LifeStraw Purifies Water As You Drink

The LifeStraw is an invention created by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen, a Danish innovator who hopes that it will help third world countries where millions of people die from water-borne diseases each year.

Water from most sources can be drunk if done so through the LifeStraw say the makers of the product..

However, naysayers say that the economics don’t really work out that well.

“It only costs a charity like WaterAid £15 per person to provide them with water, sanitation and hygiene education, which, provided there is decent water resource management in the country, will last them a lifetime.

Its still great to see innovation and entreprenurism in the social sector so I’m all for it.

Beginner’s Guide To Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)

I finally saved up a enough money where investing has become relevant to me. I know a bit about how the markets work, but I don’t know too much about Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). I’ll need a crash course, and for that, there is no better resource than Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, Socially Responsible Investing is:

an umbrella term for a philosophy of investing by both financial and social criteria. SRI investors seek to align their personal values and financial goals by choosing to invest in companies and organizations displaying values comparable to their own.

The entry is pretty thorough and my main take away is that there doesn’t seem to be a clear definition as to what SRI really means, except “no tobacco or alcohol products.”

While there is no one standard of criteria across Socially Responsible Investing, most SRI mutual funds, whether conservative or progressive, employ screens that exclude companies that manufacture tobacco or alcohol products.

I googled “socially responsible funds” and have a bunch of links to look at but there doesn’t seem to be a definitive guide. I guess I’ll have to navigate this maze on my own. I’ll report back my thoughts and findings. I’ll probably start with the following links:

Information on Funds
SocialFunds– “The largest personal finance site devoted to socially responsible investing”

Social Investment Forum– “a national nonprofit membership organization promoting the concept, practice and growth of socially responsible investing ”

Calvert Online– “socially responsible mutual funds”

KLD– “an independent investment research firm providing management tools to professionals integrating environmental, social and governance factors into their investment decisions.”

Yahoo Directory of Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

Pax World Funds– “Socially Responsible Mutual Funds, Ethical Investing, socially responsible investing”

Intel Has Its Owns Plans To Close the Digital Divide

Intel plans to close the Digital Divide with its own version of the $100 Dollar Laptop. The only difference is that their plan is to release a sub $400 dollar laptop and train teachers as well as extended wireless internet access worldwide.

It sounds like a more comprehensive approach than Negroponte’s and Intel certainly has the capital and technology to really do something here. Note that they are one of the most well respected brands in computing, have a huge semiconductor and memory business, and also have a scaleable wireless internet technology in the works, called WiMax.

The article goes on to discuss the initiative:

The program is to be announced on Tuesday at the World Congress on Information Technology, a conference in Austin, Tex., where Intel’s chief executive, Paul S. Otellini, will elaborate on it in a speech on Wednesday.

The initiative, called World Ahead, comes as Intel, the No. 1 chip maker, is embarking on what it says will be a $1 billion revamping program in the face of declining market share and a lagging share price.

So what does this all mean? Competition is always good, and it sounds like Intel and Negroponte are already criticizing each other’s works:

[Negroponte] said that the Intel program was a step forward, but that focusing efforts on training teachers had serious drawbacks.

And Otellini (Intel’s CEO) on Negroponte:

“We don’t think you cross the digital divide with old technology,” he said. “It doesn’t need exotic technology and it runs real applications.”

Related posts:
Negroponte Steps Down From MIT Media Lab to Pursue $100 Laptop Initiative
Social Entrepreneurs Focused On Closing the Digital Divide
Microsoft Pitching In To Close the Digital Divide: Cell Phone Based Internet Connection
UN body backs $100 laptop for world’s kids
Social Entrepreneur Focus: Negroponte and his $100 laptop

Ford Helps Their Customers Buy Emission Offsets

When companies announce a plan to get X percent of their energy from wind, solar, or other reneable energy source, it most likely means that they will do it by buying energy credits.

However, the public might perceive these announcements to imply a different story– that a huge number of solar panels were ordered and placed on the roofs of all the company’s buildings. Not likely. Realistically, the company will probably use energy that was generated via fossil fuels.

The disconnect between the two pictures might be upsetting but purchasing energy credits is theoretically the most efficient way for companies to do this.

It looks like Ford is bringing a similar model to all its drivers– CNN reports that the auto company has partnered with Terapass so that “Drivers can pay clean energy firms to remove the same amount of pollution cars create.”

Ford Motor Co. said it will give consumers concerned about harmful greenhouse emissions an opportunity to invest in clean energy projects via a new Web Site that will calculate suggested investments based on the amount of carbon dioxide produced while driving.

I think this is a great idea and it gives all those guilty SUV drivers an easy option to help the environment. Its much easier than trading up for a Prius. The model isn’t perfect though– the NY Times says the model has shortcomings:

Although TerraPass certainly works on a free-market principle, it’s lacking the element of naked self-interest that would drive a truly global change. A more exact parallel to the cap-and-trade system would be one in which drivers who saved fuel by moseying down a 60 miles-per-hour lane could accrue electronic passes they could sell the next morning on eBay to whoever needed to dart to work or the airport that morning at 70 m.p.h. The market for environmental righteousness may be growing, but surely not as fast as the market for speed.

Directionally, we’re headed in the right direction and that’s great by me.

Related Links:
Coase theorem
Energy Credits

Barefoot College– Bunker Roy Fights Poverty By Using Entrepreneurship

Barefoot College

Barefoot College was started in 1972 to help teach local Indian communities how to solve mass poverty. The organization has recently generated some buzz and Fast Company covers it in their most recent issue. (The article should be accessible to the public in a few weeks)

An Indian named Bunker Roy, 60, whose Tilonia-based group, the Barefoot College, has spent 30 years empowering India’s rural poor to innovate their way out of poverty.

Barefoot College students, “washouts, copouts, and dropouts,” as Roy fondly calls them, learn skills ranging from midwifery to computer programming, solar engineering to rainwater harvesting. There is no required curriculum, no deadline for graduation, no degree awarded. The school, which includes stipends for all students, is supported by the income generated by offering such services to villages all over India.

Roy recently received some press when he slammed the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals as a “recipe for disaster” doomed to “be achieved only on paper.” That probably didn’t win Roy too many political friends but his model has won a lot of believers, and he recently received a $615,000 Skoll Foundation grant to seed Barefoot College all over the world.

It’s a scalable, community-based model of development managed from the bottom up by the poor themselves–a decentralized alternative to the Millennium Villages launched in Kenya and Ethiopia by Sachs’s Earth Institute at Columbia University. The big difference is, it costs at least $250,000 to set up each Millennium Village… Last year, with just $100,000, [Roy] brought 10 Afghans to India to train at the Barefoot College for six months and bought 120 solar units to power five villages.

Getting Rid of Your Old PC In A Responsible Way (cont’d)

Just saw this totally relevant announcement: Apple Offers Free Computer Take-Back Program

Apple today announced an expansion of its successful recycling program, offering free computer take-back and recycling with the purchase of a new Macintosh® system beginning in June.

Here is a link to my prior post: Getting Rid of Your Old PC In A Responsible Way

Getting Rid of Your Old PC In A Responsible Way

Got my laptop back so I will be back to regularly posting (after a 2 week hiatus).

So this post will conclude my series on  computer related posts.  (See my prior posts: The Truth (and Dangers) of Computer Recycling, and TechSoup Stock- Connecting Nonprofits With Technology Product Donations from Leading Providers)

This final post (in this series) points to a pretty useful article on Cnet’s that provides instructions on how to trash your pc in an eco-friendly way.

It’s done in a FAQ (frequently asked questions) format and provides some pretty good answers to some great questions.
Most of you might not be ready to trash a computer right now, but when you are, surf back over here and find out how to do it in a responsible manner!

The Truth (And Dangers) of Computer Recycling

Good news: I got my laptop back.  Bad news: It was still broken so I had to ship it back.

Anyhow, on the topic of computers– I wanted to post about this article that gives us some insight into computer recycling.  What should be a great and environmentally friendly practice is oftentimes not environmentally healthy, and a dangerous health hazard to many third world workers involved in the practice.

More than 50 percent of our recycled computers are shipped overseas, where their toxic components are polluting poor communities. Meanwhile, U.S. laws are a mess, and industry and Congress are resisting efforts to stem “the effluent of the affluent.”

I’ve blogged about some success stories in recycling (see Recycling Old Cell Phones); however, there seems to be many occasions where these programs do more harm than good.