Can sharing goods and services help save the planet? That was one of a number of provocative questions posed by Van Jones in a Master class offered by the Presidio Graduate School. You may recall Jones as the passionate human rights and green jobs proponent who served briefly in the Obama Administration. The problem statement with which he launched the class was that consumerism is threatening the planet’s future as we extract more and more resources and throw away more and more things, i.e. waste. Collaborative economics was described as a “nation of neighbors”, where we share with one another and rely more on our social capital than strictly upon financial capital. Jones capsulized it as follows: “do we want to treat our planet as if we are locusts (consuming the planet) or as honeybees (living, building and producing together)?”
Sharing can be part of the solution to the ecological problems that come from excess consumerism.
Applied Materials is pleased to be recognized once again for our commitment to green energy. In the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent Green Power Partnership report, Applied ranked no. 15 on the list of the Top 20 Tech and Telecom companies and no. 35 on the Fortune 500 list.
As I’m caught up in Olympic fever at the moment, this feels like winning a medal!
There is compelling new evidence that well designed standards for energy consuming products can drive innovation and save consumers enormous amounts of money over the life of those products. This is a thesis that I have expressed support for on more than one occasion.
A new report entitled “The Efficiency Boom” is the work of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and a multi-stakeholder group called the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (“ASAP).
The report takes a retrospective look at the various energy standards that have been adopted since the 1980s as well as potential new or updated standards in 34 categories (e.g. industrial boilers, dishwashers, microwaves, computers, televisions, lighting fixtures and so on). The energy and dollar savings from these standards are truly impressive.
Recently I had the opportunity to use a Nissan Leaf™ for several full days, a much more interesting exercise than a simple test drive. As someone working in the sustainability area, as a co-chair of the California Clean Cars campaign and as a likely car buyer in 2012 (my current vehicle has over 230,000 miles on it) I am very interested in the electric vehicle (EV) market.
Nissan’s Leaf™ is among the handful of low emission cars that are presently authorized to carry a Clean Air Vehicle Sticker, entitling a single occupant to use the carpool lanes during rush hours – a very nice side benefit to EV ownership that helped speed my commute this week.
My general impression of EV driving is very favorable.
At this time of year, when many of us will be traveling to visit families--either by plane, train or automobile, it is worth reflecting upon one of the United States’ seminal pieces of environmental legislation, the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act, established in 1970, is celebrating its 41st anniversary this December 17.
In 1970, California’s population was only 20 million. During that same decade, in 1975, the Los Angeles basin recorded 118 Stage 1 smog alerts. By 1980 the state’s population had reached 24 million and 17 million automobiles racked up over 155 billion vehicle miles (!) By 2010 our population reached over 38 million, a doubling from 1970, but many air quality statistics demonstrate some remarkable improvements: the number of smog alerts in the South Coast has fallen by over 95% and some years have seen zero such incidents; emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from cars are down 200,000 tons from the peak in 1990 despite vehicle miles growing to 280 billion miles annually.
A gathering of 2000+ twenty-somethings these days is usually a rave party or another edition of Occupy Wall Street. The gathering I attended last week in Portland, Oregon, however, was something much different, it was a convening of young people from universities around the country and abroad, all of whom are vitally interested in using business skills to tackle the world’s toughest problems.
Newsweek made some significant changes to the ranking methodology this year and, consequently there was quite a bit of musical chairs in the results. One change in the methodology that undoubtedly proved important was the elimination of a reputation score and the addition of a disclosure score (evaluating the breadth and quality of company environmental reporting).
Let’s face it, inspiration is some time’s hard to come by in the business world. Thankfully there are programs like the Global Social Business Incubator at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology and Society. Having just returned from listening to several of this year’s business plan presentations, I am thoroughly inspired with the good works I heard described.
It is my privilege to represent Applied Materials as one of four co-chairs of the California Clean Cars Campaign. The Campaign’s diverse members believe that bringing the next generation of advanced, clean cars into the driveways of California families will save consumers money, reduce air pollution, and support new jobs and investment in the state’s clean energy economy.
The Campaign is presently urging the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to negotiate new carbon pollution and federal mileage standards with the Federal government that are tough enough to continue propelling the clean economy forward, that will prevent pollution and will protect public health.
Last week I had the honor of kicking off Acterra’s 2011 Business Environmental Awards (BEA) with some reflections on the meaning of such awards. Acterra is a 40 year old environmental nonprofit serving the Silicon Valley area with a number of excellent programs. Acterra’s BEA program is 22 years old and is probably one of the oldest programs of its type.
Last week I attended an interesting community forum on the future growth of the San Francisco Bay Area. Sponsored by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (an organization with which Applied Materials has often partnered) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 80 or so members of the community gathered to explore various scenarios for the anticipated growth of the area.
It is projected that by 2035 the Bay Area will add 900,000 households and 1.2 million jobs. The tough questions we were asked included: “Where will this growth take place?” and “How will we grow?” The assumption is that we need to grow sustainably in order to maintain the many great qualities the region possesses.
This past week Applied Materials hosted the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s 2nd annual sustainability summit. Over 270 individuals from other companies, academia, local governments and nonprofits gathered on our Santa Clara campus. While I was busily running around making sure there was enough coffee and rolls (or so it seemed!), I picked up some valuable information, some insights and some interesting questions. The latter is more important than you might think since one key to effectively engaging your colleagues is provoking some thought and tough questions are immensely useful.
In the interesting information category, newly elected Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (former Mayor of San Francisco) noted that renewable energy development produces far more jobs than coal plants or other traditional forms of generation, with energy efficiency retrofits leading the way in job creation.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group will hold its second annual Sustainability Symposium: The Sustainable Corporation 2011, on April 8, in Santa Clara, Calif. at Applied Materials. The Symposium will focus on solutions and best practices that advance environmental sustainability within businesses.
The speaker line-up features a strong group of sustainability experts from industry, government and the NGO sectors. Dr. Alan Hecht, head of EPA’s Office of Sustainability and R&D will discuss opportunities for partnership between businesses and government. A keynote address will also be given by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom – focusing on the role of green businesses in the state’s economic recovery.
I recently attended the Bay Area premiere of a powerful and sobering film entitled “Climate Refugees,” a 2010 Sundance Film Festival Selection. Filmmaker Michael Nash visited 47 countries over the space of nearly two years documenting the extraordinary human toll that climate related disasters are causing. The number and scope of these stories is sadly long: the narrow sandy atolls of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean that are about to be engulfed by rising sea levels; the millions of Bangladeshis that are crowded into the slums of Dhaka after being displaced by cyclones; the Africans trudging for miles to find water and scratching out an existence as the once huge Lake Chad quickly dries up; the rural Chinese living in makeshift tents as both flooding and creeping desertification destroy their homes; the melting glaciers in Alaska that are imperiling time honored Native American traditions and livelihoods; and the wrenching social and economic changes wrought by Hurricane Katrina in our own backyard.
In 1993 the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 as World Water Day. The theme for World Water Day 2011 is Water for Cities, calling attention to the growing demand for clean water in the world’s cities. A few relevant factoids:
Every month the world’s cities grow by 5 million new residents;
In Africa and Asia, the urban population will double by 2030;
827 million people live in slums where sanitation is inadequate and clean drinking water is hard to find.
Worldwide, nearly 500 million people share their sanitation facilities. In 1990, that number was only 250 million;
Poor sanitation causes cholera, malaria and diarrhea.
The opportunity that is presented by this situation is something called “integrated urban water management,” such as increased recycling and reuse of water and wastes. While our cities have many ecological advantages, such as the availability of mass transit, they are clearly unsustainable without the infrastructure necessary to distribute water and to safely remove wastes.
Several recent newspaper articles called attention to California’s “ban” on inefficient incandescent bulbs. In reality, what took place on January 1, 2011 was the first stage of California’s early implementation of the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which requires incandescent lamps to be more energy efficient. The standards do not ban the manufacture of traditional incandescent lamps, but do require that they be replaced with more energy-efficient versions that produce as much light as the phased-out lamps.
I just returned from speaking at the Atlantic Monthly’s Green Intelligence Forum 2010 which I told you about earlier this week. In several respects, the Forum presented an interesting contrast to the West Coast events I have attended recently. The crowd of 200+ was comprised mostly of Congressional staffers, Federal agency personnel and a mix of individuals from environmental nonprofits and Washington-based think tanks. The bigger departure was the non-stop discussion of the role politics and policy are playing in sustainability.
Tomorrow I will be participating in a discussion at the Atlantic Monthly’s Green Intelligence Forum on Environmental Competitiveness. My co-panelists are Jeffrey Leonard, President and Chief Executive Officer, Global Environment Fund, Jerry Taylor, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute and Katherine Sierra, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, The Brookings Institution.
NEWSWEEK has published its second “Green Ranking” of the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. and Applied Materials is in the #8 spot. Last year we were thrilled to find ourselves at #9 in the inaugural list.