Saving the Planet in 1 Week with $100 Million and 4 People

As most of my readers know, I am attending the StartingBloc Social Innovation Institute in LA next week.  This program is geared towards young adults (20 somethings) from around the world who strive to make the world a better place.  With that in mind, before we even arrive at the institute, they have assembled us into small teams and given us a lofty challenge.

Our challenge for the “Long Game” exercise is to figure out how to invest $100 million to have the greatest possible impact on climate change.  We are encouraged to look at: for-profit companies who are developing innovative technology, nonprofits that are addressing environmental protection, as well as investments in policy or advocacy regarding climate change.  We are free to invest the money in any way and encouraged to think outside of the box.

By next week when I arrive in LA for the institute, our group needs to have an investment strategy and be prepared to give an 8 minute presentation on that strategy.  The presentations will be voted on and the team with the most votes wins the game.

So …

What is your experience with the issue of climate change?

What investment, if made in the next 10 years, would reduce carbon emissions to zero or near zero?

What type of investment has the greatest return?  What type of investment would allow us to leverage the most money?

Who should I be talking to about this project?


8 responses to “Saving the Planet in 1 Week with $100 Million and 4 People

  1. Sharon, I’m not exactly answering your questions, but your post made me think of Toyota’s Ideas for Good contest. I think that it falls into the category of for-profit companies who are developing innovative technology — and then further adapting that innovative technology to new uses that can potentially change the world. Two of their technologies are a solar powered ventilation system and a hybrid synergy drive. Those two could impact climate change, potentially on a large scale depending on how the technology is applied in different circumstances.

  2. Here’s the website if you want to get some ideas of what can be done and perhaps who to talk to:

    Good luck 🙂

  3. $100M worldwide is a pittance so look for something low tech that everyone has and make it more carbon emissions efficient. Something like putting a power save circuit in all Wall Wart transformers, chargers, etc that only lets them draw electricity when they are actually being used. Worldwide there are a zillion of the things plugged in all the time which are only used occasionally. Principle is like getting fabulously rich by taking a penny out of every computer financial transaction (Office Space). Better yet use the $100M to pay a group of smart people to find and exploit all of these sources of parasitic losses that we tolerate now because we have too focused on initial cost to deal with them. The royalties for their inventions could be used to sustain the effort after the $100M runs out.
    As a source you should check with Super Casey, DOE Wonder Woman.

  4. Cool project! Well. Your Dad’s right. 100mill is chump change compared to the 6 bill a DAY the U.S. spends on oil imports. But this just gives you incentive to think of some really creative ideas to leverage that $$ for high impact! Experts agree that the biggest bang for your buck investments for reducing carbon emissions are in the least sexiest area – efficiency and energy savings….so like- insulating buildings, energy efficient appliances & light bulbs, ideas like the one your Dad proposed. Look at this famous and widely cited McKinsey graph on page 8 of this study …it shows the cost/ton of CO2 saved for today’s technologies. As you can see the majority of the technologies that have a NEGATIVE cost/CO2 saved are efficiency/energy savings related. Energy experts keep giving speeches about how energy efficiency is the “low hanging fruit” idea….and recently Steven Chu, the Secretary of the Energy, gave a speech that said “Its not just low hanging fruit…its fruit lying on the ground!” Everyone thought it was soooo funny. Anyway. The problem is for some reason no one is picking up this “fruit lying on the ground”. Its just sitting there – rotting. There isn’t a business model yet that will motivate people to pay a ton of $$ up-front to insulate their house or buy a new appliance…when the pay back in savings due to reduced energy costs is 5 years or more. Plus there are lots of scattered $ incentives by state, federal, & utilities for energy efficiency…but the consumer often doesn’t know about them to take advantage.

    Here is one idea that meshes well with your expertise in knowledge management and social networking: Many utilities are rolling-out wireless smart-meters. These meters instantaneously report to the utility your homes energy usage. What if an app or side-bar was added onto Facebook which displayed you and your friends household energy/m^2 – it instantly went up or down with changes you made to your usage. You’d start to compete against each other – seeing who could get their energy usage down the fastest…people could share information about the cheapest way to reduce energy usage and the state, federal, & utility incentives offered in their area. It could go viral with businesses and schools competing…putting pressure on the biggest energy sinks to reduce consumption. There could be a “scoreboard” where you “add” businesses to your sidebar and when you open facebook you see their progress each day. Its low capital cost and it has the potential to scale easily and go viral. Cost to facebook – max: 10-15 mill for programming & coordination efforts with the utilities. The rest of the $ could be used to roll-out wireless smart-meters to more consumers. Anyway – there are lots of ideas you could come up with!

    I think its important to look at where your biggest impact would be. If you improve overall U.S. energy eff by 20% versus if you open a 100MW wind farm…how much CO2 emissions savings does that equate too? I have a cool energy/climate model on my desktop that I could run for you if you want to see something like that. …depending on how much time/notice I have. It makes some neat graphs.

    If it were me…for a whole bunch of reasons… i’d probably give all my $ to ARPA-E . An amazing, new organization within the DOE that is working on high-risk, high-reward research to produce the next breakthrough technology….they are looking at some crazy stuff. If you want more info on that – i’ll type it later. :o)

  5. I love that I know you Kacy. Thanks so much for all of this information, you are a wealth of knowledge!

  6. Pingback: At StartingBloc in Los Angeles | Service Driven

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