Vermont Small Businesses Stay Sustainable Amid Crisis

3p Contributor | Monday August 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

vermont_roadsignBy Makenna Goodman, Chelsea Green Publishing

Vermont has a long history of birthing sustainable businesses. Perhaps it’s because of values seeping in from rural farms who still operate outside of the corporate world, or perhaps it’s because of local laws like the one forbidding billboards on highways (which undoubtedly stimulates smaller-scale marketing.) Whatever it may be, there are some notable companies born in Vermont that create a sustainable product, and maintain those values in their workplace to boot. What keeps them in business? What makes them successful, while still maintaining a sustainable value system? Nothing’s perfect, of course, but these guys set the bar pretty darn high.

In Montpelier, Vermont’s capital city, the local government is taking action in terms of supporting local businesses. The Montpelier Downtown Community Association started a “late summer hours” program, along with local storekeepers, as a way to stimulate not just the local economy, but ensure local business owners maximize their opportunity to get customers (especially tourists, and those in 9 to 5 crowd who may only have time to shop at night). It’s an example of the local economy working alongside local business to keep them afloat, not a Darwinian ideal of survival of the fittest—it’s based in ideas of community building. Both the local economy and the local businesses will benefit, one as a result of the other.

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Pew Charitable Trust Sees Growth in Green Jobs

Wes Muir | Monday August 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments

green-jobs-in-demandBy Wes Muir, Director, Communications, Waste Management

When it comes to U.S. employment, these are unprecedented times for today’s working generation.  With the economy in its current state of slump, finding jobs has become an ever-challenging endeavor. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate across the nation just reached a staggering 9.4 percent in July 2009, making the job environment the bleakest since 1983.

But amid all of the downturn, there is one sector that continues to witness job growth: clean energy.

The global environment industry has been described by the Environmental Business Journal as growing steadily since 1970 when it was valued at approximately US$40 billion per year.  The U.S. is considered the world’s largest market for environmental technologies, estimated at about US$300 billion per year.  Recent growth projections in the U.S. markets has been greater then 5% annually, outpacing overall economic growth.

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Slow Food USA Organizes Eat-Ins For Nutritious School Lunches

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday August 10th, 2009 | 0 Comments


You have heard of a sit-in. On Labor Day, September 7, there will be 100 Eat-Ins in communities across the U.S. Organized by Slow Food USA’s Time For Lunch program, the Eat-Ins are designed to bring together people in a community who want more nutritious food in schools. The Child Nutrition Act, first enacted in 1966, governs the National School Lunch Program which provides free lunches to over 30 million children at school every day. Every four of five years the Act must be reauthorized, and the deadline for reauthorizing it is in September, hence the reason for holding Eat-Ins on Labor Day.

Slow Food USA created the Time For Lunch program to bring attention to the need for healthy food for the over 30 million children who participate in the National School Lunch Program. The Time For Lunch program asks concerned people to contact their legislators and ask them to allocate $1 more per child per day for lunch. The program also wants strong standards for food sold in vending machines, and wants the government to provide mandatory funding to teach children healthy eating habits through farm-to-school programs and school gardens.

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Pee in the Shower: Save the Rainforest.

| Monday August 10th, 2009 | 6 Comments

pee in the showerSOS Mata Atlantica Foundation, a Brazilian non-profit organization, is currently running a TV campaign encouraging viewers to save the Atlantic rainforest by peeing in the shower. Their kid-oriented commercial shows recognizable silhouettes, from King Kong to what appears to be Gandhi (really?), reducing their water usage by, uh, making some “rain” of their own in unusual places.

What does urination location have to with saving rainforests? The group says that by avoiding one toilet flush each day, an average household can save up to 4,380 liters (1,157 gallons) of water annually. They don’t even mention the amount of toilet paper saved, or maybe they do, I don’t speak Portuguese.

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Senators Introduce ‘Efficient Vehicle Leadership Act of 2009′

| Saturday August 8th, 2009 | 2 Comments


Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced a new bill Wednesday as a follow-up to the short-lived-by-design Cash for Clunker program. The bill, called The Efficient Vehicle Leadership Act of 2009 (S. 1620), would, the Senators claim, spur auto sales for the long haul by rationalizing incentives to buy fuel efficient vehicles.

The Act would create a reward program for consumers who purchase vehicles (in 2010 or later) with gas mileage exceeding that of the average overall fuel economy required for that vehicle’s class (CAFE). These consumers would receive a performance rebate, which they could claim on their tax returns or at point-of-sale (instantly, from the dealer who sold them the vehicle). Depending on the extent to which the vehicle exceeds its CAFE, the rebate could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Other reported advantages of the program would be that it would be self-adjusting, complementary with CAFE, market driven, and technology neutral (reliant on a continuing efficiency incentive instead of on technology-specific tax credits).

Starting in the program’s third year (2013), it would require manufacturers to pay a fuel performance fee for fuel inefficient vehicles. This fee would apply to not apply to vehicles manufactured before 2013.

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Tom’s of Maine: 50 States of Change

| Friday August 7th, 2009 | 3 Comments



Rob Robinson helping clean-up Mtn. Agamenticus in York, Maine at Tom's of Maine Mission Day, July 2009.

Tom’s of Maine is one of those companies that’s a shining example of social responsibility done right. It’s never been about flavor-of-the-month cause marketing or flashy ad campaigns or even gimmicky product extensions like bubble-gum flavored toothpaste. It’s always been about quality products, customer service and a core mission to giving back. And they are extending that commitment through a community-driven cause marketing initiative that gives their customers an opportunity to directly help their favorite charity. Tom’s is putting up $100,000 to be evenly distributed to 5 charities across the 50 states, submitted and voted on by customers.

I particularly like this campaign because it gives exposure to not just one random company-selected charity, but hundreds of worthy organizations where the submitting users have a deep, personal connection to the cause. It also helps build the local community by giving customers relevant causes to support right in their own backyard. And with a universe of users logging on to vote, they’re also getting exposed to a world of charities in need, so Tom’s of Maine becomes the benefactor of raising consciousness overall. Even the charities who aren’t awarded the $20K grant will still receive valuable exposure among consumers through visibility on the website during the voting process. It all seems too good to be true. Where’s the catch? So, being the cause marketing sleuth that I am, I reached out to Tom’s of Maine to determine if this campaign is really as good as it seems, and my conversation with Rob Robinson, Director of Common Goods Partnerships proved that it is as authentic as it is aspirational. And 100% catch-free.

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XSProject Creates Jobs for Indonesia, Cuts Waste Stream

| Friday August 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Ann Wizer

Ann Wizer, XSProject

More than 500,000 people in Indonesia attempt to make a living collecting and reselling garbage.  Artist Ann Wizer lived above a colony of these trashpickers and inquired about what waste they could not sell: plastic drink pouches and other non-biodegradable plastics.   Wizer began purchasing these scraps from the trashpickers and using them to create bags, book covers, and other products. Not only does she produce a useful, well-designed and beautiful product (everyone who sees the bags loves them), she supports trashpickers, creates jobs for the Indonesia’s poor, utilizes landfill-bound trash and educates all who come into contact with her products and operations about consumption and waste.

“Why are people still accepting products that end up in a landfill? ” Wizer asked, “We shouldn’t have them.  Our task at hand is to find ways to keep these materials out of landfills by reusing them. I am not interested only in upcycling or making “sympathy” products – I want these goods to be fabulous, they need to be able to compete  in markets.”

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How to Promote Your Business with a Glass of Water

| Friday August 7th, 2009 | 5 Comments


Tapit water network

Now that carrying a water bottle has long passed being the domain of the crunchy crowd, there’s another hurdle to address: Where to get good water once you’re done with that first filling you did in the morning, when you’re out there in the world. What do you do? Get it from potentially dodgy tap water? Buy another, bigger bottle of water to fill it with, defeating the original purpose?

Tapit has come up with a solution that is both supportive to those that carry bottles, and businesses we may never have found were it not for Tapit.

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Green Project’s David-and-Goliath Fight Against Epson

| Friday August 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments


green-project-tonersAlthough Green Project Inc. is still a start-up, it is already playing with the big dogs – in the legal arena. The Los Angeles-based “eco-friendly” ink and cartridge toner recycler is engaged in a legal battle against Epson, one of the largest inkjet manufacturers in the world. Judging from the circumstances of the lawsuit, I’ll be pulling for the underdog. I’m also hoping the case will set a standard against corporations’ bullying of smaller businesses.

Green Project sells remanufactured ink cartridges, including Epson cartridges. (Customers send empty cartridges to Green Project, which refills and resells them, thereby preventing landfill waste.) Although Epson promotes its own recycling programs, it sometimes incinerates cartridges instead of recycling them. By offering customers a guaranteed recycling process, Green Project closes the cartridge manufacturing loop. (Incidentally, because of Green Project’s recycling efforts, the value of Epson cartridges is reportedly rising.)

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MoveGreen, A Green Moving Startup, Provides Alternative to Cardboard Boxes

| Friday August 7th, 2009 | 21 Comments


cardboard-boxesIf you’ve ever attempted to further complicate the moving process by being “green” about it, you’ve probably at least considered the problem of cardboard boxes. You, and the founders of MoveGreen, a Florida-based startup that provides SmartPacks, a re-usable, recyclable, and recycled alternative to cardboard boxes. An important endeavor, given the fact that, according to a 2007 report by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in Palm Beach alone (Florida’s largest county), only 37 percent of the 65,268 tons of corrugated paper collected for disposal (the type used to manufacture moving boxes) were recycled. My investigation into MoveGreen’s products – and its approach – revealed its grasp on this small but important corner of the green moving market.

MoveGreen’s process is simple: It delivers SmartPacks to clients’ homes or offices prior to their move and picks the packs up after the clients unpack. MoveGreen says its services prevent waste and are convenient and cost efficient (SmartPacks cost no more than cardboard boxes). I hypothesize that, while some people probably prefer to cut costs by using (free) recycled cardboard boxes, others, who would’ve paid for new boxes, would benefit from the program. If my hypothesis is true, I expect MoveGreen has found something of a niche in the green-packing market in Florida.

MoveGreen’s marketing techniques are also intriguing. A quick peek at the the company’s Facebook page is revealing: MoveGreen is launching a new (green web hosted) site, organizes SmartPack “prize drops” (in which it scatters prize-filled SmartPacks for participants to find, scavenger-hunt style), and supports numerous eco-friendly organizations. While the demand for MoveGreen’s SmartPacks may be limited to certain consumers, I believe MoveGreen’s marketing techniques – promoting its product in innovative, locally-relevant ways – could expand that clientele. Moreover, by supporting other sustainability organizations, it seems MoveGreen will eventually build the larger green moving market.

That said, I don’t have answers to a few questions: where MoveGreen gets is SmartPacks, how it transports them, or how long the SmartPacks last. The answers to these questions would, potentially, fill in important gaps in the overall sustainability of MoveGreen’s operations.

From an entrepreneurial standpoint, I believe MoveGreen’s efforts may be part of a bigger picture. If MoveGreen’s efforts are successful, a domino effect could ensue among consumers and other businesses, encouraging innovation among other green businesses and, perhaps, inspiring change in the non-green moving industry.

These are my thoughts on the matter. What are yours?

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“Clean Coal” Advertising? Dirty Energy Lobbyists Resort to the Bizarre

| Friday August 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

happy-coalBelieve it or not, there are groups attempting to promote “clean coal” – an attempt worth parodying. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity recently joined the ranks of such groups; it is preparing a series of ads designed to convince the Senate to vote against passing the climate energy bill. Does it really think the Senate will fall for it?

The ad series will target industrial and farm state Democratic senators. It will include online, billboard, radio and possibly television advertising, pushing a clear message: coal plants can be clean, and they are necessary for the production of low-cost energy. Some of the ads play into the nation’s rising unemployment rates; one says “A climate bill needs to protect Ohio jobs.” Additionally, teams of clean coal proponents will push the message at summer events lawmakers may attend (i.e. town hall meetings and state fairs).

The coal debate will put Democratic Senators in a pickle, since they need the support of environmental groups and Midwestern moderates (whose states’ economies depend on coal power). The ads will be released during the Senate’s August recess, giving them time to mull over the “facts” before their climate bill vote in September.

The Coalition seems to ride a convoluted wave of logic, vocalized by its Vice President of Communications, Joe Lucas, in a recent article: “As you see the climate debate unfold, there are people that are interested in only achieving emissions reduction, but if we don’t do that in a way that promotes continued economic prosperity, we will have not succeeded in developing the right policy.” Further complicating matters is the fact that part of the climate bill would fund the capture and sequestration of carbon – creating what the Coalition calls “clean coal,” thereby strengthening their stance. Meanwhile, environmentalists doubt the environmental and sustainability-promoting value of such a capture.

See Related: “Forged Letters Sent to Congressman to Undermine Climate Legislation”

Permalink discuss Discuss This » Doing your part to protect fisheries just got a whole lot easier

| Friday August 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment


FishChoice logo By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

As just reported in, Barry Estabrook comments, “…doing your part to protect fisheries just became a whole lot easier. A new website, FishChoice lists 130 suppliers selling 300 sustainable seafood products, including Americans’ five most popular species: shrimp, tuna, salmon, pollock, and tilapia.” was launched this week, only a few weeks after sustainable seafood was made a hot topic due to the Traitor Joe’s campaign, chiding Trader Joe’s for their lack of a sustainable seafood policy.

After going through a relatively simple registration process, buyers and suppliers gain access to a database of sustainable seafood products that includes origins, catch or farming method and sustainability rankings. Supplier names, location and contact information is provided along with minimum order requirements.

A simple solution for the commercial buyer

In an interview on,  founder Richard Boot shared some insights into FishChoice.

“There are great resources out there for consumers, like the wallet cards, etc. FishChoice differs because we actually find the products that meet those rankings. It’s a simple solution for the commercial buyer,” explained Boot.

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Kimberly-Clark and Greenpeace: A Corporate Campaign Success Story

| Thursday August 6th, 2009 | 3 Comments

kleercut-case-closed-430px-300x181By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact

After years of being worn down by Greenpeace’s arsenal of corporate campaign tools,  Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands,  announced yesterday stronger fiber sourcing standards that will increase conservation of forests globally and will make the company a leader for sustainably produced tissue products.

Greenpeace, which worked with Kimberly-Clark on its revised standards, announced that it will end its “Kleercut” campaign, which focused on the company and its brands.

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Tom Szaky: Thinking In and Outside the Wrapper

Tom Szaky | Thursday August 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments

When you think of socially responsible companies, Mars, the candy-focused food company is not likely to be the first one that comes to mind. And yet, perhaps it will, as they have recently made two monumental commitments, with action and money to back it up. They encompass both what’s in and outside the wrapper.

100 million tons of sustainably certified cocoa bean purchases by 2020 sounds impressive, but especially so when it’s with $10+ million a year being spent to enable the right conditions for there to be enough supply for such a goal. And this is not just for some niche candy lines, but all chocolate used in Mars products.

UTZ Certified is who they’re working with on this initiative. While not as well known by you and I as, say, TransfairUSA, their work is of no less substance. Along with source sustainability certification and verification of supportive workplace practices, they actively reach out to farmers and those in the surrounding communities the viability of and market for sustainably grown cocoa.

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Cleantech Investment Is Up. So Why Isn’t the Sun Shining on Solar?

| Thursday August 6th, 2009 | 4 Comments

Solar_Farm_NellisWide_Treehugger_CompressedPhoto Source:

Cleantech investments have (mostly) rebounded according to a new joint study by Cleantech Group and Deloitte.

After two quarters of decline, 2Q09 cleantech VC investment hit $1.2 billion.  The transportation sector was the clear winner—funding for biofuels, advanced batteries, and electric vehicles reached a new quarterly record of $607 million.

Meanwhile, investors cast a shadow over solar.  It’s paltry $114 million is an order of magnitude less than the $1.2 billion it received at this point last year.  What happened?  An answer after the jump….

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