Category Archives: Businesses Going Green

A Greener Champagne Bottle

Newly forged bottles, still red hot, being checked at random for defects at the Saint Gobain glass bottle factory.

By LIZ ALDERMAN  THE NEW YORK TIMES  Published: August 31, 2010

REIMS, France — Deep below a lush landscape of ripening Champagne grapes, Thierry Gasco, the master vintner for Pommery, ran his finger over the shoulders of a dark green bottle that looked just like the thousands of others reposing in his chilly subterranean cellars.

But to the practiced hand and eye, there is a subtle, if potentially significant, difference.

“This is how we’re remaking the future of Champagne,” he said, pointing to the area just below the neck. “We’re slimming the shoulders to make the bottle lighter, so our carbon footprint will be reduced to help keep Champagne here for future generations.”

The Champagne industry has embarked on a drive to cut the 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide it emits every year transporting billions of tiny bubbles around the world. Producing and shipping accounts for nearly a third of Champagne’s carbon emissions, with the hefty bottle the biggest offender.

Yet while many other industries might plaster their marketing with eco-friendly claims, changes to Champagne, as with so much else in France, are being made discreetly. Producers in this secretive business are tight-lipped about the costs and occasionally enigmatic about how much their carbon emissions will really be cut.

“Champagne is sometimes more humble than it should be,” said Philippe Wibrotte of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, the region’s trade organization. “Much is done for the promotion of the environment, but it’s kept quiet because we want to make sure each step is perfect.”

The industry speaks in hushed tones, too, in deference to the luxurious image and ritualistic traditions of Champagne, as symbolized for centuries by the bottle. It was Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk, who first thickened the glass in the mid-1600s to contain what was often referred to as “the devil’s wine” because its vessels exploded so often. Over time, the bottle was gradually recalibrated until 900 grams, or about two pounds, became the standard weight in the early 1970s.

The current retooling, which uses 65 fewer grams (2.3 ounces) of glass, is in response to a 2003 study of Champagne’s carbon footprint, which the industry wants to cut 25 percent by 2020, and 75 percent by 2050.

The move comes as efforts to reduce carbon output and improve vineyard ecology are accelerating worldwide, as wine houses reduce packaging, pesticides, water use and transportation. In California, for example, winegrowers are promoting what their trade group, the Wine Institute, says are nearly 230 “green practices,” including methods to cut carbon emissions.

Champagne accounts for only 10 percent of the three billion bottles of sparkling wine produced globally each year. But the bottle stands out for its heft. Italian prosecco, for instance, uses a 750-gram bottle. But it and its various fizzy cousins have only about half the pressure of Champagne — which generates three times the air pressure of a typical car tire.

Although some of Pommery’s restyled bottles are already on the market, the C.I.V.C. expects all Champagne houses to start using the new 835-gram vessel next April for bottling this month’s grape harvest; the new wave of bottles will hit stores after three years of fermentation. The effort, the group says, will trim carbon emissions by 8,000 metric tons annually — the equivalent of taking 4,000 small cars off the road.

“For Champagne producers to reduce the weight of their packaging is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Tyler Colman, an author of environmental studies on the wine industry, “because there’s less mass to transport around the world.”

Vranken-Pommery Monopole, which in addition to Pommery owns Heidsieck & Company Monopole and other labels, got a head start by adopting the lighter bottle in 2003. Consumers around the world may have already uncorked some specimens without noticing the new bottle. Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot and a few others quietly switched this year, with those bottles still under fermentation.

The rest of the Champagne producers are deciding whether to embrace the C.I.V.C.’s mandate, which is voluntary but carries special force in this clannish community.

Designing a new bottle was no small feat. The container still had to withstand Champagne’s extreme pressure. It would also need to survive the four-year obstacle course from the factory floor to the cellars to the dining table, and fit in existing machinery at all Champagne houses. And it had to be molded so that consumers would barely detect the difference in the bottle’s classic shape.

“The bottle is part of Champagne’s image, and we don’t want to affect it,” said Daniel Lorson, a spokesman for the trade group.

Mr. Gasco said Vranken Pommery, one of the largest houses, has spent 500,000 to one million euros ($635,000 to about $1.3 million) each year since 1994 on environmental initiatives, including research and testing of the lighter bottle.

But the bottle, he said, is not about money, which has become tighter since the financial crisis. Industrywide sales for Champagne last year were 3.7 billion euros ($4.7 billion), down from nearly 5 billion euros in 2007.

“Reducing their carbon footprint and energy use is also a great way to make their operations more financially viable, especially with the economy the way it is,” said Euan Murray, an official at the Carbon Trust, a nonprofit group that advises businesses and government on global warming issues.

Sipping a glass of Pommery during an interview, Mr. Gasco eventually disclosed that the new bottles cost around 32 euro cents (41 United States cents) each, not much cheaper than the classic. But Mr. Gasco, who sits on the C.I.V.C.’s bottling panel, said “if everyone starts to use it, the price will come down.” Any savings, however, would be too slight to pass on to consumers, he said.

Most of the new Champagne bottles are made at the St. Gobain plant near here, where molten red glass is dropped from a 20-foot-high chute into molds at a rate of 160 a minute. The glass is cooled from more than 1,000 degrees Celsius for over an hour, scanned for imperfections and stacked on pallets for shipping.

A worker on Pommery’s assembly line, who declined to be named, said he noticed that a few more of the new bottles were exploding, and that they made a higher-pitched sound when they clinked together. Mr. Gasco denied there were more explosions, and said any damage more likely came from using heat to inject the cork.

Bruno Delhorbe, the director at the St. Gobain factory, said that using less glass lowered the carbon emissions necessary to make each bottle by 7 percent, and allowed about 2,400 more to be placed inside delivery trucks, reducing the number of trucks on the road.

Slimming the shoulders while thinning the glass, he noted, also allowed his clients to avoid giving their customers more Champagne for the same price.

Of course, there are even lighter alternatives: Many of the world’s producers of still wines are employing plastic bottles and box containers to reduce their carbon footprint.

But it may be a long time before Champagne goes that route. Most houses take pains to cultivate an image of luxury through packaging and pricing — and intimations that other sparkling wines are inferior because they simply are not Champagne.

Still, many producers insist that while tradition has its place, the environmentally motivated changes are about the future. Patrick LeBrun, an independent producer, said he started going green “for personal reasons.” He has not used herbicides for five years, and this year, he is putting all of his product into the lighter bottle.

“There’s about a 2-cent price difference but that’s not what decided me,” he said. Trying to improve the environment “is my contribution to the next generation.”


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Empire State Building Goes Green, One Window at a Time

By David Roth

A fifth floor space inside the Empire State Building has been transformed into a cramped window-making workshop.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

How does a Depression-era skyscraper go green? For the Empire State Building, which is in the middle of $550 million renovation that includes about $100 million in energy-efficient upgrades, all 6,514 windows must be replaced. And that’s no easy task.

As The Journal’s Anton Troianovski reports, the greening of the iconic 79-year-old tower has become a platform for Anthony Malkin, the real-estate scion who runs the building, to criticize as insufficient popular programs for assessing the environmental sustainability of buildings. If the world follows the U.S. lead on energy use, he told the audience at a real-estate panel earlier this summer, “We’re all going to die and we’ll go to war along the way.”

For the Empire State Building’s windows, Malkin brought in Serious Materials to handle a pane-by-pane upgrade. The Silicon Valley-based building materials company is transforming the old, inefficient windows into “super-insulating” units, a sort of glass sandwich that combines the existing panes with a mixture of inert gases and film. The finished product is a window anywhere from 250% to 400% more efficient than the windows they replace, according to the company.

“Dirty little secret: double-pane windows aren’t all that efficient,” says Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace.

The replacement windows, which use what Surace calls a “suspended film system,” break up the convection current between the inside and outside of a building. That means less heat sneaks in through the windows on hot days when the air-conditioning is running, and warm air from inside has a harder time leaking out when it’s cold outside.

The team of workers tasked with the window upgrade spend their days removing, cleaning and re-fabricating the building’s 12-year-old double-pane windows. The process, which began in March and is expected to run until October, is projected to reduce solar heat gain by more than half and save $400,000 each year in energy costs.

The window work is being done on site, in an office-turned-workshop on the Empire State Building’s fifth floor. Malkin estimates that keeping the process in-house saves $2,300 per window. The Serious Materials workspace buzzes between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m., processing 75 windows per day in a space roughly the size of a Manhattan apartment. The room is so snug that engineers for the project had to shrink some of their equipment to fit in the space.

Keeping the workshop on site ensures the windows are out of their frames for just about 20 hours before the upgraded window is ready. The process is designed to keep waste at a minimum: just 4% of the building’s existing windows are being discarded, and only the gasket surrounding the original windows winds up in the trash.

Workers remove the windows from office spaces at night and bring them downstairs to the workshop. Once there, the windows are removed from their frames and peeled apart like Oreo cookies before being cleaned. The first cleaning is manual, using razor blades and pumices, followed by a wash with a chemical solution and finally water.

The deconstructed windows are then fitted with new steel spacers, treated with a metallized film and baked flat in an oven at 205 degrees. The windows are then sealed with a mixture of Kyrpton and Argon gas. Finally, the upgraded windows are put back — with the help of careful but firm malleting — into their original aluminum frames.

The on-site re-use and refabrication of the Empire State Building’s windows is unprecedented on a project of this size. But Paul Rode, the project executive from Johnson Controls Inc. who is overseeing the retrofit, believes it could become a popular model in the industry. “I’m never waiting for product. If a problem ever comes up, we don’t have to call someplace that’s 500 miles away,” he says. “Logistically, that’s just what you want in the construction business.”

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Abu Dhabi To Build First Full Eco-City

April 7th, 2010

When we talk about the Middle East Asia, we imagine harsh terrain, blazing sun and sand dunes. Abu Dhabi is a part of the United Arab Emirates. Its currently hostile area is being developed as the world’s first carbon neutral city in the coming 5 to 10 years. This city will be a green example that will not be constructed using polluting technologies and fossil fuels. The greatest irony is this city would be located in a country that is a leading producer of fossil fuels. Its architects and designers claim that the city will be powered up by various forms of renewable energy, including solar and wind power.

The scorching heat during daytime in the desert will not be easy. This time architects decided to take the intense heat from the blazing sun into their stride. They want to make sun their ally not an adversary. They will incorporate many new solar technologies into the city, including centralization devices. These devices would concentrate sunlight gathered by mirrors into a central tower. This tower would then send a 1-meter-thick stream of light into various generators, for generation of power. The whole city will be dominated by a large LED, which will be affixed onto the rooftop of a wind turbine. The city is christened as Masdar City.

If Masdar city’s LED tower is showing blue light then it means that all the power levels in the city are running accordingly.If the LED is showing red light that means renewable sources of power are unable to generate sufficient power for the time being. Cars will not be allowed in the Masdar city. Therefore inhabitants of Masdar will not suffer from pollutions caused by carbon dioxide. Masdar city will be free of large structures such as skyscrapers. The architects want to reduce the amount of baking needed to make the cement. If you want to go from one place to another walk or use underground transport system. It can be Personal Rapid Transit, featuring podcars. These vehicles will not be driven by man. They will ply using magnetic lanes to a destination of the passenger’s choosing.

Masdar is not a distant dream. Some of the work regarding this city has already progressed. The construction cost of this city would be between $15 and $30 billion dollars. This project is funded by the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Designers of this city will also use some of the technologies inspired directly from lunar base concepts. This technology will help in heat dissipation, shade, breezes and clean air for all Masdar inhabitants.

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Green is the New Red – How the Eco-Clothing Movement is Changing the Fashion World Today

Green is the New Red – How the Eco-Clothing Movement is Changing the Fashion World Today

From celebrities to manufacturers, there many people leading the revolution towards a more eco friendly clothing market. It used to be a serious challenge trying to find clothing and accessories that are both stylish and sustainable. Now, thanks to a number of forward thinking individuals and companies, fashionistas can find clothes that are both trendy and environmentally friendly.

Many celebrities and nouveau designers have embraced this ‘green’ movement and have started to roll out new fashion lines that use only organic materials and efficient manufacturing processes. Stella Mcartney has created a new line with the goal of making eco friendly clothing more fashionable and fun. Stella is a perfect example of this new trend in the fashion and beauty industries towards more environmentally friendly products.

Another example of a successful venture in the green fashion movement is the ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ tote bag. Anya Hindmarch created this new line of reusable tote bags to encourage to stop wasting and start thinking about their purchasing choices. The excitement surrounding the release of this bag and its immense popularity is a good indication that fashion fans (i.e. the market) are enthusiastic about the arrival of eco-friendly cloth bags to replace their standard plastic bags.

While these types of advancements in the retail arena get a lot of publicity, there are many other companies involved in the production of clothing and fabrics that have been jumping on the eco train as well. While fashion designers are taste-creators, there are several exciting companies operating in the background to provide these designers with the materials they need to make the ‘greenest’ decisions.

From manufacturers who protect their workers’ rights and environment to companies focused on making sure the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process is minimal, the fashion world has numerous unsung heroes.

One company has developed a new air dye technology that can dye textiles without the use of water. Apart from the vital conservation H20, it reduces energy requirements and needs less sources of pollution in the manufacture and application of the dyes. Similar to the Stella Mccartney and Anya Hindmarch, this innovation doesn’t sacrifice style at the expense of being eco-friendly.

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The Environmental Perks of DIY Soda Machines

The environmental perks of DIY soda machines
Elisabeth Braw
22 February 2010 04:00

When Sodastream was founded a century ago, it was a luxury device for the upper class.

Today the DIY soda company rides high again, thanks to fizzy-drink lovers’ eco-consciousness.

“It’s great when a company has a reason to exist,” says Sodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. “Every time we sell a machine, we think ‘we just saved the world from a thousand bottles.”

That’s not what Sodastream focused on in 1903, when it presented its first soda-making machine.

“For the first decades, our machines were pretty much just used by the aristocracy,” concedes Birnbaum.

“In the 50’s they became a household item. But three years ago, we realized that we’re an extremely green company.”

Sodastream’s realization came at the right time.

Today Sodastream sells its soda-machines and 180 different-flavored syrups in 32 countries, including the United States, Mexico and most of the EU.

It remains the market leader in DIY soda machines, and for the past three years, sales have increased steadily.

“People are realizing that they can make their own Coke in 10 seconds and help the environment, too,” says Birnbaum. “But we can’t compete with Coca-Cola.”

It can’t compete with Coca-Cola’s price, either: the machine retails for $60 and up.
The syrups and the fizz-adding gas cylinders add to the cost.

While regular consumption quickly makes the it pay for itself, Birnbaum concedes that the up-front cost turns people off.

“The environment alone isn’t enough to make Sodastream a mass-market product,” he says.
“We have to reduce the price of the machine.”

Meanwhile, the Israel-based company is adding cylinder-filling stations in different markets — it’s about to open two in Holland and Sweden — to reduce its cylinders’ flight miles.

“There’s a revolution happening.” exclaims Birnbaum. “100 years ago soda-machines were about convenience. Now they’re about the environment.”

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DiMora Develops First Production Electric Jet Ski

DiMora Eco Watercraft, the newest affiliate of the growing DiMora transportation empire, is about to open up thousands of lakes and waterways worldwide for water recreation enthusiasts. Its new line of high performance, 100 percent electric, battery-powered jet skis will produce no pollution and be far quieter than traditional gasoline-engine craft. These features will overcome the two main objections that limit jet ski acceptance in countless recreation areas.

In announcing the new company, Founder and CEO Sir Alfred DiMora noted his personal excitement about the opportunity to bring environmental consciousness to this sport. “There is a growing awareness in most of the world that we need to plan all aspects of our technological development with a view toward the long-term sustainability of our planet’s resources.”

DiMora went on to say, “This does not mean that we have to give up all of the pleasures of life. Instead, we should rethink the technology involved to create a thrilling experience on the water while we minimize our adverse impact on the environment. The key is a open-minded search for innovations that allow us to meet both objectives.”

The Stealth jet ski carries four passengers in a body made largely from high-strength lava rock using techniques pioneered by DiMora Motorcar. It features solar panels to power systems and recharge batteries. High-intensity underwater LEDs provide light for nighttime recreation and to explore beneath the jet ski. GPS navigation and a high-power music and video entertainment system are standard.

Refreshments can be carried aboard the removable cooler, and the onboard canopy may be raised for shade. A rear-mounted camera and dashboard display allow the driver to check the safety of water-skiers pulled by the jet ski.

Returning to the decision to make the Stealth all electric, DiMora noted that “Fossil fuels are a limited resource with related ecological problems. Electricity is increasingly being generated with earth-friendlier systems such as solar panels and wind turbines, so it is feasible and logical to base our recreation systems on renewable electricity rather than gasoline.”

About the DiMora Companies

Based in Palm Springs, California, DiMora Motorcar crafts automobiles designed to exceed expectations in every aspect of automotive engineering. DiMora Custom Bikes takes the DiMora passion for technological innovation and uncompromising quality that is the hallmark of the Natalia SLS 2 and brings it to the motorcycle world. Its products are available worldwide through the growing DiMora dealer network.

Alfred J. DiMora, founder and CEO, has produced two of America’s finest luxury automobiles, the Clenet, as owner, and the Sceptre, as co-founder. When President Reagan declared 1986 the Centennial Year of the Gasoline-Powered Automobile, the Clenet was selected as the Official Centennial Car, resulting in honors for DiMora and the Clenet at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Michigan.

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Mattress Makers Want You to Sleep in the Lap of Luxury

Mattress makers want you to sleep in the lap of luxury

By Debbie Arrington
Published: Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1D

Nothing says “I love you” like a good night’s sleep, especially in luxury.

“Mattress shopping is the perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day with your sweetie,” says Earl Kluft, a third-generation mattress maker and president of Aireloom Co. “It’s all about comfort.”

Adds Organic Mattresses Inc. founder Walt Bader: “You spend so much time in bed and, on Valentine’s Day, sometimes even more.”

Italian mattress maker Magniflex goes further, decorating its Love Collection with oversize kisses and heart designs. Removable and washable, the plush cover is made to be seen (who needs sheets?), but these luxury mattresses also boast body-contouring memory foam and even adjust to body temperature.

Bader’s all-American organic mattresses – the wool is from Sonoma sheep – have made his Yuba City company a go-to source for the ultimate in feel-good sleep. (OMI mattresses reportedly grace some White House bedrooms.)

As with other home goods, eco-friendly features have boosted mattress brands such as OMI, which has seen business double in the past three years. Its pure natural latex layers reportedly help with muscle recovery, a selling point for older weekend warriors.

Well-off shoppers also can find mattresses sewn with silver, gold or platinum thread (to discourage germs), covered with silk or cashmere. Fibers are infused with scent, so a gentle roll will release waves of lavender, chamomile or other therapeutic fragrances.

Such ultra-luxurious mattresses cost more than many cars. “We make custom models that cost $24,000 to $75,000 for a queen size, and we sell quite a few,” says Magniflex’s Andrea Mugnai. “They look really expensive; they’re very niche-y, very edgy. But you’d be surprised. We sell a lot of them in the U.S., particularly to professional basketball players.”

Adds Aireloom’s Kluft, “We’re introducing a $44,000 model at Bloomingdale’s because the $33,000 (mattress) we brought out last year wasn’t enough. People wanted something even more luxurious.”

Trying to bounce back from its worst sales slump in 40 years, the mattress industry is using luxury as a lure.

Though high-end mattresses costing over $2,000 still account for less than 10 percent of total sales, this segment keeps growing. Demand for eco-friendly products has joined with a desire for pampering.

Makers have also begun targeting men with extras such as beds made with pop-up flat-screen TVs, built-in safes and champagne buckets. Magniflex markets its Tonino Lamborghini model (with logos from the famed carmaker) as man-cave material.

But the high-end excess has more affordable layers underneath.

“We’re experiencing two levels of luxury shopping,” Mugnai says. “Yes, we have mattresses sewn with 22-karat white gold, but we also have queens starting at $1,000 that feature all the same quality and ‘green’ certification. That’s a big plus for consumers.”

Magniflex rolled out its Love Collection at this month’s 2010 winter Las Vegas Market furniture show. The reaction?

“It generates a major wow effect,” Mugnai says of his whimsical mattresses, priced at $2,000 and up for queens. The Lamborghini king retails for about $3,000.

Kluft wants a different exclamation. “We’re all about the ‘ah’ factor,” says Kluft, who has introduced several mattress innovations.

From its home base in Rancho Cucamonga, Aireloom has re-emerged as America’s premier luxury mattress brand. Kluft, whose family has been making mattresses since the 1920s, bought the brand in 2004.

“Even in a bad economy, we’re No. 1 on the high end,” he says. “Aireloom has always been the mattress of the rich and famous. The Reagans took them with them to Washington. Frank Sinatra and John Lennon slept on Airelooms.”

Though Airelooms feature such patented innovations as “open-chamber construction,” the brand’s appeal stays rooted in old-fashioned craftsmanship, Kluft says – much of it by hand.

An average mattress takes an hour to put together. High-end mattresses take four to five hours each; the most expensive require four to five days.

Industry experts say new products are the key to reinvigorating the sales of mattresses, which are designed to last seven to 10 years.

Sealy, Serta and Simmons still lead the U.S. market, accounting for about 60 percent of sales. They, too, have followed luxury trends. For example, designer Vera Wang teamed with Serta for a special edition.

At OMI in Yuba City, Bader has seen the work force grow to 50 at his state-of-the-art factory in a converted fruit storage warehouse. Its queen mattress prices range from $1,695 to about $8,000.

“Even in the recession, there are still people who are able to effectuate their desires and are willing to pay for it, be it a couch or a mattress,” Bader says. “A lot of celebrities buy our mattresses; Ben Affleck bought one last week.”

Comfort always is bedding’s bottom line, and that differs with every sleeper. Giving as many options as possible, OMI’s OrganicPedic 81 includes 18 layers of latex, each individually upholstered, that can be reconfigured into 81 different combinations. (The king retails for about $8,200.)

“People want comfort, and there’s a lot of comfort available in natural, all-organic materials,” Bader adds. “This is a product you’re going to use one-third of your life.”

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