In the aftermath of the Great Recession we could be in a single dip or a double, heading for deflation or hyper-inflation. But one thing seems clear - we're not getting out of this mess by shuffling money around. We need real innovation that delivers real products if we're to have real economic growth. Green businesses are the best opportunities to do this today, delivering valuable products that smart businesses and homes need to save money and live well, and that we all need for a healthy planet. Out of the heat and pressure of the economic meltdown, green entrepreneurs across the country like James Cass (Mojave Breeze), Spencer Brown (RentaGreenBox) and Marcos Cordero (Green Business Bureau) are proving once again that necessity really is a powerful mother of invention.
Some folks still believe that going green is an expensive luxury and one we can't afford right now. The real question though isn't whether we can afford to go green, but whether we can afford not to. We waste enormous amounts of energy, water, and other resources, wasting billions of dollars as well. The whole globe needs clean energy, green homes, electric cars, reliable water, and healthy food, and these needs are only increasing. If the old billionaires were in the dirty industries like coal and oil, the new tycoons of the 21st century will be clean and green, providing solutions for the biggest challenges of our age.
Small green businesses are not just the engine of future economy growth - they are powerful engines of real economic growth today. Small businesses create new jobs faster than large businesses, generate five times more patents that large businesses, and 20 times more patents than universities, per dollar spent, as described in the report Small Wonders from the Center for Small Business and the Environment. "If history is any guide, small businesses will once again lead the nation's recovery," says Byron Kennard, Executive Director of the Center for Small Business and the Environment. "But this time they will do it by creating green jobs and clean energy innovations, leading to a green entrepreneurial boom."
Living in Las Vegas , green entrepreneur and innovator James Cass is developing a hybrid air cooling system called the Mojave Breeze. The typical air conditioner uses 3500 watts of electricity, more than any other appliance in the home, and in a long hot summer like this one, your AC can cost you hundreds of dollars a month. The global air conditioning market is $17 billion, dominated by compressor-based air conditioners from big names like Carrier. Seeing the need for a more efficient way to cool homes, Cass has worked on his own to develop the Mojave Breeze to cool air using "hybrid air cooling," combining the best elements of air conditioning with the energy efficiency of evaporative air cooling. With his prototypes cooling the 110 degree air to 70 even in the face of the blazing Las Vegas sun, and only using 400 watts of electricity, Cass is ready to scale up with the help of investors and others in the industry.
"Home cooling represents one of the largest energy demands a consumer pays for," said Cass. "Now is the time to think of a greener way to get the job done. The Mojave Breeze can help. Put some money back in your pocket, stay cool, and help the planet all at the same time."
Spencer Brown saw a problem in Southern California - the millions of cardboard boxes we use every year for moving and then throw away. Responding to this need Brown created Rent a Green Box, providing durable plastic boxes to rent for moving, saving 50% on the cost of moving as well as reducing waste and helping the planet. The boxes, also called Recopacks, are made from recycled plastic bottles, further reducing landfill waste. It's a simple idea that makes so much sense that they have kept on growing right through the recession and are targeting national growth in the years ahead.
Marcos Cordero recognized a different kind of need. He saw that small and mid-sized businesses needed a way to join the green business revolution, but were often lacking for information and a clear path to incorporate sustainability in their business in a way that made sense for them. He also saw the need consumers have for greater clarity about who is a green business, and who isn't. To address these needs, Cordero founded the Green Business Bureau, providing a straightforward system for tracking sustainability progress and certifying it in conjunction with Green Irene.
If challenges are really opportunities in disguise then the good news is that we are blessed with an overwhelming abundance of opportunities. It's up to us to make something of these opportunities, and contribute to the creation of both a stronger economy and a healthier environment. Yes, you can have both, as green entrepreneurs like these are proving every day.
Glenn Croston is the author of "75 Green Businesses" and "Starting Green", and the founder of Starting Up Green, helping businesses everywhere to make money and make a difference.