Sustainability Lessons From India: Q&A With Environmental Consultant Trudy Heller

An American’s first impressions of India often include images of alternate approaches to trash management, intermittent electrical power supplies and issues of environmental sustainability.

In this interview with Trudy Heller, those approaches are seen from the perspective of Heller’s work designing products for environmental sustainability and providing training to executives in environmental management.

Heller is the president of Executive Education for the Environment, based in Swarthmore, Pa. She recently visited India to assist in setting up an environmental management training program at the new Indian Institute of Management in Shillong, the capital of the state of Meghalaya, Northeast India.

E-Commerce Times: What about your recent trip to India stays in your heart the most?

Trudy Heller:

In Shillong, I would leave the guest house each morning and walk out into a scene from a sustainable economy. In the driveway and walkways, four or five women were employed sweeping up debris that had fallen from the trees during the previous night’s rain. Each woman worked with a biodegradable sweeper made of broom grass, a locally grown agricultural product.

This tableau of a sustainable economy was striking to my Western senses. The system provided employment, used biodegradable, locally sourced products, and produced an excellent result — cleared walkways and driveways — without noise or air pollution disturbing the academic community.

At home in the United States, the problem of removing debris from driveways and walkways would be managed with an entirely different solution. A single worker equipped with a gasoline-powered tool would be hired to blow the debris off the pavement.

This solution would disturb the community with noise and air pollution, burn fossil fuel, emit carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — and provide employment for a single individual. With sustainability as the standard, it is easy to see which is the more “advanced” solution.

ECT: How are you using the word, “sustainability”?

Heller:

In his new book, Sustainability by Design, John Ehrenfeld suggests a definition for sustainability as “the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on Earth forever.” Sustainability is, by this definition, a vision and a mindset. In my trip to India, sustainability became a standard against which I measured practices that were new to me.

Rather than seeing the West as the standard of environmentally sustainable practices and India as an emerging economy that is trying to catch up, I saw opportunities for both East and West to learn from each other.

ECT: What were your observations of Indian senior managers regarding your environmental stewardship standard?

Heller:

I met power company executives who were building hydropower stations at the same time that India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in Washington, D.C., negotiating an agreement for nuclear power. India needs electricity to support its information technology industry and to meet basic needs. Both hydro and nuclear technologies go directly to clean power that does not emit greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change.

These technologies avoid the traditional path of polluting first and cleaning up later, which has been the path followed in the United States and Europe. Compare this with China’s construction of a coal-fired power plant each week to 10 days, and it is easy to see which is the more “advanced” solution when environmental sustainability is the standard.

ECT: Did the executives see their companies in terms of the same sustainability standard that you talk about?

Heller:

Managers, naturally, get engrossed in the daily challenges of running their operations. They struggle with community relations, requirements of government bureaucracies, and materials and personnel management. It is easy to lose sight of the big picture under these pressures.

Managers need to see themselves as global citizens, as being on the right side of history, as contributors to a transformation to a sustainable society.

Understanding how new business models are being created, hearing about examples of new product designs that dematerialize — or use less stuff, of companies that are profiting by using business models enabled by information, and communications [technologies] that substitute services for products was inspiring and enlightening to them.

For example, a power company executive recounted the travails of his efforts to deal with local community resistance to his company’s plan to build a new hydropower plant. I challenged him to frame his project in terms of the need to reduce greenhouse gases.

“How many tons of carbon dioxide will you NOT emit, by building a hydropower plant instead of a coal fired plant?” I asked. Or how many tons of carbon would be emitted if a coal fired plant provided the same amount of electricity?

He was thrilled with this question and began to use his engineering skills to do the computation. But he also got the bigger point: India needs power. The choice is to either build thermal plants that will produce electricity AND emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, or to build clean power plants that will not add to the climate’s burden of carbon, to leapfrog over more polluting technologies.

ECT: What other aspects of life in India did you notice with your environmental stewardship approach?

Heller:

Trash. The average American produces four pounds of trash per day. In India, there was no trash can in my room. I would collect trash on a shelf of my desk, and hand it to the woman who came to clean my room.

I became acutely aware of each morsel of trash I created. There was no “away.” I could not just drop trash in a can and put it out of my mind.

This system was simplified by the absence of paper products that are abundant in the United States: paper cups, plastic lids, straws, tissues, paper plates, plastic spoons and forks, all manner of handouts and advertising fliers, brochures, schedules, announcements.

Instead, “real” plates and cups were washed and reused even when they were taken out of the dining hall and brought to me at the guest house. E-mail worked just fine, a single copy of a newspaper was shared, and communication was often person-to-person. Measured against a sustainability standard, it is easy to see which system is more advanced.

Adding to the mindfulness of trash creation was the sight of a plume of smoke spotted on one of my walks around the Indian Institute of Management’s Shillong campus. The sight and smell of burning trash increased my attempts to minimize waste. Like the principle of “extended producer responsibility,” witnessing the processing of the end of life of my trash kept the pressure on to use washable dishes and utensils, to minimize paper use, and to use other products long and well.

What became valuable were things that could be used intensely and that would endure a long time. Single or short use products that had to be tossed out and replaced became an anathema. I felt my environmental footprint shrinking.

Another experience with trash occurred when I arrived in India and realized that I had left two folders full of important papers on the airplane. I went to the British Airways lost luggage desk and waded into the crowd of people with lost luggage.

The airline clerk made a phone call but reported that the crew had not found the missing folders. I left my name and hotel address but wasn’t expecting to see those papers again. I gradually realized that most of what was in the folders was also in my laptop computer — voila, paperless!

ECT: What are your concluding thoughts about what the heads of Indian companies need to know about environmental sustainability?

Heller:

Indian managers need to see themselves as leaders of the global green economy. We in the West have a lot to learn from them. With economies around the world in recession, falling consumption in the so-called consumer economies, and an urgent need to delink economic development from environmental degradation, we need the wisdom of both Eastern and Western ways of managing.

I find hope in management approaches and consultancies that base their practice in Indian culture’s inclinations toward sustainable development. AllIndiaLive.org is one example.

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New Linux Laptop Line Advances HP, System76 Open-Source Collaboration

Pop!_OS is preinstalled on the HP Dev One laptop.

Collaboration between Linux computer and software firm System76 and HP is pushing for greater commercial adoption of open-source software and hardware optimized for Linux.

System76 and HP on Thursday announced a new premium computer line designed to attract a wider audience to the developer-focused HP Dev One laptop computer.

HP’s new Dev One, powered by System76’s popular Pop!_OS Linux distribution, empowers developers to create their ideal work experience with multiple tools to help them perform tasks at peak efficiency not available on other computing platforms.

The Pop!_OS platform features auto-tiling, workspaces, and easy keyboard navigation. This flexibility allows software developers to create unique optimized workflows to unleash their coding potential.

Typically, Linux users install their preferred Linux platform as a replacement for the default Microsoft Windows on computers they purchase. Relatively few OEMs build their own hardware line and tune it for specific Linux offerings.

Denver-based System76 developed its own customized version of the GNOME desktop environment to help advance Linux as the future of computing. The company developed Pop!_OS after Canonical decided to stop the development of the Unity 8 desktop shell in 2017 and replaced its default desktop with GNOME 3.

“By bringing together our engineering, marketing, and customer support, System76 [and] HP are introducing HP Dev One to combine powerful hardware with optimized Pop!_OS for the app dev community,” announced Carl Richell, CEO, System76.

HP Dev One Laptop

HP’s Dev One laptop has a stunning classic appearance that belies the Linux hardware and software customizations designed for developers.


Targeting Coders

Software developers want a customized device optimized for the way they code, added Tylitha Stewart, vice president and global head of consumer services and subscriptions at HP.

“By working with System76, we are meeting this need and providing a premium experience with Linux Pop!_OS preinstalled to deliver the new HP Dev One. The device has features important to developers including an optional Linux keyboard tuned with a super key and designed to be more efficient at the core,” offered Stewart.

The companies hope collaboration will speed up the usefulness of Pop!_OS, pushing its boundaries beyond typical mainstream use for home and office computing. Pop!_OS development and innovation have always been a top priority for System76, noted Jeremy Soller, principal engineer at System76.

“We are working to develop new features and optimize current ones into Pop!_OS at a much faster pace than previously possible,” he said.

Unique Plan Has Potential

This interesting announcement suggests HP realizes that developers are a significant enough market to warrant specific products and attention, noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“While the company has certified its laptops for Linux for several years and offered Ubuntu as an option on some high-end mobile workstations, it mostly left installation and configuration chores to end-users. This new AMD-based solution and partnership with System76 changes that,” he told LinuxInsider.

The larger question, though, is how much of a market there is for an HP-branded developer laptop given other vendors’ longer and deeper involvement in this area. Consider that Dell has been delivering developer-focused Linux solutions for over a decade, King observed.

Dell offers XPS 13 and Latitude laptops and fixed and mobile Precision workstations pre-loaded with Ubuntu Linux and certified for Red Hat Linux. In 2020 Lenovo expanded access to its Linux-ready solutions that previously were only available as special orders to enterprise clients. The expanded product lines include over two dozen Thinkpad laptops, ThinkStation PCs, and ThinkStation Workstations.

A handful of specialty OEMs, including System76, complete in this space, observed King.

“Overall, this qualifies as HP moving from dipping its toe into the developer endpoint market to wading in up to its ankles. Depending on how it finds the water, HP may eventually take a deep breath and dive in,” predicted King.

About the Hardware

The HP Dev One is a premium laptop built for coding. It is not designed for casual computing.

HP’s new Linux-based laptop is built for the way software developers work. It is equipped with an 8-Core AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 5850U Processor 1 and AMD integrated Radeon Graphics.

Dev One’s internal specs offer much more power than normally found in laptops developed for casual and business computing tasks. It is loaded with 16 GB of RAM memory provided by DDR4 @ 3200MHz and offers 1TB PCIe NVMe 3×4 NVMe M.2 2280 Solid State Drive storage. Its full HD display shines with 1,000 nits brightness.

The multicore processor is designed to improve the performance of certain software products. Though not all customers or software applications will necessarily benefit from the use of this technology, noted HP. Performance and clock frequency vary depending on application workload, hardware, and software configurations. AMD’s numbering is not a measurement of clock speed.

HP Dev One ports side view

The Dev One maintains HP’s classic layout with ample ports on both left and right edges of the 3.24 lb lightweight 14-inch mineral silver colored clam shell.


For software developers, however, the multicore performance allows coders to seamlessly multitask between IDEs and photo editing software all while testing their releases. The 16 GB memory supply provides transfer rates of up to 3,200 MT/s of speed and responsiveness for developers.

More storage size and speed mean developers can spend less time managing their files. The high-speed sequential transfer — up to three GB/s — makes it possible to experience very fast loading and saving of files.

The Dev One laptop measures 12.73 x 8.44 x 0.75 inches (32.34 x 21.46 x 1.91 cm).

Birthing a Collaboration To Grow Linux

A group of engineers at HP approached System76 about the possibility of putting Pop!_OS on one of its laptop computers. After a few initial discussions, both companies saw a real win-win possibility if they worked together to bring Pop!_OS and Linux to a wider audience and allowed HP to move into a new segment, according to a System76’s public relations department spokesperson.

“The rest, as they say, is history,” the spokesperson told LinuxInsider.

But even casual coders and non-professional users can download the free open-source operating system without shelling out cold cash for a top-end laptop. The version of Pop!_OS that comes with the HP Dev One is the same version that will be available for download on the System76 website.

No specially altered software version is available. Users can freely download and install any Linux distribution. Linux runs on a variety of hardware configurations. It breathes new life into aging computers, especially those that no longer can run current versions of Microsoft Windows.

The added benefit Pop!_OS brings is its customized user interface (UI) that makes it simple and intuitive to use out of the box.

“There is no question that HP has an extremely far reach in terms of their audience. By bringing Linux into their portfolio as a viable option for their customers, it allows Linux and Pop!_OS to reach a larger audience as well,” said the spokesperson.

A Matter of Time

Only time will tell how successfully the HP-System76 partnership will advance the adoption of Linux. History shows that a lack of coordinated advertising and few major OEM providers of hardware preinstalled with Linux has slowed mainstream Linux desktop adoption.

“At this time, it is too early to say. We think it definitely ties into the above question, though, just in that a larger audience learning about the benefits of Linux will in time drive greater adoption of the platform,” according to System76.

But the collaboration with HP has really pushed System76’s ability to do this much further, offered the spokesperson.

The Pop!_OS Edge

The System76 POP!_OS is not a skinned version of Ubuntu GNOME as a replacement. It involves much more.

System76 has an impressive track record in pushing this customized Linux operating system to the forefront. It created a uniquely branded GNOME-based desktop environment designed for the company’s own hardware.

The collaboration with HP fine-tunes both hardware and software to make a computing platform not available anywhere else. Seasoned Linux users have many reasons to be attracted to POP!_OS’ integration of the GNOME desktop.

Selecting this unique Linux desktop emphasizes the continuing improvements System76 builds into the GNOME UI. The customized special features can make this collaborative endeavor a winning proposition for coders and related industry settings.

Pop!_OS version 22.04 LTS is designed to have a minimal amount of clutter on the desktop to eliminate distractions. The layout lets users focus fully on using it more productively.

The latest POP!_OS System76, released prior to the Dev One announcement with HP, added the ability to assign applications to run on a specific graphics card. Besides switching between Intel and Nvidia graphics, users can choose Hybrid Graphics mode. In this mode, the computer runs on the battery-saving Intel GPU and only uses the Nvidia GPU for user-designated applications.

Expanded keyboard shortcuts create a fluid experience. Not having to vacate the keyboard rows to carry out a mouse action is a refreshing approach to navigating the desktop. These new keyboard shortcuts let you launch and switch between applications, toggle settings, and much more. This should work well for coders.

Getting It and More

HP Dev One is available now with a starting price of US$1,099.

This laptop comes with full-disk encryption, Hall sensor, and ambient light sensor. It also has a dual-point backlit spill-resistant premium keyboard with a glass click pad and gesture support as default.

Wireless connectivity includes Realtek RTL8822CE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5 combo. This device has no fingerprint reader.

Audio configuration includes dual stereo speakers and two multi-array microphones. The power supply is an HP Smart 65 W External AC power adapter. The battery type is an HP Long Life three-cell, 53 Watt Li-ion.

Ports and connectors include two SuperSpeed USB Type-C 10 Gbps signaling rate (USB Power Delivery, DisplayPort 1.4); two SuperSpeed USB Type-A 5 Gbps signaling rate (one charging); one headphone/microphone combo; one HDMI 2.0; one AC power (HDMI cable sold separately).

Also included is one 720p HD camera.

For more information or to order, visit hpdevone.com.

The POP!_OS distro is available for free download in two versions. One ISO is for Intel and AMD systems. A second ISO is for Nvidia graphics systems.

Both installation ISOs boot the computer into a live session that does not alter the existing operating system or the computer’s hard drive. It is installed from the live session with the click of a button.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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Marketers: Beware Florida’s Mini-TCPA

If you do electronic marketing of any kind, you’ve been a captive audience to the ever-changing requirements of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, known familiarly as the “TCPA.” But now, the state of Florida has amended its Telemarketing Act, creating what is being called the “Mini-TCPA.” Florida’s new law changes electronic and telemarketing in significant ways — even if you’re not in Florida.

Years of litigation over the federal TCPA has taught most companies to understand the different forms of consent, how to distinguish sales calls from informational calls, what kinds of call could legally gather information from consumers without straying into highly restricted “sales calls,” and what in the world constitutes an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS).

Now, just as we thought the law was settled — or at least settling — the new Florida state law overturns the apple cart. Many of our prior understandings are out the window. Telemarketing practices will have to change substantially, and the costs of violating the Florida law will be substantial.

Law Applies Even if You Don’t Do Business in Florida

The new statute covers any call made to any device with a Florida area code no matter where the receiving phone is located, and calls made to a person who happens to be in Florida at the time they receive a covered call.

In either case, the calling company will be considered to be “doing business in Florida” and therefore subject to the Mini-TCPA. That’s true even if the calling company has no way to know that these seemingly non-Floridian numbers in fact have some relationship to Florida.

In either scenario, there is a “rebuttable presumption” that the calls are covered by the Florida statute. “Rebuttable presumption” means as a practical matter that government regulators or class action plaintiffs can make you spend lots of money in attorney’s fees trying to prove that the calls weren’t covered.

For economic reasons, many businesses will end up making the business decision to settle these cases rather than litigating the law’s application to them.

Role of the ‘Private Right of Action’

The big danger presented by this statute is the claims that may be made by private parties, not government enforcement actions. That’s because the new Mini-TCPA contains a “private right of action.” Any consumer can sue you claiming you violated the statute. Those suits can be class actions, real or threatened.

Although the statute appears to limit recoverable damages to a maximum of only $500 per violation, that figure is a red herring for a couple of reasons. Plaintiffs tend to claim that each individual call to their phone is a separate violation. One consumer’s calls can quickly become multiple violations and therefore multiples of $500.

In addition, under some circumstances, the law trebles damages. The Mini-TCPA provides for triple the damages and attorney’s fees if the violation was intentional. Since marketing and informational calls are both generally the result of a pre-planned marketing campaign, every call is going to be asserted to be intentional.

Moreover, general Florida consumer law allows recovery of attorney’s fees and, potentially, statutory additional punitive damages.

The ATDS Rabbit Trail

All the noise generated by litigation around the federal TCPA about automated telephone dialing systems may have given businesses the impression that if you avoid using particular kinds of ATDS, you can be sure of avoiding liability. But here again, Florida’s new law changes the game.

Instead of diving into the controversy over what constitutes a covered ATDS machine, Florida simplifies the issue — and expands the danger zone. The new statute focuses its attention simply on “automated systems.” The definition of “automated system” under the Mini-TCPA is much broader than the federal TCPA’s.

As defined by the Mini-TCPA, it encompasses any system that does any one of three things: it either selects the persons to be called, or it dials calls, or it plays recorded messages. It’s hard to imagine a telephonic machine (including the one in your pocket) that isn’t potentially covered by this definition.

Mini-TCPA Goes Beyond Classic Telemarketing

Many businesses’ response to warnings about the applicability of the TCPA to their operations was “we don’t do telemarketing.” That’s because a distinction between telemarketing calls and informational calls has been enshrined in telemarketing regulation since the enactment of the TCPA law. Telemarketing calls were the bad ones; informational calls were the good ones. Later generations of FCC regulations, rules, and orders focus on this difference.

Again, Florida’s Mini-TCPA breaks new ground. While the new Florida statute regulates “telephonic sales calls” made for the traditional TCPA and telemarketing purposes, it appears that the new statute goes further. It now seems to include calls marketing products and services that were in the grey area of TCPA coverage. For example, extensions of credit.

“Non-commercial” calls are going to be exempt from coverage by the Mini-TCPA, but only if the caller has some level of licensure or certification e.g., IRS Section 501(c) and Florida state registration.

However, some authorities say that the statute also covers calls made for ultimate purpose of obtaining information for later use in sales. If this is the case, any calls used to harvest consumers’ personal information for later use in sales will require the called party’s prior express written consent under this statue.

Much of this sits squarely in a grey area. Litigation and additional legislation will certainly affect what the law will actually say. The true application to your individual marketing strategy is going to be hard to predict. Seeking legal counsel is going to be crucial to making wise decisions in this area.

Establishig Consent

If the TCPA taught us any clear lesson, it was that to make (almost) any call “legal” all you needed to do was get the called party’s consent.

What constitutes the appropriate level of consent under TCPA depends on various factors: kinds of calls, call technologies, kind of phone called, who was making the call, etc. For that reason, determining what level of consent is required for any given call under TCPA can require a complicated and troublesome analysis.

The new Florida law simplifies all of this: it mandates that the only acceptable consent for all covered calls is prior express written consent. It then carefully defines what prior express written consent must look like, with several required qualifying elements:

The consent must be in writing, bear the signature of the called party, “clearly authorize” a call using an automated system, include the authorization to call a particular number specified by the calling party, and inform the called party of certain enumerated rights.

In addition, the call must provide to consumers identifying information about the calling party. The new statute also requires that the calling party must maintain records of calls made and the consent obtained.

Sleeper Provisions

The Mini-TCPA, like the federal TCPA, is long and convoluted. There’s too much in the law to cover all the provisions in this short article. So here are some other provisions that may be worth a look:

  • Limitations on call frequency and timing;
  • the way information mining calls will be treated;
  • the liability of a company for the violations of its third-party contractors;
  • the requirements for callers to transmit identifying information; and
  • potential criminal penalties for certain activity.

There is good news, nonetheless: the Mini-TCPA law provides a long list of types of calls which are exempt from coverage by the new statute. However, the exemptions are many and complicated. Many provisions provide an exemption from liability under the statute, then take the exemption away with exceptions to the exemptions.

Competent legal counsel is a must before deciding that a company’s telemarketing is exempt from the statute.

A Final Thought

It’s easy to think that the real threat of this statute is actual litigation. It’s not. It’s the Hobson’s choice presented when your company receives a claim from either government or a private party.

When you receive a claim under the statute, if you weigh the costs of fighting it or settling it, you will quickly come to an ugly realization. Every claim can cost you upwards of $1500, plus attorney’s fees for the claimant, on top of paying your own attorney, plus trebled damages, and other possible damages.

It will almost always turn out that the potential out-of-pocket cost to fight even a bogus claim is going to be much larger than the settlement demands from a plaintiff. Given the possible downsides of litigation, good counsel may well urge you to settle any claim as quickly and as cheaply as possible. If you consider the economics when determining how to respond to a claim, this makes sense.

All of that puts a higher premium on prevention. Talk to your lawyer about how this statute might apply to you, what your exposure is, and how you might bullet-proof your marketing strategy.

The only sure way to win at these claims it to prevent them from being filed.

This article is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. The purpose is merely to make the reader aware of some issues that must be addressed by legal counsel. This article cannot substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel addressing the reader’s specific situation.

Brad Elbein is a partner in the Atlanta office of Culhane Meadows, PLLC and is co-chair of the Government, Regulatory and Compliance Practice Group. Brad guides clients through matters involving telemarketing, electronic marketing, advertising, consumer laws (FTC Act, FDCPA, FRCA, TILA, and more), and defense of consumer law claims by government and by consumers.

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