Posts with term Tom-Blog X

Will the Recession Kill Green Business?

We are arguably in the midst of the biggest boom the green-business movement has ever seen, with all those who have been paving the way for more than two decades saying that we are truly at the turning point. So what will happen now that we are mired the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? The recycling industry has already been hit hard. With low gas prices, the cost of plastic has taken a nose dive, and manufacturers are not ordering recycled plastic at the record levels they were a few months ago when prices at the pump hovered around $4. Also, and perhaps most importantly, consumers are steering clear of anything with premium prices (almost the exact definition of most green products).

Absolutely Greener, Relatively Speaking: A Closer Look at CSR Reporting

I was recently exchanging e-mails with a dear friend, Melissa, who works in the CSR , or corporate social responsibility, department of a major US corporation. We were talking about traditional national and global economic growth rates (which, of course, may not be achieved in times such as the current global slowdown) and how improved environmental standards could go beyond previous relative standards, but still result in cumulative negative impact. Melissa noted, “More companies are reporting defined sustainability goals and achievements--for example, reduced emissions, energy, water, landfill waste--to show that they're really greening up. The numbers that headline CSR report summaries and press releases tend to be framed in relative terms "standardized" per unit or pound produced rather than absolute totals. Because our economy is founded on growth, sustainability becomes a moving target. While relative or standardized numbers are an important tool in helping a company measure progress against itself, they don't necessarily indicate whether the company is moving towards ecological balance, and thus true sustainability.”

Are Trade Shows Worth the Waste?

Did you know the trade show industry is second only to the construction industry in the amount of waste it generates? The garbage comes from packaging, samples, handouts, and much more, and it piles up for days, creating endless pounds of unused or barely used materials! As someone deeply committed to eco-friendly practices, I've found my company participating in fewer and fewer shows.

Are Trade Shows Worth the Waste? Maybe, if They Can Cut Down on It

Did you know the tradeshow industry is second only to the construction industry in the amount of waste it generates? Garbage from discarded packaging, samples, handouts and more piles up for days creating countless tons of unused of garbage! So, as someone deeply into reducing waste, I’ve been drawn away from participating. A few weekends ago, though, I actually had a great trade show experience, and my views have shifted. Over the years, I’ve done my share of trade shows, and I’ve never liked them. When I added up the time and energy, not to mention costs of the booth, travel, hotel and all of the freebies we’d end up giving away, it rarely seemed to make sense. Sure, consumer and trade shows are a great way to speak with thousands of potential customers directly, and it’s got to work (for more than the organizers) as companies keep returning to their annual shows (and it can’t just be for the parties). Having found other ways to more effectively reach TerraCycle’s customers and communicate our message, and given that traditionally trade shows have been an environmental disaster, I’ve mostly given up on the medium.

Biodegradable vs. Recyclable: Which is the Better Packaging Solution?

We all know that packaging waste is a major issue. But what is the most feasible solution? Today there are fundamentally three choices for consumer packaged goods companies: non-recyclable, recyclable and biodegradable (reusable packaging, a la glass milk jugs are a fourth option that is quickly disappearing.) This question is incredibly important as we as a society try to find a balance between consumerism, capitalism and environmentalism. Please read on and join the discussion. My hope is to get the great minds of TreeHugger engaged in this vital debate. Non-recyclable has very limited choices outside a landfill or incinerator. At TerraCycle we are pioneering upcycling solutions for non-recyclable waste streams through our free national collection programs, the Brigades. However, these programs (almost 12,000 collection sites strong) are merely a drop in the ocean when compared to the many billions of used packages discarded every year. Recycling works for many papers, plastics and metals. While an amazing solution - the only catch with recycling is that only the polymer of the waste stream is viewed as valuable (the shape is viewed as waste). In the end, with an investment of energy (less than what it takes to extract and make virgin materials) the valuable raw materials of the package can be rescued and reused.

The Village Green: Building Partnerships to Create Environmental Value

They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. A child, like an idea, must be nurtured by many people working together for a common cause. So too must socially responsible companies join together if we are to achieve our common goal of a socially responsible, environmentally stable world. Eco-friendly or triple bottom line start ups and small businesses face a steep climb to success. Traditional companies are able to make products and services faster and cheaper because they are not necessarily as concerned with the effect of their practices. So small start ups must find ways to compete with companies that have a well developed relationship with retailers and consumers, have more sales/marketing dollars, and only have one bottom line to reach.

Where Did All the Money Go?

Are you thinking of raising capital right now? Already in the process? We are. As a quick background, we've raised over $11.5 million since our company's inception and are raising another large chunk to fuel rapid growth. Luckily, its going great, but I have seen the entire venture market transform before my eyes. VCs are either not investing and waiting "for the other shoe to drop" or are investing but demanding incredibly low valuations. I guess it's their right, since money is tighter now than it ever has. But it begs the question -- how do you raise capital in a down economy?

Could Garbage Be America's #1 Resource?

Garbage is America's #1 export and possibly the biggest raw material source we have. But what is waste? And why do we make it? In nature, waste does not exist - if it did we would not be here today since the creation of a material that another life form cannot use is not sustainable and would lead to the destruction of our eco-system. One way to look at waste is that it is a commodity with negative value. That is, it's a commodity that we are willing to pay to get rid of. It is a liability that has to be transported quickly and efficiently to a landfill. Waste is also a new idea - probably no more than 100 years old. It is an idea that came about with the birth of complex polymers and consumerism (brought on by the fad for disposable products in the 1950s). If necessity breeds innovation, then we are long overdue to find innovative ways to solve the waste issue, which is exactly what TerraCycle (which I started) hopes to do.

A More Civil Union!

In May, TerraCycle launched a line of school and office products, birthed from the same made-from-waste mantra as our other products. OfficeMax was our clear choice for a retailer, as they already had in place many environmentally responsible plans and support Adopt-a-Classroom, a non-profit TerraCycle fully supports as well. After the initial launch of seven products, TerraCycle and OfficeMax forged a very unique and mutually beneficial relationship that I believe serves as an incredible model for manufacturer/retailer relationships.

Dancing with the Devil

Over the last few years I’ve heard a lot of talk in the environmental and social entrepreneurship communities about the importance of ‚Äòscalability’ in social ventures. Simply put, scalability is basically the ability for a system to expand. It’s one of the key indicators for grant or investor funding…but it often clashes with “green” values. For example, the last few years have seen the vast majority of typical “green” products offered primarily in niche markets – co-ops, natural food stores, smaller chains and, of course Whole Foods Market. Now most supermarkets have at least a small organic offering (an aisle, maybe two…and a small section in the produce department). But to effect real, fundamental change, don’t we have to be focusing on the mainstream? Isn’t it more effective to put those eco-friendly products in Target and The Home Depot and *gasp* Wal-Mart, where the vast majority of American Consumers actually shop?