Green entrepreneurs are a growing force in the start-up world, and they aren’t just coffee shop owners and locavore grocers. Small business owners in every sector of the economy are discovering that going green is not just better for society; it’s also better for customer satisfaction, as well as the bottom line. Here are a few of the most effective ways entrepreneurs are leading the way in environmental stewardship.
1. Retro Furnishings
Start-ups across the country are cutting their initial costs by reusing and recycling old light fixtures, desks, giant cable spools, discarded pallets and more to furnish and style their offices (or garages), instead of splurging on new offices and fancy furniture. It’s hip, cheap, and efficient, allowing entrepreneurs and their staff to function like they need to, without spending much money. It also saves the waste and cost of manufacturing new products and keeps those old furnishings out of the landfill.
2. Cutting Out Cars
By thinking carefully about where they buy their office space, and using company bikes or public transit to get around, greentrepreneurs (BPGL calls them “ecopreneurs“) save time and money, reduce pollution, and ensure they’ll never have to hunt for a parking spot again.
When central locations aren’t feasible, eco-conscious entrepreneurs can organize carpools, or accommodate telecommuters. With multiparty video chat and dozens of ways to connect, many information/service-based employers find that they don’t need the expense and environmental strain of physical office space at all.
In the 2000s, many offices went paperless, but computing power is the new inefficiency to root out of the modern office. Electronics are a significant energy drain, and they’re environmentally destructive to build — so pushing an office’s computing and storage needs to the cloud allows small businesses to get the same jobs done with less expense and less waste.
Cloud accounting, streaming, collaboration, and storage can allow a start-up to run leaner, cleaner, and more profitable than attempts to perform those functions in-house. Google offers free cloud office programs and storage, and companies like Adobe offer greatly discounted software suites to those willing to subscribe to their cloud service.
4. Energy Efficiency
Far ahead of government regulations involving the manufacturing of incandescent bulbs, entrepreneurs have of necessity been using more energy-efficient forms of lighting. From CFLs and LEDs to larger windows and skylights, energy efficient lighting is a no-brainer.
Green-power strips that intelligently turn off computers, copiers, and other electronics once the working day is over are also a solid investment, since these devices tend to use nearly as much power in their idle state as they do during the workday.
Investing in energy efficient products not only helps long-term costs go down, but tax breaks and utility company rebates help reduce the initial cost of upgrading lights and other electronics. All of this ensures that utility costs and carbon footprints are reduced.
5. Eco Businesses
Then there are the entrepreneurs who are on the forefront of green production. From solar cell production and wind farms to organic resellers to a couple of Berkeley guys using old coffee grounds to grow hydroponic mushrooms, new companies are starting daily that are rooted in being and selling green.
Companies like these benefit from tax credits, positive public relations, an increasingly eco-aware consumer base, and the knowledge they’re doing their part to help the environment.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
About the Writer
Patricia Shuler is a Mobile Moo staff writer from Oakland, California. Sheís an admitted tech-junkie who ís quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronic — including up-to-date news, user reviews, and no-holds barred opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.
Although Woofables, The Gourmet Dog Bakery in Coralville, Iowa, sells dog food, it has the light scent of a real bakery. Owner Laura Taylor, who used to work in marketing, now spends her days crafting handmade treats for canines out of all-natural, all-human-grade ingredients.
While frosting a cake, Taylor explains that everything made in the store can be eaten by people; they’ll just think it tastes bland. Salt is unhealthy for dogs, so items are flavored with pumpkin, peanut butter, and cinnamon. Frosting is made with carob and yogurt and tastes like white chocolate.
“My kids like to come in the kitchen area and eat the carob chips whole because they taste so good,” Taylor laughs.
She also mentions that customers tell her the doggy truffles taste like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Most treats look like small gingerbread cookies and are sold in bulk from a long table in the center of the shop, resembling the produce aisle at a grocery store. They retail for $9.49 per pound, and Taylor says they’re the store’s best-seller.
Taylor bought the six-and-a-half-year-old store two months ago. She previously considered baking a hobby, but now makes her living creating and selling bakery treats for dogs.
Former owner Lara Moore, who still works at the store part time, calls the goodies “extra special treats,” because even though they’re all natural, they should be given to dogs in moderation. The carob in the frosting contains sugar, so dogs shouldn’t eat them every day.
Taylor says that dogs benefit from an all natural diet because they’ll have more energy, a healthier coat, and improved health. A lot of canines suffer from digestive problems, which can be aided by a better diet.
“They’re just like us,” she said. “The better we eat, the better we feel.”
The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have as strict guidelines concerning grade and cleanliness for traditional dog food compared to human food, Taylor also explains. Woofables is licensed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Twice a year, the store’s process and ingredients are inspected.
One of her goals for the already established business is to expand the wholesale and online sales. Taylor is launching a new website within a few weeks that will allow users to buy online.
Currently, the wholesale side of the business sells to four stores. One of those outlets, Brown Dog Bakery in Des Moines, previously purchased items from as far away as Indiana and Colorado.
“There are not a lot of places like ours around here,” Taylor says. “No other places around here make handmade items.”
Another goal for the business is to streamline and improve efficiency with baking because, currently, the process is entirely manual. Taylor — and a few helpers — bake the items by hand, but that process will be hard to maintain with Taylor’s expansion goals in mind.
Safe Toys for Doggy Playtime
Woofables also offers dog toys, some of which are from earth-friendly companies. Simply Fido stuffed animals, ranging from $15.99 to $21.99, are made from all-organic fabrics and all-natural dyes.
Moore says the company sends all the toys through a UV filter before they’re sold, in order to kill bacteria caused by the handling process. They’re also sent through a metal detector to catch any sewing needles that might have been left behind.
Flat Katz stuffed animals, which use organic cotton and soybean fabrics, retail for $10.99. Biodegradable doggie deposit bags are also offered.
Taylor says dogs are welcome to shop with their owners and mostly visit on the weekends, though a few stopped in on a Wednesday afternoon. She anticipates that business will pick up significantly for the holiday season.
“I’m expecting the Christmas rush to last right up until Christmas, since people usually shop for their pets last,” she says.
Order from Woofables
Woofables is located at 1801 2nd St Suite 270 Coralville IA 52241. Customers may place orders over the phone by calling the store at 319.351.9663 or by sending an email to the store.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
“A big part of what we’re doing — and what gives me great passion — are the personal success stories about individuals,” says Susan Neisloss. “I can’t tell you how important it is for me to be able to share these stories and to have people give us good ideas. That is the key to building this community.”
Neisloss is speaking about the community of people who visit Working for Green (WFG), the website she has published for about a year. A seasoned broadcaster and reporter, she interviews ecopreneurs who are making a living by starting and running environmentally friendly businesses. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Neisloss by phone from her California office. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
BPGL: What is Working For Green’s main mission and how can it help improve our economic woes?
NEISLOSS: We want to help inspire and motivate everyday Americans to share their innovations and tell us about their new green jobs. There are so many new sustainable opportunities that can use the skills you already have. For example, a wind turbine technician might have come from an engineering or construction background. There’s so much gloom and doom out there, and we want to be a voice of hope and optimism that empowers individuals to make changes that will help their bottom line and enhance their well being.
BPGL: Where do you see the most growth in terms of sustainable industries?
NEISLOSS: Wind, solar, biodiesel and algae as power sources, but also those involving agriculture and a return to living off the land by growing your own food and providing food for your community. With an estimated 48 million Americans going to bed hungry every night, it’s critical that we find creative and sustainable ways to grow healthy food in abundance.
BPGL: What is your motivation for creating Working for Green?
NEISLOSS: I did this out of a personal passion to want to help people, given how difficult the economy has been. I started, back before the 2008 election, percolating about an idea. I wanted to focus on the environment tied into the economy as a way to make people feel more secure about their financial and related lifestyle issues.
Of course, the economy is going to get stronger and get weaker. That’s the cycle of life. But, increasingly, as I started to talk to people around the country, I realized that the one thing that’s clear is that most people do want to help one another and that we can do something without relying on government and corporate assistance to make some significant positive changes.
Working for Green was the genesis of that passion. It’s a video-based web community. And the emphasis is on that community, where people can share actionable innovations and career opportunities through original content. We feature personal success stories that highlight creative and measurable examples of sustainability.
I suppose the easiest way to describe it is, it’s designed to be a portal where users can exchange videos. I want videos from people so that they can post ideas and articles that support this basic idea.
BPGL: Would you say that Working for Green is a “green” site?
NEISLOSS: It’s not just green per se; it’s the bigger issue that covers women, children, education, animals, food, and the like — basically, every area of our lives. Working for Green is dedicated to empowering — very important — and motivating people to help one another, help themselves, and help their communities. I’m also very concerned about future generations, because I love kids.
So it’s this whole idea, which is reflected in the growing importance of social interest networks, of the power of the people to have an influence. We see that all the time. Now we have to find the content, the content doesn’t have to find us.
BPGL: What is the vision behind your interview series?
NEISLOSS: The centerpiece has been three-minute pieces that I go out and produce around the country. My original goal was to make it a little like — you may be old enough to remember Charles Kuralt and his series, On the Road. I always loved what he was able to do, and I don’t profess to be the poetic journalist that he was.
But, given my background as a TV reporter and producer, I wanted to do a road trip, which, for various logistical and financial reasons, hasn’t actually been a linear path. But I have done about 50 stories in the last eight months. Probably in 12 different cities, focusing on interesting individuals. I do personality profiles, then highlight something where somebody could serve as a mentor or as an example to somebody else in terms of making their life better.
I’m completely apolitical, nonpartisan; there’s no axe to grind. There’s so many sites out there — what is it, 2.7 million green sites alone? I’m not about telling you how to recycle your bottles or giving you the latest news on climate issues. But I am particularly concerned about the individual. And I think that’s what makes Working for Green distinctive, the high-quality and emotional nature of the stories.
And then, in addition, I’m providing a portal where people can exchange ideas as well.
BPGL: How big is your readership?
NEISLOSS: It’s going to take some time, and I realize that. But we expect to have 45,000 page views this month, a 33% increase! We’ve been working very hard to interact on a personal level through Facebook and Twitter.
BPGL: What’s the revenue model for your site? Are you selling advertising?
NEISLOSS: We’re working on something that’s based on a hub-and-spoke model. Imagine the hub is Working for Green, ideally, as a social interest network forum, where people exchange ideas. The goal, as we’re just implementing this now, is to have spokes — Working for Jobs, Working for Women, Working for Food, Working for Children — and those spokes change. We’ll provide automated content and make it current content through RSS feeds.
In addition, we’ll provide regional, personal stories that I shoot. And people can exchange ideas and go to a niche that they’re interested in. That will appeal to advertisers as well, because if they’re selling Platex Bras, for example, they’d be particularly interested in aligning themselves with the women’s spoke. That’s the greatly oversimplified perspective on what we’re doing here. We’ll also be selling our videos to other outlets, such as cable networks, major newspaper websites, and so on.
BPGL: What do you enjoy most about what you’re doing?
NEISLOSS: For me, the biggest high, because I love visual storytelling, is doing the stories. But I have, quite honestly, had to cut back on going out and doing stories, because it is a big chunk of change. And I’m shooting on HD, establishing a stable of professional shooters around the country with whom I’ve worked and I have a relationship.
Right now, I’m really focused on getting the word out and taking all this good content, and trying to link with other sites. It would be wonderful if someone would decide, We’d love to use this content for something else and syndicate it. And then we’d be able to help people in a bigger way. I really want to be able to share this, because I think the focus of these pieces is designed to be emotionally compelling and entertaining to some degree.
The feedback has been very good from some senior media people I know through a course I’m taking – a special fellowship that I got accepted into at Columbia Journalism School. And I find that the feedback I’m getting has been very positive. But even senior media people and people in my class — everybody is looking for the brass ring, as you know. Everybody is looking desperately at researching a way to increase e-commerce through video.
My goal is that when I do a story, and believe me, I don’t want to ever compromise editorial in advertising — it has to meet certain criteria in any piece I do.
For example, we were in Chicago and did a piece on one of the Kimpton Hotels properties there. Kimpton is not as big as some of the other chains, but they’re doing amazing things, where the employees have a very big say in making their hotels and their service more eco-friendly.
It was quite remarkable, and I’m engaging with people there. In spite of the economy, they’re a hotel group that’s starting to grow as well. And it was very rewarding to see that even the housekeepers are changing the kinds of products they’re using that are healthier for them. So that’s very exciting when you see measurable examples like that.
BPGL: Does Kimpton underwrite the video about them?
NEISLOSS: No. I do think, given my production background, going out and doing a series of stories for a Kimpton or an Enterprise Rent-A-Car, or whomever is trying to get a visible presence in the green or relationship space, there is that possibility. But I don’t want to appear as if anybody’s shilling for a company. I think people understand now that everybody’s in need of advertisers for sure.
BPGL: You’ve got a great site. You’ve got interesting, compelling videos, and I’m sure you’ll be really successful.
NEISLOSS: Do you say that to all the girls? [She laughs.] I’m sure you feel the same thing when you work on your site. I’m sure you feel there are those days when you think, “Oh, this is great. What we’re doing is different from anybody else out there. And then there are those other moments when you think, “Uh. It’s like Sisyphus.”
BPGL: I totally agree.
NEISLOSS: In terms of the complementary nature of what we do, we’re both very positive. Your language reflects that in the kinds of stories you do.
My goal is not to be all things to all people, and to have a point of view. So, when I focus on these people or when I go to Arizona and see this poor Latino community that lost its only supermarket — it’s invigorating to see that now — I focus again on one person who has led the community to start growing their own vegetables and buy chickens to sell eggs. They’re really living off the land. And they’re trying to make a go of it, and be able to survive and thrive.
Also, there is someone who helps me write the content. So, no matter where you live, even if you’re not in Arizona, to relate to that story, you can get resources that we provide. Even if you’re in another part of the country, it might be helpful to you as well, if you want to kick-start something. I try very hard to make sure each story has applications to other parts of the country.
In the best of all worlds, I would be able to find a way to reduce the cost of production and be touring around in my hybrid vehicle right now, sponsored by Enterprise, and coming your way in the summertime to Iowa, shooting a number of stories. We had been going to two to three states at a time to save money. Obviously with airfare and driving costs, I’ve had to cut back on that temporarily, but I’m very optimistic that we’ll get to the Midwest for sure.
BPGL: Do you have something new coming up that you can tell us about?
NEISLOSS: I’m about to announce an advisory board that includes people from the world of entertainment, the hotel industry, anybody who’s interested, people who are leaders, movers and shakers on the educational side, and major sustainability institutions. I think the idea of this hub and spoke model is to really pinpoint these niche markets and to showcase them. The most important thing is, I’m looking for great ideas from people that we could come to their town and do a story about them.
I want to reach out and let people know that there is help, and there are actions they can take, and we offer a valuable resource in terms of ways to save money and make money and find sustainable work.
Follow Working for Green
Website: Working for Green
Facebook: Working for Green
Blue Planet Green Living asked reThread‘s Rob Irwin, Brett Maurer, and Paul Quick two questions we like to ask everyone we interview. Here are their collective answers, given by Rob Irwin. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
5 Ways to Save the Planet
BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?
Education. Educate yourself and carpé diem, sieze the day. But be careful how you educate yourself. Make sure it is from reputable sources. There’s a lot of greenwashing going on, especially at the beginning of this trailhead – and I think we still are at the beginning. We are under global commerce now, and every choice you make in your lifestyle affects everyone in the world.
Analysis. Analyze your own life. How do you define your happiness? How necessary are the things in your life? Can you, by getting rid of things that aren’t necessary in your life, reduce your impacts? Getting rid of stuff actually clears your physical quarters — and your mental quarters.
Relationships. Removing the clutter allows you to spend more time with the ones you love, build friendships, and make memories. It also enables you to have relationships with the earth and seasons, and adjust your lifestyle seasonally and geographically. For instance, a couple of months ago, I was kind of haphazardly grabbing some things at Vitamin Cottage. When I got up to the register, I looked at this pear, and it said, “Peru.” And I thought, “Whoa. Here I am buying an organic pear, but it’s from Peru — so it’s shipped from 10,000 miles away.” I’d like to buy locally. Maybe I can’t buy these avocados, because they’re from Guatemala. Or maybe I only do it so often.
Communication. There are a lot of communication barriers now. We really rely on technology instead of face-to-face interactions. This interview is a prime example of that; but [technology] allows you to convey a lot of information. Sharing of ideas, knowledge, wisdom, and education has a very important and integral role to the furthering of the ideas in society.
Empowerment. A lot of people feel they are not empowered, and they feel like they can’t change much. Complacency is detrimental to a culture that needs to change. Believing in the power of one — and your ability to make a difference and act — is the fifth most important thing. And I’ll leave on the note of quoting Margaret Mead in saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
2 Minutes with the President
BPGL: If you had two minutes with President Obama, what would you say?
I’d first congratulate him on the maverick role he’s taken in the White House. It seems like he’s really balanced in a lot of issues. So I think that I would first congratulate him, then also remind him that the popular choice is oftentimes not the right choice to move a country in the correct direction. I would tell him to stay steadfast and continue on course as far as making global changes and putting U.S. on the map once again as a true global leader in shifting the world.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Last week, Blue Planet Green Living had the privilege of introducing our readers to a unique, traveling supper club in the greater New York City area. Chef Sarah Pace of Rabbit Mafia and Chef Suzanne Barr of Sweet Potato Bakery have come together to provide unique, locally sourced, raw meals at a modest cost. To the delight of their patrons, they choose a different venue for each event. If you’re inspired to join this movable feast, check the websites at the bottom of the post for future event announcements. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
The New Deal Supper Club on July 15th was sweeter than a song.
This time, the ladies of Rabbit Mafia and Sweet Potato took their awesomely sophisticated show on the road to Brooklyn’s hinterlands (I mean, Williamsburg). The trip to BRIDGET Tasting Room felt like an updated Mission Impossible scene. Only this time, the instrumentals were the introductory bars to the infamous 1987 hit, Smooth Criminal.
Brooklyn provided a beautiful backdrop that surprised the guests, some from as far as New Jersey. There, miles from a train (translation: civilization) attendees were greeted by a beautiful waterfront — bridge and all. The wide-open streets of the once commercial district in Williamsburg edged right up to the wide-open glass façade of BRIDGET Tasting Room at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.
The dinner, like Michael Jackson’s song, was a never-ending interplay of unexpected experiences and associations. Chefs Sarah Pace and Suzanne Barr touched on multi-layered possibilities when they served the Papaya Lime Summer Soup. Ooooowwwww. Spicy and smooth, guests at the dinner raved about the shock delivered to their palates in the form of summer tropical fruits cinched with lime.
The Cucumber Agave Juice, which came by the carafe, was eagerly downed by folks playing with the flavors of the mildly sweet and super-refreshing drink.
Then came the crescendo — both at the table and in the song that looped in my head. When the Summer Corn Tacos were placed before me, I was officially hit — by the smoothest of criminals. Radicchio & Romaine Chiffanade, Pico de Gallo, Chunky Guacamole & Nut Chili with a pickled side salad… these were just the parts of the carefully orchestrated whole. What more does anyone want from a taco… besides another serving?
And in keeping with the raw Latin American theme, the ladies capped the meal with the most appropriate dessert. Somewhere between pre-Colombian past and 2051, they landed in a middle ground that’s eons away from the present. And yes, I was very much okay after having the Spiced Chocolate Mousse. Thank you for asking.
There is one aspect of the New Deal Supper Club that outshines the food: the price. Pace and Barr make a conscious effort to buy local produce from Satur Farms and other local farmers, in combination with consciously sourced international items, like papaya, all at a an economical rate for guests.
All New Deal Supper Club meals are served at establishments that share the team’s mission to embody sustainability. A delicious, nutritious, three-course meal for $25.00 in New York is a rarity. A three-course meal that is raw, seasonal, and touches all the finer parts of the palate for $25.00 in New York is near impossible. The ladies, once again, shine as stars in the New York City Supper Club scene.
BRIDGET Tasting Room was well worth the trip. The tasting room carries a selection of amazing wines that round out BRIDGET’s own collection of superb bottles from the Bridge Urban Winery’s vineyard on Long Island. Respecting both the environment and discerning consumers, the vineyards in Hudson Valley were developed and cultivated by Greg Sandor and Paul Wegeimont. Later they were joined by Everard Findlay, who expanded BRIDGET’s presence by creating a home for the excellent wines in Brooklyn.
December 23, 2008 by Julia Wasson
Filed under Activists, Architects, Architecture, Blog, Brownfields, Ecopreneurs, Engineers, Front Page, Illinois, Retrofitting, Solar, Sustainability, Texas, Weatherizing
Did you watch the Bears play the Packers yesterday from the warmth of your home? Maybe you were among the frozen fans braving 7-degree weather to root for your favorite team on the shores of Lake Michigan. Blue Planet Green Living was there, too, tailgating in the parking lot of the Adler Planetarium nearby.
So, go ahead, ask. What does the Bears/Packers game — or tailgating, for that matter — have to do with being green? It’s a fair question.
Our host yesterday was the Big Green Egg, the company that makes an ancient grilling system turned modern that we’ll tell more about another day. This was the kickoff filming for an upcoming television pilot featuring luminary chefs — like Dean Eliacostas from Carmichael’s Chicago Steakhouse — cooking Around the Grill in 80 Days on Big Green Egg grills. Despite the bitter weather, we kept warm and comfortable, in a beautiful motor coach provided for the video shoot by Liberty Coach.
The food was delicious — amazing, in fact — but the driver for our participation was the opportunity to meet with a few of the leaders in the green movement in the Chicago area. In coming weeks, we’ll share with you what we learned about how environmental engineers, architects, and grassroots organizers are planning for, and implementing, progressive projects in sustainability. We think you’ll be inspired by what each of these people has to say.
We’ll introduce you to environmental engineer, Rob Rafson, of Full Circle Sustainability Management Solutions. Full Circle’s “mission is to make ‘going green’ profitable, and show return on investment so that true sustainability is achievable.” And the company is doing just that.
Rob is responsible for the largest solar thermal rooftop installation in Chicago — at an overall cost savings. What’s more impressive, perhaps, is that the installation is part of a brownfield renovation. He’s cleaned up a formerly toxic paint manufacturing facility and created a healthy space that uses solar energy to heat the building. Joe and I recently interviewed Rafson and soon will share with you his thoughts on sustainable business practices.
Green architects Lisa and Ron Elkins designed the Green Exchange, an all-green office building created by renovating a former men’s underwear factory in downtown Chicago. Their firm, 2 Point Perspective Inc., also won the competition to design a zero-energy home. We’ll be telling you more as they prepare to break ground. Like Rafson, the Elkins team is involved in multiple projects worth our attention, and we will help spread the word.
We also had the privilege to meet face-to-face with Susan Roothaan, founder of A Nurtured World in Austin, Texas. Susan’s roots are in Hyde Park, where her parents still live, just two blocks from President-elect Obama’s home. On December 12, we introduced you to Rays of Hope and 1 House at a Time in Renewable Energy, A Tool for Social Equity, projects operating under the umbrella of Roothaan’s nonprofit.
Something quite wonderful is now happening, as community organizers in Hyde Park — including Susan’s 84-year-old mother, Judy Roothaan, and neighbor Sharon Klopner — work to implement a Rays of Hope-type of project in their own neighborhood.
They will be sharing with Mr. Obama ideas about retrofitting the older homes, rather than razing them. They want funding to put solar panels on roofs, like Rays of Hope and Rafson have done. And they want to use eco-friendly materials to make these buildings energy efficient, like Rafson, the Elkins team, and Roothaan’s team are doing. Support from grants and tax incentives will be key to making this happen, and both Roothaan and Rafson have extensive experience to share.
The interchange of ideas last night was electric. What it showed us all was the incredible power of people working independently toward a common purpose, and how much more effective that can be when we share our knowledge and visions with each other.
Yes, even a tailgate can be an inspirational green experience. Please stay tuned to find out more about what we learned and, especially, to hear about the important work happening in Chicago. Then let us know what’s going on in your city, so we can spread the word and build the kind of synergy we were privileged to be a part of last night.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
I know your kind. You recycle. You care about the planet. You might even be a tree hugger. You want to avoid dumpoing things in the landfill if there’s a way to extend their lives for another go. But not everyone can be bothered. If the environmental mess we’re in isn’t enough to motivate them, what will?
That’s one of the questions Ron Gonen had to figure out while developing the business model for his innovative, young company, RecycleBank. We talked with Gonen from his office in New York City.
BPGL: How does RecycleBank encourage people to recycle?
GONEN: We reward your home for the amount that you recycle. We sign a contract with your city and provide every home with a large, wheeled and lidded recycling cart. Embedded in each container is a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. When the truck picks up your recycling, we read the chip, weigh the contents of the cart, and wirelessly credit your account with RecycleBank Points.
You keep those Points in your account until you’re ready to spend them on over 900 rewards. The Points, and the rewards they can buy, are the motivating factor that gets people to recycle as much of their household waste as possible.
BPGL: What types of items can a RecycleBank customer purchase with their Points?
GONEN: We have different offers for each location, depending on the currently participating local and national sponsors. At any given time, a customer has at least 100 ways to spend their Points. A couple of examples from our website are a free YoBaby Organic Yogurt for 50 RecycleBank points or $2 off a purchase of $5 or more from Kiss My Face products.
We also have an option for people to donate their Points to schools for projects dealing with the environment. The RecycleBank Green Schools program helps kids in RecycleBank-serviced areas to become the next environmental stewards of the planet.
BPGL: Many cities already have a recycling program. Why might they want to partner with you?
GONEN: Their goal is the same as ours: to keep all recyclable materials out of the landfill. We can help with that by motivating people to recycle as much as possible.
BPGL: Who pays for the containers?
GONEN: Generally, the city will buy the containers or we retrofit existing containers with our scanable chip. We also retrofit the city recycling truck with a mechanical arm that picks up the container, reads the chip, and records how much each household has recycled.
BPGL: If there’s no cost to the customer, how does RecycleBank make money?
GONEN: For every ton we motivate people to divert from the landfill, we earn money. The city has a figure for how much tonnage they sent to the landfill in the previous year. We measure the amount of recyclables collected weekly or daily, and then we do a true-up at the end of the year.
Whatever tonnage we divert over and above the previous year represents a savings in landfill costs for the city. So, if a city recycled 1 million tons last year, and this year they are recycling 3 million tons, we split the difference between us. The city gets the benefit of saving landfill fees for the half of those extra 2 million tons. And they pay us their savings for the other half.
BPGL: Do people have to sort their recyclables before putting them in the cans?
GONEN: No. We pick up recyclables in a single stream — meaning that everything is commingled in a single can; there’s no separating needed. But we can do dual-stream [also called “multi-stream”] pickups if that’s what a city needs.
Or, if cities are interested in going to a single-stream process, we have a number of partners that we can work with to help them get there.
BPGL: How well is the program catching on?
GONEN: We’re in 15 states. The first country we’ll expand to is most likely to be the United Kingdom. That could happen in Q3 or Q4 of 2009.
BPGL: Is RecycleBank a nonprofit?
GONEN: No. We’re a for-profit business backed by venture capital. We’re showing people that you can be green and successful.
BPGL: What can people do to get RecycleBank in their city?
GONEN: Call your mayor. Say, “If we increase recycling participation, we will save our city money. There’s a program that can help us do that. And it will put money in our pockets and into the local economy.”
BPGL: What are you doing with the materials, now that there’s not much of a market to sell them?
GONEN: It is very closely tied to the economy. The reason the backup happened is that prices have set record highs in recycling for the last 3 years, now that the economy is bad, the prices have gone down.
You have to take a four-year view. The last four years, people made an absolute killing. Recyclers didn’t want to sell at low prices, so the materials are starting to back up. If they don’t sell the materials, they have to dump it in the landfill. How much are you paying to dump the materials and how much will it cost you to take them to the facility? That’s the complete story.
Prices dropped in last few months, but there were record-high prices the last four years. Most facilities contract the sales of their materials for 5 years. The contracts set a price ceiling and a floor. If the price shoots up, we benefit. If it drops, no one gets killed.
Some recyclers have been burned and hurt by the recent drop in prices. But most big players and those that did their contracts properly are stable.
BPGL: How long do you think it will be before the prices become more stable?
GONEN: Recycling tracks consumer confidence closely. If consumers aren’t buying at Wal-Mart, there’s no need to make so many boxes. As the economy returns, recycling will return. With a change of administration, there will be a boost in confidence. I don’t know what Obama is planning to do. Our business model is not dependent on aid from the federal government in any way. The last 8 years could not be any worse in terms of commitment to the environment. A simple change in administration focused on the environment will be good for us, because that’s what we do.
BPGL: What was your motivation for starting an environmental company?
GONEN: I’ve always had an interest in social policy and the environment. I started the first recycling program in my high school — a great high school called Germantown Academy in Philadelphia. We were using plastic silverware in the cafeteria. Through our student government, I got us to change to metal silverware so that we wouldn’t constantly be throwing stuff out. It was a little bit of a struggle, but there was a lot of support for it, and we made it happen.
I also started a program on hunger and homelessness for high school students. We hosted other high school kids from all over country. They came for three days to learn about hunger and homelessness.
Most of my life people said I was too idealistic.
BPGL: What do you recommend to today’s students who have an interest in the environment?
GONEN: The world’s going to be a very different place from an energy perspective in the next eight years. Try and focus on businesses and ideas that are going to make a difference over the next 3 to 8 years. Don’t get caught up in conversations around what to do to reduce greenhouse gases in 2035. Find things that make a difference today; that will lead you down a path to find employment.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Walking into Atomic Garage is like traveling back in time. You won’t find any CDs here, just shelf after shelf of LP records. Want an authentic Motley Crue tour shirt? Or is KISS more your style? The friendly sales staff will be happy to dress you up in a glamorous ’70s pantsuit, if you like, or make you sweat in some double knit polyester. Complete your outfit with over-the-top costume jewelry that will get you attention in any crowd. Step out of your comfort zone and into a time machine of treasures.
If the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” weren’t already over-used, I would suggest it be the slogan for Steve Mumma’s many green businesses. As owner of A OK Antiques and tag sales, Atomic Blond Mid-Century Modern Gallery Loft, and Atomic Garage Valley Junction Vintage Clothing Store, Mumma focuses on preserving usable goods by selling them for reuse in imaginative ways.
Since opening his first business in 1987, in West Des Moines’ historic Valley Junction (Iowa), Mumma has diverted tons of vintage clothing and household items from the landfill. That alone is an important service to the community. But, in Mumma’s view, just as important, he’s motivated by the desire to keep a piece of our history alive.
Support — or, rather, “trash” — from the community is the cornerstone of Mumma’s success. If not for people wanting to clean house and get rid of things, or the fact that our earthly possessions are just that, earthly possessions (you really can’t take them with you), A OK Antiques and Atomic Garage would have no merchandise on the shelves.
How is Mumma’s business model any different from places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army? “The thing that sets me apart from the Salvation Army-type of stores is that I have always had a very discerning eye for the things that are collectible from every era, as well as a passion for looking for the unusual. I have a very strict quality control process,” Mumma says.
Mumma’s tag-sale business, which he operates under the same name as his antique store, A OK, even more directly promotes the reuse of household items. A tag sale is similar to an estate sale, but without auctioneers.
The great thing about a tag sale is that it is all-inclusive, selling everything the owner has left behind, not picking through for valuables like an auctioneer might do. “I put stuff directly back into users’ hands. Then they don’t have to buy new,” Mumma says.
All linens, kitchenware, tools, cleaning supplies, chemicals, even notepads are given a chance to find new homes. Afterward, tag sale leftovers either find their way to A OK or Atomic Garage, or end up at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Mumma’s goal is to have as little as possible end up in the landfill.
“I look at older things from a design standpoint,” Mumma says. He’s standing in Atomic Blond, a showcase of art-deco furniture and mid-century art. When scouting for items to sell in A OK, he says, “I look for elements of the ’50s and ’60s. I end up finding something that is a lot like things being made today,”
This is especially true in the fashion world, where trends reoccur from decade to decade. Clothing today mimics styles designed in the ’60s and ’70s by luminaries such as Emilio Pucci, and furniture mimics a style from the late ’50s and early ’60s, first introduced by Herman Miller, Charles Eames, and Heywood Wakefield.
Instead of re-using the original items that inspired today’s designers, the tendency is to create similar items and produce more waste. This mindset is starting to change throughout the United States, largely due to store owners like Mumma, who make it possible to have the real thing.
“I go to shows in places such as Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, Miami, and San Francisco,” Mumma says, when I ask him about his connections nationally.
“Vintage is making a comeback as fashionable, and many cities have showcases where vendors can display some of their nicest ‘trash,’” he says. “These venues are great places to add unique items to the things I buy in West Des Moines.”
Mumma plans to showcase his furniture at the Miami Modernism Show and Sale, January 23-25, 2009. But this week, you can find Mumma at San Francisco’s Deco the Halls, December 6&7, 2008 at the Concourse Exhibition Center.
If you miss him there, hop in your VW van and boogie on down to see Mumma at the Atomic Garage, A OK, or Atomic Blond in West Des Moines. But be prepared, you may walk out wearing bell bottoms, a Grateful Dead t-shirt, and love beads. You might even make a couple extra dollars by selling him your great uncle’s Leo’s favorite leisure suit.
One more thing, the shops are so retro, they don’t even have a website. Contact Mumma at AtomicBlond@msn.com.
Look at the sky over any city or town on a winter day. See those columns of steam or smoke rising from the chimneys? What you’re looking at is wasted energy. Amazingly, at least 56% of the energy produced in the U.S. is wasted. It escapes as heat, radiating out of boilers, leaking through the roofs of power plants, and billowing out of smoke stacks and steam pipes.
Here’s a little math lesson that doesn’t add up: 3 + 2 = 1. No, I didn’t make a mistake. To generate 1 Watt of power, a utility company needs about 3 Watts of heat input and dumps into the environment the equivalent of about 2 Watts of power in the form of heat. Not very efficient, is it?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 20 to 50 percent of the energy of the 24 quadrillion BTUs generated by industry across the nation is lost in waste heat. That figure may be as high as 70 percent in coal-fired power plants.
Loy Sneary, CEO of Gulf Coast Green Energy, thinks that’s got to change. Sneary’s company sells the ElectraTherm “Green Machine,” a generator that transfers waste heat directly into electricity, while using no fuel and creating no emissions. Sound too good to be true? It did to me, too, until I saw it in action on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, where the first 50 kw Green Machine was installed.
Gulf Coast Green Energy was a sponsor for SMU’s Geothermal Energy Utilization conference in June of 2008. During the conference, Sneary showed off the Green Machine’s power-generating capabilities for its first-ever test run. I watched as he switched it on, and the meter shot from 0 kW to 50 kW in a matter of seconds. That’s kW out, feeding power to the campus grid.
Sneary, a Texas farmer, businessman, and former judge, has been busy in the intervening months since that demonstration, making presentations to industries and municipalities throughout the South. He’s also working with the Texas Legislature and the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association to classify waste heat as a renewable energy resource for the first time ever.
What follows is an interview with Sneary while he was stopped along the road somewhere between Houston and Oklahoma.
BPGL: I understand that the Green Machine takes industrial heat and transfers it into electricity. How does it accomplish this?
SNEARY: In the back of the 50 kW machine, a 6-inch supply hose feeds in cold water, and another feeds in hot water or a hot fluid. Inside the machine is a closed-loop, organic Rankine cycle system.
The temperature differential (delta T) between the hot water and the cold water causes the refrigerant in the system to expand and contract. Two things come out of the machine: lukewarm water and electricity.
BPGL: Most heat that industry wastes is in the form of hot air. How do you transfer the industrial hot air into the hot water/fluid that you are pumping into your machine?
SNEARY: To capture the hot gas, we hook a heat exchanger (economizer) up to the exhaust. A fluid, either water or glycol and water, runs through the economizer’s coil tubing. As hot air goes through the stack, it heats up the fluid in the coil tubing. That hot liquid is pumped into our waste heat generator, where the refrigerant is pressurized and vaporized. The resulting hot vapor drives the twin-screw expander, which drives the generator.
BPGL: What are the best applications for your waste heat generators?
SNEARY: There are so many uses. The best way to answer that question would be to describe the projects we are working on.
Let’s start with methane gas from landfills. If a landfill is flaring excess methane, we can tap into that heat source and make electricity.
We’re working at a gas turbine and compression station in Louisiana with the goal of putting the Green Machine on the exhaust system.
We’re also working on a couple of projects where excess steam is vented off. We’re taking that steam and turning it into electricity. In each of those cases, a single machine will generate 50 kW. That company is trying a simple application first, but they have a number of applications within that one plant and they have similar plants all over the world.
For another company in Louisiana, we will be taking geothermal fluids out of non-producing gas wells. We expect that site to produce 100 kW.
We’re working with a company that uses hardening furnaces. This is a foundry that makes steel, and we’re using the heat from those furnaces to make electricity.
BPGL: Loy, today I talked with Jeff Voorhis of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. I asked what he thinks about capturing waste heat and turning it into power. He said, “This kind of technology has great potential. But it needs to be evaluated by companies to see if it’s technologically and economically feasible.”
As the CEO of Gulf Coast Green Energy, you’ve already given us your opinion on the technology. What about economics? If a company were to purchase one of your machines, what would be their return on investment, or ROI?
SNEARY: Depending on the job, there’s a lot of variables. We need to know the cost of power at that location. We have one customer in the ship channel in Houston that overhauls barges. They pump out the gas and flare it. We take that flare gas and use it as a heat source. In their case, the ElectraTherm Green Machine will pay for itself in 2 ½ years.
But every situation is different; other sites may require quite a bit of ancillary equipment. The ROI could be anywhere from 2½ to 5 years, depending on the cost of power and how complicated the job is. There a lot more at 2½ years than there are at 5 years. And that’s not including any carbon credits or incentives. In the new bailout, there are investment tax credit provisions for equipment like ours. But our equipment stands on its own without any subsidy.
BPGL: You described your generators as “plug and play.” What does that mean?
SNEARY: Right now, our systems come in two sizes, 50 kW and 500 kW. If the location emits enough waste heat to generate, say, 20 megawatts of electricity, we can just hook these up in a series. It gives us the flexibility to pull one out to work on it, while the others keep running.
BPGL: Combined heat and power (CHP) is getting discussed in a few state legislatures and now, finally, at the federal level. If you were to be standing in front of a state Senator right now, what would you tell him or her?
SNEARY: The first thing you have to do is educate them. I testified to the Texas House Energy Resources Committee. Everyone there knows a lot about wind, solar energy, and geothermal energy sources. But no one had even heard of waste heat generation, because no one’s been educating them.
BPGL: Loy, I see that your waste heat generators have been getting a lot of attention lately in the press. Where should our readers go looking for you?
SNEARY: Well, Popular Science just named the ElectraTherm Green Machine one of the top new green technologies for 2008. And we were interviewed on television on the 700 Club as an alternative energy source. The Green Machine has also been talked about by Gizmodo, Green Tec, EnergyCurrent, and Ecogeek. It was even on Fox News the other day.
BPGL: That’s huge, Loy. With such great press, you’d think people would be beating down your door trying to get the Green Machine. Why doesn’t every factory have at least one?
SNEARY: The ElectraTherm Green Machine is relatively new in the marketplace. We have the technology right now to not only capture some of that waste heat, but also to reduce carbon emissions that are going up the chimney and becoming greenhouse gases.
By reducing the heat, we slow the gas molecules in the chimney. By slowing the molecules, stack scrubbers can work more efficiently, keeping more greenhouse gases out of the air. So, it’s a winning proposition not only for a company’s ROI but also for the environment and the air that we breathe.
BPGL: Thank you Loy, for what you are doing to save the planet and for the time you have given me.
SNEARY: Glad to do it, Joe.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Dublin artist Pauline Rowan wasn’t satisfied with the art materials she and her students were using in their work. Most were filled with petrochemicals and were harmful to the artists and damaging to the environment. Rowan is a prolific photographer and videographer, a filmmaker, a painter, an illustrator and an art instructor. She is also an ecopreneur and the founder of Earth & Rowan.
It would have been easier for Rowan to disappear into the world of art, never stepping outside the roles of artist and teacher. But Rowan took action to solve a problem that has troubled other artists for decades. She shared her story with me in an interview by email from her studio in Dublin. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
BPGL:How did you, as a young artist, approach art materials manufacturers with your idea?
ROWAN: I told them I was looking for these exact products and that I believed they should be more widely available. I was lucky that some of my many emails and phone calls to various people and groups were eventually fruitful. Some of those early dead ends may yet turn out to be productive also.
When I found what I had been looking for, I wanted to share it, because I knew through talking to people and stores that I had not been the only person looking for these products. There is great potential for growth in this company.
BPGL: Do you get involved with any of the experimentation of your products?
ROWAN: As this whole adventure is in its early stages, there is constant feedback between myself and the makers of the various products, such as how we could improve or change some products slightly for specific markets, for example, products suitable for children.
When I was over in Italy earlier in the year visiting the makers of our liquid watercolours, we spent time experimenting with various mixtures of pigments, mediums and binders for a new Hemp Oil Paint, which I hope will be ready soon.
BPGL: Do your suppliers package their products with your label, or have they substantially designed a product line just for you? How much are you involved in the business?
ROWAN: I usually commission products to my criteria. The products themselves can change in the early stages, such as changes in consistency or changes to colour ranges. It is a group activity I guess. Initially, commissioned products would have come to me without any labeling or maybe basic handmade labels. I then designed and printed new labels, attaching them myself — which is a lot of work! I felt it important that all products would be labeled under one name, Earth & Rowan, yet also crediting the individual makers.
Now, most of the products come with these Earth & Rowan labels on them as this saves on waste and time. Other products come with codes for labeling. Some products come in as big rocks! I have to hammer the Grey Slate into smaller pieces for packaging into drawing material selection boxes (a nice Christmas or birthday present, by the way).
This is how things work at present and I am sure this will continue to be streamlined as the business develops. Presently I am running Earth & Rowan on my own. I am secretary, delivery person, salesperson, buyer, designer, packer, photographer etc. It seems like a lot of work but I keep lists and am economical with time.
BPGL: Your Egg-Oil Emulsion reportedly smells great. Tell us more about the aroma.
ROWAN: The Egg-Oil Emulsion/Tempera Grasse smells like lemon cheesecake. (Others have noted a hint of vinegar, which is used as preservative.) It can make me hungry when I am working with it! And if I am using a palette knife, as well, it can really add to the feeling of icing a cake. But please do not to eat it. It is not food.
BPGL: As a charcoal portrait artist for 15 years, I used just about every coal and ash product on the planet. What will I like about your Willow Charcoal? What special qualities does it have?
ROWAN: The charcoal I currently stock is from a producer in Yorkshire, England. I do hope to get a small producer here on the island of Ireland also to keep it local.
Our charcoal is deep black and clings to the paper well when used. Sometimes with other charcoals, the charcoal falls away from the page and only leaves a dull brown scrape on the paper. Our charcoal is almost like a compressed charcoal and comes not only in willow sticks but also in chunks. We stock a wide, growing, variety of raw drawing materials including Sanguine Chalk, Graphite, Grey Slate, Sienna and Green Earth.
BPGL: Please don’t take this next question wrong, but I have to ask it. I’ve spoken with a few artist friends who are vegan. When they visited your website, they had concerns about the use of the ink sacs of the cuttlefish, the harvesting of the cochineal insect, and the use of milk and eggs. These are all things that are going to distract animal rights groups from your attempts to free art supplies from the evils of petroleum and polymers. How do you answer these critics?
ROWAN: My first concern has been the environment, and I have endeavored to bring environmentally friendly art materials to the public, products that have been made without the use of petrochemicals and also using natural pigments all sourced locally in Europe. These are the rules that I made my business to. They are very tight rules. In following this route I have returned to many of the traditional methods of preparing and making paints and inks. In order, therefore, to not use synthetic mediums and solvents, we have used milk and eggs. Vegans and animal rights groups can avoid Sepia & Carmine and hang in there — we will have our Hemp Oil paint ready soon!
BPGL: What is next? Any new art supply products in mind?
ROWAN: I just got in some beautiful large watercolour disks that come packaged in cardboard. On the cards Earth & Rowan also has lined up Children’s & School Paints and Hemp Oil Paint! I am always looking for individual small-scale producers of natural art products, dye makers, papermakers etc. I would like to support as many as I can. If their products are creativity related — I’m interested.
BPGL: Typically, green products cost a little more. Are you finding that artists are receptive to eco-friendly art supplies?
ROWAN: Green products usually do cost a little more and the cost reflects the products’ quality and the time and care put into producing them. I have found that artists are receptive to eco-friendly art supplies and some find them a more authentic material to work with. A lot of artists can be creatures of habit and do find it difficult to try new materials. As consumers, we all get used to expecting certain products in certain containers and packaging. When something new comes along, it can take a little while for the public to accept it.
Take for example the plastic bag levy here in Ireland. Ten years ago, all shopping was brought home from the store in a plastic bag, the bag was then thrown away. Thousands of plastic bags littered the hedgerows of Ireland. The idea of reusing or using a canvas shopping bag simply wasn’t heard of. Now asking for a plastic bag in a store is considered irresponsible and a waste of money.
(The plastic bag levy is a charge of 22c that is paid to the government towards the environment on every plastic bag used in stores. The customer, at the cash til, pays the charge. The result was that people didn’t want to pay it and so brought their own reusable or canvas bags. It started the whole “this is not a shopping bag” bag.)
BPGL: How strong is the green movement in Ireland? Are people environmentally aware and trying to make changes, as you are doing?
ROWAN: In general, I believe people are environmentally aware here. The government has twinned together saving money with saving the environment. There’s a great effort to teach environmentalism in the schools.
Car road tax is based on the car’s emissions. Houses for sale are graded by their Energy Efficiency. Every home has a Green Bin, a Black Bin and some have a Brown Bin — for compost materials all collected from the door. Ireland is intending to cease the sale of traditional light bulbs — only long-life environmentally friendly ones would be allowed. The Green Party has a major role to play in our government — they share the running of the country. There is a lot more that can be done. I would like to see cycle lanes taken off the road and put in a safer position on the pavement. Cycling in the city at the moment can only be described as terrifying.
BPGL: I see that you are a video artist and a photographer, and that you teach drawing, but I could not find any of your paintings online. Could you tell us where to find a photo of a Pauline Rowan painting with Earth and Rowan paint?
ROWAN: As an artist I would use various media from photography to painting and in-between. I recently showed ink drawing and watercolours at two different exhibitions in Dublin. I also exhibited photographs from Showroom Series at a 2004 exhibition in Dublin.
BPGL: Having your own line of “natural art supplies” has obviously gained you some attention, and soon you will become a huge corporate magnate swimming in money. Will this eventually distract you from your art? What are your goals?
ROWAN: I do not believe that Earth & Rowan will distract me from being an artist. If anything it has benefited my art practice. I really would see that the attention gained by starting Earth & Rowan will go back into building it as a business for the small producers involved and myself. And also highlighting that there are eco-friendly alternatives out there and we can all do something to help.
I would hope that one day Earth & Rowan could open a small premise in which there would not only be a shop selling Earth & Rowan products but with a space for learning about art materials and a gallery space.
BPGL: How does the future look for Earth & Rowan “natural” art supplies?
ROWAN: The more my company develops, the more faith these smaller producers will have that people really do, indeed want their products. Then they will start making larger batches of the products they use in their own art practices. That will subsidize their income and help spread the word that there is an alternative out there. I see Earth and Rowan as a means to help small producers connect with a market that would not have found them.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Interesting, isn’t it, the way we follow trends? Sometimes it seems like we’re mindless sheep, herded easily by advertisers and the media. Buy this, wear this, watch this, drink this, eat this, hear this, read this, say this, and be this. Is that what is happening to us now? Is the Green Movement just another trendy phase we’re going through?
My first response, a couple of years ago, was a resounding, “Yes.” Don’t get me wrong; I have always been trying to save the planet. I was recycling before it was popular. My first real job 33 years ago was to divert equipment from the landfill for a large university. Now they call it, “landfill avoidance.” My mother had always called it, “Waste not, want not.”
So, about a year ago, when I started hearing the word green used in every other sentence on radio and TV, and in newspapers and magazines — “Green this, green that” — I was skeptical. I began to feel the old pressures of the herd mentality. My first reaction was to resist the temptation. I told myself, Give it a few months; it’ll pass.
At that time, I had just retired and was consulting with industries, helping them sell excess equipment and overstocked parts. I was showing them how to establish markets for their metal scrap, cardboard, and plastics; and teaching them ways to recycle paper in their offices and food in their kitchens. Gas prices were climbing like crazy. Factory management began asking me for information on alternative energy sources and ways to reduce utility expenditures. Industry was finally beginning to understand that saving the planet could also save money.
Then the economy crashed. Boy, that was a kick in the teeth. Wall Street became a roller coaster ride for the insane. Madison Avenue grew eerily quiet. Buying anything but necessities became an expendable luxury. The need to be fashionable became the need to survive. For many of us, getting any job replaced getting the right job. Feeding our faces was suddenly more important than feeding our egos.
That was when I noticed something strange. Even though the economy was bleeding red, the green thing persisted. The word green wasn’t coming from the media any more; it was coming from the people. I wouldn’t have noticed it, but I was up to my neck in research; digging through scientific journals; studying the latest technologies in solar energy, wind power, waste heat recovery, and geothermal generators; listening to utility company CEOs; talking to inventors and physicists — people at the top and bottom of this huge, green hierarchy.
I saw for the first time the depth and breadth of what this word has become. Want to see what I’m talking about? Google the word green. Yes, right now, type in those five letters. As of 8:00 A.M. (CST), November 24, 2008, were about 877,000,000 green sites to choose from. By 8:00 PM, there were about 892,000,000. That’s not a movement; that’s a phenomenon.
Most of the sites you’ll find are green businesses. Many are small start-ups, hopeful moms and pops who have an idea that maybe, just maybe, they can save the world a little bit at a time and make a buck for their effort. (Ain’t capitalism grand?)
The number of ecopreneurs is growing. In fact, according to The New York Times, the number of eco-businesses will double in the next two years. Green businesses have the potential to generate more than $1 trillion in world revenue in the next year alone.
For too long, we’ve seen the need for profit consume our planet, piece by piece. Industries hired Madison Avenue to convince us that it was okay to scar the surface of our planet, poison our soil, air and water, and make us sick with toxic chemicals. The industries paid us a salary so we could buy their mind-numbing products. And we did. Damn, we’re just as much to blame as they are.
Now, with the fall of the stock market, our precious dollars are dwindling fast. It’s possible that the only thing that will save us is the Great Green Hope (play the Superman theme) and the two million green collar jobs it will create.
Imagine that this whole green thing is not Madison Avenue hype. Imagine that we are not being driven like sheep into another financial rip-off. Maybe we are all connected by some deeply ingrained, genetic signal that has triggered certain cells inside our brains to click on. Maybe, for the first time we are able to hear some subsonic message coming from Earth herself. Or, if you find that too far to stretch your imagination, maybe we’re all just damn sick and tired of putting profits before planet.
The U.S. is a nation of 306 million people in a world of 6.7 billion — 5% of the population consuming 26% of the world’s energy. Right now, every one of us can live more sustainably. Eventually we can overcome our addiction to oil, coal, and nuclear energy. That is what Mother Earth is telling us.
If we don’t do something as a species, we will go the way of the Western Black Rhinoceros, the Red Colobus Monkey, and the Blue Pike. These are colors we will never see again.
This is not a religious prophecy. This is not some political party platform. Green is no longer just a color. It is the connection between every living thing on this planet.
Picture a blue ball in space that is 25,000 miles in circumference. Visualize it spinning at 1,000 miles per hour and moving through space at 67,000 miles per hour. Now consider that it has been doing this for 4.5 billion years, and it has done so in relative silence, until now.
Open your ears. Listen to your planet. Open your eyes. Mother Earth is teaching us our colors, and today, the color is Life.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)