The Spectrum of Corporate Responsibility by Ryan Rex

Cooling India – Annual 2015 – Featured Article Page 90

Corporate responsibility is an important factor to recognize when thinking about sustainability and the amount of money that goes into large-scale energy reduction projects. Companies, both large and small, sink barrels of money into projects for a single purpose: to live better. Although the media portrays these one per centers as enemies of the lower classes, “well to do” people around the world are working hard to do their part.

Globalization has forever affected humanity. As more countries go online, they will need to be connected to the grid. That means more consumption, more waste and more energy usage. How will we find these extra resources? What if a continent the size of Africa decides to unite and come online tomorrow? Will we be facing one of the greatest challenges in our known history? The answer is highly likely. There won’t be enough resources to go around. The air and water will be far worse than anything than we can imagine. Fortunately, those days are still ahead of us and only one possible future. Companies see this as well, and are gearing up for a change.

The answers to our problems will lie in a broad scope of technologies, not just cutting the cord from fossil fuel. It will be more of a fair and balanced solution that spreads resources around in a sensible way. The transition will not be easy, because let’s face it, nothing is ever easy. However, the approach is what matters. The solution will come from the effort of those involved, and the collective agreements by forward thinking people. Not necessarily those who always agree, but people from other ends of the professional spectrum who are willing to put aside the political and scientific arguments for the sake of …again… living better.

Let’s face the facts. We as humans need three things to survive: Air, water and food. Everything else is arguable. If any one of those becomes tainted, poisoned, or unusable, we’re in deep (you know what). People are not stupid. They know these things need to be preserved, and at the end of the day, corporations do too.

Take India for example – the largest democracy in the world and a budding superpower. India is a country that takes their role in globalization and corporate responsibility seriously. I know this because of the valiant effort their people are pushing forward to live sustainable, reduce waste, and conserve resources.

There are a number of large-scale sustainable projects that are currently being implemented in states all across India. These projects involve net-zero Universities, harnessing wind power, recycling raw waste, and even a potential ban on plastic. These are only a few examples, but enough to paint a fair picture of the effort put forth to make a change. Even though I believe this is the way we should conduct ourselves accordingly to move forward in a progressive and positive manner, there is something missing from this equation. What about the small-scale effort? Projects for the people that implement similar strategies that would not only benefit the greater good, but also be broken down on a micro level to benefit the common man where it matters most – at home.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that Nalanda University, the oldest University in the world, is going green by becoming a net-zero campus. This is a huge change for all involved, and a wonderful example for schools of the world to follow. Yet, I feel the company implementing the net-zero design could reach a bit further. If they stretched their reach to the surrounding communities and went for true corporate responsibility, the building of net-zero homes for the locals would have a greater impact on the surrounding area. By setting an example and following through to show how their projects work on both a large and small scale, the people would see the truth – that living better and creating a sustainable world is both possible and plausible for all classes.

Take New Delhi for example. This is place where the top students from the Universities are leading the charge for future generations by harnessing the winds created by the high-speed railways and converting it to electricity. It’s a free power source and even better, a byproduct of a necessary means of transportation for millions. Now, instead of just focusing on the obvious, there could be sub-teams of students using the same calculations to set up affordable wind mills on homes in the area to help residents of the area rely less on that same grid.

So great. Now corporations and common people alike are less dependent on the grid. What about the mountains of waste produced by these same individuals every day that pile up on the streets and continue to degrade the standard of living in India? This is a valid concern that is difficult to overlook when talking about corporate responsibility, and one that is no laughing matter. When looking at the mountains of garbage, two major contributors stick out: Raw waste and plastic. Both are recyclable, both are important.

Raw waste is an interesting form of garbage because of its methane producing qualities. Companies are harnessing this methane on a large scale to use as a fuel source, but when it’s diverted from landfills it can be used as an equally effective means to solve the problems of the people. As I stated earlier, food is one of the three things we can’t live without, and cooked food is the preference for most – unless you’re a fan of the raw diet, which I personally am not. By setting up cooking stoves and similar technologies for local homes and business that would operate using raw waste as a fuel source, you can prove to the masses that there are viable solutions to fuel shortages that have practical applications. There are alternatives to harmful wood fire stoves that pollute the air and deplete our forests. There is a way to change, and it’s up to our leaders to take charge and let the people of the world know that they have our backs in our united fight for a healthier world.

There are other ways for our leaders to fight. Some are not so fun, and quite heavy handed as well as difficult to implement, such as the proposed plastic ban in Pune. This is radical change, but still a strangely practical alternative to the rivers of plastic bottles that flow through the streets of Pune on a daily basis. It’s my understanding that the solution for less plastic in Pune is to find alternative means for the storage and transportation of goods. One method people are coming to embrace is something called, Biolice, an organic material made of cornstarch. It can be manufactured into bags and storage containers. This is good. It’s a positive solution, but still, how do you spread word to millions of people that are hesitant to such a radical change? It’s left up to those in charge who are willing to perform an additional public service. They are the only ones who can only solve this effectively. By giving free lessons to people in their homes and businesses that will physically show how to reduce their dependence on plastic while imparting them with the knowledge they need to change their lives for the greater good is the only way I see it possible to make the required change, and it’s up to those who lead to make it possible.

Looking at these examples, albeit if only a few pieces of a much larger puzzle, there are effective ways to reach the masses. Corporations who are working hard to live by their social and environmental responsibilities have, hopefully, not bit off more than they can chew. If they want people to change and want to show the world that they can change too, then the corporate brass should focus on broadening their scope. They need to reach people where it matters – at home and in their pockets. If the corporations could show people that they can implement the same strategies on a budget, the same strategies that are being made famous by big money investors with seemingly infinite wealth, there can be a change. There can be a shift in global awareness, but it will depend on the will of the people in charge. I for one choose to believe in the power of good in all of those people. I’d like to believe that they are using that power to benefit the common man.

BMW i3 Home Movies

I was given a BMW i3 to film for an extended test drive. Being an electric car enthusiast, I decided to make it both a family video and promotional video to show my appreciation. It’s a great car for anyone who is in the market. The song, “I’m Going Home” is original music by Krista Parrish Murphy. You can find Krista’s music at

Tree Hugger’s Anonymous

Tree hugger. What is a tree hugger? Who are they and what do they do exactly? Let’s examine the term. By definition, the Urban Dictionary defines a tree hugger as “an environmentalist or one who believes trees and all living things should not be cut down or harmed. Someone who works to protect the environment from destruction or pollution.” (1) It may come as a surprise to many that many environmentalists who embrace energy efficiency would opt to cut down trees on their property for the greater good. Yes, this does happen.

Recently, I saw a gentleman speak about politics and economics. This man, who I’ll call, “Ralph,” had a wide range of views about the state of the economy and where I should put my money. Ralph, isn’t a fan of Clean Tech or electric cars, and strangely enough, Ralph isn’t a fan of groups like PETA for hurting the development of windmill fields because of their harm of birds. “Interesting,” I thought to myself. Yet, and to my surprise, he went on to explain how he himself is a self-proclaimed tree hugger. It seems as if somewhere along the line there had be someone who had witnessed Ralph holding up traffic to let a family of turtles cross the road. I realized this joke must normally kill in stuffy, mothball scented conference rooms.

To call yourself a tree hugger for denouncing the deaths of imaginary birds or seemingly imaginary turtles may not be the best argument for swaying the investment decisions of your audience, but Ralph’s point made me question myself as a tree hugger a bit. I feel the definition of a tree hugger has become too convoluted. People who call themselves tree huggers need to think up a new term, myself included.

I’ve come to this conclusion because I’m devoting myself to becoming someone who lives off the grid one day. That is my dream for retirement. You can live on your yacht, I’ll live in my zero energy house. It’s a beautiful dream, and I know if I’m going to accomplish this I’ll need to rely on solar power and wind technology to make it happen. So if I wind up killing birds with my windmill, I’ll be sure to write PETA a check to cleanse my soul of the murderous rage of a tree hugger, and give the winged beasts a proper burial in a pet cemetery. Solar energy though, is something of a different animal.

I live in the Northeast, if you couldn’t tell by my literary accent that is. My town is Blue Bell, Pennsylvania in Montgomery County – a suburb of Philadelphia. As much as people like to say solar power is a waste of money in a town like mine, most of those people are just following the status quo – hang on to what we’ve got because change is the devil. Well, maybe not the devil, but close enough to raise some hairs. Solar power is alive and well here in the great Northeast. As a matter of fact, companies like, Solar City (2), are even installing panels for free plus a nominal monthly fee, which is offset by your energy savings, in exchange for the return on investment. If you want my opinion the return on solar investments called SRECS are hardly worth it since China entered the solar game a few years back, so the trade off from you getting zero to low cost energy compared to the 20+ year payback depending on SRECs is hardly worth the argument.

One thing you have to realize when installing solar is that shading from trees are the biggest issue. Just 10% of shade can reduce solar output by up to 50% or even shut down panels completely. This factor brings me back to my original statement that by definition, and even though I’ve devoted my life to living green, if I cut down trees to embrace the magic and mystery of solar power I may by default forsake my old friends with the beeswax crimped dreads. What a depressing thought. I’ll definitely get ignored at the next Phish concert. Mental note – don’t go to Phish concerts.

“According to American Forests, one tree stores about 0.5 metric tons of CO2 over its lifetime. We’ll assume that removing one tree lowers the net reduction of switching to solar by the same amount. Additionally, we also need to factor in the CO2 emissions involved in manufacturing the solar panels being installed. Producing a typical 5 kWh solar system emits about 10 metric tons of CO2, so the total CO2 emissions associated with removing one tree and installing a residential solar power system are about 10.5 metric tons.

For the removal of the tree to make sense, the net CO2 reduction will need to exceed 10.5 metric tons. That seems like a lot at first, but when you calculate the CO2 emissions you will offset by switching to solar from fossil fuels, it isn’t much at all. Your solar panels should generate at least 6000 kWh of electricity per year, and should last for approximately 25 years.” (3)

So yes, the math is there. If I cut down two or tree trees I can minimize my carbon footprint and begin my journey to live off the grid albeit sacrificing the love and respect of tree huggers everywhere. Now if I do need to cut down trees, what’s the best course of action and how much will it cost? I hit up my local friends and tree surgeons at Creative Design Tree Service to find out.

Their website has real information on the actual cost associated with a tree removal. Their online tree removal cost calculator takes into account not only the tree height and thickness but also the trees proximity to power lines, the percentage of the tree that hangs over a house or structure and the distance from the tree to the nearest place for a chipper truck. Creative Design gives you their tree removal pricing right online and you can even choose to have them come out and confirm the pricing (In Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania only). So if one of my readers in California or Brazil wants to know what to look for, the pricing factors shouldn’t change from one area to the next. The owner of Creative Design Tree Service, Tremaine, recommends you consider these factors when pricing for tree removal: Tree height, tree thickness, type of tree, power lines, overhang of structures (tree limbs over houses/sheds), distance to truck, time of year, recent storms/icing.

One thing I can suggest, in addition to the process of finding the right contractor, is maybe thinking about sending the trees to a mill. This is a good way to re-embrace Mother Nature and live by the rule established by our forefather Ben Franklin when he said, “Waste not, want not.” So hey in addition to solar panels, finding a reasonably priced tree surgeon and the banishment of a non-violent community of Phish fans, you can have yourself a fancy new banister or TV stand courtesy of that annoying oak tree that caused you to spend countless Sunday afternoons raking leaves. So by my count that’s a win for everyone.


  1. The Urban Dictionary. Tree Hugger by Rick. January 09, 2005.
  2. Solar City Corporation. 2014.
  3. Ralph Ralf J. Muenster. “Shade Happens”. February 2, 2009.

The Lake House

This is the home of my friend Jonathan David Lake. He’s a cancer survivor who found solace in going green and building himself a sustainable home, and he did it ten years before going green was even a thing. Jon and I are looking forward to collaborating on future projects to bring his story, and many others, to the masses to give inspiration and hope for those looking to “live better.”


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