Category Archives: Sustainability

$22,500 awarded to clean technology winners

Teams who won the 3rd annual University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge invented solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues. Wind energy. Electric car improvements. Biomass energy. Water purification. Algal biofuel efficiency. The 2011 event also had a range of other clean-tech innovations with 17 teams from Washington state universities (UW, WSU, WWU and SPU) competing. Undergraduate, graduate and PhD students from engineering, business, economics, philosophy and a number of other disciplines joined forces to tackle the environment.

VoltaicGrand Prize of $10,000 = Voltaic

A group of UW undergraduate engineers and business students created an electric vehicle modular drive train that can replace drive trains of gas-powered engines in existing models. The electric module can be customized to fit inside any car and the team displayed a Honda outfitted with its prototype electric engine to show how it powers the car.

2nd Prize of $5,000 = PotaVida

This UW PhD team (an electrical engineer, bio-engineer and policy analyst) created a device that measures water quality with a reusable, solar-powered electronic indicator for monitoring solar disinfection of drinking water. Their inexpensive indicator won a $40,000 design award last year and will be field tested in Bolivia this summer. PotaVida is advised by experts at PATH and Microsoft as well as UW professors.

Three honorable mention prizes of $2,500 each went to other UW interdisciplinary teams. Pterofin invented an affordable, more versatile alternative to wind turbines; the new device is lighter than current wind technology and harnesses wind energy at lower wind speeds. BioTek has a patented and patent-pending suite of tools to help optimize and scale the growing algal biofuel industry; their instruments and software are low-cost and field-ready. C6 Systems created a novel system to turn woody biomass into charcoal (or biochar) at forestry sites; their biochar can be sold to heating/electric plants or used as soil enhancement.

Starbucks VP of Sustainable Procurement Sue Mecklenburg, one of many business, science and venture capital judges at the event, said, “It just gets better every year.”

“The Environmental Innovation Challenge is supposed to be more than a university-level science fair. The goal is to be able to take these ideas into a real, revenue-generating business,” said James Barger, UW undergraduate mechanical engineering student who serves as VP of finance for Voltaic.

The UW Environmental Innovation Challenge is sponsored by the UW Foster School of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UW College of Engineering, UW College of the Environment and UW Center for Commercialization.

Clean technology: the next industrial revolution

Guest post by Trenten Huntington, UW Foster School of Business MBA student

I recently had the opportunity to interview US Representative Jay Inslee (WA-01) about his thoughts on clean technology and the economy. The timing for this was perfect, as we get set for the third annual University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge. As student chair of the Challenge, I realize how solutions to the environmental problems we face require the support of our elected leaders.

As an MBA student interested in entrepreneurship and clean-tech, I feel like I have limitless opportunities to change how we interact with the planet. After speaking with Representative Inslee, I see that the private sector working alone may not have the resources to enact the change we seek. With this in mind, it’s good to know that people like him are working on energy independence and sustainable development for Washington State and the nation.

Watch the video of highlights from my conversation with the congressman.

If you’d like to join us on March 31, 2011 for the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge, please RSVP soon to Pam Tufts.

Trenten Huntington is a full-time MBA student at the Foster School of Business specializing in environmental management. He is the first-year representative for Net Impact and is an active member of the Foster community. Originally from Los Angeles, Huntington is passionate about minimizing our environmental impact through business.

$33,500 awarded to best social innovations

The 2011 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) at the UW Foster School of Business brought in more than 100 entries from university teams around the world who seek to reduce poverty and solve social problems through sustainable business and technology endeavors.

Sanergy won grand prize
Sanergy won grand prize

“How do we help make social innovations scale? It’s through visibility, encouragement and investment,” said GSEC award banquet keynote speaker Dan Shine, senior innovation advisor at the Office of Science & Technology at USAID.

Grand Prize of $12,500 went to Sanergy. Led by a diverse team (of engineering, business, urban planning and design students) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA), University of Cambridge (Cambridge UK) and Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA), Sanergy addresses both social and economic issues among Kenya’s poor by making sanitation safe, affordable and accessible through innovative technologies—such as small-scale toilets—that collect waste and convert it to energy or fertilizer. Their business model ultimately seeks to reduce sanitation-related disease in Africa. Sanergy also won the new Rotary Prize for Social Impact of $1,000.

welloGlobal Health Prize of $10,000 went to Wello. Led by University of Michigan MBA students, Wello provides clean, affordable water to rural India communities through their innovative, mobile WaterWheel that alleviates the burden of carrying water from source to house while also providing entrepreneurial opportunities for rural residents via delivery service.

A new Information & Communication Tech Prize of $10,000 went to NextDrop led by a diverse team (of business, engineering, public policy and information technology students) from University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University. NextDrop addresses clean water scarcity in rural India by improving the distribution of information about water availability via mobile phone technology. NextDrop works with both local water utilities and consumers to provide more predictable water supplies and improve water management.

“GSEC is a gem among University of Washington programs. Global health is a quest that relies on new tools and alliances… to alleviate disparities,” said Dr. Judy Wasserheit, professor and vice chair of the University of Washington School of Public Health.

The Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition is organized each year by the Global Business Center at University of Washington Foster School of Business.

People’s Choice Award winner: Wello at 2011 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition

welloTeams from around the world gathered for the 2011 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition. Last night, Wello won the People’s Choice Award at the trade show, where more than 50 investors and the public heard about novel business ideas to solve global poverty.

People’s Choice winning company: Wello
Team: Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
Business idea: Using their WaterWheel, Wello provides affordable, clean water to rural India. The wheel is a tool to retrieve clean water without heavy lifting and can be used directly by families or employ people to work their way out of poverty by serving as water distributors.

Teams are still competing for grand prize at the UW Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition. Later this week, we’ll announce finalist winning teams who will leave Seattle with seed money for their projects.

Video: Clean energy trends and challenges

Wind power. Natural gas. Hydro power. Solar power. When Puget Sound Energy President Kimberly Harris spoke with University of Washington Foster School of Business alumni, students and faculty about clean energy recently, she was also speaking with her customers.

Puget Sound Energy is the 2nd largest owner and operator of wind power in the United States and the utility’s Green Power Program was named one of the US Department of Energy’s “top 10” renewable energy programs in the nation. The Washington-based company continues to look for new ways to address energy efficiency, smart grids and power Washington residents and businesses with heat and electricity. While offering a public service and being heavily regulated, Puget Sound Energy also operates like a business, focusing on customers, return on investment, return on energy, operations management and technology innovation.

What challenges and opportunities face our energy suppliers? How can we as consumers, communities and businesses contribute to clean energy and energy efficiency? What is the future of energy? Watch this 7-minute video of excerpts from Harris’ clean energy lecture.

Click on the image below to watch video.

Kimberly Harris was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.

Engineering and international studies students get involved in Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition

Guest post by Ryan Kelley (UW international studies student) and Adrian Chu (UW engineering student)

Why is an international studies grad student engaged in social entrepreneurship?

I am a second year student at the University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies with a focus in political economy. Both politics and economics have developed to a point of interconnectivity that cannot be ignored, as political issues often are economic issues, with the reverse being true as well.

I see the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) at the UW Foster School of Business as a focal point where bold global contestants—each having a unique window to a concept as broad and penetrating as “poverty,” represent the vanguard of beneficial changes that can be made to the world. What about each team makes their project the most apropos to how they see poverty? Does this say something about where they are from? Does their solution have a regional impact or transferability beyond a region?

If questions such as these have the possibility of being answered, what this means to me, as it should to anyone currently in international studies, is that GSEC is a global lobby where the problems of the world are brought to light in the context of their possible solutions. What the contestants ultimately bring to the table will in some way be a representation of the future in a way that we have not seen before. I believe that that promise alone begs the attention of everyone.

Ryan Kelley is a UW international studies graduate student fluent in English, Japanese and Spanish who is serving as a 2011 GSEC ambassador to foreign teams who meet in Seattle to compete.

Why is an electrical engineering undergrad student engaged in social entrepreneurship?

Growing up, I have always had a passion for entrepreneurship. The concept of social entrepreneurship occurred to me a few years ago when I came across the paper entitled “Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition,” by Sally Osberg and Roger Martin on the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In the past few years, I have become increasing interested in entrepreneurial endeavors. I have been participating in a number of competitions offered by the UW Foster School of Business’ Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship: the Environmental Innovation Challenge, Business Plan Competition and the Science & Technology Showcase. Each of these activities taught me valuable lessons on the pathway to creating a successful business.

My own curiosity drew me further. Being environmentally friendly is one thing, but how can something be “green” and at the same time improve social welfare around the world?

My motivation to participate in the UW Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition was driven by the desire to apply my past professional and academic experiences in order to learn new things, meet new people and play a role in saving the world one step at a time. As an engineer, our primary occupation is to solve challenging problems. A typical business venture consists of identifying a problem and proposing a solution, while trying to maintain a profit. Social entrepreneurship is an amazing feat, where its success synergizes traditional principles of business and the ability to make a positive difference. Serving as the 2011 GSEC marketing co-chair and team ambassador for Sanergy, I am looking forward to seeing how an idea can transform into engineering design that can be developed into a product that will make a positive difference in the daily lives of people in developing countries.

Adrian Chu is a senior in electrical engineering at the University of Washington and the marketing co-chair and team ambassador for this year’s GSEC.

Expanding cosmos—women in leadership study tour

Guest post by Melanie Sharpe, Foster MBA 2011 with a global business focus

BananaLeafIn the pre-trip brief just hours before we left for India, our professor Cate Goethals made a preparatory comment I’ll always remember as I weave my way through the world: “Becoming cosmopolitan means expanding and pushing the current boundaries and edges of your world.”

The trip to India expanded my cosmos in that very way. It exposed me to a diverse array of Indian leaders that redefined my perspective of business leadership as a woman—an aspect of business school that is largely overlooked and one I admittedly had not taken the time to consider prior to the transformative trip.

Inspiring women entrepreneurs

We encountered a colorful gamut of inspiring women. From workaholic bankers to avant-garde filmmakers to powerful lawyers and wealthy philanthropists to arguably the most influential female spiritual guru in the world to rural tree harvesters—all incredibly ambitious and driven women who seemed to have something very profound in common: They all seemed to be working to uplift others around them.

Call it social entrepreneurship or call it a compulsion to help better their community or family. Sometimes this innate desire compelled them to work 16-hour days to allow their fatherless children to have a better future. Sometimes that internal murmur told them that funding clean water was the only way to ensure the success of future generations of Indians. Sometimes that calling told them to hold and convey love to thousands of people everyday. In each instance, the evidence of that desire to give was palpable and tremendously inspiring.

TajThe pinnacle of the trip was hearing Rohini Nilekani, wife of the Infosys founder, speak at her clean water non-profit, Arghyam. Her profound statement: “Your generation no longer has the luxury of pessimism” was galvanizing. No longer can we absentmindedly guzzle water from plastic bottles or live in first-world luxury flushing away our waste with fresh water without considering the ramifications to the earth or other members of the world community. Her CEO Sunita Nadhamuni was an example of such awareness. Nadhamuni and her husband had reinvented the American business school dream of Silicon Valley wealth, prominent management positions and a constant search for “more” by transitioning their careers to work that directly helped communities of people have access to clean water.

Globally interconnected economy

The trip to India opened my world to the interconnectedness of the global economy. Imagine Dharavi: Asia’s largest slum, prominently featured in the blockbuster film “Slumdog Millionaire” as an impenetrable, crime-filled, filthy dystopia. The reality? The living conditions were certainly difficult: On average there is 1 toilet per 1,500 people! But the families inside the neat and tidy (albeit tiny) apartments were hardworking, entrepreneurial and contributing to global economic epicenters of recycling and clothes dyeing. In fact, many of the raw materials that we consume in the United States are sourced straight from Dharavi.

I left India transformed. The trip confirmed what I had suspected for my own career path: My own compulsion to serve was an innate calling that could be aligned with both business ideals and women’s leadership. Arriving at this realization completed the goal of the trip. My cosmos is expanded forever.

Melanie is an MBA student participant in the University of Washington Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.

Urban Enterprise Center: advocating for multiculturalism AND sustainability

Guest post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganWhether you belong to the Urban Enterprise Center (UEC) or not, you benefit from its programs and vision. Established in 1993 as the multicultural business arm of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, its focus is to build and nurture cross-cultural economic relationships for the benefit of all.

At the UEC sustainability is considered as an ethical and systemic response to the type of fragmented thought in the “old” culture that traditionally allowed people to marginalize and abuse resources without considering impacts on the whole planet.

The UEC applies this holistic thinking to business and economic development with educational resources, job skills training, business literacy, multicultural marketing, cross-cultural business development, policy advocacy and personal development.  “We can help folks to focus on specific job skills, training and knowledge for a career or to establish a green-oriented business,” says Dr. Skip Rowland, executive director.

Dr. Rowland explains, “The whole civil rights issue is about reducing the marginalization of people, because doing so damages our whole society. We need to also think about how marginalized thinking damages our air, water and land.”

The UEC has formed strategic partnerships with scores of organizations that include Enterprise Seattle, Prosperity Partnership, and scores of multicultural organizations.  UEC makes connections by raising awareness of minority-owned businesses and helping businesses expand their customer bases to multi-cultural markets.  Currently, the UEC has about 12 committees of volunteers who focus on a range of issues relevant to communities and businesses of color.

“The act of being green reminds us of a way of thinking about how life on the planet is meant to be lived,” says Dr. Rowland.  “Green is where the economy must go to sustain our planet.” For more information about the Urban Enterprise Center, call 206.389.7231.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

The ABCs of LEED

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganIt is almost impossible these days for there to be a discussion about building or development that does not include discussion of LEED, an internationally-adopted third party certification of environmental excellence in metrics related to energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources and sensitivity to impacts.

LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” was initiated by Robert Watson in 1993 to:

  • Define “green building” by establishing a common standard of measurement
  • Promote integrated, whole-building design practices
  • Recognize environmental leadership in the building industry
  • Stimulate green competition
  • Raise consumer awareness of green building benefits
  • Transform the building market

Although it is not the only certification system for sustainability, it is certainly the best known. With the broad-based efforts of the US Green Building Council, LEED has become the global sustainability certification standard for everything from building design to interiors to whole neighborhoods.  And, oh yes, for people, too! 

Increasingly, public agencies are requiring or incentivizing compliance with LEED standards in new construction. In addition, many believe that LEED accreditation of buildings and neighborhoods offer a real market advantage for people who want to live and work in healthy, environmentally-responsible settings.

Individuals can become accredited as either LEED Green Associates or LEED APs through a program administered by the Green Building Certification Institute. The Institute offers educations and seminars, and certifies environmental expertise through a testing program. 

LEED certification can open doors to the green economy for minority entrepreneurs in architecture, construction, planning, engineering or design. It represents official recognition of expertise in sustainability from the industry, and it is a way for you to become current with state-of-the-art business practices in the new green economy.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Greenlining: how can we make it work for the Northwest?

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganMost of us know about “redlining,” the historic practice of disinvestment by banks, insurance companies, and other institutions of communities of color and low income people.  In the 60’s and 70’s, there were a flurry of corrective actions at the national level, such as the 1968 Fair Housing Act and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act.

The concept of “greenlining” was invented to turn redlining on its head by reinvesting in low-income, minority and disabled communities. A multi-ethnic Greenlining Coalition was formed in California in the mid-1970’s. In 1993, they established the Greenlining Institute, a multi-ethnic public policy research and advocacy center. The Institute’s programs range from leadership training to policy advocacy to a Green Assets program supporting sustainable businesses in communities of color.

A recent Green Assets publication, Greening Our Neighborhoods: a Carbon Metric for All, makes a case for block-by-block “whole house” energy retrofits that target low-income neighborhoods that can benefit the most from energy savings. In the process, jobs are created and carbon is reduced. Their case study of 36 homes in Census Tract of Richmond, California documented significant energy and economic benefits from a range of weatherization, conservation and appliance replacement actions.

Funds becoming available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for energy retrofits and green programs can benefit the triple bottom line for natural, economic and social environments. Organizations like the Greenlining Institute are working to position businesses and communities of color to access these opportunities. Their experience and business model offers promising lessons for emerging businesses in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.