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Archive → October, 2010

Walmart Turns Up Volume on Sustainable Agriculture

Walmart has pledged to use only sustainable palm oil by 2015. Credit: Walmart

Late last week, Walmart added another plank to its sustainability push by announcing new goals to source its food products more sustainably. Lately I’ve written about a number of niche green consumer products companies like Seventh Generation and Dr. Bronner’s but it’s also important to keep an eye on what the big guys are doing, precisely because their footprint is so large, the opportunities for them to reduce their impacts are also huge.

Among other promises, Walmart pledges to sustainably source all the palm oil that it uses in its private label brands by 2015. This is the same promise made by Unilever, the UK-based consumer goods and food manufacturer which is the largest buyer of palm oil in the world. Sustainable palm oil is grown on land that does not require clear cutting tropical rainforests. For Walmart’s part, not cutting down the rain forest for palm oil in its U.S. and U.K. products alone will save the company 5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2015, according to a press release.

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New Cleantech Jobs Report

BP Solar shut its Frederick, MD plant last year, eliminating 320 jobs. Worldwide, solar leads in cleantech job creation.

Research and advisory firm CleanEdge has released the 2010 edition of its report Cleantech Job Trends. The company tallies up 3 million jobs in the green sector, including more than 500,000 in wind power (direct and indirect employment) and over 300,000 in solar photovoltaics worldwide.

Overall, the report ranks the leading industries for cleantech employment starting with solar power, followed by biofuels and biomaterials; smart grid and energy efficiency; wind power; and advanced transportation/vehicles.

In the U.S., the biggest metropolitan areas for green jobs are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Denver, and Washington, DC. But worldwide, the bad news for the U.S. is that of the 10 largest “pure play” cleantech employers in the world, six are in China (one in Hong Kong), two are in the U.S., and there is one each in Denmark and Spain. Denmark is home to Vestas Wind Energy, the largest cleantech employer with 20,730 employees.

The authors also include their assessment of the impact government spending in China and the US has had on creating cleantech jobs, as well as some policy recommendations for domestic job creation (including feed-in tariffs and a carbon tax). Check it out.

UConn Researchers Find New Biodiesel Feedstock*

Hemp plant, courtesy of University of Connecticut

*not legal in U.S.

No, it’s not that kind of cannabis, it’s the other kind. You know, the kind you make rope from — Cannabis sativa

, known as industrial hemp.

Still grown in Europe and Asia for its fiber, industrial hemp could be a non-food feedstock for biodiesel production, says Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering at the University of Connecticut who led a recent study.

The plant, which the UConn press folks point out “grows like a weed” outshines some other biodiesel inputs like soy, in that it can grow in infertile soils without inputs such as water and fertilizer. It is also not a food crop, which gets growers out of the food versus fuel dilemma.

According to Parnas, hemp growers around the world could harvest hemp seeds, which are usually discarded, and make enough high quality biodiesel to run their entire operation.

Parnas and colleagues in UConn’s chemistry and plant sciences departments has received a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Energy to build a feedstock-flexible biodiesel test production site to help commercialize patented technology developed at the University. No word yet on whether it will be located in Canada.