Business

#1070 Tesla Motors throws down the sustainability gauntlet at gas guzzlers

Tesla

Tesla brings the rainbows; photo by Steve Jurveston, via Flickr Creative Commons

Kudos to Tesla Motors. On June 12, 2014 the manufacturer of electric cars made an unusual announcement: They went open source. That means any company acting in good faith can have free access to their proprietary technology.

Announcing the decision, which applies to both existing and future patents, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, said:

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

The move puts Tesla ahead of the automotive pack in terms of walking the sustainability talk. It is also smart marketing, likely to appeal to electric-car buyers. Making their technology open source challenges hide-bound, fossil-fuel-guzzling, car manufacturers to step up the the plate and act on behalf of the planet.

Take that, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. All five states have been in the forefront of the ban-the-Tesla movement. Other states are also trying to put on the brakes, including Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina. Their heads are stuck firmly in the proverbial sand if they think consumers are willing to be forever chained to the gas pump. Climate change, environmental degradation and peak oil make those anti-Tesla actions look not just silly but downright criminal.

So good on you, Tesla. You not only made a smart marketing move. You made a corporate step in the right direction and threw down the gauntlet to the automotive industry. That gives me hope.

Now…let’s have a chat about real sustainability and actual affordability, Tesla. Electric cars should be available for those of us without deep pockets. If the company really wants to make a difference in terms of sustainable transportation, it can’t make cars only for the well-heeled. It also has to look beyond cars and to ways of moving people around with less of a drag on the planet. Maybe even look at why we are so hungry for the new and different that we are reluctant to take a look at the impact of our restlessness on the environment.

So really, what gives me hope with Tesla’s announcement is that a major corporation is opening its secret vaults, inviting the competition to make changes. I am a fan of the open-source movement, the sharing of what we learn, the generosity of the Web community. Together we can come up with alternatives to the consumer society Tesla markets to, alternatives to the endless hunger for New and Better, alternatives that remind us that real wealth is in each other, not more stuff.

You can follow Tesla Motors on Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, and Google+

Tesla Motors Sizzle Reel from Tesla Motors on Vimeo.

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#1068 Quebec Davids take on the Walmart Goliath

David and Goliath

When Walmart opened its first Canadian store in 1994, I wondered how it would fare. The rah-rah enthusiasm expected of employees did not sound like something Canadians would easily adopt. I figured without the advertiser-driven hunger for the lowest price…

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#1056 Skip the plastic; wrap mine in Abeego, please

Abeego

Abeego in action; from the company’s Facebook page

A Victoria, British Columbia woman has invented a product with the potential to put an end to those rolls of plastic that offer convenience and pollution all in one rectangular box. Toni Desrosiers came up with the idea of Abeego by looking back in time. She discovered pre-plastic storage options had two characteristics in common. They were natural and breathable.

On her “Our Story” page, Desrosiers describes the ground rules she set for herself in developing her storage wrap:

  • All ingredients used will be completely natural.
  • No chemical alteration will be needed for the material to be effective.
  • Each selected ingredient will have been used for preservation at some stage in human history.
  • All ingredients have natural characteristics suitable for keeping food fresh.
  • All ingredients are already approved by the FDA for food contact.

The sheets and bags she developed are made from hemp and impregnated with beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil. I’m not giving away any trade secrets here. It is all laid out on the Web site.

Those little balls of crinkled-up, indestructible plastic wrap will be around for a long time. Abeego, on the other hand, has a usable life of roughly a year. Wrap your cheese, bread, greens and other food items in it. Expect longer storage than plastic can provide.

Eat the contents. Use a little mild soap and cold water to clean your Abeego. Use again. Gently clean again. Use again. And then pop it into your compost heap and watch it gradually crumble into soil.

A lot of retailers carry Abeego now. Not one of them is in my foodie-paradise of a home town. That has got to change. In the meantime, I can buy them from the Web site.

Congratulations to Abeego for being a finalist in the Business Development Bank of Canada’s 2014 Young Entrepreneur Awards. The 2nd-place spot won the company $25,000 in consulting services.

This is the kind of innovative, creative solution to a practical challenge and an environmental ill that gives me hope.

You can follow Abeego on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Jenny Lee wrote a good article about Abeego for the Vancouver Sun.

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