Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Facebook is taking new steps towards a commitment to sustainability by announcing its plan to launch the “Social Energy” App. Through partnership with the National Resource Defence Council and Opower, the application will allow users to monitor their energy usage and increase their energy efficiency. To make things more interesting, the users will compete to reduce their energy bills. The NRDC states that the application will be available early next year.

According to the NRDC, the focus on energy efficiency will encourage the same level of comfort, just using less energy and waste.

Five Initial Features of the Social Energy App:

  • Compare Energy Use Among Facebook Friends:  People will be able to invite friends to compare their energy use against their own, show how energy efficient they are and provide information on how to improve their efficiency.
  • Compare Energy Use to Similar Homes:  Users will be able to compare their home energy use to similar homes in a national database.
  • Share Energy Information on the Facebook Newsfeed: People will be able to contribute information about their energy use, rank, and involvement.
  • Group Collaboration:  Communities of users will be able to form teams to help each other reach collective goals and compete against other groups.
  • Automatically Import Energy Data:  Customers of participating utility companies will be able to automatically import their energy data into the application. For customers of utilities that are not participating, energy usage information can be entered into the app manually.

The Other Side of Facebook’s Social Energy

In the past, Facebook has been criticized of greenwashing by environmental activist groups. Most famously, they were targeted in Greenpeace’s Unfriend Coal campaign. Since February 2010, Greenpeace has been campaigning Facebook to stop using coal power and commit to 100% renewable energy.

Facebook Unfriend Coal Campaign

Greenpeace's Unfriend Coal Photo Contest

Sparking the initiative was Facebook’s announcement to build a large data center to serve the millions of Facebook users. The center was set to be full of new energy efficient technology, but be run on coal-powered electricity, the largest source of air pollution in the world according to Greenpeace. The campaign reaches far beyond Facebook, and represents the IT sector’s increasing demand for energy.  

“At current growth rates data centers and telecommunication networks, the two key components of the cloud Facebook depends on, will consume about 1,963 billion kilowatts hours of electricity in 2020. That’s more than triple their current consumption and more than the current electricity consumption of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.” – Greenpeace

The campaign currently has over 700,000 Facebook supporters world-wide. One of the demands of Greenpeace’s campaign against Facebook calls for the social media giant to become an environmental advocate. More specifically, the group wants Facebook to become an advocate for energy efficiency at the local, national and international level. The new Social Energy app seems curiously parallel to the activist demands.  As Facebook is stepping out as an energy efficiency leader, one can only hope that the trend will go viral among other IT giants.


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Three things you can expect in April: the Easter Bunny, rain and a heap of green advertising. The 2011 Earth Day celebration will take place on April 22nd and will bring out the best in organizations promoting their most creative green strides. It is also a time when PR professionals are expected to promote and communicate green initiatives, even if they have no environmental familiarity.Earth Day 2011

In order to communicate effectively, professionals must reconcile environmental jargon, complex issues, such as global warming, and their organization’s relationship with environmental regulations. Inability to consider these concepts can hinder the communication of the message and make a company susceptible to greenwashing criticism. The capitalist temptation to generate profit from Earth Day marketing can also pose the threat of greenwashing backlash.

The New York Times summarized the problem saying, “So strong was the anti-busines sentiment for the First Earth Day in 1970 that organizer’s took no money from corporations and held teach-ins ‘to challenge corporate and government leaders’…Forty years later, the day has turned into a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services, like office products, Greek yogurt and eco-dentistry.”

The slew of green marketing begs the question – are organizations simply doing good or capitalizing on it? I can think of various holidays that allow companies to make a buck, but eco-minded consumers and the planet should not be exploited. The best campaigns raise awareness rather than capitalize on the opportunity by offering environmental incentives with a purchase. However, there are some organizations that have learned to perfect this balance.

The Earth Day Nice List:

  1.  Starbucks – When you bring a travel cup into your local Starbucks on April 22nd, you will receive free coffee or tea. This promotion encourages less paper and plastic consumption, while complimenting Starbuck’s continuous environmental responsibility.
  2. Target – You could win the ‘Refresh Your Nest’ sweepstakes and receive a $50,000 sustainable home makeover. Also, the stores are highlighting green products during the entire month of April.
  3. IKEA – The IKEA store in Tempe, Arizona is offering free breakfast and a T-shirt to anyone who bikes to work or school on April 22nd. In addition, by bringing your used plastic bags into the store you will receive a free reusable shopping bag.

While commitment to sustainability goes beyond being green for one day, Earth Day offers a global opportunity to stop and think about how your organization affects the environment, and the steps that you can take to become more environmentally responsible.

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Classifying the following gadgets as crazy is far from a stretch. However, determining whether these gizmos are crazy cool or crazy ridiculous can only be decided by consumers. One thing I know for sure is that there are some green-minded and extremely creative people developing interesting products.

Source: International Energy Association (IEA)

Estimated electricity consumption in the residential sector from “information and communication technologies” and “consumer electronics,” 1990-2030.

Technology has become a large part of our daily lives. In fact, the global gadget habit is seen by many as an opponent of sustainability. With millions of tons of electronic waste being produced each year, e-waste has become a mounting global problem. Therefore, it is vital that we think outside of the box to create biodegradable and energy efficient alternatives to the products we use in our daily lives.

1. Orange Power Wellies – Feet Powered Gadget Charger

EnviroGadget: Orange Power Wellies

This gadget takes a new approach at sustainable energy by using the heat of your feet. The boots harness enough energy from the heat to power small electronic devices. It takes approximately 12 hours to produce enough energy to charge your cellphone for an hour.

2. MetaCell – Portable BatteryEnviroGadget: MetaCell

This portable battery charger is powered by saltwater or even more accessible – urine! It is simply ready for use anywhere. Rumored to be developed for the South Korean military, the battery combines the chemical properties of magnesium with the sodium in saltwater or urine to create a low voltage current. The battery generates enough electricity to power flashlights or even laptops.

3. Edible Christmas Cards

EnviroGadget: Edible Christmas Card

Are you one of those people who have a hard time letting go of really sentimental cards? Don’t throw it away…just eat it! A British design company has created edible sprout and potato-based Christmas cards. The cards are printed with food coloring rather than ink. It is a great way to speed up compost!

4. Waterpebble – Shower Usage Monitor

EnviroGadget: Water Pebble

Do you have that one pesky roommate that uses up all of the hot water? Do you shudder at your water bills? The creators of the waterpebble have found a convenient way to monitor your shower usage. The pebble uses three lights to display whether you have used too much, just enough or a planet-saving amount of water. The waterpebble records the amount of water consumed the first time that the monitor is used. It then subtracts a minimal amount each time you shower to gradually determine what is “just enough” and minimize your water consumption.

5. Biopac Biodegradable Pint TumblersEcoGadget: Biopac Biodegradable Pint Tumblers

Perhaps the best green gadgets are not the most complex, but rather the simplest and most useful. Pictures of college parties are littered with infamous red party cups. This eco-pint is a great alternative to petrochemical based plastic cups. The tumbler material is derived from corn starch and is 100% biodegradable and compostable. You can now be the coolest and greenest one at the party.

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