Category Archives: Sustainable Businiess

The Sustainable World of Packing Peanuts and Bubble Wrap

Here at PNS Energy we ship and receive enough packing peanuts, bubble wrap, cardboard, foam, and plastic to last a lifetime.  Shipping practices are oftentimes the most flexible part of the order processing procedure, yet it is widely known that the packaging and shipping arm of most companies are fairly unsustainable. We have all experienced the shocking feeling of opening up a package and wondering why 6 billion foam peanuts were used to ship a candle, then outraged when it is discovered that those peanuts are Styrofoam and cannot be recycled or composted.

We know first hand that the elimination of packaging all-together is highly unlikely (solar cells break very easily) but we can continually strive to become more efficient in our packing and selection of materials. We are seeing more and more companies and individuals that use recyclable or reusable material in their shipping and packing processes. With that said, I believe there is great potential and opportunity for us to come up with a widespread solution to sustainable packaging. This is something that should, and could easily be accomplished right now. Innovative people and leading companies are already developing shipping and packaging alternatives that will hopefully change how the world views product transportation. Here are just a few of those excellent ideas and companies that are taking sustainable packaging to the next level:

  1. Ecovative DesignEcocradle Mushroom Packaging is perhaps one of the most innovative products I’ve seen that involves mushrooms. This packaging material is “grown” from crop waste and is 100% renewable and biodegradable. Apparently they create the material by growing mycelium, a fungal network of threadlike cells, around crop waste like”buckwheat husks, oat hulls, or cotton burrs.” It takes 5-7 days to grow and they can make almost any shape to meet the packaging requirement so maybe someday we will be shipping our Anywhere Solar Modules in some Mushroom Packaging!

    EcoCradle vs. Styrofoam

    EcoCradle squares off vs. Styrofoam

  2. Eco.Bottle – The Eco.Bottle is distributed by Berlin Packaging and created by Ecologic Brands Inc. It is a molded fiber bottle made from “recycled corrugated cardboard and newspapers.” The shell is 100% recyclable and compostable while the inside features a recyclable inner plastic pouch system. With this design, the bottle uses up to 70% less plastic than traditional bottles. I have yet to see any Eco.Bottles in the supermarket but apparently it is being used by Seventh Generation for their Natural 4X laundry detergent and will hopefully be used for a wide variety of beverages, personal care products, paints and stains in the near future.
    Eco.Bottle and Seventh Generation

    The entire packaging system uses 66% less plastic than a typical 100 oz 2X laundry bottle. -Seventhgeneration.com

    These two products are just an example of the progress companies are making in the realm of sustainable packaging. There are many more organizations out there that are changing the packaging game for good so that in the future, all packaging will be environmentally responsible and more efficient (Here is a list of companies that offer certified compostable packaging materials).

    In closing I leave you with the vision of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition: Sustainable packaging should be “sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and safe throughout its life cycle, meets market criteria for performance and cost, is made entirely using renewable energy, and once used, is recycled efficiently to provide a valuable resource for subsequent generations.”

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Filed under Conservation, Manufacturing, Recycle, Recycled Materials, Responsible Materials, Supply Chain Management, Sustainable Businiess

Share the Spirit: Give to Those Who Give Back to the Earth!

The PNS Energy team is committed to leaving the planet a better place than we found it.   Part of what we considering doing our part as responsible citizens is to promote those nonprofits working to better understand what is happening to our planet and to help preserve it.

Dr. Cook in action with the Green Learning Adventure!

We have two local favorites:   California Center for Sustainable Energy’s Green Learning Adventure and the Surfrider Foundation.   In 2011 we shared our some of resources with both of these wonderful organizations.  As you look for yearend donations, we ask you to consider giving to organizations that support our planet!  For all you Southern California residents, help us support and promote these great, grassroots organizations.

If you are looking for a national organization working to support the Earth through intelligent, measurable means we put together a list (below) and noted their mission statements.

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonprofit partnership of scientists and citizens combining rigorous scientific analysis, innovative policy development, and effective citizen advocacy to achieve practical environmental solutions.

Sierra Club

Sierra Club’s mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

NRDC’s mission is to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends.

350.org

350.org unites an international movement around the climate solutions that science and justice demand.

Rainforest Action Network (RAN)

Rainforest Action Network’s mission is to want those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive.

Climate Protection Campaign

The Climate Protection Campaign mission is to create a positive future for our children and all life by inspiring action in response to the climate crisis. They advance practical, science-based solutions for achieving significant greenhouse gas reductions.

Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity believes that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in the world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, they work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. They do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

ClimateWorks Foundation

ClimateWorks is an international philanthropic network dedicated to achieving low-carbon prosperity.

Acterra: Action for a Sustainable Earth

To bring people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet.

 

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Filed under Beach clean-up, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Philanthropy, San Diego, Surfrider Foundation, Sustainable Businiess

In Case You Missed It: Vol. 4

To start off I would like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season…

Now to the list!

  1. Educational Institutions Leading the Way – Big news was released this week in New York City where Cornell University won a high-profile competition to build a new applied-science campus on Roosevelt Island. The renewable energy sources on campus will have the potential to reduce energy consumption at the school by 75%. In other  educational news, the U.S. Green Building Council released its inaugural “Best of Green Schools 2011” list.
  2. We discovered another amazing technology we are keeping an eye on in the near future. Researchers at MIT have made it possible to produce photo voltaic cells on paper or fabric, much like printing a document from your computer.
  3. A Sticky Situation – Chinese solar module manufacturers have been accused of dumping solar panels into the U.S. market. This has sparked a tough debate on the international trade of solar energy. On one side of the fence are U.S. solar module manufacturers. When Chinese solar companies “dump,” or sell their modules in the U.S. below cost, it drives other international manufacturers out of business and eliminates competition (U.S. manufacturers). On the other hand, solar prices have been cut dramatically due to this “dumping” of panels by Chinese companies. So for the end consumer and the solar energy market in general it is now more cost effective than ever to adopt solar energy. To sum it all up, U.S. manufacturing jobs are being threatened by foreign solar subsidies while U.S. solar installers and distributors are seeing their business increase. More information available here.
  4. Because 2011 is coming to an end and we love giving you the best news out there we will include another list in the middle of our list. Here are the “Top 10 Green Business Stories of 2011.”
  5. President Obama announces historic new mercury pollution standards on December 21, 2011. These new standards will better protect our people and environments from dangerous mercury and other pollution from coal fired power plants. Send a personal thank you to the president by following this link.

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Filed under Energy Efficiency, Solar, Sustainable Businiess, USGBC

Fun and Rewarding Places to Work!

Seems like we are all pretty quick to criticize corporate America and assume that big employers are bad employers.

It is great to catch a company doing something good for both the Earth and their employees by promoting making buildings where they work and live more environmentally friendly.    Here is a shining example – Clif Bar and Company , manufacturer and distributor of all kinds of healthy and great tasting bars and drinks.

 In addition to incentives for taking public transportation, buying commuter bikes, and buying the most fuel efficient cars on the market, Cliff Bar employees can get up to $1,000 for eco-home improvements!   Nice way to practice what they preach and support making good choices both at work and at home.

Clif Bar understands the value of both human and natural capital but, true to form for a company that was “started on a bike ride”, do not sing their own praises.   I read about Cliff Bar and Company and went to their site to see how they presented their employee benefits and this is all I found:

“Clif Bar & Company is a pretty neat place to go to work every day.  If you like tasty food, nice people and lots of interesting challenges, we’d love to hear from you.  Did we mention there’s a rock-climbing wall?”

Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson (left) and his wife, co-owner Kit Crawford on the climbing wall.

My friend Dr. Andrea Cook told me about programs at the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) – an awesome San Diego company that really walks the walk.    CCSE did their own upgrade to their space and installed motion sensor lights, high efficiency bathrooms with waterless urinals, quick air dry for hands, and have reverse osmosis water onsite and always available.  In addition, they have a monthly “Green Award” monthly given to an employee who is recognized (caught) doing something green that goes above and beyond (or is out of character).

-Ruth

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Filed under Buy Local, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Businiess

Can’t Be Recycled? Upcycle It!

We try so hard to be responsible and only buy things that come in recyclable containers and packaging.   But what do you do with the hard to recycle stuff or the things no one will take?

I found this great company, Terracycle, that is trying to eliminate the whole idea of waste.   They are signing people up to collect anything from pens to juice boxes to candy wrappers to cork to cell phones to key boards and back again.   They pay for you to ship it to them and then they “upcycle it” (turn it into a cool new product or material).

Here’s an example of a cool upcycling project.   Terracycle created the Drink Pouch Brigade.   They collected over 50 million drink pouches and turned them into upscale items like tote bags and Christmas tree skirts.  Over a million dollars from the sale of those items went to schools, charities, and nonprofits.   Not bad.

The Terracycle Tree-Skirt

In 2010 Terracycle set up what they called a “pop shop” in New York City’s Port Authority – a place where anyone could drop off hard to recycle items and buy upcycled items.  That is spreading some goodwill!

Pop-Up Shop in NYC Port Authority

-Dan

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Environment, Innovation, Recycled Materials, Supply Chain Management, Sustainable Businiess, Upcycle