Cover story — November Twin Cities Business magazine

Solar Apocalypse

Twin Cities entrepreneur George Anderson thinks a bunch of Iranians on boats are going to take down the U.S. electricity grid — if the sun doesn’t destroy us all first. He’s backing up his data on portable hard drives, stockpiling food for his family, and pouring his personal fortunes into a company he thinks can help save civilization. My profile wound up making the cover of the November 2012 issue of Twin Cities Business magazine. Read it here.

A bright idea from Milwaukee

(Midwest Energy News, November 7, 2011)—A mobile app that helps people perform their own home lighting audits is the winner of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Apps for the Environment” challenge.

Light Bulb Finder was created by a Milwaukee, Wisc., app developer called Eco Hatchery. Co-founders Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund learned they won the challenge last week, and on Tuesday they’ll be in Washington, D.C., to accept the recognition.

Borut and Nylund started out in 2007 making home energy-saving kits that came with an online tool for tracking projects. As mobile phones grew in popularity, they realized that “mobile phones are really the perfect platform for people to do their own home lighting audits,” Borut said in an interview.

The app was released for iPhone and Android in late 2010. It lets people walk around their home and use icons to identify the type of bulb currently used in each light fixture. After entering a zip code and the estimated daily hours of use for each bulb, the app suggests more efficient replacement bulbs, as well as a detailed projection of savings, in dollars and carbon emissions. Continue reading “A bright idea from Milwaukee”

Self-serve kiosks provide automated dry cleaning

(Finance & Commerce, November 7, 2011)—You swipe a credit card at a vending machine-sized kiosk. A clothing rack whirls around inside until your shirt or blouse appears. A robotic arm plucks it from the rack by the hanger and passes it to a glass enclosure in front of you. You pop open a door, grab your receipt and your freshly cleaned garments, and away you go.

Is this the future of dry cleaning?

Two local dry-cleaning chains this fall have unveiled the Twin Cities’ first-of-their-kind “dry cleaning ATM” kiosks. White Way Cleaners installed one at a Minneapolis skyway location in September. Last month, Mulberrys Garment Care installed one in the Ridgedale Byerly’s store.

Both companies view the kiosks as a way to extend service into hours and locations that wouldn’t be feasible for staffing with employees. If the machines prove successful, Mulberrys and White Way envision them springing up in skyways, condo and apartment buildings, office towers, gas stations and grocery stores all across town.

“We want to be one of the first to bring dry cleaning into the modern world,” said Dan Miller, Mulberrys’ founder and CEO. He compares the potential impact to what ATMs did for banking or Red Box did for DVD rentals — giving customers a quick, easy, always-open option for dropping off and picking up their dry cleaning. Continue reading “Self-serve kiosks provide automated dry cleaning”

Closing the Loop on Electronic Waste

Make no mistake: Best Buy likes to see customers lining up for that next new, must-have gadget. The consumer electronics retailer is in the business of helping people upgrade their technology, whether it’s a mobile phone or a big-screen television.

For every new product, though, there’s often an old one made obsolete: last year’s iPhone, or a clunky analog TV set, or that computer your media collection outgrew. All of this stuff eventually starts to pile up in closets, landfills or incinerators.

It’s an environmental hazard, and it’s a customer hassle. That’s why Best Buy is seeking to help close the loop on the millions of pounds of electronic waste its stores and customers generate each year.

Best Buy has rapidly become a national leader in e-waste recycling since launching an in-store drop-off program in February 2009. Customers at its U.S. stores can bring in just about any old electronics, regardless of where or when they were purchased, and Best Buy will make sure they get recycled responsibly. Last year, the company collected more than 75 million pounds of unwanted electronics. (Continue reading…)

Closing the Loop on Electronic Waste

Read my story on water scarcity in Twin Cities Business

I spent a few months this spring looking into the potential risks and opportunities for Minnesota companies as development, pollution, population growth and climate conspire to strain our planet’s fresh water supply. The risk may seem distant here in the land of 10,000 lakes, but in an age when global supply chains span the globe, few industries will be unaffected. Some are already feeling the effects. Meanwhile, the Twin Cities is home to a promising cluster of companies and technologies that could play a role in addressing the coming global crisis. Read more in the July issue of Twin Cities Business magazine.