Safety in Numbers

Brighter Planet's blog about climate science, Ruby, Rails, data, transparency, and, well, us.

  1. Posted by Patti on Monday, June 03, 2013.

    End of the line

    For almost seven years, Brighter Planet has been a constant source of inspiration for me and, I’m proud to say, for the broader sustainability community. This makes it all the more difficult to announce that the company and its Brighter Planet Visa cards and other services are coming to the end of the line.

    We thank our customers, our partners, and all those with whom we’ve worked with over the years to move the needle on building a clean-energy future. It’s phenomenal how knowing what your carbon footprint is and what you can do about it or even what simple choices like which card to pull out of your wallet can do. Because of you, we offset over 350 million lbs. of CO2, supporting the development of 24 renewable energy and sustainable forestry projects across the US. This is the equivalent of over 20,000 homes being electrified by renewable energy for a year, removing over 10 million cars from the road for a day, or every cardholder turning off all the lights in their home for more than a year.

    We also thank our investors, leadership boards, and experts who have supported and advised us over the years. As a business that came to be profitable with almost 200,000 customers, we hope that we have helped demonstrate, along with all of our compatriots in the social entrepreneurship world, that you can certainly do well while also doing good.

    I must thank our team too, past and present, the soul of Brighter Planet. Andy, Seamus, Robbie, Ian H., Nancy, Matt K., Derek, Jon, Jake, Adam, Carolyn, Rich St., Daniel, Emily, Ashley, Bruce, David, Ian W., Kerry, Matt V., Rich Sa., Remy, and others. Some were with us for more than five years, others were interns for a few months, all played a role in our many successes.

    You may be wondering why we are liquidating at this point. Having led businesses large and small, I can tell you that winding a company down is the toughest decision to make. It was not one that Brighter Planet’s Board or shareholders took lightly.

    A perfect storm of regulatory upheaval made Brighter Planet’s business model increasingly challenging and financially non-sustainable going forward. The passage of the Durbin Act, intended as a plus for U.S. consumers and merchants, upended the card market, effectively precluding economically viable rewards cards that provide revenue for cause-based organizations including Brighter Planet. At the same time, the government’s inaction on meaningful cap-and-trade and the rise and fall of the U.S. carbon markets negated the need for and value of computational sustainability tools for businesses—tools that we pioneered in developing. Finally, the country’s economic meltdown these past few years naturally impacted discretionary spending by consumers and businesses, in turn impacting companies offering products and services like Brighter Planet.

    Since getting our start in a Middlebury College classroom in 2005, so much has changed. The powerful call to action of An Inconvenient Truth came the year after Brighter Planet was created, and left millions of Americans searching for ways to make a difference in climate change, the most important challenge our world faces today. Back then, there weren’t many significant organizations devoted to the global warming challenge. Brighter Planet in partnership with the Bank of America and Visa offered a straightforward first step for people to reduce their impact on our planet’s atmosphere, and we appreciate the bold steps that these partners took along with us.

    Now in 2013, I see a myriad of ways for people and businesses to take action. With organizations like 350.org building the largest climate movement the world has seen or CERES mobilizing business leadership for a sustainable world, I think it’s safe to say that while we certainly haven’t solved the climate problem, the community has made a serious dent in the participation problem. That you no longer need a credit or debit card to join the fight is cause for celebration.

    So while Brighter Planet is wrapping up, I’m happy to count hundreds more capabilities that have sprung up from the ingenuity of the community as well as thousands of organizations both big and small that transformed themselves to embrace sustainability within their core businesses. Even several of Brighter Planet’s former employees, including one of its founders, have formed a new startup, Faraday, to apply Big Data technology to customer acquisition of energy efficiency solutions. What so many for-profits, not-for-profits, and individuals are doing today in 2013 is nothing short of amazing.

    I’d like to close with some of my favorite Brighter Planet highlights from these past several years:

    • Managed the country’s largest consumer carbon offset program with almost 200,000 customers, outlasting every competitor in our space

    • Supported the development of 24 projects such as wind power in public school districts and open lands, cow power on family farms, and conservation of redwood forests, decreasing our dependence on carbon-emitting dirty energy sources like coal burning power plants and removing carbon from the atmosphere

    • Modeled over 27.5 million carbon, energy, and resource impacts of real-life carbon emissions sources, the most in the country

    • Conducted groundbreaking research in the aviation and hotel sectors, examining key drivers of energy efficiency and analyzing economic and environmental benefits

    • Assessed employee sustainability engagement in corporations and identified best practices

    • Provided grants to support community climate projects such as school gardens

    • Ran industry defining social media campaigns

    • Successfully built and sold a social giving platform

    • Named the country’s Best Small Business by Discovery Channel’s Treehugger

    • Won the Financial Times Social Innovation Award

    • Won the EPA’s Apps for the Environment Award

    • Recognized as thought leaders, presenting the company’s work to diverse audiences such as the technology, corporate travel, energy, and open government communities

    Thank you all.

    Patti

    Discussion

  2. Posted by Ian on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.

    A new offset project

    We’ve got a new offset project, and once again it’s the first of it’s kind for Brighter Planet. The Rentech Fertilizer Plant project supports a new N2O destruction system at midwestern fertilizer plant, and is certified under the Climate Action Reserve.

    Continue reading the full post
    Discussion

  3. Posted by derek on Thursday, September 13, 2012.

    Back to the Browser - A JavaScript Workflow for UNIX Nerds

    When Apple announced Mac OS X Lion, their tagline was “Back to the Mac” as they were bringing some features from iOS into the desktop-oriented Mac OS. In the JavaScript world, a similar thing has happened: innovations in the Node.js space can be brought back to the browser. These innovations have made JavaScript development faster and cleaner with command-line tools and the npm packaging system.

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    Discussion

  4. Posted by Seamus on Tuesday, September 11, 2012.

    Split XML files with `sgrep`, a classic UNIX utility from 1995

    sgrep is better than split or csplit for breaking up XML files by element – you can even use it to create a constant-memory streaming “parser.”

    $ sgrep -o "XXXSTART%rSTOPXXX" '"<TourismEntity" .. "</TourismEntity"' transmission_file.xml
    XXXSTART<TourismEntity>
        <State>New York</State>
        <Saying>I♥NY</Saying>
      </TourismEntitySTOPXXXXXXSTART<TourismEntity>
        <State>Virginia</State>
        <Saying>Is For Lovers</Saying>
      </TourismEntitySTOPXXXXXXSTART<TourismEntity>
        <State>Wisconsin</State>
        <Saying>America's Dairyland</Saying>
      </TourismEntitySTOPXXX
    

    (see below for why that output is useful)

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  5. Posted by Seamus on Tuesday, September 04, 2012.

    Upsert for MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite3 (and Ruby)

    Our upsert library for Ruby gives you NoSQL-like upsert functionality in traditional RDBMS databases. How?

    50%–80% faster than ActiveRecord

    New in 0.4.0: When used in PostgreSQL mode, database functions are re-used, so you don’t have to be in batch mode to get the speed advantage.

    You don’t need ActiveRecord to use it, but it’s benchmarked against ActiveRecord and found to be up to 50% to 80% faster than traditional techniques for emulating upsert:

    # postgresql (pg library)
    Upsert was 78% faster than find + new/set/save
    Upsert was 78% faster than find_or_create + update_attributes
    Upsert was 88% faster than create + rescue/find/update
    
    # mysql (mysql2 library)
    Upsert was 46% faster than find + new/set/save
    Upsert was 63% faster than find_or_create + update_attributes
    Upsert was 74% faster than create + rescue/find/update
    Upsert was 28% faster than faking upserts with activerecord-import (which uses ON DUPLICATE KEY UPDATE)
    
    # sqlite3
    Upsert was 72% faster than find + new/set/save
    Upsert was 74% faster than find_or_create + update_attributes
    Upsert was 83% faster than create + rescue/find/update
    

    (run the tests on your own machine to get these benchmarks)

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    Discussion


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We're Brighter Planet, the world's leading computational sustainability platform.

Who's blogging here?

  1. Patti Prairie CEO

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