SXSW Eco Panel – Behind E-Waste – Recycling Electronics

E-Waste dumping - photo by Curtis PalmerThe success of SXSW’s March event each year has brought a year-round calendar of mind-expanding events like the 2nd annual SXSW Eco conference a few weeks ago. SXSW Eco brings participants together to focus on areas of Sustainability. The popular SXSW format, panel discussions and meetings over the three days, allowed experts to share their ideas, successes and challenges with audience participants. I was able to attend a variety of sessions including one important to both Schipul and our clients who use technology to support their business or non-profit.

The Good, Green & Shocking Truths

Panel Summary: Many factors such as planned obsolescence, consumer trends, and updated technology contribute to e-waste becoming one of the largest societal waste segments. Exactly how recyclable are our electronics, and what are the most responsible methods of disposal?

Moderator:

Maia Corbitt – Executive Director at State Of Texas Alliance For Recycling

Panel members speaking:
Clive Hess, President of  CompuCycle
Dag Adamson, CEO of LifeSpan Technology
Terry Levy, VP Sales for ARCOA

The panelists discussed the history of electronics recycling in Texas and the ways their organizations, alongside our state’s legislature, have gradually increased the ease of recycling for businesses.  The panel shared the different local electronics recycling programs and explained which programs were legitimately using state approved certifications and processes so that Houston business owners could confidently select a certified recycling center.

History of Electronics Recycling in Houston

15 years ago in Texas, most waste was being shipped overseas, and low grade metals were one of the main waste products.  Within the last ten years, we’ve seen this change as more businesses are seeing the value of sustainability programs.  Granted, some of this was instigated by policy change.  For example, Texas passed the 2008 Computer Take Back Law making computer manufacturers responsible for providing recycling to residents and small businesses.

In 2011, there was only one certified center in Houston and now there are 5 certified centers indicating a move towards easier and more responsible waste management.  The increase in facilities comes from businesses who provide recycling services moving towards end of life asset management for businesses, including refurbishing and re-use as much as possible, and encouraging recycling when re-use is not possible.  Combined with policy changes, taking out the hazardous materials and doing the right thing has become a profitable business focus. Recyclers also recover more value when possible for the business or consumer than they did in the past.

E-Waste Sustainability in Houston Today

Yesterday’s technology included much more solid metals waste and was larger (think old Desktops). Today’s recycling stream allows removal of metals and proper disposal. Current electronics are smaller and more efficient in their production. This already eliminates some of the bulk of recycling. Both of these are results of policy changes bringing a change in practices and new business opportunities.

Clive Hess, President of CompuCycle – Houston’s first R2 recycling center, brings success stories that share how CompuCycle has expanded their services to include data management and data sanitization, and provide better opportunities for Houston businesses to incorporate sustainability programs.  At CompuCycle, many recyclers now securely erase, sanitize and provide warranties on products they resell. No products are sold as-is, but only with a warranty and if it can’t be sold with a warranty, then it is recycled.

CompuCycle also participates in the unique recycling challenge called the WhatIf? campaign where you can donate your eWaste and they will hire and train individuals to recycle the components. This creates jobs and training for a local non-profit organization. The plan is to continue beyond the campaign as a sustainable endeavor, but they ‘need your junk’ to be successful.

Seek Out R2 Certified Recyclers

Most companies are not quite educated yet on R2 certification and the panel shed some light on how to evaluate and find the right certification options for your business. There’s still a long way to go for the recycling industry to be a recognized standards bearer and the EPA encourages companies to find out if the recycler you’re considering is certified by an accredited, independent certification auditor such as the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board.

The panelists agreed that Education will become key for Chief Sustainability Officers in companies and for your Chief recycler in your home.  The people who fill these roles will want to seek updates and stay informed with both the changes within the recycling services corporate world as well as with Federal and State policy changes. Some rrecycling businesses are only registered and will include this as part of their marketing materials, but doesn’t mean they are certified for recycling responsibly.

Our future should include policies that put pressure on electronic manufacturers to build upgradeable devices and longer life cycle products to reduce waste. But, this will require individuals to let their lawmakers know how to write these policies. Lawmakers listen to their constituency and particularly parents.

Want to Help Improve E-Waste?

Manufacturer’s need collection goals and the public needs easy locations to drop-off.

  1. Require retailers to provide information about recycling to consumers.
  2. Require state agencies to recycle assets via certified vendors.
  3. Recommendations that state computer Take Back laws include ALL electronics including TV’s and other waste.
  4. Find local R2 Certified Recycling facilities in your area.

Concerned about the future of materials in your landfills near your children? Let your State Representative know your concerns.  The EPA’s website also has a list of Recycling Resources where you can go to stay up to date on changes in policies and find tools to help individuals and businesses develop and implement sustainability programs at home and in your office.

Silver Lining for Urban MiningUrban mining and rare earth metals can be found locally instead of offshoring with other countries. Opportunities exist for job creation and has even been part of the lawmakers focus in Colorado for underserved markets. A de-manufacturing site provides jobs for disabled or underserved markets, and a refurbishing site can provide high-tech jobs for engineers. Recycling E-waste is a reverse supply chain position taking one part and producing many parts from the whole. The recycling industry is a consumer driven market. Imagine what happens if everyone started sending all electronics to recycling? It would be an influx of materials. A typical middle-income household has four or more devices per person in their home. Game consoles, cell phones, old iPods, CRT screens, printer, etc.

Business is good for current recycling facilities. What happens when there is no longer a market for glass or other low grade materials? There are electronic parts that have value such as copper, gold and metals, but it is getting harder to handle materials such as glass, lead and plastic. Panelists were quick to suggest as invention increases, there is opportunity with the challenges. Glass is now used in aggregates for road construction to help the roads last longer with addition of silica to increase life span. Reground ABS plastics lower the cost of many manufactured items. There will be a greater need to find opportunities like these for our increased e-waste.

Take Action Recycling your Electronics

Find a certified recycler near you, and find your representative. Have eWaste? Let us know and we can help you find the means to recycle responsibly!

Thankful for You Houston.

I have so much to be thankful for. I’ve written here in the past about how I’m thankful for LOLCats, Aggieland, and my mom’s wise advice to always stay positive. Today in particular I am thankful for the democratic process, my rights as an American, and those who serve to protect our freedom. And Twitter. I am definitely thankful for Twitter.

Thank You Houston!

This year for my 30 Days of Thanks post I want to take a moment to personally thank you – the people and the city of Houston, for all you have done for me over the last four years.

It was January 3, 2009 when I moved to Houston. In the years since then you have welcomed me and supported me every step of the way.

Houston is a unique place – the most diverse city in the country, a town that fosters business and supports the arts – and earlier this year topped Forbes’ list of America’s Coolest Cities. I have tried my best to take in as much of it as possible – taking in museums and restaurants and festivals and trying to keep up with everything Houston has to offer. Honestly, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

The Big D will always be my hometown (don’t hate), but I have been incredibly blessed to find a great home here. And I cannot be grateful enough.

A Few of My Favorite Things about Houston:

1. A Full Events Calendar  In a city as big as Houston, there is always something going on!

I am privileged to get to go out and support fantastic clients like Miller Outdoor Theatre, Susan G. Komen Houston, and The Art Car Parade. Some of my other favorite events have been Comicpalooza Comic Convention, Free Press Summerfest, and the Rodeo!


Left to Right: Houston Rodeo, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Free Press Summer Fest, Houston Beer Festival, Comicpalooza

2. The Food! – I often tell people the best part of moving to Houston is the food. The diversity of backgrounds and cultures in Houston meld into a mixing pot of delicious opportunities to explore. My latest obsessions are El Gran Malo, Benjy’s, and Petrol Station. (And I am always open to suggestions!)

Houston Food Truck Fest 2011

3. The Schipulites – I work with some of the most talented, hardest working people I have ever met. I learn from you every single day. I have great mentors here and a great team. I couldn’t ask for more.

Thank You!

I have to thank you to all of you in Houston for welcoming me with open arms. Here’s to many more Houstoniversaries to come!

Post Django Dash 2012 Recap

We did it. Django Dash for our second year in a row. A little different, but still memorable.

From home

This year we spent the majority working from the comfort of our own homes.

Thanks to Schipul and our decision to move toward a remote work lifestyle we were able to easily face this year’s competiton in style aka in our jammies.

If anything this saved us valuable travel and setup time.

Lessons learned

I said this last year, but I’ll say it again this year; because apparently we did not learn our lesson.

Make as many decisions as possible before the competition. Think roadmap or dare I say clipboard of fun.

One of our greatest strengths is our team. We work together every workday, this competition was no different. I can only imagine the stop-and-go speed of competing on a team that doesn’t know each other.

Not the time to learn

This year I spent some time on two things I’ve only spent a couple of minutes on in the past. The Twitter Bootstrap project and Class Based Views. While my colleagues spent their time learning about Google authentication and the interim their experiencing as they adopt new technologies.

Competition time is definitely not the time to learn new things. It’s just so hard not to. You find yourself inspired and when inspiration strikes all you want to do is strive, learn new things and create.

In the case of Google authentication, it had to be learned.  Our project was dependent on it, as always; it’s amazing what you can do when you have to.

I don’t foresee this habit waning any time soon. If anything I look forward to it. I learned a lot of useful things this weekend and I’m left wanting more. Give me that feeling anyday.

Veering from the original mission

Early Sunday morning we found ourselves having to make a choice. A choice between accumilating more points by submitting more commits and focusing on specific code requirements such as standards and creating tests. Or making a product that might actually provide some value to many in the near future.

We chose the latter. The idea of our project actually being useful at more than just collecting points is an honor. With this in mind we refocused and put effort into submitting a finished product that’s worth demoing.

We’ll be demoing our finished 48 hour project to the office and get our first ouside perspective. No matter what people say I’m not-so-secretly wishing we can keep up this momentum and continue improving our project.

What did you build, tell me already!?

Without getting into too much detail – at this point in time – it’s best summarized here. http://theoldmail.com

You can sign up for the site now and take it for a spin. Keep in mind that this was 48 hours of code. You might find some quirks and so-called missing features.

What about the competition?

It’s been said that we get our results some time this week; but as I mentioned before we’re more excited about the project itself and what it can bring to others.

It’s open sourced

One of the rules of the Django Dash competition is that the project itself must remain open sourced. So feel free to take a glance at our code on github.com and fork the code if you’d like to start contributing.

NetSquared Connects Techies and DoGooders in San Francisco Bay Area

While Silicon Valley and the Bay Area can at times be a whole world apart from Houston, there are still many things the two areas have in common – tech, geeks, startups, non-profits, and people passionate about changing the world through technology. If you’re in the Houston area, hopefully you’ve made it out to one of the Houston NetSquared meetings that Schipul hosts. They’re always fun and informative – a great way to bounce ideas of others working at the intersection of technology and do-gooding. Ed & Katie started the Houston group back in 2006, and have kept it going strong since.

I was excited to check out the San Francisco NetSquared group when I moved to this part of the world, but unfortunately couldn’t make the meeting that took place right after my move. And then summer hit, which those of us in the Bay Area know, is traditionally a quiet time for groups and activities. At the end of summer, the NetSquared community managers sent out word to group members that the previous organizer was no longer able to run the group, and asked if there was any interest in taking over those duties. Being a NetSquared fan girl, I threw my hat in the ring and offered to take the reins. I was lucky enough to have a very enthusiastic community that offered support, and fortunately two awesome folks – Regina Walton and Dave Theriault – stepped up to serve as co-organizers too. Together, the three of us are totally awesome. And no, I’m not biased at all!

I am super excited to get things kicked off with the November Meetup. Young Han from GoVoluntr will be speaking to the group about how he got started in the technology startup space, and what challenges non-profits have today and how technology can help solve them. Young is an amazing guy; I first met him at a Mountain View Chamber event hosted by our friends at Westminster Promotions. Bonus points went to me for immediately understanding what he was trying to go with GoVoluntr; we hit it off from there and have since had several great conversations surrounding do-gooding in technology. Young’s philosophy with GoVoluntr matched the Schipul Core Values so well; it was clear we’d be friends!

GoVoluntr has had an exciting fall, being asked to join the 500 Startups class. They’ve moved in to the group’s space in Mountain View (bonus to being just down the road from us in Sunnyvale – closer for coffee!) and Young and his team are getting their brains crammed with all sorts of amazing training and knowledge. Check out the recent post about their class from TechCrunch, and if you’re a Bay Area non-profit or do-gooder (yes, that’s totally a word) be sure to check out GoVoluntr!! Young and his team have built an amazing tool for connecting volunteers with those who need them, and giving volunteers a way to share and track their activity.

If you’re in San Francisco or the Silicon Valley area, we’d love to see you at a NetSquared event! If you can’t join us on November 8th, no worries – we’ve got speakers lined up for December and January, so join us then! And if you’d be interested in presenting to the group, or know someone who might be, please do let me know! We’re always on the look out for new ways to geek out over tech.

Wild Night in Africa with Houston Zoo Giraffes. Giraffes!

The Houston Zoo's group of young supporters, Flock, were invited to the African Forest Exhibit to mix and mingle with the Masai giraffes and a few other animals.

Last night the Houston Zoo invited the Flock, the zoo’s group of young supporters, to visit the giraffe house at the new African Forest exhibit.

More than 100 visitors arrived to the after hours event and got an up-close encounter with eight Masai giraffes housed at the zoo. Guests were taken in groups to a barn where they were able to stand on an elevated platform to feed, pet and play with the long-necked, spotted herbivores. As it turns out, giraffes are wildly social and curious. Without much prodding they walked right up to the visitors to nibble from their hands, pose for photos and take a lick at guests’ toes.

The giraffes are just one area of the zoo’s African Forest exhibit, which opened late last year. The 6.5-acre habitat is home to a colony of chimps, white rhinos, and antelope. While guests didn’t get up close and personal with the rhinos, keepers brought a few animals to the party including Olivia, one of the guinea hogs, and Ernie, the North American porcupine.

Last night’s event is one of the zoo’s many private group functions. If you missed the event, we posted photos from last night. And if you were there and miss the giraffes, you can see them anytime on the zoo’s live web camera of the giraffe platform and barn.

We’ve attended several Flock events, and applaud the group whose mission is to inspire a new generation of zoo supporters.  Flock is underwritten by Momentum Audi and the evening’s event was sponsored by Freebirds, Saint Arnold Brewing Company,  and Yelp of Houston.  For more information on joining the Flock, visit www.houstonzoo.org/flock.

Be sure to check the Houston Zoo Event Calendar to plan your next visit to the zoo!

Last night’s photos!


Doing Good for March Madness

UPDATE: Congrats to JMO on reigning victorious over the March Madness magic.  We donated $500 to the American Red Cross for Japan relief efforts in his honor.

Today is the start of March Madness. In the world of Schipul, it’s my general duty to manage the office pool. As the Twittersphere started warming up for March Madness, I came across this tweet from a former Schipulite:

I pasted it, and sent it to Ed. The subject, Dear Ed, the body, Just sayin’ ;). He liked the idea, but not the reward. Instead, the Schipulites will be putting their brackets on the line for the opportunity to donate $500 to the relief effort in Japan. (and an Apple gift card, natch!)

The Final Four is kinda special for me this year, as my hometown is playing host. I’m excited that my picks this year may do more good than ever before. Good luck to all, wherever and however you play. However, if you do win a big office pool, do consider donating some, if not all, of it back to Japan.

Steve Ballmer Speaks at Houston Technology Center Forum

Houston Technology Center

HTC welcomes the CEO of Microsoft!

A gorgeous day downtown, the great folks at Houston Technology Center and guest Steve Ballmer – CEO of Microsoft drew dozens and dozens to Minute Maid Park’s Union Station for today’s Houston Technology Forum.

The Houston Technology Center is known for affording education, insight and more to entrepreneurs needing to climb the ropes to commercialization.  The topic of the day, presented by Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, was “Strategic Implications for Houston as a Center for Innovation.”

“The most grand commodity of all is information” – Steve Ballmer

 

Steve Ballmer Microsoft Houston Technology Center

High Tech Talk

Highlights included the path that technology has taken in the last decade and where it’s going in the next.  Hand-held devices, resources technology and virtual worlds where business takes place with Avatars were all topics of discussion.  The forum mainly, however,  focused on informations technology and the important and continuing role it will play on business development in the years to come.

Steve Ballmer also spiced things up wit ha sneak peak of some great Avatar based progra ms for X-Box360 even giving away an X-Box to a lucky attendee at the end of the program.

Houston Technology Center Microsoft

Hugs to Houston Technology Center

Sheila Whanger did a great job organizing the event and it was wonderful to see Walter Ulrich, President & CEO of Houston Technology Center up on the stage as well.   Let’s not also forget the welcoming faces of  Downey Bridgwater, Chairman of the Board – HTC and Larry Kellner, Chairman of the Board – Greater Houston Partnership.

It was great, everyone.  Thanks so much to HTC!

Houston Technology Center Walter Ulrich 2

Startup Weekend Houston

Houston Startup Weekend Sign

Start Starting Up!

Ever wonder how some business ventures get off the ground and get going?  Or maybe how you can go about getting your idea rolling?  Well, Startup Weekened does just that for developers, coders, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts who participate in several Startup Weekends world wide.

Houston Startup Weekend Group

“Build Community. Start Companies. No talk. All action.”

A great (and true) tag line for this growing non-profit organization that helps participating teams from all over the world get their ideas from concept to launch.  Starting in 2007, the non-profit Startup Weekend has grown to provide about 120 volunteer based facilities for creative and entrepreneurial brainstorming sessions.

Houston Startup Weekend Presentation

Previous companies that have evolved from a Startup weekend include Cloudbot, Milton, iBuildApp and Pocket Tales.  In fact, there are tons of new businesses from all over the planet that have started at one of these 54 hour weekend community events.

Startup weekend is expanding and growing so fast for a reason.  First it’s an amazing non-profit that educates entrepreneurs and strengthens communities and all at an extremely affordable price.  Let’s face it, even the word “startup” is horrifying if you’re going it alone, but Startup Weekend provides a risk free, community environment to get things going and touch on what is and is not realistic. Basically, it’s help.  Help from great people who care.

Houston Startup Weekend Workshop

Startup in Houston!

What could be more awesome than Startup Weekends?  Oh, that there is a Startup Weekend Houston!  This past weekend represents the First Official Houston Startup Weekend not to be confused with the first Houston Startup Weekend back in 2007 at Caroline Collective. The 2007 weekend was hosted by omnipresent Erica O’grady.

Houston Startup Weeked Sarah

The proud team of organizers of Startup Weekend Houston were the amazing  Sarah Worthy , Javid Jamae a fellow a developer; humble … the way all developers should be, Brian Cohen, Daniel Sommars, Katie Sunstrom and Jerald Reichstein.  Jerald owns his business like most people own their notebooks.  He’s had at least one before, knows it’s powerful, but he spends more time enjoying it rather than being worried about it.  Or maybe I was most impressed with his personal rock climbing wall.  Either way, the mood at this event was inspiring.

Houston Startup Weekend

Along with Dozens of Houston’s creative and geeky go-getters, it was nothing less than a privilege that we were able to be there. Even more-so of an honor was being given the opportunity to contribute; our Creative Director David Stagg gave a small presentation on the important role a simple website plays in the discovery and positioning of your organization.

Houston Startup Weeked David Stagg

I look forward to next year’s event, I’m hoping to do more than just enjoy a Saturday morning. Be sure to check out photos from Startup Weekend Houston and David’s presentation.