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Latest News from Sustainability Sector- Weekly Updates

This week highlights several areas of interest, as sustainability scientists and green businesses continue to develop and explore new opportunities to reduce their respective industry  or company’s carbon footprint(s). This article will review 5 of the most recent news at the forefront of this sector.

August 8, 2011. Maximizing Crop Yield in Areas with Scarce Water Supply

The United States Department of Agriculture is currently conducting experiments on making the most efficient use of water in limited irrigation areas. Instead of utilizing the traditional measure of crop yield per drop of irrigation water applied, research leader Tom Trout is applying an approach of yield per drop of water actually taken in by the crop, his belief is that it is more important to measure the amount of water the plant  takes in by  focusing on how much water is actually taken in by the root . This study will help farmers make better use of water when it is in scarce supply, or determine whether they should sell or lease the water rights on the land in question.

August 9, 2011. The Legacy of Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson holding his jacket. Interface Inc

The passing of Ray Anderson last week gives us the opportunity to reflect on what is possible when a leader in industry decides to embrace sustainability. Ray will be remembered as passionately committed to reducing mankind’s carbon footprint, spending billions on green initiatives for his company, Interface, Inc. His dedication and commitment to operating in a way that is environmentally friendly has resulted in other CEO’s taking a second look at incorporating green initiatives in their own companies. Thank you, Ray- what a legacy!

August 10, 2011. How “Sustainability Embracers” Pave the Way for Other Companies to Follow Their Green Initiatives

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Monogram

While it is generally agreed that all companies are considering how to incorporate sustainability into their business practices, “Embracer” companies show much less hesitancy to adopt a green approach to their operations. Embracers are typically large companies with vast resources and workforces, allowing them to better absorb the learning curve that is typical when new processes are adopted; they tend to view sustainability as a way to gain a competitive edge, and will quantify it as such, as opposed to seeing it as a potential drain on the company balance sheet. A study by MIT and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) identified the following 7 traits typical of an Embracer:

  1. Move early : even if information is incomplete.
  2. Balance broad, long-term vision with projects offering concrete, near-tern “wins.”
  3. Drive sustainability top-down and bottom-up.
  4. Aggressively de-silo sustainability — integrating it throughout company operations.
  5. Measure everything (and if ways of measuring something don’t exist, start inventing them).
  6. Value intangible benefits seriously.
  7. Try to be authentic and transparent — internally and externally.


August 11, 2011. Deep Sea Thermal Vent Mussels May Hold the Key to Harnessing Hydrogen Power

Mussels in Deep Sea

Hydrogen powered fuel cells are considered one of the most promising sources of clean energy. Companies have spent considerable resources trying to develop these fuel cells; however, a natural source has been discovered deep in the ocean. At deep sea thermal vents existing at mid ocean spreading centers, tectonic plates drift apart and form new crust when magma rises up from deep within the Earth. This superheats the surrounding sea water, dissolving the minerals out of the Earth’s crust.  Deep Sea Mussels thrive at these hydrothermal vents, where super heated sea water gushes back out into the ocean at 400 degrees Celsius, forming black smoker chimneys when the heated material comes into contact with the cold deep sea water. The hot fluids deposit inorganic compounds to the oceans, which the Mussels living in the area around the hydrothermal vents oxidize to gain energy. This process, called chemosynthesis, could hold the answer to replicating this process on a global scale.

August 11, 2011. Greenhouses Find a Resurrection in Today’s Green Movement and Point to a Possible Future in Urban Building

Eco friendly building image with lots of large glass windows

Greenhouses used to be the stuff of hippie dreams, but thanks to worldwide concerns about climate change and improved feasibility of design, they are making today’s news. The Omega Center for Sustainable Living; located in Rhinebeck, New York, is the first building in the United States to meet both the Living Building Challenge criteria and U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards it is a 6,250 square feet zero-net energy building, and actually feeds energy back into the grid over the course of a year.



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