Winner: 1BOG (One Block Off the Grid)
Although collective buying of solar panels isn't a new idea, the concept has received fresh energy and success thanks to San Francisco-based 1BOG (One Block Off the Grid). The company (now owned by Virgance, which also owns Carrotmob and GreenOptions Media) uses a combination of community organizing, social media and traditional marketing to get homeowners to sign up for solar evaluations. 1BOG then negotiates significant discounts on equipment and labor, and helps users take advantage of tax incentives and understand the intricacies of owning a renewable energy system. Part co-op, part marketer and part motivational speaker, 1BOG is working in many regions, from California to the East Coast and impoverished sections of New Orleans.
People's Choice: GoodGuide App
Another California startup that aims to help consumers go greener is GoodGuide, which is available online and as a new mobile app. Developed by University of California Berkeley Professor Dara O'Rourke, GoodGuide researchers produce multi-category ratings of products based on analysis of informatics, health and environmental risk assessments, life cycles and social impact. There have been numerous green ratings programs, but few have reached critical mass. GoodGuide's volume (already more than 80,000 products), transparency and science-based approach suggest it has a better shot than most.
Learn more about our 2011 Heart of Green Award winners!
About the Nominees
Smart Meter Rollouts
We've been hearing about the coming smart grid for years, but 2010 finally saw sizable deployments of smart meters for homes in a number of areas around the country. Despite some protests by citizens' groups, smart meters offer many benefits in energy efficiency, monitoring, data sharing and in integration with renewable technologies. The Obama administration has pledged significant support, and utilities have moved beyond the test phase to early rollouts.
Mega-heir and long-time environmentalist David de Rothschild recently survived his latest eco-adventure, in which he and a small crew sailed their nimble Plastiki from California to Australia, to raise awareness about ocean pollution and global warming. The 60-foot catamaran was made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled bits, and included solar panels, wind turbines and bicycle generators. The team visited the storied Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other eco-attractions. Like the original voyagers of the Kon-Tiki decades before, they beat the odds.
Energy Star Upgrades
Recent surveys have shown that consumers are widely aware of Energy Star standards now, and that they appreciate the energy savings the labels signify. Energy Star continues to grow and evolve, with tens of thousands of products now covered in many categories, from appliances to entire homes. Energy Star products generally must be 20-30% more efficient than standard offerings, and increasingly they must meet minimum quality and performance standards.
- Brian Clark Howard