Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Houston company breaks ground on North Texas solar project

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A Houston-area company has broken ground on a new 310-megawatt solar project located in Bosque County, Texas.

League City-based INEOS Olefins & Polymers and Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources announced the groundbreaking on INEOS Hickerson Solar, which will reportedly save over 310,000 tons of CO2 every year.

“INEOS O&P USA is committed to leading the petrochemical community in adopting renewable energy solutions,” says CEO Mike Nagle in a news release. “This solar project is a crucial step in our global efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of INEOS businesses.”

The INEOS Hickerson Solar project will be constructed, owned and operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, and the output will aim to cover the net purchased electricity load for all 14 of INEOS O&P USA’s manufacturing, fractionation and storage facilities. Commercial operation is expected by December 2025.

The project is expected to produce 730,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy annually, which is the equivalent to the annual electricity use of over 68,000 homes. INEOS hopes this will significantly contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 310,000 tons per year.

This follows the recently signed renewable power purchase agreement with NextEra Energy Resources, which is the world's largest generator of renewable energy from wind and sun.

6 sustainability-minded Houston stores giving discounts for old clothes

CLOTHES THE LOOP

Shopping is fun, but it comes with the unseen price tag of more than 92 million tons of global textile waste generated each year. With the apparel industry's global emissions predicted to increase by 50 percent in just six years, many see this as a full-blown climate crisis that is already affecting people across the globe.

To combat this problem, several retailers have committed to bolstering their sustainability efforts. From recycling linens, towels, pillows, and robes to upcycling denim, companies are finding ways for every textile to be saved from the landfill and either re-worn, repurposed, or recycled.

Stores trying to make a difference include Patagonia, North Face, J.Jill, Carter's, and DSW Shoes. To make summer vacation and back-to-school shopping more environmentally friendly, we've rounded up six Houston retailers where customers can trade in used clothing and textiles for exclusive discounts.

Gap

Gap has partnered with ThredUp, an online resale company, to recycle gently used clothing for their Gap for Good initiative. Customers can activate a kit and get a label here, fill the bag, and drop it off at any FedEx or post office location. If ThredUp selects any items for resale, customers can choose to receive either cash or store credit. Those who opt for store credit and use it at any Gap Inc.-brand stores will receive an additional 15% off their purchase. For clothes not chosen for resale, ThredUp offers recycling services, or the items can be mailed back to the customer for a fee.

H&M

According to H&M's website, its worldwide garment recycling program, launched in 2013, is "the biggest of its kind in the world." Customers can get 15 percent off their purchase by bringing unwanted clothes or textiles — from any brand and in any condition — to one of its stores. Turn them in at the cashier's kiosk and receive a coupon for their next purchase. The clothing and textiles will be sorted into three categories: re-wear, reuse, or recycling.

Levi's

Levi's aims to keep its coveted jeans in circulation and out of landfills with its trade-in program. The brand accepts denim and trucker jackets that are still in good condition; they repair any minor damage, sanitize the items, and resell them through their secondhand shop. Customers will receive a gift card ranging from $5 to $30, depending on the value of the item traded in. Customers must make an appointment to take advantage of this program, and only certain types of denim are accepted. A complete list of requirements is available here.

Lululemon

Have a drawer full of old Lululemon workout gear? Trade it in for a gift card towards a future purchase. The garment does not need to have its care tag, size tag, or price tag for this initiative; the workout brand accepts clean and gently worn (items with no damage, pilling, rips, or discoloration) women's and men's Lululemon clothing and bags for their Like New program. Except for outlet stores, every Lululemon outpost can accept items for the Like New program. Check what they're taking before going to the store, because items cycle in and out depending on seasonality and inventory. The value of the gift card customers will receive is determined by the value of the items traded in, but generally ranges in price from $5 to $25 and can be redeemed in-store or online.

Madewell

Madewell is on a mission to become fully sustainable, defined as using only fibers sustainably sourced and free of virgin plastics, by 2025. It has partnered with Cotton's Blue Jeans Go Green program to repurpose denim and keep it out of landfills by turning old jeans into housing insulation.

To participate in Madewell's recycling program, bring any brand or style of jeans in any condition to any Madewell store. If shipping is more convenient, activate a Clean Out Kit here or print out a free shipping label and mail in women's previously used clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories from any brand. In exchange, customers will get a coupon for $20 off purchasing one new pair of Madewell jeans.

Parachute

Parachute, the beloved home essentials brand, is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching a recycling program. In partnership with SuperCircle, they accept used towels, sheets, and robes. Although there are several recycling programs for clothing, shoes, and accessories, Parachute is pioneering this type of program in the home textile sector.

To participate in the program, customers can take their sheets, towels, pillows, and robes in any condition from any brand to Parachute's Rice Village store. They'll sort and recycle donated items for a second life – from new textiles to new projects, including furniture batting, insulation, and padding – sending nothing to landfill. In return, customers will receive a discount on their next Parachute purchase.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Climatetech funding: New York investment firm to donate part of proceeds to Greentown Labs

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Effective immediately, Greentown Labs, which has locations in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, is benefitting from funds raised by an investment group.

Greentown Labs, a nonprofit climatetech incubator, announced its partnership with New York-based Prithvi Ventures, a firm that specializes in early-stage climatetech. The unique partnership includes Prithvi Ventures donating "a percentage of proceeds received from its Fund 1 and Fund 2 to Greentown on a quarterly basis, in perpetuity," per Greentown's news release. The exact percentage was not disclosed.

“There’s an understanding in sports that the best teams always take responsibility and accountability for their own and look out for each other—that the members of the team are a reflection of the franchise,” says Kunal Sethi, founder and general partner at Prithvi Ventures. “I have always believed the same to be true in venture, too.

"Founders should know their supporters, team, and cap tables inside and out. It matters who you surround yourself with and Greentown Labs is always the first name that comes up for me," he continues. "Every founder in climatetech should work with them or they’re missing out on so much.”

Prithvi Ventures already has a handful Greentown member companies in its investment portfolio, including Carbon Upcycling, Mars Materials, Nth Cycle, and Rheom Materials. The firm has invested in 30 companies total, and aims to lead rounds, preferring to be the first large check for the startups it invests in.

“We are delighted to deepen our relationship with Prithvi Ventures and are grateful for their ongoing support,” Aisling Carlson, senior vice president of partnerships at Greentown Labs, says in the statement. “Through this new partnership, Prithvi Ventures and its limited partners are setting an example for how the venture community can more directly support the incubators and accelerators working to catalyze climatetech innovation and entrepreneurship.”