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The mission of the Your Mark on the World Center is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.

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Turning Sunlight Into Tax Advantaged Income

Clean Energy Advisors sponsors the Your Mark on the World Center which publishes this site.


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Many people are looking for practical ways to participate in the booming solar energy industry. Clean Energy Advisors, our sponsor, offers a way for accredited investors to participate in solar energy projects.

The Clean Energy Advisors investment model is described in the video below.

We all understand the primary appeal of solar power is that the fuel–sunlight–is free and abundant. CEA uses investors’ capital to fund small utility-scale solar projects. Each project has a contract, typically 25 years, in place to sell solar power. The buyer or “off taker” is obligated to buy all of the power produced during the contract. The off takers are carefully underwritten to assure future cash flows. The off takers are usually utilities who sell the power to commercial and residential customers who otherwise might receive power from nonrenewable sources.

The power purchase agreements or PPAs are structured as fixed rate contracts for the term of the agreements. CEA receives and manages the revenues and then makes quarterly, tax advantaged distributions to investors. Payments made during the first seven years are deemed to be tax free.

Diagram explaining investment thesis

Click to view full size.

On Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Scott will join me here for a live discussion about the Clean Energy Advisors tax-advantaged model for investing in solar energy. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @cleanenergyadv

Clean Energy Advisors (CEA) creates ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax-advantaged predictable income, preserve capital, and have positive social and environmental impact.

Scott’s bio:

Twitter: @williamandhill

Scott Hill has over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience including a significant perspective on business start-ups and building successful small businesses. Mr. Hill has been with CEA since April 2014.

His duties include overseeing the firms family office, endowment, foundation, and UHNW client strategies. He has served as a panelist at US based family office conferences and enjoys speaking on impact investing, renewable energy opportunities, and the future of Solar PV worldwide.

Scott is a 1991 graduate of Columbia University and four year member of the football program. He lives near Nashville, TN with his wife and children. He’s also actively involved in his community and church.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Your Travel Can Help Build Africa


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Sana Butler, founder of Transformative Tourism, wants wealthy tourists to travel with her to Africa to drive positive impact. Her innovative model for tourism is intended to help protect UNESCO World Heritage sites that are underfunded, to protect the environment and to help low-income people and communities lift themselves out of poverty.

There is a fundamental flaw in the existing tourism model in Africa; most of the money that goes in flows out, she says.

Sana says, “The problem is that visitors spend about $40 billion a year in Sub-Saharan Africa; as much as 90% of it ‘leaks out’ to bank accounts of multi-national companies.”

This isn’t just a problem that slows economic growth-though it is that, too, she says. “As a result, significant local sustainable tourism development options like UNESCO World Heritage sites are left to deteriorate due to lack of investment funds; locals living in poverty in and around sites are left out of an opportunity to bring in as much as $100 million in annual visitor revenue. The base of the pyramid continues to suffer and grow in the region not because money doesn’t flow into host communities; everyday Africans remain poor because the money never stays.”

Sana’s model for Transformative Tourism is to cater to small numbers of high income travelers, providing them with luxury experiences, provided by local communities.

Sana says, “We will build very small, high-value ecotourism resorts as a sustainable tool to pay for the long road conservation of abandoned sites. We then swarm locals with what they need to manage and operate the sites, exclusively, creating infrastructure of economic retention. The preservation and revival of abandoned UNESCO World Heritage sites offer the greatest promise to disrupt tourism forces that produce and reproduce inequality in the region.”

Sana has identified four specific challenges that she faces in developing her new model. The challenges all relate to how she will convince all the key players from customers, to vendors and investors that her model works.

1. We think differently on how to approach impact. We believe the extreme poor should be connected to significant purchasing power – not to each other.

2. We aren’t in the big fvie: health, energy, technology, agriculture and education; so we are left out of a lot of conferences and debates on social impact.

3. We operate in the world of luxury. We have to convince people that those with significant purchasing power are more likely to make lasting change.

4. We have to walk a thin line between what people want to believe happens in the tourism industry in terms of sustainable development (a lot) and the reality (very little).

Sana is realistic. She recognizes that her approach doesn’t solve all of the world’s problems–or even to protect all of the at-risk UNESCO World Heritage sites. She identifies three specific limitations to her strategy.

1. Not every revived UNESCO World Heritage site will attract enough visitors to experience real earning potential.

2. The solution cannot be replicated in countries that do not have a UNESCO World Heritage site.

3. The government may not honor our contracts with indigenous communities and hand over a restored site to a multi-national firm to manage, which is how it is traditionally done in Africa.

Despite the challenges and limitations, she remains optimistic. “We are eradicating poverty and preserving the history of mankind. But more important, we are leveling the inequality in the world.”

Vince Molinari of our sponsor Eclat Impact, shares her enthusiasm. “I believe affluent travelers will be eager to participate in transformative tourism as it is catalyzing on many levels.  There will be many wealthy diaspora members who will be eager to explore their heritage while having an impact aspect of their travel.”

He notes, too, that cross-border travel improves international relations. “The data is clear that nations that have travel and tourism between them have low to no level of conflict.”

“Transformative Tourism can be the low hanging fruit that readily job creates, adds to GDP and moves the impact needle toward creating systemic change and opportunity for global youth,” he concludes.

On Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Sana will join me here for a live discussion about Transformative Tourism and your opportunity to travel with her to change the world. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Sana Butler, courtesy of Transformative Tourism

Sana Butler, courtesy of Transformative Tourism

More about Transformative Tourism

Transformative Tourism is a new conservation organization devoted exclusively to private sector solutions for protection and preservation of some of the world’s most significant yet abandoned UNESCO World Heritage sites in Africa; we purposively use low-volume, high-end tourism as a sustainable, long-road revenue tool to pay for the initiatives. Our profits swarm locals with what they need to manage and operate revived sites as well as competitive SME clusters around them (think art gallery, boutique hotel, coffee lounge). Everything about our work is designed so that by 2030 local businesses in or around World Heritage sites thrive out of poverty with paradigm links, not to each other, but to those with serious purchasing power.

Sana’s bio:

Before Transformative Tourism, Sana was a luxury travel writer for Newsweek UK. For more than a decade, she crisscrossed the globe advising millions on the world’s best 5-star hotels and spas. She is a frequent United Nations World Tourism Organization speaker and adviser, encouraging tourism ministers in developing countries to focus on infrastructure that drives economic retention and local sustainable development solutions for eradicating poverty. Sana participated in the inaugural Clinton Global Initiative Middle East & Africa in 2015 and is an Unreasonable Institute Lab Fellow, the same year. But her claim to fame was as a tv writer for the last season of Star Trek Enterprise. She has a BSBA from Georgetown University and a MS from Columbia University.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Shhh! Don’t Tell Starbucks The Future Is Coming On A Bicycle Wearing Blue Hair

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Maria De La Croix may one day prove to be the biggest mistake Starbucks SBUX -1.56% ever made. You see, the blue-haired young woman applied for a job as a barista with the global leader in high-end coffee shops and was turned down, she says, because her hair was “too blue.”

Lest anyone at Starbucks feel bad about the decision, no one could have guessed what would happen next. Suffice it to say, there is a mic drop coming.

With the help of some friends, De La Croix built a solar powered coffee shop on a bicycle and completely reinvented the coffee shop business. She calls her company Wheelys Cafe.

Her stores on wheels cost just $5,900, on which she makes a profit margin of 50 percent, she says. The shop is the key. By mass producing the bike-based shops, the company has reduced the production costs to about $3,000.

Wheelys 4 cafe on a bicycle, courtesy of Wheelys

Wheelys 4 cafe on a bicycle, courtesy of Wheelys

The company also developed an app De La Croix compares to the Uber app, allowing the shop owner to charge customers and order supplies. The company makes 5 percent on every transaction. She explains, “We are running a test version in Stockholm. A café with a $12,000 turnover generates $600 per month to Wheelys through a 5% charge on the app, and through supplying coffee. The important thing is that both the app and the supplies are cheaper than independent competitors. This means that even non-Wheelys cafés who join our integrated system would benefit.”

In addition, the company is launching a coffee subscription program as a third revenue stream. The Wheelys franchise owners will share in the profits on the subscriptions so the company won’t be competing with its distribution partners, she says.

De La Croix is on a mission. “Wheelys is empowering young global entrepreneurs,” she says. While Starbucks doesn’t sell franchises, she estimates that it costs about $800,000 to open a store. At $5,900 per store, a whole new group of entrepreneurs can now participate in the global economy in a meaningful way.

Not only is the business addressing a fundamental social justice issue by empowering people of limited means, the stores sell organic items and power themselves with the sun.

“We are aiming to break the hegemony of the industrial fast food chains, and pave the way for an organic revolution. Helping us to do this is young hungry eco entrepreneurs from all over the world,” she says.

While not yet profitable, Wheelys is off to the races; check out this growth reported by the company:

  • Wheelys has doubled in size every 6 months.
  • In 2014, the company was founded in Malmö, sells 20 cafés.
  • In 2015, Wheelys 2 is launched. The company Raises $100,000 on Indiegogo.
  • In May 2015, the company is accepted at Y Combinator.
  • In July 2015, Wheelys 3 is launched.  The company raises $250,000 on Indiegogo.
  • In November 2015, the company moves HQ office to Stockholm.
  • In December 2015, Wheelys has 150 cafés in 40+ countries.
  • In January 2016, the company opens office in Shanghai
  • In February 2016, Wheelys closes a seed round of $2.5 million.
  • In March 2016, Wheelys 4 launched on Indiegogo, raises $650,000.
  • In May 2016, the company reports having 500+ cafés in 60+ countries.
  • In June 2016, the company is selling 2 cafés a day.

Mic drop.

Maria De La Croix, courtesy of Wheelys

Maria De La Croix, courtesy of Wheelys

 

Aaron Harris, a partner with Y Combinator, says, “I met Maria and the rest of the Wheelys team when they applied for Y Combinator. I remember reading their application and thinking ‘This is a totally crazy and possibly incredible idea. I’ve got to meet this team.’”

He still feels the same way. “I think the business is amazing and hugely innovative. I lived in NYC for a long time, so the idea of a coffee cart isn’t that new. What’s novel is the way that the team has approached building a worldwide community of entrepreneurs bound up in a logistics network and incredible brand.”

Justin Waldron, fo-founder of Zynga, met De La Croix through Y Combinator and invested. He says, “I became interested when I heard their vision for lowering the cost of starting a highly profitable business for anyone who wants to be their own boss. What ultimately convinced me is that Maria and the rest of the team behind Wheely’s have a long history of creating movements and rallying a group of people behind a cause. Like the greatest companies, Wheely’s is both a business and a movement toward a better future.”

Being rejected by Starbucks created lasting motivation for De La Croix. In response to a question she gave an answer that cries out for a sarcastic, “Don’t hold back; tell me how you really feel.”

The problem today is that starting a café business (or ANY business) has become so expensive and complicated that the only really profitable cafés and shops today are global mega-brand behemoths that have descended upon our cities like a swarm of locusts.

In her own words, she shares the founding story for Wheelys:

Two years ago, I was turned down from a job at Starbucks for having to blue hair. I had no money for rent, so together with a few friends we built a café on wheels with our own hands. Instead of spending a lot on a storefront, we focused on making the freshest and best coffee, close to were the customers are. We wanted to avoid having a boss, spending hours at a desk or inside a dusty warehouse. But meeting friendly people, selling coffee in the sun. This was the beginning of Wheelys.

Wheelys gives shop owners flexibility and opportunity. Because the shops are on wheels, shop owners can move to different locations during the day, allowing them to be where the opportunities are best.

The menu sounds almost decadent–not what you would expect to buy off of a bicycle. It includes Turkish coffee, sweet tangerine juice, organic berries and raw chocolate.

By not buying real estate and eliminating the need for an electricity source by using solar power, the cost of a shop has been made affordable for millions of ordinary people.

The modern processes and global community of owners create a new sort of entrepreneurship. “Starting a business can be lonely and complicated. We don’t think it needs to be. [We make it easy by] removing complicated POS-systems, and paper work with our Über-like app for charging customers and keeping track of supplies. Wheelys is a community of 400+ entrepreneurs from all around the world, sharing ideas with each other every day.”

The new venture faces challenges–a lot of challenges, De La Croix admits. Shipping 200 kilogram crates with an entire cafe inside to more than 60 different countries around the world has been a big challenge, but one that has been overcome. She identifies opening a warehouse in China as another big one.

In addition, for a small business to deal with technical challenges on the other side of the planet creates unusual challenges for her. Another problem that seems likely to grow, especially after watching Uber’s experiences, is fighting with local politicians about street vending regulations.

De La Croix remains optimistic despite the problems, “The challenges have been many, and more will occur. I’m happy to have such a strong and helpful community of Wheelers around the world.”

She also sees some limitations to the business model. While $5,900 is a modest amount for entrepreneurs in the developed world, for many in the developing world it is still far out of reach.

Weather is also a challenge. She highlights the fact that it is “still difficult to be out selling for 8 hours in 45+ degree centigrade” heat. It would be similarly difficult when the weather is below freezing and, as in Sweden, sunlight is limited in the winter.

De La Croix has a vision for the change she hopes to bring. “We are not 100 percent perfect, not even 50 percent. We are a small company, and can’t force the world to produce ecological steel for our bikes. But, while the unemployment around the world increases, we empower young global entrepreneurs, giving people who did not have a job before a new chance, giving hungry entrepreneurs a helping hand to start their business.”

On Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, De La Croix will join me for a live discussion about Wheelys progress to date and her vision for the future. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

 

New Cookstove Yields New Model For Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

In the past, I’ve covered cookstoves five times, excluding the time I went to Nepal to help locals install cleaner cookstoves in village homes up in the Himalaya. We’re here again, but we’re turning our focus on the business model rather than the cookstove.

For social entrepreneurs who really want to make a difference for people in the developing world, helping locals to import technology from elsewhere can be counterproductive because cash leaves the local economy and opportunities for entrepreneurs may be limited.

Anthony “Tony” Robinson, not to be confused with Tony Robbins, is a professor at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland; his research into energy and thermal conduction has helped him design a simple stove that generates electricity while a family cooks on the stove. More importantly, he’s developing a new way to get the stoves into local consumers hands in Malawi.

Anthony Robinson, courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

Anthony Robinson, courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

“We are attempting to develop a business model for developing world technologies, in this case clean energy technology. We believe that if a technology is to be sustainable, from an economic standpoint, then it must be engineered in such a way that it is at an appropriate technical level for local manufacture (close to consumer manufacturing),” he says.

By manufacturing the stoves in country, the skills necessary to service and repair the stoves will also reside in country. This will also serve to keep costs low and the profits circulating in the local economy.

“Our model would start with an appropriate technology with few imported components. The system would be manufactured and assembled by local co-ops and than sold by micro-financed small entrepreneurial enterprises,” Robinson says.

Still in a pilot phase, the team has just five full-time people and a few dozen others working at the periphery of the project. The business is set up as a nonprofit.

The goal, Robinson says, is not to create a large organization, but instead to empower local entrepreneurs. ”We want to start businesses, but do not have a desire to be part of them. We would measure success by when the technology and associated businesses are independent and we can step away from them.”

To understand how the business will work in country, it will be helpful to learn more about the simple stoves, the conditions in which local people are living, and the years of laboratory and field research that has gone into the design.

Robinson has identified five problems associated with cooking and lighting homes in the developing world:

  1. Smoke and toxic fumes from open-fire cooking pose one of the most severe health risks in the developing world; it is the #1 killer of children under five for example
  2. Collection of fuel for cooking can take tens of hours per week, primarily undertaken by women and children, burning precious calories and time and often taking them from the safety of their community
  3. Overuse of wood fuel is causing extreme deforestation, soil erosion and contributing to global warming
  4. Lighting requires “further exposure to smoke and toxic fumes and risks of house fires
  5. An exorbitant proportion of income, if it can be afforded, spent on candles or paraffin for the worst quality of light
  6. Limited ability for after dark income generating activities, socializing or studying

He adds, “Everybody suffers, but women and children are particularly vulnerable.”

Mobile phones, he says, represent a lifeline for local people, but they often lack an affordable way to keep them charged. He says, “They are used for ordering seeds and fertilizer, selling produce and products, doing banking transactions, keeping in touch with friends and family and so much more.”

Anthony Robinson in Malawi, courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

Anthony Robinson in Malawi, courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

The hybrid stove-electric generator Robinson is developing “consists of a locally made efficient clay cookstove and a thermoelectric generator (TEG) system.”

The unit is simple, by design. “The stove is significantly more efficient that the traditional open-fire, meaning less fuel and less smoke and toxic fumes. The TEG extracts a very small portion of the heat from the fire and converts some of this heat into electricity. With some innovative circuitry, the system allows for charging of phones, low powered radios and other rechargeable batteries such as those in LED lanterns and flash-lights.”

A critical lesson from the design stage of the stove was working with local people. Robinson has used a scientific approach, incorporating data logging devices attached to the prototypes deployed in the homes of families in Malawi in three successive trials. They also followed up with surveys. “Together with survey data, the information was used to re-engineer the TEG-Stoves in such a way that the technology evolved iteratively to something that worked and was valued. In essence, the technology has been designed by the end user,” Robinson says.

Robinson and his team have faced two big challenges, he says. The first challenge has been building something from scratch in Ireland that will not only function, but that can also be manufactured in Malawi. The second, has been to reach the lowest possible price point. These are near universal considerations for social entrepreneurs in the developed world hoping to support communities in developing countries.

The stoves as presently designed have their limitations, Robinson acknowledges. The electricity generated is modest and will only power low-power devices like cell phones, radios and LED lights. At low volumes, the cost is prohibitive and getting to scale is a challenge. The key, he believes, may be micro-loans for the purchases.

“Whether it is this TEG-Stove technology or the next technology, what we are trying to do is a notably different approach to what has been attempted in the past,” Robinson says, referring to a business model focused on the process more than the product.

He contrasts the approach he’s using with infrastructure projects that sometimes go awry. “The conventional model for energy technology deployment, such as that of solar PV, has typically been to show up, install and commission the system and leave. This same technology deployment model is not isolated to the energy sector, but also for water and sanitation, health etc. But technologies need to be maintained and repaired which requires infrastructure to support and sustain the technology. Simple things like the lack of spare parts have brought down the best solar installations,” he says.

“Our hypothesis is that if the technology is designed for the people and by the people and it can be manufactured in-country, then the people will have intellectual ownership of it. We believe (hope) that this strategy may make the difference and pave the way for appropriate and sustainable technology development across all sectors,” he concludes.

On Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Robinson will join me here, live from Ireland, to discuss the stove and the business model associated with bringing it to market. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

A Social Entrepreneur’s Tips For Taking On The Impossible

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Lisa Curtis is a serious social entrepreneur. Since she started her career as a Peace Corps volunteer, she has been all about doing good. Her company, Kuli Kuli, which sells products with miringa (don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it; most people haven’t) sourced in West Africa. It takes optimism to face all of the challenges associated with selling a new food; she shares three secrets to her success.

Curtis tells the story of how she started eating moringa as a way to supplement her diet after her Peace Corp stint left her malnourished. Later, she would launch Kuli Kuli to provide others with the health benefits and to support and grow the economy of West Africa where she sources the moringa.

Kuli Kuli’s products are carried in more than 800 retail outlets, including Whole Foods Markets, Sprouts and Kroger, according to Curtis. Owler estimates Kuli Kuli 2015 revenues at approximately $1 million.

Curtis says, the company’s moringa is sourced from women-owned cooperatives in Ghana, where they have already planted over 100,000 moringa trees. In Haiti, working with Whole Foods and the Clinton Foundation, Kuli Kuli is working to create a Moringa enterprise that will help to reforest the nearly completely deforested country. The Haitian moringa is used in the newly launched energy shots marketed by the company.

The partnerships with Whole Foods and the Clinton Foundation are helping to create a business model that socially and environmentally sustainable, Curtis says.

She has been recognized as a StargingBloc Fellow, a Wild Gift Better World Entrepreneur, an Ashoka Emerging Innovator and a Udall Scholar.

Lisa Curtis, courtesy of Kuli Kuli

Lisa Curtis, courtesy of Kuli Kuli

Curtis says that her optimism and “mild delusion” provide a “recipe for taking on the impossible.” She offers three specific points for doing what others say you can’t:

First, she says, “Write down something that you’re grateful for everyday.” This habit can help social entrepreneurs who face seemingly insurmountable struggles to balance their perceptions of challenges against what has already been accomplished.

Second, Curtis says, “Imagine what it would feel like to have your goal accomplished.” Visualization is considered a key to success in areas from golf to marketing. Seeing is believing, many say. A quick internet search for “vision board” will give a sense of how the industry of people helping you to visualize your achievements has grown.

Third, “Take one small step towards your impossible goal everyday, even if it’s just sending an email,” she says. Actions have consequences and these consequences can build momentum that ultimately change your goal from impossible to inevitable.

On Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Curtis will join me for a live discussion about her three point plan for taking on the impossible and about her latest progress with Kuli Kuli. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

This Software Reduces Soft Costs For Solar Installations

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

According to an NREL report, about half the cost of a residential solar installation is non-hardware soft costs. Reducing those costs is the mission of Sighten, a software tool set for solar installers.

Co-Founder and CEO, Conlan O’Leary explains, “To date, most solar companies and financing providers have had to use horizontal software like Microsoft Excel or had to build software of their own. Those approaches were ultimately too unwieldy, inefficient and not scalable.”

“As the solar market has become more competitive and profit margins have been squeezed, the industry has recognized that significant efficiency gains are needed. Recent years have seen a growing focus on reducing soft costs, but only marginal progress has been made,” he adds.

O’Leary says Sighten is on a mission to reduce the soft costs. The company’s software platform provides a “comprehensive solution,” he says, to manage the solar project lifecycle from CRM to design, proposals and asset management.

The impact of the software could potentially reduce consumer costs, O’Leary says. “Solar installers and developers now have access to advanced tools across sales and project management that will drive greater sales effectiveness and significant gains in operational efficiency, taking cents per watt out of virtually every step in the solar lifecycle.”

He boasts, “Lots of solar software startups have been working on specific nodes in the solar workflow like design, but Sighten is an application that a company could truly run their business on.”

O’Leary notes that the software also has finance and accounting modules, enhancing the reporting capabilities for the asset managers and investors. “This is a dramatic improvement for investors who are used to getting monthly Excel reports. In fact, some investors have called our platform a ‘Bloomberg Terminal’ for the solar asset class,” he continues.

“I care deeply about the environment, and I think climate change is the seminal issue of our time, so I have aligned myself with interesting, challenging work and innovative companies that are addressing these issues. I think Sighten is the culmination of that focus. I know that as we’re successful and as our customers are successful, we’re making a big dent in carbon emissions and positively impacting society,” O’Leary concludes.

On Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, O’Leary will join me here for a live discussion about the software and the impact it is having on carbon emissions and the residential solar industry. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Sighten:

Twitter: @sighten_io

Sighten has built the most advanced software toolset for solar. Built with care by a team of solar industry veterans, the Sighten platform helps solar companies and investors optimize their businesses, driving growth and efficiency through technology. Customers include leading investors, lenders, financing companies, installers, and originators. For more information, please visit www.sighten.io.

Conlan O’Leary, courtesy of Sighten

Conlan O’Leary, courtesy of Sighten

O’Leary’s bio:

Conlan O’Leary is CEO and co-founder of Sighten, a leading solar software provider. Prior to Sighten, Conlan helped manage the structuring and pricing desk at Clean Power Finance, a leading residential solar financing platform. He has prior experience in technology and cleantech investment banking as well as environmental commodities trading. He has also helped manage a salmon cannery in Alaska and lived in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

 

Matt Damon Jokes About ‘Toilet Strike,’ Then Things Get Real With The Water.org Co-Founder

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Three years ago, using a fake press conference posted on YouTube, in a humorous effort to raise money and attention for clean water and sanitation, Matt Damon launched a “toilet strike,” promising not to go to the bathroom “until everyone has access to clean water and sanitation.”

As part of the Sundance Film Festival, Water.org cofounders Matt Damon and Gary White held a real press conference with Stella Artois executive Todd Allen. This gave me an opportunity to ask Damon why he is so passionate about water issues.

Damon responded, “ I have four daughters. It comes at me emotionally from a lot of different angles. I think when you start having kids it is hard not to see other children as your own. ”

He went on to explain that Bono initially got him interested about ten years ago in by taking him a trip ago to help him with his work, believing that if he simply showed Damon what extreme poverty looks like, Damon would have no choice but to engage. “He rightly assumed that if he stuck me in extreme situations with extreme poverty my life would change and that is exactly what happened,” he says.

“ I saw that I could have an impact. ”

He related the story of a teenage girl in rural Zambia with whom he walked for a mile to the nearest source of water. As he visited with her, he asked about her plans for the future. She said she wanted to leave her village to become a nurse. “I realized it was like when Ben Affleck and I were in high school and we said, ‘We’re going to New York to become actors.’” He began to appreciate that people without access to clean water and sanitation were really living a “less than human existence.”

Finally, he explained, that it comes down to the question of a legacy, “It has always felt like I should always do what I can within my own sphere of influence to effect positive change for people. I’m looking at all these issues and this one is so massive it felt like there is so little awareness about it, it felt like the best place to put my time and energy.”

Damon cofounded Water.org with Gary White in 2009. The organization really resulted from the merger of nonprofits that each had created previously. Damon joked that at the time, he went looking for the world’s greatest expert on water and “when that guy wouldn’t take my call, I called Gary.” He went on to say that in fact, White is the world’s leading expert on water issues. White later returned the compliment, first suggesting that he should have called Ben Affleck, but later explaining that Damon has truly become an expert on water as well.

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Damon sees access to clean water as a part of what he said that Bono calls “stupid poverty,” referring to the causes and contributors to poverty that we know how to fix, like how to deliver clean water.

At the press conference, Damon plugged the Stella Artois “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign that suggests people buy a chalice from the brewer with proceeds supporting Water.org. One chalice purchase, Damon noted, will provide five years of clean drinking water for a woman who lacks access to clean water.

Damon explained how access to clean water is a gender issue, noting that the vast majority of the time required to collect water, which totals hundreds of millions of hours every day, is spent by women and girls. As a result, women are kept from more productive tasks and girls are frequently prevented from attending school simply to make time for collecting water.

Damon’s passion for this effort came through as he explained that “We can be the generation to do this,” referring to providing clean water and sanitation to everyone on the planet. He noted that we know there are solutions and “ Americans, regardless of their politics, want to do what works. ”

One of the solutions Damon highlighted is “water credit,” the innovation developed by White to use microfinance to support people living in poor urban areas who often live atop a functioning clean water supply without access to it. By lending them the money to put taps in their homes, their time is freed to do more productive things than collect water, making it easy for them to repay the loans. Damon notes that 94 percent of the loans are to women and that more than 99 percent of the loans are repaid. I’ve previously visited with White about water credit here and here.

Matt challenged the world to help solve this issue, “What is our mark going to be? What are we here for? What are we going to do with our chance?”

This Guy Is Responsible For Reducing The Impact Of CES

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

CES, that is, nerd heaven, 2016 just wrapped in Vegas. Over 6,000 members of the media attended. More than 170,000 people were at the event that covered over 2 million square feet of exhibition space. It was huge.

Now, I want you to imagine cleaning up that mess. Think about all the waste going to the landfill. My eco-friends are crying as they think about the environmental impact.

This is where Jeff Chase , V.P. of Sustainability for Freeman, the event planning organization that supports CES for the Consumer Technology Association, enters the picture. Chase explains, “Working with CTA, Freeman helped to create and manage a waste/recycling plan to help reduce the footprint of the event. Working with several recycling vendors and partners of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo Center we help find new ways to reduce the amount of items going to the landfill by working on an awareness campaign to exhibitors on how to reuse or repurpose left over materials.”

Chase says they even found ways to benefit local charities with their environmental programs. “Furniture, flooring, fixtures and building materials were all given to several different charities,” he says.

Some of the milestones reported this year include recycling half a million square feet of carpet, up 70 percent from the previous year. The balance over 1.1 million square feet was reused. Almost 28,000 square feet of vinyl banner materials were repurposed into tarps, hockey rink liners and outdoor movie screens.

The effort extended community-wide. “The Consumer Technology Assocation held a wonderful E-Waste program on Sunday at the Las Vegas convention center for the local residences to bring their old electronics to be recycled. This is the first year to offer this service and will continue next year,” Chase says.

On Thursday, January 14, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Chase will join me here for a live discussion about the efforts to reduce the environmental impact of CES. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Freeman:

Twitter: @FreemanCo

Founded in 1927, Freeman is the leading global partner for integrated experiential marketing solutions for live engagements including expositions, conventions, corporate events, and exhibits. Headquartered in Dallas, with over 70 offices in North America and the U.K., Freeman produces more than 4,300 expositions annually, including 135 of the 250 largest U.S. trade shows, and 11,000 other events worldwide. Customer-driven, Freeman offers a total package of solutions, with a scope of products and services unmatched by the competition. An employee-owned company, Freeman places an emphasis on respect for people and providing unparalleled customer service. Freeman has received numerous trade show industry awards for excellence in leadership, creative design, community service, innovation and customer-driven partnerships.

Jeff Chase, center, with representatives of charity partners from Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Teachers Exchange and Opportunity Village, courtesy of Freeman

Jeff Chase, center, with representatives of charity partners from Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Teachers Exchange and Opportunity Village, courtesy of Freeman

Chase’s bio:

Twitter: @GreenChase73

Jeff has been a passionate driving force on many sides of the trade show / event industry for 28 years. He spend his first 5 years as a General Services Contractor working in Nashville/Washington DC, and then got a job in California to take the position of Show Director for one of the largest tradeshows in the industry, and over the next 8 years he helped grow that show in the United States and launched it in Europe and Asia. Then he started his own event production agency which he ran successfully for 10 years and worked with clients such as eBay EBAY -4.00%, PayPal, Visa, Google and many others, then sold it to FreemanXP, the premier Experiential Marketing Agency. His current focus and passion is working as the Vice President of Sustainability. He works closely with many Fortune 100 companies like McDonalds, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, and Autodesk to help them meet their goals for green/sustainable events. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC)

Social Entrepreneur Works To Put his Nonprofit Out Of Business

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Eric Stowe saw a problem in the developing world and did something about it. He saw a need for clean water in the slums and created Splash, a nonprofit organization, to solve the problem.

“While working in orphanages internationally, I became aware of the crucial need for clean water for kids on the periphery in urban areas,” Stowe explains. “Hotels and restaurants had access to clean water, but across the street, children at poor schools and orphanages did not. It was, and continues to be, an easy problem to fix by leveraging economies and infrastructure that already exist rather than re-creating the wheel.”

Stowe’s Splash has some audacious goals: provide clean water to every orphanage in China, every public school in Kathmandu, Nepal and every “child-serving” institution in Kolkata, India.

“We want to put Splash out of business by 2030. Our ultimate goal is to ensure local success happens on its own time, on its own terms, through its own talent, and with its own funding. Charity is a means to that – it cannot be the end,” Stowe concludes.

On Thursday, August 13, 2015 at noon Eastern, Stowe will join me here for a live discussion about his efforts to provide clean water in Urban areas where it is desperately needed. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Splash:

Twitter: @splash_org

Splash is a field-leading WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) organization focused on urban environments and, specifically, the poorest children within them. Splash works with the public, private and social sectors in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Thailand to create lasting and local safe water solutions for orphanages, schools, clinics and shelters.

Eric Stowe

Eric Stowe

Stowe’s bio:

Twitter: @ericstowe

Eric Stowe is Founder & Executive Director of Splash. He has worked in the international NGO sector for the last 15 years and is much-watched for his leadership in international development, transparency practices, and business-approaches to solving conditions of poverty.

UN Says We Can End Extreme Poverty, Hunger, Global Warming and Gender Bias By 2030

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

At the outset of the current millennium, the United Nations led an effort to set a group of goals to be achieved by 2015.

UN Secretary-General reported in 2014, that “the MDGs have made a profound difference in people’s lives. Global poverty has been halved five years ahead of the 2015 timeframe. Ninety per cent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education, and disparities between boys and girls in enrolment have narrowed. Remarkable gains have also been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, along with improvements in all health indicators. The likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut in half over the last two decades. That means that about 17,000 children are saved every day. We also met the target of halving the proportion of people who lack access to improved sources of water.”

Today, the world is looking forward to what we can accomplish over the next 15 years. The UN has established the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Amina Mohammed is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning.

Mohammed notes, “The sustainable development agenda addresses the root causes of poverty, inequalities and environmental degradation. It looks at the links between the social, economic and environmental agendas, and it presents more opportunities than the MDGs, which largely focused on the symptoms only.”

In an effort to broaden the impact of the U.N.’s efforts, she says, “The sustainable development agenda looks at the links between the social, environmental and economic agendas so it presents more opportunities than the MDGs, which focused purely on the social agenda.”

She notes that the new goals are not simply updated outcomes for the old goals, but that the UN is seeking to incorporate all that has been learned. “The sustainable development goals will continue the unfinished business of the MDGs, build on their lessons learned and go well beyond to address new and emerging challenges. Sustainable development is a universal agenda that applies to all people, in all countries and will leave no one behind.”

She adds that the Secretary-General said it best in his Synthesis Report, “The Road to Dignity by 2030: We must transform our economies, our environment, and our societies. We must change old mindsets, behaviors, and destructive patterns. All in pursuit of international peace and stability.”

On Friday, July 10, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Mohammed will join me for a live discussion about the new goals. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about the United Nations:

Twitter: @UN

The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States. The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.

Mohammed’s bio:

Twitter: @AminaJMohammed

Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria is the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning.

Ms. Mohammed was previously Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals after serving three Presidents over a period of six years. In 2005 she was charged with the coordination of the debt relief funds ($1 billion per annum) towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals in Nigeria. From 2002-2005, Ms. Mohammed served as coordinator of the Task Force on Gender and Education for the United Nations Millennium Project.

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