South by Southwest becomes a green launchpad
It says a lot (about me or the festival, not sure which) that I've heard much more about the companies and technologies coming out of Austin at the SXSW Festival this year than about the music. And I heard a surprising amount of sustainability-related news:
• Over at Time, Bryan Walsh has a look at the Pecan Street Research Project, "a collaboration of the University of Texas, Austin Energy, the Environmental Defense Fund and a number of other companies [that allowed Austin to] have gathered more data than any other place about residential energy use." The group's work on the big data coming out of Austin shows, unsurprisingly, that Austin uses twice the energy in the summer as in the winter, and that 50 percent of that energy goes directly to air conditioners. However, green buildings and buildings using rooftop solar could effectively cancel out that additional power use, or as Walsh puts it: "You might be able to Texas-proof your home." (We have a terrific video interview with Pecan Street's CEO from last October's VERGE SF conference.)
• At least two companies launched new sustainability-focused products in Austin this week. Geostellar is launching a Sustainable Energy Network aimed to help homeowners navigate the best options for installing solar power on their homes.
And CarbonStory is trying to harness the crowdfunding craze to combine all the latest SXSW buzzwords — gamification, social networking, crowdsourcing, etc. etc. — with carbon offsetting: Join the CarbonStory network, estimate your footprint and find projects you want to pay to support to offset your footprint for a month. It's a concept.
• In a short summary of the conference over at The Guardian, Matthew Yeomans writes about how sustainability is central to SXSW, unless you are going to the session on "What we can learn from the Unabomber."
CSR report recap
I like to read sustainability reports. I find it really interesting to see the different ways companies talk about their efforts, their successes, their shortcomings and so on. I realize that not many others do, so we'll consider this a bit of an experiment — a brief recap of some notable sustainability reports from the past week.
• Nestlé released its latest Creating Shared Value report this week, showing a mixed bag of progress on green issues: water use and intensity down, energy use up but energy intensity down, renewable energy use up slightly, emissions and emissions intensity down. And the company is setting a number of big new goals, including:
- GHG intensity reductions of 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2015.
- 100 percent certified palm oil by the end of 2013.
- Water intensity reductions of 40 percent over 2005 levels by 2015.
• Tom's of Maine, the natural toothpaste maker from the Northeast, released its first sustainability report, but it measures "goodness" instead of sustainability: "Healthy goodness, environmental goodness, and human goodness." As a first report, Tom's is mostly laying the groundwork for what's to come, and they've set a broad array of goals for 2020, including:
- Zero waste at their manufacturing plant.
- Roughly 20 percent reduction in transportation emissions.
- Get 50 percent of suppliers reporting reductions in energy use.
- A 30 percent reduction in virgin materials in packaging.
- And let consumers and employees direct 100 percent of corporate philanthropy.
Next page: A random moment of good news