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New: Businesses Find Benefits in Going Green

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eco-friendly

As a new media outlet, the mission of GreenBusinesses.com is to showcase what eco-friendly businesses are doing right. Studies show their products and services are paying off in new and scalable ways. See how green can work for you by checking out these forward-looking business models. We’d love to hear your comments below.

by Joanna L. Krotz of BusinessOnMain

Incentives to go green have moved way beyond lowering utility bills.

“Cost savings are evolving into revenue generation,” says Lauren Kelley Koopman, a director for PwC’s Sustainable Business Solutions practice. “Sustainability is next-generation business thinking because it creates value, attracts customers, retains employees and improves capital and funding.”

In 2012, an Office Depot tracking poll found 61 percent of small businesses were trying to go greener, while 70 percent anticipated going green over the next two years.

If you’re still on the fence, consider how these four companies are energizing their bottom lines.

Reclaiming Throwaways

Launched in 2004 near Albany, Georgia, Enviro-Log manufactures fire logs made from the waxed cardboard boxes that transport produce. The wax is food-grade safe, so the logs burn cleaner than wood, emitting 30 percent less greenhouse gases, 80 percent less carbon dioxide and 86 percent less creosote, while still producing 50 percent more heat per pound. Enviro-Log hauls away the boxes from supermarkets and restaurants for free, whereas garbage haulers typically charge $126 per ton.

“We began by marketing the green attributes of recycling and recovery of waxed products,” says founder Ross McRoy. This is significant, as more than 600,000 tons of the water-insoluble waxed boxes wind up in landfills each year.

But he found that people wouldn’t pay a premium for green without personal benefits. Enviro-Log refocused on informational marketing and education. “If you provide green with value, people will pay for it,” says McRoy. By 2008, the market had shifted in his direction.

Now the nation’s third-largest producer of manufactured fire logs, Enviro-Log has annual revenue of $8 million to $10 million. McRoy is considering a second plant and managing his company’s growth. “The challenge is matching raw materials to sales and business strategy,” he says.

Reinventing the Roost

Jesse Laflamme, now 35, didn’t expect to be down on the farm again after graduating in 2000 from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. “My parents didn’t encourage me to come back,” he says. “They didn’t feel there was a future.”

Founded by Laflamme’s grandfather, the 200-acre egg farm — now called Pete and Gerry’s Organics — was being muscled out by big agribusiness producers. Such operations, says Laflamme, typically cram 150,000 caged chickens into the same amount of space his family uses to house 15,000 cage-free hens.

Encouraged by his wife, Sandra, who grew up outside Philadelphia, Laflamme took over. “We started by making the transition to local eggs, identifying who we were,” he says. “That evolved to organic.” Consumer demand for regionally sourced, higher-priced organic foods hatched growth.

Today, Pete and Gerry’s, located in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, is a regional powerhouse, distributing “certified humane” organic eggs up and down the East Coast. “For the past 13 years, we’ve had compound annual growth of 35 percent, with revenue north of $50 million,” says Laflamme, “although the nature of agriculture means gross margins are pretty narrow.” He also works to support family farms by partnering with 40 or so neighbors, some of whom switched to egg production after the success of Pete and Gerry’s.

Recharging Wireless

The light bulb went on in July 2008, says David Edmondson, co-founder of eRecyclingCorps. “We got right on it. We knew it was a big idea.”

Edmondson, who’s also been CEO of RadioShack, was then running an online consignment business based in Dallas. A staffer had picked up an older cellphone for resale and, annoyed, Edmondson complained it had retailed for $29.99 and had zilch value. But the staffer knew the model was fetching $80 on eBay.

That was the stunning business model in a nutshell: Wireless carriers subsidize new mobiles to encourage contracts. Amazingly, says Edmondson, “wireless phones depreciate to unsubsidized new value.”

Now booming, eRecyclingCorps refurbishes old mobiles to sell in developing countries or, if irreparable, in bulk to recyclers. Since 2009, the company has collected 10 million retired devices. Revenues hit “several hundred million in 2012, double the growth of 2011,” says Edmondson.

About 130 million phones are retired each year in the U.S. as consumers upgrade. “Three years down the road, those devices are worth $300 apiece unsubsidized, retaining $100 billion of value,” says Edmondson. Cleverly, eRecyclingCorps forges deals with carriers — to date, five of the top seven — to offer customers immediate trade-in credit at points of purchase, usually about $98. No need to stuff envelopes or wait for rebates.

“It’s ridiculous and a shame that we in the developed world discard the devices, making an environmental problem,” says Edmondson. “Getting a phone in a Third World country is a life-changing event. We want buying a wireless phone to be like a car. You buy a new car and the old car stays behind and has another life.”

Reconstructing Media

While most online content enterprises are teetering on the fiscal cliff, Mother Nature Network (MNN), an online social responsibility news site headquartered in Atlanta, reeled in $6 million in 2012, averaging 4 million unique visitors a month. So far, it looks like 2013 could double that.

Co-founded in 2009 by Joel Babbit, a veteran ad agency executive, and Rolling Stones keyboardist and eco-activist Chuck Leavell, MNN covered only environmental news when it launched. “There was a huge void of information,” says Babbit. As interest in green has grown, MNN expanded into wellness, food, home, family, travel, technology and more. “We’re focused on the responsible consumer market that’s connected by a set of shared values,” says Babbit.

Shrewdly, MNN sells sponsorships, not advertising. Companies like Walmart, Allstate and Delta pay $300,000 a year for “100 percent share of voice on each of the 12 content categories. For instance, Mercedes-Benz gets 10,000 pages [of green technology transportation] for 24/7, 365 days of marketing,” says Babbit. “It’s tremendously effective.”

Not long ago, the triple bottom line — people, profit and planet — was considered hopelessly idealistic. Nowadays, instead of greed, it seems green is good.

Green BusinessesJoanna L. Krotz writes about small-business marketing and management issues. She is the co-author of “Microsoft Small Business Kit” and runs Muse2Muse Productions, a New York City-based custom content provider.

July 8, 2013 |

Crude Awakening: Viral Video Uses Bad Word for Good Cause, Drops F-Bomb on Gulf Oil Spill

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A controversial viral video featuring an F-word-filled tirade against the Gulf oil spill from the mouths of 4-year-olds to grandmothers is raising both eyebrows and funds this week as it gains momentum in a bold campaign to raise money for Gulf wildlife rescue and environmental charities.

The no-holds-barred video features a cross section of people wearing a black T-shirt that reads “UNF–K THE GULF” and unleashing on BP, the federal government and the whole mess in a way that millions of people wish our leaders would.

Sick of yelling at the TV in frustration over the Gulf spill, environmental activists Luke Montgomery and Nate Guidas produced the video as a way to channel their “f–king righteous anger with all that is going on and not going on in the Gulf into something positive.” They put out a casting call on Craigslist for people upset over the oil spill, cast the best in the video, and created the website www.UnF–kTheGulf.com.

“It’s both therapeutic and funny to see people go off in an F-bomb-laced tirade about the spill,” Montgomery said. “There’s a lot of anger out there and people need to vent about the destruction but we also need to have a laugh at the expense of those responsible.”

The “UnF–kTheGulf” video has received more than 20,000 views in one week and raised more than $5,000 in funds through T-shirt sales, exceeding organizers’ expectations and rapidly circulating on social media. This unconventional charity fundraising campaign allows the public vote on how the funds are spent. For each $13 shirt, $5 is donated directly to four Gulf wildlife rescue and environmental charities.

Montgomery and Guidas report receiving hundreds of positive email responses, several complaints, and dozens of requests for uncensored versions of the T-shirt.

In response to the controversy of using such raw language, Montgomery said it is a calculated tactic to get noticed and thereby raise more funds to assist in the Gulf recovery. The organization did recently tame their Twitter name to a censored version, however, to encourage more people to share.

The Gulf oil spill is being called the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

“This is a heinous crime against the environment, people’s livelihood and the ecosystem’s ability to support life,” Montgomery said. “People realize that the really offensive thing is the oil spill, not the word.”

UnF–kTheGulf will soon launch a week-long Facebook and Twitter “F-Bomb-a-Thon” campaign of status updates geared toward building buzz and raising at least $25,000 for the cause. The F-Bomb-a-Thon will run from July 26-August 1.

July 22, 2010 |

RICOH Completes Time Square’s first 100% Solar Powered Billboard

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The Ricoh Eco Board, which is 47 feet high by 126 feet long, is the first billboard in Times Square to be totally lit by solar energy. It is powered solely by 62 solar panels and 24 thin-film PV solar modules, and illuminated by 16 LED floodlights. Ricoh made a promise not to use conventional electricity from the grid to light the Eco Board and will allow it to go dark due to lack of sunlight. By using only solar power to light the sign, Ricoh is playing a part in reducing the amount of carbon emissions released by conventional electrical power sources. A special ceremony to celebrate the completion of the Eco Board will take place on June 8 in New York’s Times Square.

“When Ricoh decided to advertise in Times Square, we wanted to do so in an environmentally-responsible way that would have minimal negative impact on the environment. Our hope was that the Eco Board would become a powerful symbol of Ricoh’s commitment to green practices and would challenge others to become more active,” said Jason Dizzine, Director, Corporate Communications, Ricoh Americas Corporation. “Most billboards deliver a message, but this billboard is itself the message. For Ricoh, if the sign goes dark, that is ok. What is more important is that Ricoh is sharing in the bettering of our planet for everyone.” (more…)

June 2, 2010 |

Benefits of Sugarcane Ethanol to Hit New TV Ads During Indy 500

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Sugarcane ethanol is a clean, renewable fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by over 60% compared to gasoline and can save money at the pump. These are just a couple of the points made by various race drivers that compete with ethanol in the IZOD IndyCar Series, in two 30-second television ads that debut on Sunday, May 30, during the telecast of the 2010 Indianapolis 500 race.

The ads, produced for the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), feature sequences of short phrases with facts about sugarcane ethanol delivered by Indy drivers, including Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ana Beatriz, Takuma Sato, Davey Hamilton, E.J. Viso and the pole sitter for Sunday’s race, Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 winner. Since last year, UNICA has provided 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol for the IndyCar Series.

“For the first time ever, we are taking our message about sugarcane ethanol to national network television during one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world,” said Joel Velasco, UNICA’s Chief Representative in North America. “These commercials seek to educate American consumers about sugarcane ethanol and how it can benefit their pockets, the environment and the market, by promoting competition on and off the track,” Velasco added.

The ads were produced especially for this year’s 99th edition of the Indy 500, the main event in the IndyCar season. The two 30-second spots will appear during the race telecast on Sunday, May 30, on the ABC television network. UNICA plans to continue running television ads throughout the season.

To view other commercials, click on “I Compete” and “Cuts Emissions” or visit www.sweeteralternative.com/indy.

May 27, 2010 |
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