the chatter was all about tech and the latest cool green innovations. But at the event that concluded this week on Earth Day, the suits, scientists, and activists sounded more like a bunch of Washington wonks than Silicon Valley geeks. In the Obama era, innovative public policy will drive green tech as much as the latest …

Hear, hear

As biz leaders call for a climate bill, Republicans claim it would kill the economy

Though corporate leaders from across the country came to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday asking representatives to put a cap on carbon, leading Republicans on the committee held firm in their contention that mandating emission reductions would be catastrophic for the nation’s economy. The first full day of hearings on the proposed Waxman-Markey climate bill found Republican members repeating thoroughly debunked claims about how much a cap-and-trade plan would cost American households, even as leaders from some of the country’s biggest companies joined the EPA administrator in arguing that limits on carbon would benefit the country in …

We'll drink to that

Raise a glass to sustainability at Seattle Carrotmob event

Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing SquidToday is Earth Day. (Whoopee?) And there’s no better way to celebrate than with a nice, cold pint of beer. No, really! To make it truly Earth-Day-worthy, however, make sure you’re chugging buying it at Seattle’s Pike Pub & Brewery today. Why there and why today? Seattle Greendrinks has partnered with Carrotmob to create a consumer-powered event in which 25 percent of all sales at Pike Pub today will go toward efficiency retrofits, waste reduction, and other sustainability efforts. It’s a way to vote with your dollars, to make change by spending a little of …