Sustainable Business

Sustainable Food

A star Silicon Valley investor puts his money where his mouth is for sustainable ag

Ali Partovi: Investing green in green ag.As antidote to those who argue that the future of food is all about technologies like genetic engineering and new pesticides, I refer you to entrepreneur Ali Partovi (full disclosure: Ali and I are acquaintances) who has an Earth Day post over at Silicon Valley’s Techcrunch, one of the most influential tech-entrepreneur blogs around. Partovi, a former Microsoftie, is a cofounder of the music recommendation service iLike and was an early-stage investor in such online successess as Zappos, Dropbox, and that social network site a few folks use, Facebook. And now, as evidenced by …

Sustainable Business

We need a whole new kind of capitalism as we aim for sustainability

It’s time to have a broader vision.Photo: MorBCNToday we stand at the crossroads. In one direction lies business as usual, the road we’ve traveled for decades. Down that path, we’d forgo serious measures to rein in our oil consumption, we’d continue buying oil from the dwindling number of oil-rich nations to drive our SUVs a mile to the grocery store, and we’d scrape Alberta clean to find a few years of tar to put in our tanks. We’d decapitate more mountains in Appalachia to heat our homes and power our flat screen televisions, pumping out climate warming carbon with every …

Mosaic sells solar panels to people who don’t even have roofs

How many times has this happened to you: You're sitting in your crappy apartment, watching Colbert on stolen wifi, drinking boxed wine and trying to get high on whatever charred resin is left in your roommate's bowl. All of a sudden you're just, like: "Damn, why is it only homeowners with well-sited, south-facing roofs get to power their domiciles with solar power?!" Wonder no more, my friend: Mosaic Solar is here. Like other community sharing projects — agriculture, fish, gardens — Mosaic allows you to own a little piece of a collective, only in this case it's a big solar …

Food

Ranchers struggle against giant meatpackers and economic troubles

All cattle, no hats.Photo: Rob CrowA sea of cream-colored cowboy hats, the kind ranchers wear on their days off, fills a sterile conference room at the Fort Collins Marriott. Banners from groups like the Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund and the Western Organization of Resource Councils add bright slashes of color, and warn that JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, now controls 24 percent of all cattle produced in the United States. It’s August 2010, the night before a national workshop on competition in the livestock industry, and well over 500 ranchers, feedlot owners, and their allies are packed into this room …

Sustainable Business

Pro sports are going greener, and that means the rest of us are too

The Seattle Sounders don’t just have crazy fans. Their facilities have a 57.6 percent landfill diversion rate.Photo: Mike HPro sports may not seem like a natural ally for environmentalists. Players fly from Boston to Los Angeles and back for a single game. Leagues and teams convince cities to build expensive and often unneeded new facilities with taxpayer money. Fans clog up roads as they drive to games and clog up trash cans with hot-dog wrappers and beer cups once they arrive. But six teams representing six major North American sports leagues have kicked off a new effort to make themselves …

Renewable Energy

How green are those solar panels, anyway?

SolarWorld’s ratings aim to keep the photovoltaic industry on the sunny side.So which is the sunniest solar manufacturer of them all? I don’t mean companies whose photovoltaic panels generate the most carbon-free electricity, but which are the most environmentally friendly in their manufacturing, labor, and recycling practices. Solar modules can contain toxic materials, and they have a finite life cycle. As the industry booms — the number of megawatts installed in the United States in 2010, for instance, spiked 67 percent — photovoltaic trash eventually will become an issue. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition this week released its annual Solar …

How a carbon-neutral product is made

Making environmentally-responsible products is hard, so kudos to M.E. Heuck Co., houseware manufacturer, for even trying. After more than a year of work with their partner FirstCarbon Solutions, they have unveiled ZEROCA Carbon Neutral Cookware. Yeah, they had to buy offsets to make it totally carbon-neutral, but first they did their best to tamp down emissions in every area they could. They also sourced their materials as responsibly as possible: The handles are made from 'farm-managed' bamboo, and the steel is 100 percent recycled. FirstCarbon helped M.E. Heuck conduct an "independent analysis of manufacturing process, including the supply chain behind …

How does your supermarket stack up to the world’s greenest grocery store?

The Whole Foods in Dedham, Mass. is bringing new meaning to the word “greengrocer.” It’s a showcase facility, which means it basically tries out all the company’s environmental best practices to see how they work in the wild. The result is a store with an inspiring combination of architectural and procedural innovations: The building’s steel frame is 100 percent recycled. A white roof reduces climate control bills and emissions. The building draws power from a 400 kWh fuel cell and 80 kWh solar panels, which provide 90 percent of its energy. Skylights reduce the need for artificial lighting. The kitchen …

Alexis Madrigal chats about the crazy greentech history you’ve never heard

This is the first in a series from my conversation with Atlantic tech channel editor Alexis Madrigal about themes and stories from his new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. DR: What were the first glimmers of the book? AM: It was about 2007. At the time, Bruce Sterling had just said, “green will never be sexier than it is right now.” And that was true. I kept hearing these apocryphal stories about renewable energy projects of the past. The first one I heard about was Luz solar plants out in the Mojave. As someone …

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