07/29/2010 04:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Growing AND Greening

Historically, richer countries have grown by relying on power sources and technologies that generate massive amounts of the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming.

This has posed a serious dilemma: should poorer countries stop improving the lives of their people to avoid generating the additional greenhouse gases that would cause massive damage to the world?

A few years ago, I wrote about this dilemma and how it can be solved only through promoting innovation. We've recently looked into this question even further in a white paper.

With the support of the Packard Foundation, we decided to see if we could identify development projects that both improve lives and mitigate global warming. To that end, we created a methodology to assess projects to see how "green" they are. To be certified Green on GlobalGiving requires a project to have environmental as well as economic and social benefits.

Of course, not every project scores well. The good news is that many projects can become "green" at fairly low cost. And in some cases, becoming green even improves the overall impact of the project by reducing costs and creating other benefits to beneficiaries.

This month we are hosting a Green Challenge with 38 projects--all rated Green--competing for prizes. They include ideas such as providing fuel-efficient stoves to Haitian earthquake survivors and giving biodigestors to families to create energy out of waste. All are examples of innovations that are trying, in some way, to reconcile growth and protecting the climate.

GlobalGiving's Green program is only a start. It is not a magic wand or silver bullet. But it points to what can be done if we open the field to innovations from all sources.