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The latest products, services and cleantech applications and how they are tackling some of our most pressing social and environmental issues.

‘Smart’ Grocery Cart Wins Sprint’s First Upcycled Smartphone Contest

Sprint, in conjunction with Brightstar Corp. and HOBI International, announced today the winner of its inaugural Smartphone Encore Challenge, a contest for Net Impact college students to find profitable and innovative ways to repurpose old smartphones or their components.

Study: Does Corporate Social Responsibility Performance Affect Reputational Risk?

You’re a Chief Executive. Why care about environmental impacts and employee wellbeing if the bottom line is improving? The business logic behind CSR contends that negligence of these issues increases reputational risks. Just as a positive image can endear a brand to consumers, a toxic spill or news of poor labor conditions may threaten its ‘social license to operate’ and worry investors about disruptions to business. History shows reputational damage can quickly translate into financial losses (case in point: the Deepwater Horizon spill.)

Aquion Energy's Carbon- and Cotton-Based AHI Battery First in the World to be Cradle to Cradle Certified™

Aquion Energy, Inc., developer and manufacturer of Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI™) batteries and energy-storage systems, has announced that its AHI S20 and S20-P Product Lines are the first batteries in the world to be Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified™ Bronze. The product lines were evaluated by MBDC, creators of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program, across five quality categories.

#BusinessCase: Internal Carbon Fee Saves Microsoft Over $10M Per Year

With Earth Day this week, it’s a great time to reflect on the challenges we face and the advancements we’ve made. Last week, Microsoft released a whitepaper describing the progress made with our carbon fee since its inception in the hope to inspire other organizations to take similar action.

Apple Announces Chinese Solar Project and US Forest Conservation Effort

Apple has announced plans to invest in a new Chinese solar power project and help preserve some 36,000 acres of forests in the eastern United States.The tech giant is partnering with solar company SunPower to build two solar power projects totaling 40 megawatts (MW) in China — more than the amount of energy consumed by Apple’s 19 corporate offices and 21 retail stores in China and Hong Kong.The projects are expected to provide up to 80 million kilowatt-hours per year while also protecting the ecosystem. They will feature SunPower's "light-on-land" approach to solar photovoltaic power plant design and construction, which allows pasture farming to continue while power is generated.

RE100 Initiative Now Recruiting Chinese Companies to Switch to 100% Renewables

RE100, a global initiative aimed at recruiting and encouraging major companies to use 100 percent renewable power across their operations, has announced a partnership with the China Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA) as part of a major new drive to help companies in China adopt renewable energy.

As Sustainability Goals Get Harder to Meet, Better Analytics Can Create Competitive Advantage

Driven by consumer demands, and greater concern for resource scarcity and productivity, more companies are tracking and reporting performance in an effort to meet corporate sustainability goals. But once the low-hanging fruit is picked, further improvements can require sophisticated tools, such as emerging big data and geospatial analytics, to help companies make more informed decisions about sustainability goals, according to a new report from Lux Research.

Londoners Will Soon Have a Freshwater Swimming Pool Cleaned by Plants, Not Chemicals

Looking for a clean place to swim in London? City dwellers will have a freshwater, natural pool at their disposal in King’s Cross beginning in May. Designed by Rotterdam Studio, Ooze architects and artist Marietica Potrč, the chemical-free outdoor pool is the first of its kind in the UK. The King’s Cross Swimming Pool is a manmade, freshwater pond kept clean and filtered through natural processes. At forty meters long, the pool will accommodate up to 100 swimmers at a time within the new Lewis Cubitt Park.

As UN Climate Conference Approaches, Renewable Energy Makes Major Global Gains

Clean energy is “key” to climate action, according to a senior advisor to President Obama in a blog post published last week, which discussed the United States’ official greenhouse gas emissions-cutting target to the United Nations. The proposal formalizes a U.S. commitment to reducing emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Graphene Light Bulb Expected to Last Longer, Be More Efficient, Save Money and Energy

A lightbulb with lower energy emissions, longer lifetime and lower manufacturing costs, and made with graphene — said to be the first commercially viable consumer product using the super-strong form of carbon — is poised to hit the market this year, thanks to a University of Manchester research and innovation partnership.The bulb’s developers — a Canadian-financed company called Graphene Lighting — expect the dimmable bulb to use 10 percent less energy than conventional bulbs, last longer and be priced lower than some LEDs, at roughly $20 each. It was designed at the University of Manchester, where the revolutionary material was discovered. The University’s National Graphene Institute was opened this month.

Sustainable Investments Outperforming Traditional Investments, Reports Morgan Stanley

A new report from the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing finds that investing in sustainability has usually met and often exceeded the performance of comparable traditional investments, both on an absolute and risk-adjusted basis, across asset classes and over time. “We believe sustainable investing will be a key in the mobilization of private capital towards addressing global challenges, but the growth and development of this space remains hampered by a lingering perception that sustainable investments require a financial trade-off. Our review addresses the investment performance concern head-on, and the findings are very positive,” said Audrey Choi, CEO of the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing.

Report: U.S. Coal Sector in ‘Terminal Decline’

The market for thermal coal is in structural decline in the United States, according to a new report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative.The US Coal Crash – Evidence for Structural Change (PDF) finds that, in the last few years, US coal markets have been pounded by a combination of cheaper renewables, energy efficiency measures, increasing construction costs and a rash of legal challenges, as well as the rise of shale gas.

Copenhagen ‘Big Data’ Marketplace Set to Spur Sustainability Innovation

Global IT firm Hitachi Consulting has been selected to construct a first-of-its-kind Big Data platform for Denmark’s capital Copenhagen to help achieve its sustainability goals.To develop the platform, the firm will work with the City of Copenhagen, Capital Region, the Danish cluster organization, CLEAN and a consortium of partners.The Copenhagen Big Data project will enable advanced analytics to support city functions such as green infrastructure planning, traffic management and energy usage. It will integrate data from multiple sources, including demographics, crime statistics, sensor-based sources — such as energy consumption meters, air quality sensors and traffic sensors, among others — and information submitted by citizens and businesses.

Here’s How Satellites Are Saving the World’s Forests

The world’s besieged forests have found friends in high places — in this case, very high. Remote-sensing satellites keep constant watch from hundreds of miles above the earth, collecting data that — when combined with information sharing and human networks around the world — can be used to preserve the world's forests, which are disappearing at an alarming net loss of 12.8 million acres each year (an area the size of Costa Rica).Although deforestation has slowed slightly since the 1990s thanks to conservation efforts, the situation remains dire.

An Unlikely Pair: Farmers and Big Data Team Up to Address Food Security

The United States agriculture industry faces a changing climate, diminishing water supply, and a rapidly growing population. To address these issues, farmers are having to move into the 21st century, one tech advancement at a time."We live in a complicated world and there's been a lot of talks these days about getting to 2050 and feeding over 9 billion people," said A.G. Kawamura, the former California Secretary of Agriculture, co-chair of Solutions from the Land, and a third-generation farmer. "We have the capacity but we don't have the will to do it. Logistics haven't been put into place."

Hong Kong Cleantech Companies Showcase in San Francisco

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation ("HKSTP") is showcasing Hong Kong's sustainable innovations to the world by leading a delegation of cleantech companies at an event this week in San Francisco.The HKSTP delegation includes five cleantech companies that will showcase sustainable innovations ranging from a water filtration device to renewable energy technologies and energy management platforms.The participating companies in the HKSTP delegation are:

On-Site Water Recycling Could Create Drought-Resilient Homes in California

California builders, water & sewer agencies and homeowners are one step closer to being able to construct bona fide drought-resilient homes.Nexus eWater, maker of home water and energy recyclers, has received certification to the NSF/ANSI 350 global standard for residential grey water treatment for its ‘NEXtreater’ home water recycler. The water recycler is capable of safely recycling two out of every three gallons of grey water in the home for non-potable, approved uses.Grey water is drain water from showers, laundry and hand sinks and is the largest potential source of on-site water in homes — typically, this makes up two-thirds of indoor water.The potential water savings associated with in-home grey water recycling are “unprecedented”, Nexus eWater says.

Starting Now: A Smarter Approach to Sustainability Management

The importance of sustainability has surged over the last two decades, as has the amount of information available and the demands on companies and practitioners – from regulators, customers and investors. At the same time, the new opportunities that have emerged are enormous.

Pee-Powered Toilet Could Help Light Refugee Camps

Sometimes clean technology doesn't need to be sanitary.Students and staff at the University of the West of England in Bristol now have the opportunity to test out a prototype toilet that uses urine to generate electricity, The Guardian reports.Researchers at the university and the charity Oxfam developed the “pee power” toilet to prove that urine can generate electricity, and show its potential for helping to light cubicles in international refugee camps. The technology uses urine-fed microbial fuel cell (MFC) stacks to generate electricity that can power indoor lighting.

thinkstep (fka PE International) Launching Comprehensive Platform for Enabling Business Sustainability

Sustainability software and consulting company PE International, creators of the industry-leading GaBi life cycle assessment software and providers of a vast array of tools for sustainability performance management, unveiled its new name – thinkstep - today at its annual customer and partner symposium. The company says the new name reflects its long history of connecting data and knowledge to make sustainability advances, or ‘thinksteps,’ for the world’s leading brands and organizations.