Small Is Beautiful–Communities Fight GHG Emissions

With all the big news from the governments and big businesses announcing efficiency gains, offsets, retrofits, and other sustainability initiatives, it’s easy to lose site of the local efforts gaining traction across the country and world.  Microenterprise and community-based efforts at energy efficiency, alternative energy, and social entrepreneurship–such as solar powered cafes in remote rural villages that bring information and education to those with little other access to it–are harder to measure and less publicized, yet no less inspiring.  These efforts provide a ray of hope that seeds of the green economy are being sewn far and wide, and that as a cumulative effort, they may yet yield a considerable force in the big picture. 

With 60-80% of all new job growth attributable to small business and microenterprise, it’s also a global imperative that these efforts receive the funding and aid that they so desperately need.  It’s not easy for microenterprises to raise their primary capital needs, which leads to opportunity in microfinancing ventures and other strategic applications of grant moneys.

Brighter Planet, for instance, a Vermont and California based carbon offsetting and social enterprise, recently announced its Project Fund, an effort to catalyze projects that fight climate change or help communities adapt to climate change.  The money comes from Brighter Planet’s credit and debit cards. Each time someone uses a BP card, a portion of the proceeds go to the Project Fund, which aggregates the money and gives it out as seed money for sustainability projects.  It’s such an innovative approach that BP recently won Treehugger’s small green business of the year award.

Past recipients of small grants have included West Virginia energy diversification (away from coal) projects, student leadership training, Navajo Nation sustainable energy production ventures, and tree farms in Wisconsin.

While Brighter Planet’s projects are inspiring, innovative, and certainly to be applauded, they are but a drop in the bucket of what is needed financially to really engender a nationwide resurgence of locally driven sustainability solutions, what EF Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful, would likely say is the only truly long-term solution to global environmental and economic malaise.

What can be done in your community with small amounts of startup capital and a dedicated group of active change agents?  Start a community garden.  Volunteer for local tree plantings.  Petition your municipality to engage urban forestry and edible landscapes.  Know someone who wants to start a green business?  Help her.

These efforts really add up, and exist entirely outside of the world of big corporate America and the government, entities over which we have far less control than local projects.  If you have another idea, post it below…..we’d love to hear (and promote) it.

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.