Making ”benefit corporations” more than just academic

May 2, 2012 by  
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Can a group of social entrepreneurs concerned about redefining profitability find common purpose with academics?

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Making ”benefit corporations” more than just academic

NURU Energy Provides Cheap, Efficient Night Lighting to Rwanda and Promotes Social Entrepreneurs

October 18, 2011 by  
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NURU Energy is replacing expensive, dangerous, and unhealthy kerosene in rural Rwandan households by introducing a cheap, safe, and clean night lighting solution, known as the NURU Light. The for-profit social enterprise believes that the solution to the developing world’s lighting crisis must be market-based with the mission of creating an affordable light that the world’s poor not only want, but can afford. Why does Rwanda Need An Efficient Night Lighting System? Most of Rwanda’s rural population uses kerosene for their lighting needs. Kerosene is hazardous for human health  and the environment. I t is a fossil fuel that burns with noxious fumes and according to the World Bank, 780 million women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale the equivalent smoke from two packs of cigarettes per day. To make matters worse, in NURU’s countries of operations, kerosene-based lighting systems result in over 25 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.  The Poor Man’s Energy Paradox The kerosene lantern is not only inefficient, it is also EXPENSIVE! Get this! According to NURU, “The amount of light from the lamp is only about 1% of what the people in industrialized countries have for the same price and is only 0.2% as strong as a 60 watt light bulb.” In the words of C.K. Prahalad, University of Michigan professor and author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: “[the poor’s] sources of energy are dirty and inefficient, and on a per-kilowatt basis they cost anywhere from 5-100 times more than modern fuels and electricity.  The paradox is that the poor are spending a disproportionate share of their income on a product that richer people can get cheaper and of high quality”. The NURU Light is a Market-Based Solution to a Lighting Problem NURU Bottle Mounted Light The NURU light takes into account the different needs of the rural households it serves, creating a useful product that is: Multifunctional:   The NURU light is very versatile and can be positioned in a number of ways according to the need; It can go from free-standing to being strapped around the neck or head. It can be mounted or hung or even connected with more units to form a room light. It has a 4 position switch for high, medium, low, and off. Efficient:  Rechargeable NiMH battery which when fully recharged produces 25 hours of light (low), 18 hours of light (medium), or 9 hours of light (high) – about 3-7 days of light – in just 20 minutes of charging!  The result is a 375:1 use to charging ratio, compared to just 1:1 with solar. It is bright (uses white LED lights), affordable, modular (the user can use them separately or connect them together to create a brighter light) and durable. How Can A NURU Light be Recharged? Depending on the situation and electricity availability, the light can be charged in three ways – Pedal Power to Recharge Light POWERcycle – NURU Light has developed the world’s first commercially available pedal generator . Unlike wind and solar, the pedal ensures that power is always available .  The POWERCycle can charge up to five lights at once in just twenty minutes of pedaling. Because the POWERCycle is easy to operate, even children can use it. POWERgrid – Almost two billion people have access to electricity for only a few hours a day. With the POWERGrid, a plug-in charging system, customers can charge five lights at once when they have access to electricity and use the NURU Lights when the power is out. POWERsolar-  NURU Light has also developed a solar panel that can charge up to five lights at once.  This clean and efficient lighting system allows customers to charge their lights during the day and use them at night. NURU Light Encourages Social-Entrepreneurs and Makes Lighting Cheap Sameer Hajee co-founder and CEO of NURU Energy says, “We are setting up a network of rural lighting entrepreneurs who sell or rent out NURU lights and then recharge customer’s lights for a small fee using the world’s first commercially available pedal generator” The distribution model is based on helping local residents to start small businesses that rent out and recharge lights. NURU’s practice is to partner with micro lenders — financial institutions that make small loans to citizens— in order to teach and help would-be entrepreneurs become NURU franchisees. NURU Energy is a great example of a for-profit social enterprise, who view the whole picture, thus creating effective, market-based solution s to help communities in dire need. Their innovative ideas are improving the lives of thousands, sustainably, while lowering their footprint. What do you think? Aren’t stories like these truly inspiring? Image credit: NURU Light

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NURU Energy Provides Cheap, Efficient Night Lighting to Rwanda and Promotes Social Entrepreneurs

Susty Party’s Edible Face Paint Giveaway: Winners Announced

October 18, 2011 by  
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Susty Party’s Edible Face Paint Giveaway is closed and we have a winner!!! Drumroll please!!!! The winner is… Tricia who says “I just want to know what the edible face paint tastes like!!” You will find out soon Tricia. I will contact you via email very soon! Hope you can use the facepaint with your Halloween costume! Thanks to Susty Party for sponsoring this giveaway!

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Susty Party’s Edible Face Paint Giveaway: Winners Announced

Reminder: Last Day to Enter the Susty Party Giveaway and Win Edible Facepaint

October 17, 2011 by  
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The super-awesome Susty Party is sponsoring this Halloween giveaway on Ecopreneurist and there is only today left to enter! The prize?! TaDah!:  Edible Face Paint by Wee Can Too – Perfect Compliment To Your Halloween Outfit This natural, eco-friendly, non-toxic EDIBLE face paint is made in the USA and is VEGAN, contains no wheat, sugar or preservatives. Just organic fruit and vegetable powders, rice cereal and rice flour! The face paint kit comes in 4 colors: * Purple/Blue made with REAL blueberries * Red/Pink made with REAL beets * Yellow made with REAL pumpkin, and * Green made with REAL spinach! This can be yours through this giveaway! How to Enter It’s easy as face painting to enter! Just make sure to  like Ecopreneurist and/or Susty Party on Facebook (you can also show us some social media love in a few other ways), then  respond to the original post telling us you did so  (get all the deets on the original post). You have until midnight (EST) tonight. We’ll count up the entries and announce a winner on Tuesday, October 18th! Thanks for participating!

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Reminder: Last Day to Enter the Susty Party Giveaway and Win Edible Facepaint

Local Orbit Makes Local Produce Easy to Buy and Sell in Detroit

September 26, 2011 by  
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Locally grown food is the rage these days, with more and more consumers clearly concerned about where their food is coming from. There is an increasing demand for farm produce and growing need to connect directly with producers. But sometimes it’s not always easy to get local food. What do you do if you want locally grown produce, but cannot visit week-day farmer markets? Local Orbit is a new way to buy food and other local goods direct from producers in your community, if you live in the greater Detroit area. Erika Block is the founder of Local Orbit, an Ann Arbor, MI-based tech startup that facilitates the distribution of local, sustainably farmed food and expects to roll Local Orbit out to many more markets nationwide by 2012 – 2013. How Does Local Orbit Work? Each week, sellers update their inventory. Buyers shop online. Within a 24-hour period, sellers deliver their orders to hub sites, which aggregate and pack orders for individual buyers. Buyers either pick up their orders or have them delivered. Wholesale orders that meet basic minimum quantities are delivered directly to the buyer. Local Orbit makes a small, flat-rate percentage on each sale, similar to selling on eBay or Amazon Marketplace. There is no fee for buyers to shop or for sellers to list. Sellers know the fee percentage upfront and work that into their listing price, so there are no hidden charges for anyone. That’s it. Local Orbit is trying to relink the food chain to make local food widely available and easy to buy.  Local Orbit for Buyers, Image Credit, Local Orbit Local Orbit for Sellers: Image Credit, Local Orbit Why did Local Orbit Come About? Local Orbit has evolved after couple of years of conversations with all stakeholders helping to bring ‘local’ into mainstream -farmers, food producers, chefs, eaters and people working to solve food distribution challenges. The need arose from obvious disconnected markets and inefficient communications. Independent food producers are struggling to build sustainable businesses and provide really good food for their customers. They need distribution and marketing support Producers/ Farmers Sell Well Local Orbit’s online tools provide a “back office in a box” for food hubs, entrepreneurs, farmers markets, coops, institutions and community organizations working to increase local and regional food distribution. Producers get help with all the tools to tell their stories and efficiently manage direct sales.  Market coordinators get customized web sites with e-commerce, payment processing, inventory management, marketing, logistics and customer service. Buyers Score Local and Fresh Produce Buyers get convenient, streamlined purchasing and a direct, traceable supply chain. They have easier access to food that is produced locally and are spending their dollars on local farmers and businesses. Erica Block are working to make local, sustainably produced food widely available and easy to buy -for everyone and was recently chosen as a 2011 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow . Kudos Erica!

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Local Orbit Makes Local Produce Easy to Buy and Sell in Detroit

The method method: A Cleaner Clean, Design + Innovation and Just Plain Weird

September 23, 2011 by  
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Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, method co-founders, Image courtesy: method Flashback to the year 2000:   Eric’s wondering why cleaning products are so poorly designed, and Adam’s dreaming of green cleaners that actually work and aren’t stinky. Together, these two childhood friends come up with an idea to revolutionize the cleaning world with stylish, eco-friendly products made with non-toxic ingredients that clean like heck and smell like heaven. 2001: method is born, and the Eric and Adam we are talking about are Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, childhood friends and co-founders of method. Fast forward to 2011: In 10 years, method has grown into a $150 million brand — a brand synonymous with green, good and successful. It was ranked the 7th fastest growing company in America by Inc. Magazine in 2006 and the 16th most innovative company in the world by Fast Company. How did method, in 10 years, turn the cleaning business industry upside down, redefine cleaners and set new standards for cleaning supplies? Eric and Adam reveal their successes are tied to their 7 obsessions! They talk about the method story in a book they released this week called ‘The method method’ (an excellent read that is both humorous and gripping). They call these core strategies “obsessions” because they realize that unless you are obsessed about your business values and practices, they could fade away as your business grows. Eric spoke exclusively to Ecopreneurist on the book and these obsessions that make method. Why did they get into the cleaning products business? Eric says “In advertising, I was always trained to look at cultural-shifts in consumer behavior where larger brands are not delivering and we realized this was the right place to be. We asked ourselves, what we could do differently and saw tremendous opportunity in this industry”. Tip: There is wonderful opportunity in well-established industry sectors, where environmental aspects or as Eric says, “cultural shifts” in consumer behavior are not addressed by larger establishments. This is a place small business owners can make a difference. Eric then spoke about partnerships and how the diversity in education and work between the co-founders actually laid a strong foundation for their business model. Eric’s background in advertising and design coupled with Adam’s experience with sustainability and engineering helped method become method. Eric says this partnership was “essential”. He goes on to add, “Our backgrounds were so different, that it helped us find new ways of collaborating, bring about a combination of design + function, that is unique to method. Without Adam, method would have been all life-style design and not much green. Without me, method would have been another drab green cleaner.” Tip: Collaborating with diverse professionals may actually add a unique USP to your product or service, especially in green business where many symbiotic relationships already exist and thrive. As Eric looks back on the 10 years, he says, “Locking down our obsessions and making them integral to our company was very important. As a company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to adhere to these values.” One of method’s “obsessions” was to create a “culture club” or “branding from the inside out”. Eric says, “Creating and maintaining cultures continues to be the hardest value to upkeep. It’s always in motion and changing. Our goal is to create a culture that would inspire us to do our best work while enriching our lives.” He also has two pieces of advice for budding eco-entrepreneurs. One: Starting out a company that is just “green” is not enough these days. Take a product or service and add “green” to it by “disrupting the world of business as-usual.” Two: Emphasize the human connection associated with your product or service. “It’s hard to encourage people to adopt good only on the basis that its good for the planet. To make a lasting impression, bring out the connection that benefits their home, health and daily lives.” So after a glorious 10 years, what is in store for the next decade at method? Eric is thrilled with the excellent foundation that has been created. He says, “The cleaning industry is very dirty- so there is still lots to clean up. We want to continue to grow into newer markets and countries while educating consumers. And of course continue to innovate to stay ahead.” Ahem to that and an even more glorious decade ahead.

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The method method: A Cleaner Clean, Design + Innovation and Just Plain Weird

Moving Planet: What Are You Doing to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels?

September 22, 2011 by  
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Moving Planet, 24th September 2011 will be a day of action against climate change- a day to put our demands for climate action into motion—marching, biking, skating—calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels. Moving Planet is an international day of action planned by 350.org . It is intended to build support for moving the planet away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable transportation. On September 24, 2011 participants from over 175 countries will hold events aimed at solving the climate change crisis by eliminating our global dependence on fossil fuels. What is the Goal of the Day? The goal is to get moving beyond fossil fuels—both symbolically by pouring into the streets in the thousands on foot, bicycle and other means of sustainable movement, and politically by bringing powerful demands to our leaders that day to move beyond fossil fuels to a 350 ppm world. Mobilizing for individual and community solutions will continue to be important— but one of the main goals for Moving Planet is to demand government action, especially in places where governments are stalling on climate action despite the overwhelming urgency of the science.  The Moving Planet is not just about sustainable actions- but also about delivering a clear list of demands. Science-based policies to get us back to 350 ppm. A rapid, just transition to zero carbon emissions. A mobilization of funding for a fair transition to a 350 ppm world. Lifting the rights of people over the rights of polluters.  What is a 350 ppm World? The ideology behind 350.org’s campaign is the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For all of human history until about 200 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. By now—the planet has about 392 parts per million CO 2  – and this number is rising by about 2 parts per million every year. Scientists are now saying that’s too much – that number is higher than any time seen in the recorded history of our planet.  350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO 2  in our atmosphere. Why Focus on Moving Away from Fossil Fuels? The global fossil fuel infrastructure is a threat to our future everywhere, polluting our oceans, our land, our communities, our air, and our children’s lungs. It’s corrupting our politics with over $600 billion in subsidies globally, and hundreds of millions in campaign contributions in the United States in the last 10 years. The continued burning of coal and oil is what will tip climate change into climate catastrophe – getting off fossil fuels is the number one thing we need to do to get below 350ppm. Fossil fuels connect to many issues—sustainable agriculture, transportation, and water to name a few. What is Everyone Doing and What Action Can You Take to Join In? Some of the events happening include- Students in the Dominican Republic are painting the first bike lanes in Santo Domingo. Hundreds in Ukraine will be “flash-dancing” in the main square of Kiev. A massive parade is planned in Egypt , where participants will wear blue clothing to form a giant human Nile river. Hundreds of Parisians will unite to form an image of a wind-turbine. In New York , a giant bike ride calling for climate action will end at the United Nations General Assembly. You can find an event happening in your area or start your own!

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Moving Planet: What Are You Doing to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels?

The Cleanweb Hackathon Invites Innovative Minds to Do Social Good Via Technology

September 5, 2011 by  
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The  CleanWeb Hackathon is an upcoming gathering (September 10 & 11th) in San Francisco to demonstrate the impact of applying information technology to resource constraints. The goal is to organize a competition to build apps and hacks exploiting new sustainable business models while leveraging the mobile and social web. The hackathon is an interesting concept that builds on creative thinking and information technology. We challenge attendees on what they can do in 24 hours with utility, transport and smart grid datasets that might just change the world just a little bit. You will spend an intense 24 hours hacking and presenting with some of the nation’s brightest developers. At the end of a marathon hack session, teams will demo their apps and hacks for the audience and a group of select judges. The event will bring together Developers, Entrepreneurs, Students interested in CleanWeb. It’s a fantastic opportunity to develop something great, learn about CleanWeb and meet like minds. Sunil Paul is the brain behind CleanWeb and his group is looking to bring in inspired and talented developers who want to create CleanWeb tools in an attempt to win some $5,000 worth of prizes. Sunil invests in cleantech and is also co-founder and chairman of the Clean Economy Network , the largest green business organization the US and Spring Ventures , venture fund that invests in and incubates novel technologies and companies addressing resource scarcity, energy security and climate change. So What is CleanWeb? “CleanWeb” is a category of clean technology that leverages the capability of the internet, social media, and mobile technologies to address resource constraints. At the Green:Net conference  in April, the Spring Ventures founder said “The next big wave will be in the “CleanWeb,” which marries information technology enhancements — such as Twitter, Facebook and the social web — with green initiatives. Information technology is actually going to prove as valuable as the application of new materials and nano-technology and bio-technology have been for the environment.” Watch Sunil’s speech on the topic at Green:Net in April here . Some examples of the CleanWeb in action are the rise of car-sharing services, which reduce emissions dramatically by allowing users to find rides with others. Another example is the room-sharing service  AirBnB , which allows people to rent out rooms their homes, and has already booked two million nights around the world since 2008. Another promising area for CleanWeb innovation is transportation. Paul says, “There are a wave of companies trying to make more efficient use of your vehicle by sharing it with others,” including  Spride , And mobile applications for these services put a car at your fingertips. If there is a symbol of CleanWeb’s opportunity it is the cell phone.” With all this potential, the upcoming hackathon promises to harness technology and human ingenuity to bring about greater social good. It has caught the attention of companies like OPOWER and Microsoft who are platinum sponsors of the event. Some of the most creative minds will be at this event include  Yves Behar , who will be judging the competition. Yves is the founder of  fuseproject , the San Francisco and New York based design and branding firm he established in 1999 and is a well-known futurist, humanist and naturalist! Important Media and the Ecopreneurist are proud to be media sponsors of the CleanWeb Hackathon. Stayed tuned this week as we cover the event and bring you some of the awesome new ideas featured through this competition!

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The Cleanweb Hackathon Invites Innovative Minds to Do Social Good Via Technology

The Mighty SMB’s: The Force Behind Innovation, Jobs and the Economy via GOOD

August 23, 2011 by  
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Large companies are always in the news but its the small and medium sized operations that contribute significantly to economic growth and job growth. As they are the center of innovation, I believe they can make the best case for the eco-business paradigm that can change “business as usual”. Infographic via GOOD . (Click on the image to view a larger version.) Infographic on SMB's via GOOD

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The Mighty SMB’s: The Force Behind Innovation, Jobs and the Economy via GOOD

Water for People: Finding Better Ways to Deliver Water to People

July 13, 2011 by  
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Water is an important issue globally, and with the world’s population hitting 7 billion this year and the impact of climate change growing, water will only grow in importance.  But the need for clean water and sanitation is not a new problem, and some wonder why the rate of progress seems so slow.  As the CEO of Water for People, and as someone who was worked globally on delivering clean water to people for many years, Ned Breslin is creating new solutions for this old problem. Image Credit: Water for People For decades now an aggregation of non-profits, foundations, government groups, and others have pursued a variety of tactics to deliver water, but the progress can seem frustratingly slow. “The effort is chaotic,” said Breslin, describing the efforts of the many parties involved in the global water challenge.  And the results are not always what they could be. Water for People works in 11 countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa with the belief that everyone should have clean, safe water for drinking and sanitation.  It is a simple belief with the prospect to make a profound difference the lives of a great many people. One of the challenges with efforts to improve water supplies has been a tendency of groups to focus on the initial installation of projects and then move on.  After the initial pictures of water flowing and happy people, attention wanders off to the next project down the road. The result is often broken water projects, and wasted investments. “People come in, do a project, and then leave,” said Breslin.  Installing the project is only the first step though. “There are abandoned projects everywhere.  Keeping the water flowing takes money, work, and a continued presence.  The day the water first flows is only day one.” To solve this problem with the long-term performance of water projects, Water for People is measuring not just projects but outcomes, and to measure this they have incorporated long-term monitoring.  Independent monitors visit their projects once each year, usually at the end of the dry season when the water system is under its greatest stress, and the projects they install are to be tracked for 10 years to make sure they’re still working. “Technology helps to make this possible,” said Breslin. They have devised a system called FLOW in which data on water projects can be collected on phones, including GPS location. The data is uploaded to Google, and tracked on a map. With groups like Water for People leading the way, there will be more pressure for the field as a whole to show concrete results in the push for clean water. “Philanthropists are asking harder questions, pushing the move toward transparency,” said Breslin. The importance of water in the lives of people everywhere means that efforts to improve water won’t go away. Solutions are possible with better information, honest discussion, and measurement of outcomes like the work done by Breslin and Water for People. You can read more about them and find out how to get involved http://www.waterforpeople.org/ Glenn Croston is helps green businesses with communications and consulting at www.startingupgreen.com , and is the author of “75 Green Businesses” and “Starting Green”.

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Water for People: Finding Better Ways to Deliver Water to People

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