Sustainable Business

Passive house mini-boom in NYC heralds furnace-free future

New York City and the rest of the tri-state area are getting their first wave of "passive houses," a type of construction in which a building is so well-insulated that it doesn't require heating in the winter.

Your cable box uses more power than your refrigerator

Critical List: Christie ditches climate initiative; France opens huge solar farm

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has jumped ship from a regional greenhouse gas program, because "it's a failure." The owners of the Fukushima nuclear plant provided regulators with only a one-page memo on its tsunami and earthquake preparedness. One page. A decade ago. In Japan, the country that invented the word “tsunami.” Green tech companies need for everyone to start doing a better job of recycling those rare earth materials that make electronics run. Trust us, you’re never going to refurb that old Dell laptop that doesn't have wireless capabilities. Please just drop it off somewhere they can make use …

Energy Efficiency

Behavioral nudges on electric bills could save three coal plants worth of emissions

Smarter electric bills make smarter consumers.Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about social psychology, behavioral research, and how they can be used to encourage energy efficiency and conservation. I’ve also written quite a bit about Opower, a company that uses behavioral insights to help utilities communicate more effectively with their customers. (See links at the bottom of this post.) So it’s nice to see EDF releasing a study of Opower’s work: “Behavior and Energy Savings: Evidence from a Series of Experimental Interventions” [PDF]. The results are promising. The study tracks the use of “Home Energy Reports,” which are …

Can barcodes enforce sustainable logging in Liberia?

Liberia, semi-miraculously, is still covered in rainforest, even though at one point in its history, warlord Charles Taylor was more or less giving arms traffickers logging tracts in exchange for weapons. The U.N. eventually noticed this problem and ended up saving the country's forests by putting an embargo on the country's "logs of war.” But now that Liberia is stable, it's interested in growing its less-than-healthy economy, and those forests are one of its more valuable resources. That means the country needs to simultaneously capitalize on its timber, and protect it (especially from logging poachers). Liberia’s solution? Put a barcode …

How to profit from the coming ecopocalypse

While a quarter of Americans have a net worth of zero, Jeremy Grantham controls a hedge fund worth $107 billion, and he has a message for the world: Resource scarcity, peak oil, and climate change could mean big bucks for those who can get out ahead of the disaster. Well, okay, not BIG bucks — just nonzero bucks. "Our goal should be to get everyone out of abject poverty, even if it necessitates some income redistribution," Grantham says in his latest quarterly letter. Hippie! But even that level of success, he argues, will depend on us reconfiguring our expectations to …

Portland, Maine, to save 50,000 gallons of oil a year with geothermal heating and cooling

Portland, Maine's new airport expansion is to be the first in the country to use a dead-simple but often overlooked technology to significantly reduce its heating and cooling bills. They're calling it a geothermal system, but it's not like the kind that produce power in Iceland; it's more properly called a "ground-source heat pump." The system will use the ground beneath an employee parking lot as a giant heat sink. To transport energy to and from the sink, the system will run fluid through pipes snaking through 120 wells dug 500 feet into the ground. Below a meter or two, …

Green Living Tips

Care about the forest? Here’s what you can do

Who cares about the forest? That’s the question author/artist Franke James explores in this creative personal story commissioned by the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada. Check out the visual essay below, or watch it as an animated video.


What’s next for the enviro-business coalition that defeated California’s Prop 23?

Now that we’ve put together some green muscle, what will we do with it?Photo: Denis GilesMuch of the green movement has been mounting a rearguard fight in Washington to fend off attempts to gut the U.S. EPA in the wake of the Republican sweep of the 2010 elections. California, as usual, is heading down a different road. The enviro-business coalition that defeated Prop 23, Texas oil companies’ attempt to derail the state’s global-warming law, is stepping up effort to push lawmakers to expand California’s climate-change efforts. First, the No on 23 campaign led by billionaire hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer resurfaced …

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