Insights · November 1st, 2010

(With this blog entry we welcome Catherine Otten back to, where she is now Director of Communications and Programs. Catherine is particularly committed to ideas that improve the environment, so in addition to her administrative duties we look forward to future blog entries like this.)

Newsweek recently ran an article (in their Oct. 25 issue) called 10 Big Green Ideas. They truly are big ideas that show the many different routes to the future of sustainability. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” This list is a quick look at some of the amazing ideas coming from some of those thoughtful citizens.

1. Make a Greener Burger – Blairo Maggi has recently started promoting “sustainable development,” “carbon credits,” “avoided deforestation” – and green beef. He has signed moratoriums on selling beef from recently deforested lands and has been urging local ranchers and meatpackers to clean up their acts.

2. Invest in the Improbable – Vinod Khosla, Sun Microsystems cofounder, is betting on green-tech startups. “I like technologies that have a 90 percent chance of failure,” he says, “because a 10 percent chance of making 100 times your money is better than an 80 percent chance of doubling your money.”

3. Get Out of the Gulf – Jackie Savitz, a political party analyst with the ocean-advocacy group Oceana, sees a fairly simple way to get out the gulf completely. All we have to do is electrify 10 percent of America’s cars by 2020, switch oil-based power plants to clean electric ones, update one quarter of oil-heated homes to electric power, and phase in all available non-feedstock biofuels.

4. Catch a Wave – In March, 10 energy firms were allowed to set up off the coast of Scotland and pilot plants have also been set up in Portugal, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Northeastern United States.

5. Hug a Nuke – Traditionally, nuclear power plants use enriched uranium to generate power. Enrichment itself is inefficient and up to 92 percent of uranium is cast aside as “depleted uranium”. TerraPower has come up with a plan to run an entire plant with depleted uranium.

6. Turn Smoke Into Rocks – Calera has developed a process that takes CO2 from a power-plant smokestack and turns it into cement.

7. Drink Your Garbage – Singapore installed a system two years ago that turns sewage into drinking water and now WaterCAMPWS is working on doing it in the U.S.

8. Hire a Microbe – In Minneapolis, BioCee is working on microbes that soak up sunlight and carbon dioxide and convert it into a substitute for petroleum. Stanford discovered a bug that uses sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. In California, Amyris created genetically modified yeast that produces something like gasoline.

9. Shout it Out Loud – A tiny NGO in Beijing, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, collects government data about local suppliers that are violating environmental standards and finds out which international companies the violators are connected with. They then work with foreign non-profits to pressure the big international companies to clean up their act.

10. Lighten Up – LED bulbs may cost more, but they can save a fortune on your electric bill. LED Savings and Solutions helps companies retrofit their buildings to reduce energy and save thousands each month.

Writer: Catherine Otten was a Program Manager and Administrator for in 2007 and again in 2010-2011. We lost her to cancer in 2016. An avid outdoors woman and mountain climber, Catherine was especially passionate about the environment.

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Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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