Seeker Spotlight: Consumer Electronics Association

By InnoCentive

Walter-Alcorn - CEAWe recently posted a Challenge with the Consumer Electronics Association and Environmental Defense Fund as part of our EDF/InnoCentive EcoChallenge Series.  The Challenge seeks financially viable, environmentally-beneficial business models based on the repurposing of recycled Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) glass from used televisions and computer monitors.  We spoke with Walter Alcorn, Vice President of Environmental Affairs for the Consumer Electronics Association about the Challenge and the importance of solving this critical environmental issue.

Hi Walter – thanks for agreeing to talk with our Solvers today.  Your Challenge, New Uses for Recycled Glass, specifically calls for new uses for CRT screens, once the standard for televisions and other types of monitors.  How big a problem is used CRT glass for the environment?

The disposition of used CRT glass is a serious resource conservation and recovery issue.  Although used CRT glass is inert while still intact as old TV and monitor tubes, CRT glass contains a significant amount of lead that could be released into the environment if processed inappropriately or mismanaged.

Safe recycling is a big deal for my industry – the consumer electronics industry. Last April we announced the eCycling Leadership Initiative with an ambitious Billion Pound Challenge to more than triple the amount of electronics recycled annually by our industry from 300 million pounds in 2010 to one billion in 2016.

CEA eCycling ProgramThese billions of pounds of recycled electronics need to be recycled responsibly and the materials put back into productive use.  By weight, more than half of all collected consumer electronics are old televisions and computer monitors, and the heaviest component of most of those products are CRTs. For decades, CRT was the technology of choice in the display industry but during the past decade, demand for CRTs has dropped drastically as newer flat-panel technologies like LCD and plasma have become affordable and widely available. Until now most CRT glass collected for recycling was cleaned up and recycled into new CRT units, but the market for new CRT displays is now nearly gone.  Uses for CRT glass with lead (e.g., funnel glass) is particularly challenging.

Why did you choose to pose this Challenge to the InnoCentive Solver Network?

We needed raise the visibility of this situation beyond the recycling industry.  New applications for CRT glass, and potentially new processing technologies are needed to appropriately recycle this material.  We are excited about the encouraging response from the Solver community with more than 250 project rooms opened in the first 2 weeks.   Hopefully this is a sign that economically and environmentally viable uses for CRT glass truly exist.

What will you do with the solution once it has been selected? Are you hoping to take it forward and would you consider working with the Solver to further develop the solution?

We are a trade association so our capability for direct participation in the solution is limited, but our plan is to make the winning solution(s) public and raise the awareness of both the problem and identified solution(s) to help create market demand for used CRT glass.

Are there other problems that might benefit from the solution to this Challenge?

New uses for CRT glass will reduce the demand for use of virgin materials and extractive activities such as lead mining, thereby providing an additional resource and environmental benefits.  There might also be solutions that could be applied to other materials recovered from consumer electronics, or more likely relevant to other materials recovered from products in other industries.   We’ll just have to see!

Once you have a solution to this Challenge, what’s the next issue you’ll be tackling?

Given the pace of technological change in the consumer electronics industry we will continue to keep an eye on markets for recycling old electronics.  The CRT challenge stands above all others at this point.

What would you like to tell Solvers who are thinking about participating in this Challenge?

We are looking for creative solutions that work both economically and environmentally.  There are at least 2 billion pounds of old CRTs still in use or ready for recycling in the U.S. alone, and globally several times that amount.  Thank you for helping us find good uses for  all that old CRT glass!

Sounds great – thanks Walter, and good luck with your Challenge!

This content is cross-posted on InnoCentive's Perspectives on Innovation Blog.

Freight sustainability future depends on strong EPA SmartWay program

On the train back north from the U. S. Freight Sustainability Summit this past Friday, two thoughts kept circling around in my mind:

  • First, the U. S. EPA SmartWay program has created a powerful coalition working on freight sustainability, and its efforts have produced significant benefits for the environment, economy and energy security.
  • Second, the gulf in scale of action between where we are today and where we need to be is enormous.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) co-hosted the freight summit.

Since its inception, EPA SmartWay has injected $6.1 billion dollars into the U. S. economy by reducing fuel consumption from the nation’s freight system– producing a heck of a return for the small investment that taxpayers have made into this program.  In the process, it has cut over 16 million metric tons of carbon pollution.  It’s a great start.

However, 16 million metric tons is a small percentage of the overall emissions attributed to the freight sector – over half-a-billion metric tons a year in the U. S. alone. And, as we heard again and again at the Freight Sustainability Summit, demand for goods movement is expected to grow significantly over the coming years.   So, we simply need to do more.

There were many reasons for optimism at the summit. Top among these is the collective focus of industry, advocacy groups and government agencies on working collaboratively to further this effort. There is universal recognition that we must radically increase the efficiency of freight movement in order to meet the challenge of increasing levels of freight demand while still facing a tighter fuel market, an aging and overextend infrastructure and an environmental mandate to cut carbon.

We also heard scores of success stories from some of the largest and most sophisticated companies in the world. Lowes has reduced a million tons of carbon already from its fleet. Conway told the group how it cut fuel consumption by six million gallons simply by reducing the top speed for its trucks (now 62mph for less-than-truck load and 65mph for truckload applications). Swift shared some impressive results from its pilot of a new aerodynamic fairing that is bolted on underneath a trailer. Michelin told us about real-world studies demonstrating a 9% improvement in fuel economy for tractor-trailer combinations that use new generation wide base tires. My personal favorite was from Home Depot, which was able to cut its domestic supply chain freight emission by 13% in one year – largely from operational improvements.

It’s not just the Fortune 500 group of companies that are acting. Smaller companies shared their stories too. Vic LaRosa, the president of Total Transportation Services, spoke about how his company is helping reduce air pollution around some of the nation’s busiest ports by leveraging alternative fuels and advance vehicle technologies. Several speakers mentioned how small firms and owner-operators will benefit from increases in truck fuel efficiency.

These stories and other sparked by the leadership of the EPA SmartWay program make very good business sense too.  Walmart alone has cut its fuel costs by half-a-billion dollars a year since 2005 from improved logistics.

Clearly, progress is being made and more – much more – is possible.

Consider for a second that—based on the SmartWay data points of $6.1 billion saved and 16 million metric tons carbon reduced – the average cost of a ton of carbon reduced under this program is negative $381. That is every ton reduced was accompanied by a nearly $400 dollar savings for the company. We’re not dealing with the low-hanging fruit of cutting freight emissions.  We are largely dealing with the apples already on the ground.

Given these massive cost savings still available and the fact that the best science tells us that we need to cut our emissions on the order of 80% over the next 40 years, it is imperative to move freight sustainability well beyond 16 million metric tons that the program has achieved over seven years in fact, we need five to six times these reductions each year going forward.

How do we do this?

First and foremost, we need the EPA SmartWay to remain a strong program. Given its track record of financial returns for society and the urgency of the freight sustainability challenges we face, the program, frankly, should be greatly expanded. SmartWay provides incredibly useful forums for sharing lessons learned. This new generation of tools are performance-based; they enable shippers to track and manage their emissions footprint, while giving carriers a platform where they can compete on environmental performance. Companies that use the services of this vital program should make sure policymakers understand the value it provides.

Next, shippers – the companies that consume goods movement services – need to step up to the plate and join the program in much larger numbers. As they are the primary customers in the freight economy, shippers play a critical role in rewarding superior environmental performance of carriers. If your company purchases goods movement services and you are not sure if it is a member of SmartWay, you can check here.  If it turns out that your company has been on the sidelines of this effort, you can  join SmartWay here.

We all need to redouble effort to share lessons learned. As Randy Mullet if Conway noted, like safety and security, companies should freely share their advancements on sustainability. The journey is too long and the challenge too steep for all of us to have to figure out the answers individually

Finally, the freight community needs to aim higher.  Significant progress has been made over the last seven years of the SmartWay program. The buy-in from diverse stakeholders, case studies from partners and new generation of tools has created a foundation upon which we all need to build a new freight future; one that measures success against an ever larger scale.

New Storm Session: How can the internet drive innovation for sustainable business?

Innovative, environmentally-conscious, and opinionated customers are urged to submit ideas to IdeaStorm’s latest burning topic: How can the internet drive innovation for sustainable business? Dell has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to kick off the current Storm Session, which will run through next Sunday, November 13th.

Although the internet’s impact ranges from powering our daily social activities to helping drive economic growth, many of us take it for granted.  The internet, however, requires materials and fuel just like any other growth engine. While the total global impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is not known, the latest data suggests that between 1.1% and 1.5% of all global electricity production is allocated to servers and data centers alone. While its resource consumption is significant, the internet’s potential impact could dramatically outweigh its cost. For example, The Climate Group’s Smart 2020 Report estimates that ICT has the potential to eliminate 15% of the world’s greenhouse emissions by 2020.

The scope of the Storm Session is specifically focused on ICT sustainability within business. We look forward to hearing your ideas on reducing the environmental impacts of ICT equipment and the internet while accelerating our ability to use these technologies to solve global issues. Everyone is invited to participate by following the conversation, submitting ideas, and commenting and voting on others’ suggestions. Dell and EDF staff will study these ideas and use them to drive discussions and actions by our organizations and, hopefully, by yours as well.

Clicking on the image above will take you right to the Storm Session. Scroll down and select the blue post your idea tab. (You are required to log into your IdeaStorm account first before performing any activity–if you don't already have an account, please register for one.) On that page, you will also have the option to view all posted ideas by the community and vote for your favorite ideas. As you’re brainstorming, please consider the following questions:

  • What information do we need to share to spawn new ideas? How should we share it?
  • Who is not engaged that needs to be engaged?
  • What innovative approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions can business demonstrate today? How can ICT help?
  • What resources and tools exist but are underutilized or still need to be created?
  • What barriers keep employees and customers from contributing to innovation? How do we overcome them?

This Storm Session will also supplement other sustainability projects, including Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s “Low-Carbon Business Innovation” project and EDF’s Eco-Challenge Series. Results from this brainstorming will be used to define and guide discussion at the Green Innovators in Business Solutions Lab on December 8, 2011 in Cambridge, MA. They will also be summarized and distributed online for others to build upon. We take your suggestions very seriously—for those of you who haven’t seen the latest IdeaStorm update, check out the crowdsourced ideas that we’ve recently implemented.

This content is cross-posted on Direct2Dell: The Official Dell Corporate Blog.

Could you deliver a solution to the television-recycling problem?

As more and more households upgrade their old TVs to the newer flat panels, a troubling question must be asked:  What happens to the old ones?   Over the next few years, an estimated one billion pounds of discarded TVs and monitors are anticipated to hit the waste stream.

Recycling seems like the easy answer, but, as usual, the reality is more complicated than that.

To start with, in order for a product to be recycled, there has to be a market for the recycled material.  In the case of old TVs, a large component of that material is cathode ray tube glass, or CRT.  Up until recently, CRT glass was recycled into new CRT glass, but the market has virtually dried up as electronics makers phase out old model TVs.

Additionally, recycling CRT is tricky because, like many electronics, it contains toxic chemicals—in this case lead, a dangerous neurotoxin.  Recycling facilities have to ensure that workers aren’t exposed to lead and that lead is not released into the environment.  And because of this high lead content, CRT glass isn’t suitable for most recycled glass products.

This leaves recyclers and state regulators in a conundrum.  Recyclers can’t continue to stockpile these TVs and monitors indefinitely.  And while many states have bans on sending these units to landfill, California is now considering removing this ban to allow CRT glass to be sent to landfills that are designated for hazardous waste.

But is there a better alternative to land-filling?  Could a new financially viable market for recycled CRT glass be developed, one that has the potential to create net benefits for human health and the environment?

And that’s where the Eco-Challenge Series, Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) crowd-sourcing competition on, comes into play.  The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the trade group of promoting the U.S. consumer electronics industry, has just launched “The Cathode Ray Tube Challenge: New Uses for Recycled Glass.”  This is an “ideation” challenge that is looking for new, out-the-box ideas for reusing CRT.

Over the next 30 days, InnoCentive global community of “Solvers”—scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs in more than 200 countries—will have the opportunity to propose new ideas.  The winning solution will be assessed for economic as well as environmental and health benefits, and awarded $5,000 provided by CEA. Up to four additional solutions are eligible for awards of $1,000 or more.

We expect that the ideas selected will require further study and testing, but who knows?  Maybe a viable solution is just around the corner.  We’ll report back when the results are announced in early 2012.

Where You'll Find Us in November

The wild November come at last! Here's a list of where we've been and where we will be this month.

The Social Enterprise Alliance Conference was held on October 30-November 2 in Chicago, where Beth Trask spoke on a panel.

Victoria Mills and Dave Witzel visited the capital on October 31-November 2 for a panel at the Green Gov Symposium, Washington, D.C.

Victoria Mills then spoke at the Groom Energy Enterprise Smart Grid Conference on November 1-2 in Boston.

Andrew Hutson was a panelist at the Asia Business-Policy Roundtable on Clean Energy [PDF] on November 2 in Singapore.

Some of the EDF Climate Corps team headed to the BSR Conference 2011: Redefining Leadership on November 1-4 in San Francisco. Katie Ware, Isabel Grantham, Emily Reyna, Sitar Mody and our newest EDF Climate Corps team member, Scott Wood attended.

Our next Future of Green call is on November 14 and features Judy Samuelson who will be speaking on “Short-termism.”

Call in at 4:00 pm ET!

To close out the month in style, Elizabeth Sturcken is speaking on a panel at The Green Wine Summit on November 29- 30 in Napa Valley.

As a reminder, the EDF Climate Corps team will be presenting on university campuses during the months of October – January. Check out our EDFbiz Calendar to see when we'll be coming to a campus near you.

Look for us at these conferences – and let us know if you’ll be there so we can watch for you as well!

You can always see where we’re going to be – and what other conferences we know about– on the EDF Biz Calendar.

11/14: Talking "Short-termism," Business and Society with Aspen's Judy Samuelson

A “Future of Green” Open Conference Call

During his speech at the recent BSR Conference, Al Gore said that short-term decision-making in business was “functionally insane,” explaining "It's not only insane where the values that we share are concerned; it's functionally insane where the well-being of that business is concerned… It's the wrong decision for the investors, for the shareholders and for all the stakeholders."

Judy Samuelson, Executive Director of the Business and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, has been tackling just this issue through Aspen’s Corporate Values Strategy Group. Created in 2003, the CVSG is focused on promoting changes in corporate and investment practice such as rebalancing the short-term/long-term focus of business. The 2011 CSVG Summit involved representatives from a wide variety of companies including Alcoa, McKinsey, Duke Energy and BlackRock Inc.

Judy will join us for a Future of Green open conference call to discuss the issues she sees that are constraining business’s contribution to sustainability. We’ll talk about short-termism as well as ask Judy about other projects engaging with business schools and business leaders.

The call is on Monday, November 14, 2011 at 4pm ET (1pm PT).

Join us:

Dial: 712-580-8025 and enter code: 2676815# (it is free and no reservation is necessary).  Bring your questions!

Innovation Innovating (and “Please, come to Boston”)

Growing GIBN Conference Call: Overview of Innovation Innovating ActivitiesOpen conference call and discussion on the variety of sustainability innovation activities.11/8 at 2pm ET
Dial-in:  Phone: (760) 569-9000; Code: 160031#


Online Brainstorming:  How can the Internet drive innovation for sustainable business

Join the Dell/EDF Storm Session. Register and then login to comment and vote.


Solutions Lab: The Business of InnovatingAttend the one day conference and discussion to share, learn, and partner.12/8/11 8am to 5pm ET

Microsoft NERD Center

Cambridge MA

Register now for early bird rate


Innovation is a hot topic. For those of us focused on how business can become more environmentally sustainable, innovation is kind of a holy grail. It is through innovation in products, business models, operations, training, finance and more, that we can expect to protect the environment. Business is a major engine of innovation so we’re expecting it to lead the way.

Fortunately, innovation isn’t just an environmental mandate. It is also critical in order for U.S. business to maintain its global leadership and competitiveness. These two threads tie together nicely – innovation for sustainability is a rich vein for new revenue sources, a good way to drive corporate creativity and to improve employee satisfaction.  Sustainability is both a motivation and a result.

While good things come from innovation, it is still hard to do. A variety of efforts are underway to help us understand and improve; to innovate on innovating. We’re hoping you will join this effort.

Business of Innovating Report: Pew Center on Global Climate Change recently released “Business of Innovating: Bringing Low-Carbon Solutions to Market,” a report focused on how to accelerate business innovation to reduce carbon emissions while maintaining economic growth.  The research found that leading companies are focused on low-carbon innovation in order to hedge risk, capture new business and compete with emerging markets and technologies.

Last week, Pew Center hosted a conference in Atlanta to discuss this work. GE Ecomagination Vice President Mark Vachon opened by explaining GE’s aggressive efforts to foster environmentally friendly technology. He said that choosing between revenue and the environment was a false choice and that GE was deliberately choosing “both.” Report author Andrew Hargadon presented key results –seven keys to success – and industry representatives from HP, Daimler, Johnson Controls, Alstom Power, Duke Energy, Honeywell, Alcoa and elsewhere offered their experience.

We want to help continue the conversation Pew Center has started in a few ways.

Online Brainstorming:  Working with Dell, we are hosting an online brainstorming challenge called a “Storm Session” to generate and critique ideas about how the Internet can help drive innovation for sustainable business.  After you register and login, you will be able to add comments and suggestions as well as vote on other’s comments and suggestions.  The Storm Session is open now and will run until November 13, 2011. After it finishes, we’ll summarize results and post them here on the EDF Business blog.

The Business of Innovating Solutions Lab, Boston, 12/8: The Green Innovators in Business Network (GIBN), in collaboration with Pew Center on Global Climate Change as well as InnoCentive, Microsoft, Trucost, Richer Earth, 2degrees and Dig In is hosting its third Solutions Lab at Microsoft’s NERD Center in Cambridge MA on 12/8. Registration is open now (thus, “Please Come to Boston,” which is a blatant steal from Dave Loggins for those of you too young to remember!)

Like all Solutions Labs, this face-to-face event will focus on discussion among participants. We have a great set of catalyst speakers and experts to help stir the conversation, so it will be a wonderful opportunity to dig into the innovation issues in which you are most interested Participants include:

  • Pew report author Andy Hargadon, who will discuss his research results while company representatives from Johnson Controls and Alstom will be on hand to discuss their case studies.
  • Dwayne Spradlin from InnoCentive will join to talk about challenge driven innovation. (Dwayne’s book, The Open Innovation Marketplace, came out earlier this year.)
  • EDF folk will be there to talk about the EcoChallenge Series, which we’re doing with InnoCentive. We have two “challenges” that have been completed recently and one just launching.
  • Kathrin Winkler, Chief Sustainability Officer from EMC will discuss progress their efforts.
  • Helen Clarkson from Forum for the Future will be there to lead discussion about their innovation approaches and lessons.

Early bird registration ends on 11/23, so go ahead and sign-up now!

Open Conference Call: We’re hosting a “Growing GIBN” open conference call on 11/8 at 2pm ET to discuss all of these activities and more around sustainability and innovation. This will be an opportunity to share thoughts on the “Business of Innovation” report, talk about the Innovation Storm Session and discuss what topics you would like to bring up at the Boston Solutions Lab. Please join the call and give your comments, questions and ideas.

Dial-in info:
Phone: (760) 569-9000
Code: 160031#

Talk to you soon!