Thursday, July 30, 2009

Greening your computer - Courier Mail by Graham Readfearn

ALL in all, your computer (and mine) is one big environmental and unsustainable dog’s breakfast (and I’ve not even got a dog).

Like most electronic products, understanding all the environmental aspects of having and using a computer is a tough job because there’s energy and resources being used up all over the place.

You’ve got to dig up stuff like silica, copper, lead, cobalt, cadmium, gold and oil. You need energy and water to transport and manufacture the parts and manage all the waste materials - some of them toxic - that come from these processes.

You’ve got to put the thing together, get the resources and materials to package them up and then distribute them. Once it’s out of the box and doing its stuff, it’s using electricity which in most parts of the world means burning more fossil fuels, emitting more greenhouse gases as well as other nasty by-products like mercury. According to a detailed study of the impact of computers on the environment, the total fossil fuels used to make one of them is about 240 kilograms.

But then you can play games on it.

After you’ve used your computer, you’ve then got to dispose of it which takes more energy and in most circumstances ends up in landfill, which means wearing the risk of burying toxic substances and wasting all the energy it took to make the various parts in the first place.

So what can you do? Two new solutions have hit my inbox this week.

The first comes in the guise of a desktop widget called The Little Green Genie that sits on your screen and monitors the emissions from your computer, using as a base research figures from a United Nations Environment Programme centre. To get the widget (available for individuals and businesses) you need to add credit to an online account (minimum $10) which is used to buy carbon credits for investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency from Climate Friendly. These are a good quality credit, as because they’re offshore they are not counted as part of Australia’s national greenhouse accounts, which means under Kyoto, you’re not simply giving high-polluting industries more room to pollute up to the national cap.


A second solution that can lower the impact of your computer is stunningly simple. Every time you want to do a safe search on the internet (one that doesn’t bring up stuff you wouldn’t want your grandma or kids to see), then just do it at Grevox. For each search, carbon offset company Climate Feet will offset for free the equivalent of 50 grams of greenhouse gases by purchasing credits through the Voluntary Carbon Standard accreditation scheme. The Grevox site is even being hosted on servers powered by renewable energy.

So there you go. Now you can use your computer to play games, surf the web, read your emails, network and even… yes even.. do work on it… with your conscience a little clearer and greener.

First climate refugees start move to new island home.

IMAGINE that your home, water and a fair whack of your food are under threat. Imagine it is only going to get worse.

Imagine that you live on the Carteret Islands, seven tiny coral atolls in the Pacific that have been described as the home of the world’s first climate change refugees.

Six months ago, the 2700 islanders began what will eventually become a big evacuation to Bougainville, about 80 kilometres to the south.

The decision to relocate followed years of worsening storm surges and king tides that infected the fresh water supply and ruined the islanders’ staple banana and taro crops.

Fearing worse is to come — more frequent floods are expected to be the most visible signs of rising sea levels due to global warming — the islanders secured three blocks of coastal land. Five men moved earlier this year to build houses and plant crops, the first step in the relocation of 1700 people in the next five years.

The relocation is being headed by Ursula Rakova, an islander who quit a job with Oxfam in Bougainville three years ago to set up Tulele Peisa, an organisation that raises money and campaigns for social justice on behalf of her people. ‘‘We have a feeling of anxiety, a feeling of uncertainty because we know that we will be losing our homes. It is our identity. It is our whole culture at stake,’’ she said in Melbourne yesterday.

The move has been helped by the Catholic Church, which provided the land for relocation, but not the Bougainville Government.

Ms Rakova said the $1 million provided by the Papua New Guinea Government in Port Moresby had been swallowed by provincial bureaucrats.

The purpose of her trip to Australia this week is two-fold — to secure a market for the organic cocoa the islanders plan to grow at their new home and to call on the Australian Government, through its AusAID program, to pressure the Bougainville Government to deliver the promised money.

Just as urgently, she wants to see Western leaders take on much deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Australian Government’s most ambitious emissions proposal of stabilising atmospheric carbon dioxide at 450 parts per million was not enough to give the Pacific a safe future, she said.

‘‘We are angry. Some people do not understand the science, but they know they are losing their homes and they are angry they are having to pay for what other people [in industrialised nations] have done,’’ she said.

While climate scientists warn that the future for atolls like the Carterets is bleak, the extent to which climate change is responsible for their current predicament is unclear.

Campaigners believe the impact of rising sea levels may have been amplified by the gradual sinking of an extinct volcano that supports the atolls.

One of the world’s leading sea level experts yesterday called for caution. John Hunter, from the University of Tasmania, said sea level rises would eventually cause ‘‘huge problems’’, and called for the building of sea walls to protect the islands’ culture and ‘‘buy a few more decades’’.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The hill that powers 120,000 homes

One of the things people most often ask is - "Where does the money go when I buy carbon credits?" - so I thought I would show you. Last week I returned from a short trip to the United States. As I was driving to San Francisco from Las Vegas I came across this incredible piece of road that was littered with hundreds of Wind Turbines pumping out clean energy. I did this same drive about 10 years ago and none of these turbines were there back then.

When you consider that each of these turbines will generate enough energy every year to power about 1,000 homes you really start to see the significance of clean energy solutions such as this. The photo above is only half of this picture and there's about 120 turbines just in this half of this shot. That's 120,000 homes being powered without a single piece of coal being burned. This hill was only one of dozens like it that I drove past in just that 20 mile stretch of road in the US.

These are what we call 'renewable energy projects' because they rely upon clean and abundant natural resources like wind - not dirty and damaging fuels such as coal. It is projects like this that are often funded by carbon credit purchases.

If you are a US citizen you may be particularly interested in a wonderful movement called "The Picken's Plan" - founded by billionaier oil man T.Boone.Pickens. Mr Pickens has developed a powerfula and effective plan for eliminating America's reliance on foreign oil by harnessing the abundance of wind through the central interior of the United States.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Airline industry proves that consumers want to be green...especially if they are from Byron.

For those of you who don’t know, the Little Green Genie mascot is named Byron after the beautiful Australian town of Byron Bay which has long been considered one of the most environmentally friendly towns in Australia. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Byron and the airline industry recently proved a very interesting point about consumers willingness to pay to be green, even when their is zero kudos or status attached.

I was recently flying on a Virgin Blue aircraft from the Gold Coast to Sydney. Like most people, I started to read the inflight magazine when I came across a very interesting letter from Virgin Blue’s CEO Brett Godfrey. In this letter, Brett was talking about Virgin Blue’s carbon offsetting scheme which when launched in 2007 made them the first Australian airline to offer such a program. As someone who always offsets their flights whenever possible, I was very interested to learn how these programs work and whether or not other consumers actually care enough (or believe enough in the idea of offsetting) to voluntarily and anonymously offset their airline travel emissions.

To my delight I learned that just over 10% of travelers who book online do offset their flights through Virgin Blue. In total, over 1 million flights have been offset since 2007 raising more than $1.3M for Government certified carbon abatement projects. In total these guys have caused the offset of 102,000 tonnes of Co2 so far which is about the same as taking 25,000 cars off the road for a full year.

This is very cool (pardon the pun). When I got home I did a bit more searching and discovered that since Virgin Blue, others have followed. Jetstar for example have also been very successful in getting their customers to offset their flights through the online booking process. At a recent media conference Bruce Buchanan, general manager of Jetstar’s commercial operations revealed that around 12% of their passengers voluntarily offset their flights but this figure jumps to a whopping 28% on flights in or out of Byron Bay or the nearby town of Ballina. That’s more than double their national average.

What I found particularly exciting about these numbers is the idea that a corporation or influential organization does not have to necessarily spend a lot of money themselves to do a lot of good for the planet. They merely have to leverage their influence. Further, it proved to me that even without any public recognition of their actions, people are willing to actually pay to give back to the planet. It's not just airlines that can do this though. My favorite band, the Dave Matthews Band, recently launched the Bama Project which (among many other things) enables fans to arrange to share cars to get to their concerts through their website. Simply by influencing their network and providing a mechanism the band has not only established its green credentials but they have deepened their connection to their fan base and caused the offset of nearly a million pounds (their not on the metric system :-) of Co2 so far.

If we look at computers which are now estimated to account for 5% of the world's carbon emissions or about the same as the airline industry, how many of your friends or customers would ‘want’ to offset their bit if they were given the opportunity and mechanism?

Shortly, we will be launching the Zero Carbon Computer Challenge which will enable you or your business to follow the lead of Virgin Blue, Jetstar or the Dave Matthews Band by setting up your own carbon offsetting program whereby you can compete with others from the around the world to see how much Co2 you can cause to be offset through people offsetting their computers through Little Green Genie. We will provide you with your own unique webpage within our website that you can promote this page to your network. Every person who offsets will count toward your tonne total which will appear along with and your country and worldwide ranking. Unlike flying where offsetting is anonymous, you can add your zero carbon status to your website as well as all emails you send for as long as you remain a carbon neutral computer user through the Genie. It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great chance to flex the power of the people. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Little Green Genie Goes Live

We are very happy to announce the worldwide launch of The team at Little Green Genie has been working around the clock and we are very excited with the first version. The application works for both PC and Mac.

To make a positive impact on the environment it cost on average 1 cent per day to offset your PCs power usage and a once off cost of USD $11 if you choose to offset the manufacturing of the equipment. This is a small price to pay considering the IT industry emits around the same amount of Co2 into the atmosphere as the airline industry and the manufacture of a PC has about the same environmental impact as making a small car.

Our carbon credits are the Rolls Royce of carbon credits. Gold Standard, Audited, renewable energy carbon credits that have the greatest impact on the reduction of global Co2 emissions. For businesses 53% of consumers prefer to buy from a green company, so once you have offset your emissions you can download the Little Green Genie email signatures to communicate your commitment to the environment.

Our software is free and there are no licensing fees.

Go to and hit the sign up tab.

We can be know as the smartest generation that saved the world or the generation that destroyed our planet. So it's over to you. Go make a difference and spread the word.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Little Green Genie Set to go live

Little Green Genie is going live at 6pm Wednesday the 15th New York

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Here is a great story by Kevin Schueller from the Examiner in Philadelphia. I downloaded the software. Saving money and the environment.

Turning off your computer when you aren’t using it is the most effective way to reduce billions of extra kilowatt hours burned by computers every year. What about when you are using the computer?

According to Columbia University “A typical desktop PC with a 17" flat panel LCD monitor requires about 100 watts -- 65 for the computer and 35 for the monitor. Doesn't sound like much? Left on 24/7 for one year, the system will consume a whopping 874 kWh of electricity. That's enough to release 750 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- the equivalent of driving 820 miles in an average car.

To reduce power usage by as much as 75 percent, turn off your computer when you won't be using it for an extended period of time and enable power management features during shorter periods of inactivity.”

While your computers power management features are a huge help to a major problem, there is a great free piece of software that can help even better. Verdiem’s Edison software quietly and lightly runs in the background and gives you even more options for keeping your computer’s power consumption down. More than saving the environment, it will also help your wallet.

Just install the free software, and set times for your work day. It will automatically turn off your display, power down the hard drive, and put your computer into hibernation at ideal times. It will even calculate how much money, energy, and CO2 you can save yearly while the software is in use.

Download: Edison

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Zero Carbon Computing

Let us know what you think! We are trying to give a very simple explanation of the software. We would also like to acknowledge the folks at Common Craft who really pioneered these types of videos. We borrowed the way we explain coal fired emissions from them in this video. We hope you enjoy it.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Zero Carbon Computer Challenge

We are working on something really cool here at Little Green Genie that we hope you will participate in. It's a challenge that will enable you to reach out to your family, friends, fans, customers or community group and ask them to join you as a "Zero Carbon Computer User". To participate, all you will have to do is offset your own computer's emissions through the software and then you will be able to set up your own page on our competition site that you use to promote your entry into the challenge. As more of your network joins the challenge, your combined carbon reduction will be calculated and then you can compete with other families, businesses and so forth from around the world.

While your own carbon footprint from computing may be minimal, when taken with the carbon footprint of those you have the power to influence through your computer, it can be significant. Think about this. According to Radicati Group, the world sends about 63 Billion emails every day - not counting spam. That's just email. Then there's Tweets, Facebook posts, Blogs and all the other ways that we communicate that are not via email.

I think about some of my favorite bloggers and content creators in the business development space, people like Seth Godin, Tim Ferris, Fred Wilson or Andrew Warner, guys that harness technology brilliantly to leverage their businesses. Every month, millions of people of similar of even greater reach through their own communities, tribes and businesses read their blog posts, get their Tweets or receive their emails - all through their computers. By joining this challenge, these and the millions of other influencers (all of us) can make a massive difference to the carbon footprint of the global computer industry. We can also raise much needed awareness for climate change by simply adding the "Zero Carbon Computer User" email signature (available through the software) to every email we send.

Stay tuned for more details!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fun Animation

When we first started developing the Little Green Genie concept our very clever creative team came up with this short animation. The star of the show is affectionately known as "Byron". He is named after a beautiful part of Australia called Byron Bay. Let us know what you think.