By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact
Green America’s Green Business Conference was the yenta of the green business world yesterday when it hosted its Product Expo: Marketplace and Community Connections. Participants were invited to set up a business display at this product expo that was modeled after the ever so popular speed dating concept.
The idea last night was to get all the conference attendees networking and doing business with each other. One of my complaints about conferences is that they don’t do enough to promote networking and Green America has done a great job at this conference on integrating creative ways to encourage us to meet each other.
At a traditional speed dating event, you spend only three minutes speaking to a potential love interest and then move on. If there is mutual interest, you follow-up on your own after the event. While the networking last night was a bit less structured, we were encouraged to circulate and meet as many businesses as possible.
Since Scott Cooney has been doing a great job of highlighting some of the sessions, I thought I would focus on a few of the businesses that made it onto my final dance card last night.
Salazar Packaging: Call me a green geek, but one of the products I got most excited about was the green packaging products offered by Salazar Packaging. While the talks by luminaries such as eBay and Green For All are great to inspire small, green business owners attending the conference, what I see many small businesses hungry for are practical tools to help green their operations, such as the issue of packaging. Think 100% recycled post consumer waste (PCW) boxes, biodegradable bubble wrap and cardboard Eco Flex, manufactured from recycled newspaper, a 100% PCW material that is reusable, recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. Eco Flex is strong enough to replace less eco friendly packaging products including rigid and flexible polyethylene foams, bubble wrap, and polystyrene peanuts.
I recently ordered some free-range, natural dog chews from the Only Natural Pet Store and they proceeded to pack the chews in polystyrene peanuts. Their brand would stand out to me as more authentic if they extended the concept of “natural” to their packaging.
World of Good: Libby Reder of eBay gave the final presentation of the day yesterday highlighting the greening of eBay. While some of the best practices eBay is using to engage employees and consumers might be out of reach to small businesses, she reminded participants that eBay got its humble beginning from selling one broken laser pointer. And she also introduced World of Good, an organization that connects artisans from the developing world with mainstream retail markets. During our “date” at their station, I learned that they have grown to become a marketplace for socially responsible companies to sell their products, using the eBay platform. The interesting twist is that companies must have a relationship with a “Trust Provider“, one of 23 organizations pre-selected to verify that companies selling on World of Good have products that foster transparency, sustainability, economic empowerment and ethical business practices.
Shasta Visions: You only have a few seconds to make a first impression, both in dating and in the business world. Shasta Visions owner Richard Lucas captures your attention when his calling card is a beautiful small earth-shaped marble with his company name on it. And while at first glance the larger globes he sells are elegant to look at, on one the playful surprise is that the word peace is hidden in 37 languages on the inside on the globe.
Some of the products are made of recycled glass and they offer custom imprinted marbles.
Williams James Foundation (WJF): The Williams James Foundation (WJF) is offering more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind expertise to help sustainable entrepreneurs turn their passion from plans to action.
The WJF, a long-time leader in expertise and prize philanthropy, brings together more than 300 high-level subject experts to provide detailed feedback on the business plans that are submitted into the competitions. Prizes offered include the most socially responsible business, for the business that actively measures reduction in their carbon footprint and for businesses that show the innovative and viable approaches to using the tools of sustainability for financial profit.
Interested entrepreneurs need only submit one executive summary and they will be considered for all of the prize areas for which they qualify. The next entry deadline is December 4th, 2009. Full information on what the WJF is looking for and how to apply see the WJF web site.
There were many other companies and products of interest–many will be participating at Green Fest this weekend in San Francisco. See you there?
Deborah Fleischer is founder and president of Green Impact. She is a LEED AP with a Master in Environmental Studies from Yale University and over 20-years of direct experience working on sustainability-related challenges in both the public and private sectors. You can follow her at @GreenImpact.