Collaboration On A Grand Scale: Japan and Carbon Capture

Creative Commons License photo credit: Asar_mz

Greenbang points out that “24 Japanese power and energy-related companies have jointly launched a research company to develop carbon capture and storage technologies.”

The companies, each investing 3 million yen, include 10 power utilities, and seven oil-related companies, as well as civil engineering firms, steelmakers and chemicals firms. Greenmonk is a big believer in collaborative innovation, particularly across organisational boundaries.

Japan has a history of successfully retooling its economy to deal with economic challenges and scarcity (see Collapse by Jared Diamond). Its a country with a particularly strong sense of duty and continuity. The Japanese government is targeting an annual reduction of 100 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions through CCS technologies in 2020. That’s a start.


Working water twice

I’ve spent the past few weeks emerged in the water sector and the opportunities that exist to tackle the problem that 1.1 billion people lack safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.

There are some fascinating people out there working to overturn assumptions and find new models of collaboration. There are also some great design ideas. Check out this system, or should I say cistern, which initially looks bizarre but is actually an astonishingly simple way of improving the efficiency of flush toilets. If we make toilets more efficient, they require less infrastructure.


Bill McDonough points out that to develop a strategy of change requires genuine humility. He follows on with one of my favourite quotes to use with naysayers:

“If anyone has any trouble with the concept of design humility, reflect on this: it took us 5,000 years to put wheels on our luggage.”

Stuff like this shows how much we can redesign even the most familiar things. Thanks to Juergen Kikuyumoja Eichholz for the link.


Go Green Nippon Style: Turn Your Server Off at Night

I recently met with Fujitsu Siemens Computer about green data initiatives, based on what the joint venture calls IT with a sense of responsibility. The underlying hook to the narrative is Japanese/German engineering excellence (not a bad peg, I am sure you’d agree).

Bernhard Brandwitte, director of product marketing for FSC and perhaps more importantly in the context of behavioural change an excellent story-teller, told me something that really rocked me on my heels: in Japan its common to turn production servers off at night. Yup- apparently the Japanese insurance industry tries to avoid fires in plants at night by offering much cheaper cover for companies that power down after dark.

What does that mean in practice? A much more coherent backup and recovery strategy for one. A commitment to not 24/7, not follow the Sun, not have uptime for its own sake.

I have been thinking about this issue for a while, but it was a tweet from Chris Dalby this morning that pulled the trigger:

yellowpark is going green. I’m turning my server off each night 🙂

Chris is someone I deeply respect. Another cool thing is that he won’t shop at supermarkets- all his shopping is packaging free, from a local farm shop. When he tweets a delicious lunch menu you know the vegetables were never wrapped in plastic. That is a pretty good metaphor for Chris: He is very real, very passionate, and focuses on local issues. He is all about change from the grassroots.

Chris’ commitment to server-off computing is cool because he is an expert in technologies such as Windows Small Business Server, which he sells into small and medium-sized businesses. I wonder if he could set up a service helping SMBs become more green, given his bona fides?

All I know is that much as we should all turn off our appliances at night, and our cellphone chargers, so we should ask – do we really need that server on all night?


picture credit: Chris’s dog, from his moo cards, saying… “Turn that bloody server off, I’ll be your watchdog…”

disclosure: Chris is a friend.


Eco leadership from China: Charging On

New ecobusiness tracker Greenbang has a classic post today. Apparently the Chinese government is mandating that all cell phone and device chargers are USB-based, to “cut waste and lower user costs”. I like this idea a lot. I am currently moving office, and the charger detritus is truly ridiculous. I know some people think all top down regulation is a bad idea, but this one makes a great deal of sense, especially from an environmental perspective. This is not green from the roots up, so much as from the top down, but its still a potentially useful step towards better resource utilisation.

cross-posting on MonkChips.

photo courtesy of arquera, under a CreativeCommons attribution license.


On The Web, Green Change, Architectures of Participation and Rain-making

One of the reason we chose the name Greenmonk Associates is that this blog is about the associated community. With no community there will be no Greenmonk. Community drives serendipity.

Example1: This morning I got into the office and found an interesting link on my Monkchips blog – as part of a comment on a completely different topic. I followed it and came to Thomas Bjelkeman, one of the leaders behind GreenOcean, a “non-profit organisation which provides education and information about sustainable energy, food and water production based around our oceans.” First post I see there refers to Mark Charmer, one of my Greenmonk partners in crime, and his great post Why Open Source marketing changes everything. The post mentions the Netherlands Water Partnership and the Unesco-IHE Institute for Water Education. These are the organisations we’re working with on the SMART Water project for India. Then the penny finally drops. Thomas is the guy Mark profiled yesterday.

A Swedish entrepreneur and technology visionary, he has worked doggedly to build a series of ventures that tackle the world’s most important problem – access to water.

While studying environmental sciences at Stockholm University, he cut his teeth helping Brit Charlie Paton build the profile of Seawater Greenhouses. The ingenious desalination system, which allows you to grow commercial-scale crops (or power air conditioning) in arid coastal regions using just sunshine and seawater, has bagged lots of awards and now just needs some enlightened punters to get on and build some big commercial projects.”

Which is where Mark comes in, with funding to try and help Thomas build a networked, rather than top down systems, opportunity. They are going to coalesce opportunities, becoming rainmakers for clean water funding.

“The problem, of course, is that many of the ‘systems’ people might build could easily, like a decade of corporate intranets before them, lie unused and unwanted. The point of an open development process is that a concept will constantly adapt to the needs and opportunities of its market – of the communities that use them. There are several communities that will matter for this and other open source projects. Crucially, how do you create something relevant and empowering for the communities themselves? Second is the ability to galvanise the NGO / development community – read hierarchy. And how do you build a base of support among the stakeholders, including NGOs, corporations and national, regional and local governments? Also how do you involve software experts who can make sure the system evolves as it needs to”

Mark and I will both be in SF next week and hopefully make some progress.

Example 2. This morning CleverClogs contacted me via instant message. After we talked about a couple of things I showed her Greenmonk. She immediately suggested some resource and people to reach out to:

Information World Review is looking into Cleantech.

Meanwhile Al Tepper compiled these resources.

Photograph of a waterdrop courtesy of Kevin Pelletier who prefers me to link here.