Clean Energy Funds for the Developing World Announced

Solar Handhelds

Solar Handhelds

At Open Forum for Inhabitat:

With all of the climate talks, protests, and stunts during the Copenhagen UN summit on climate change, you may have missed an announcement about funds for clean energy in the developing world. Secretary Steven Chu of the US Department of Energy announced a $350MM from the Major Economies Forum to launch the Climate Renewables and Efficiency Deployment initiative (Climate REDI), focused on four key areas of development:

  1. The Solar and LED Energy Access Program: deploying affordable solar home systems and LED lanterns as an alternative to polluting kerosene.
  2. The Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment Program:harnessing the market power of major economies to improve incentives for buying and using energy-efficient appliances.
  3. The Clean Energy Information Platform: establishing an online platform for major economies countries to share best practices of technical resources, policy experience and infrastructure for clean energy technologies.
  4. The Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program: providing policy support and technical assistance to low-income countries under the World Bank’s Strategic Climate Fund.

It appears that the program will operate through NGOs and government-backed organizations like Lighting AfricaLighting a Billion Lives, and the Lumina Project, and other efforts that focus on solving energy issues at a large scale. Existing government-focused organizations like the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation, the Collaborative Labeling and Standards Program, EPA’s Energy Star program and the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate will focus on the efficient appliances initiative. Meanwhile, the Clean Energy Information Platform will operate through theClimate investment Funds, managed by the World Bank.

The Major Economies Forum is long on the idea that technology is a potential accelerator to solve for climate change, with a focus on rapid deployment and scale. Yet several social entrepreneurs, NGO workers, and scientists have spoken of the need to not replicate a developed world model of technology based on rapid obsolescence, cheap component parts, and scale for scale’s sake. In the wake of complicated discussions in Copenhagen, what do you think about a technology-led initiative from larger economies?

What’s Your Foodprint?

At Open Forum for Inhabitat:

NYC Foodshed

NYC Foodshed

Take a look at your meal.  I’m looking at mushroom ravioli, parsley, olive oil, Italian bread, and parmesan cheese. But I can’t accurately tell you where these tasty food items come from, how far or wide reaching their impact. I do not know my meal’s “foodprint,” a concept discussed at last weekend’s NYC Food and Climate Summit.

What is a foodprint? A foodprint is our food system’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change, according to Jacquie Berger, Executive Director of Just Food, one of the conference’s organizers. The impact of your food may be far greater than those incandescent light bulbs you replaced with fluorescents, or even your hybrid or gasoline-powered car. It is estimated that one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally derive from our food system, the way we cultivate, process, package, transport, and dispose of our food.

San Francisco residents have a longer history and deeper connection to the land that surrounds them. Order a steak at one of San Francisco’s foodie establishments and you will be told a story about how the cow was raised, the farm where it lived, and what combination of grasses was fed to your cow for optimum health and happiness. Even SF’s recent composting initiativefocuses on fertilizing farms within a known radius of the city, “to make the food taste better.”

How will New Yorkers, the largest, most populated, and densest city in the US, ever conceive of a sustainable food system? Professors, chefs, nutritionists, students, gardeners, community organizers, farmers, designers, and sustainability activists are collaborating locally to envision a prosperous and healthy regional food system. Local politician Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President, launched a The NYC Sustainable Food Charter in advance of the  summit. Christine Quinn, NY City’s Council Speaker has followed suit with a program called “FoodWorks New York,” turning NYC’s Department of Education and its immense buying power (over 860,000 meals a day, second largest to the US Military) into an opportunity to  create fresher, healthier meals, and jobs along the way. Lettuce would be bought in New York state, shipped and packed to the city to a retrofitted industrial space used as a fresher processing facility.

Meanwhile grassroots projects are being prototyped by creative, curious, and concerned citizens: projects like urban windowfarmsrooftop farms,vertical farms, and brownfield reclamation through composting are popping up all over the city as demonstration ideas of a sustainable future. How is your region rethinking the food system?

Comments over at Open Forum.

Entrepreneurs: Have You Foursquared Lately?

The post that made me realize that green business was not what Open Forum’s readers were seeking. My most popular Open Forum story, ever:

Mayor of Foursquare

Mayor of Foursquare

Foursquare is open for business at the right price for mom and pop and larger businesses that want the benefit from a highly localized social network.  For those that haven’t heard of Foursquare, the company describes itself as “50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game.” The mobile-based social network is currently available on the iPhone and Android handsets, and is known for bestowing badges on people who discover new restaurants, travel to new cities, and frequent their favorite bar or coffee shop.

I had the opportunity to sit down for coffee with Tristan Walker, a man who wears two hats: a full time Stanford MBA student and Foursquare’s business development representative. Tristan has been busy meeting with brands eager to experiment in the fast growth social network, because of Foursquare’s proximity to the action. Foursquare has the opportunity to link virtual social experimenting to real world online “behavior change,” in Walker’s view, such as redeeming an offer or coupon at a local venue, tracking a loyalty system at a retailer, or associating a brand with the overall experience.

At 160,000 total users in several cities, the social network launched at less than two years ago is about to experience explosive growth as it plans for near term upcoming releases. In the coming weeks and months, expect Foursquare to become available on handsets like the Blackberry, synchronize updates on Facebook (not just Twitter), and prepare for moving beyond a fixed city-based experience and launching “everywhere, including Antarctica if you want to,” according to Walker.

So if you have a business with a real world call-to-action, how do you engage with Foursquare? Walker suggests three ways based on the size of the business you are in. Large brands are looking to creating innovative engagement marketing ideas pay an overall fee to Foursquare for programs like the current cause marketing initiative with Pepsi, donating $0.04 to Camp Interactive for each “check in” in exchange for a branded presence on the system. At the mid-level, retailers can suggest smart ways to “drive to retail” either through a loyalty system integration (Foursquare has an open API or Application Program Interface for developers).

The mom and pop opportunity is where smaller scale entrepreneurs should seek out Foursquare as a place to reach the digital influencer crowd that is obsessed with the social network.

Foursquare sees these local venue offers as a value-add for their user base, and restaurants and stores are offering rewards based on the core experience, such as free coffee for each newly crowned mayor, or free WIFI for anyone who checks in. Adding these offers is currently free of charge to local venues for the time being, so learn more about Foursquare and add your venue now, before the big brands find out about this emerging network.

 

UNICEF Innovation: An SMS System That Saves Lives

Rapid SMS

Rapid SMS

Most non-governmental aid organizations like UNICEF rely on hand-written, hand-collected data and forms, sent to country capitols, and entered into national databases. Months pass before information is fully recorded and transmitted back to those who make decisions about critical food distribution, medicine, and other life-supporting help. UNICEF’s innovation team is changing the way governments and aid organizations respond to crisis by utilizing the accelerated adoption of hand-held mobile phones to collect malnutrition data in real time. RapidSMS was developed in partnership with the government of Malawi and Columbia University using basic, mobile phones to collect information from health workers, data such as child weight and arm circumference. The data is then used to generate web-based spreadsheets and graphs to visualize the challenges, providing critical info needed for the government and UNICEF to respond immediately to nutritional crises. RapidSMS is such a significant improvement for UNICEF that similar products have been developed, on an underlying open-source code-base, open to anyone for use to build their own tools. UNICEF supports any aid organization interested in working off of this code base, and continues to collaborate with Columbia University, and with NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program graduate school in a course designed to address UNICEF challenges. Columbia University and UNICEF were awarded the top prize in USAID’s Development 2.0 challenge earlier this year, but the real accolades come from the repeated use of this tool for applications in malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and beyond.