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Divine Inspiration

Profile by J.D. King

A case of toner cartridge sticker shock lead Fr. Bernard McCoy, the Prior of Our Lady of Spring Bank Abbey in Sparta, WI,  to the create LaserMonksgreen.com in 2002.  

“In my search for a toner cartridge, I was suddenly struck with how incredibly expensive this black dust and a few squirts of ink were. ‘There must be a better way,' I said to myself. And so began my foray into the world of imaging supplies,” he told GreenCrier.

McCoy concluded that if his monastery was paying such high prices for ink and toner, then other non-profit groups, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc were also overpaying. His idea was to start a business which offered compatible ink and toner at much better pricing than the "big box stores" and donate proceeds back to help the neediest.

“Simply stated, the mark-up on ink supplies is sinfully high, reaching in some instances into the 1,000-2,000 percent levels. I also discovered that there were many companies that manufactured either new compatible cartridges or remanufactured cartridges at a fraction of the cost of the big name brands. My thoughts raced.  Imagine the money we could save schools, churches, and other organizations if we could negotiate some deals with the manufacturers directly and cut out the middlemen.” McCoy told Green Crier.

The mission at LaserMonksgreen.com is to promote and provide environmentally safe printing products which not only help the planet but are cost effective for businesses, non-profit groups, government agencies, and consumers. "We want our mission to have a positive impact on the ‘green office' - as monks, this mission directly coincides with our vow to be stewards of this earth." McCoy told Green Crier.

The monastery is part of the 900-year-old Cistercian Order of Roman Catholic Monks; this particular Abbey was founded over 75 years ago in the United States.   Among Fr. McCoy's duties as Steward of Temporal Affairs are developing and managing ways to support monastic life and charities. Contrary to popular understanding, monasteries are self-supporting. A part of each day is given to some sort of remunerative work, from which they support their modest living needs in the monastery, and then use the rest for charitable work.

The Abbey was looking into various new income projects, which had ranged from growing Shitake mushrooms, raising Christmas trees, to building a golf course and conference center. An income project that was based on a necessary consumable item, like toner and ink cartridges, was exactly what the monastery needed - a solid, consistent, income that would not be affected by difficult economic times. Everyone has to have toner and ink to print, businesses especially. And everyone wants to save money. Add to this the fact that the money is used for good works and to support monks who dedicate their lives to serving God and neighbor, and you have the ultimate win-win situation.

The manufacturers were elated with the possibilities. They immediately suggested that the monks market not only to schools, churches, and other non-profits, but also to businesses.  It made perfect sense:  as monks, they possessed a long-held reputation as trustworthy and providing top quality products. Bottom line, why would anyone pay more money, when they can have quality products for less, from monks who use the income to help others?

"The results have been beyond anything we could imagine" McCoy told GreenCrier "Our first year we dipped our feet in the waters and learned more about the industry. We only sold about $2,000 gross the whole year. But then through a college friend of mine, who runs Walker and Associates Strategic Communications, I connected with another PR company, K-COMM, who liked us immediately, saw our potential, and took us on as a special project.

The two firms worked together and the train took off down the mountain. One story led to another, followed by radio shows and speaking engagements, and it hasn't stopped yet. Our sales have soared.  From our modest sales in the first year, our sales multiplied 700 percent in 2003. We conservatively project doubling or tripling this year. Our customers typically save 30 percent to 60 percent through LaserMonksgreen.com. At only 40 percent savings, LaserMonksgreen.com saved our customers over $200,000 last year."

The monks scrambled to keep up with the growth, trying to arrange for phone coverage for customer service, continuing to negotiate with suppliers, processing orders between their times of prayer.  Just as things seemed to be becoming unmanageable, Angels appeared.

"Out of the blue, I received an e-mail from two ladies in Colorado who had a website selling ink cartridges. For various reasons they had decided to move on to other projects. We had received their offer along with many other online printer supply companies, to sell us their online business. I wrote them back and explained who we were and what we were trying to do. To make a long story short, not only were they delighted to discover us, they offered to come up here to Wisconsin to help us for a few weeks to get our business organized and running well - at no charge. That was in July of 2003.” McCoy told Green Crier.

The "angels" and the monks got along so well, that they decided to make the arrangement permanent. The MonkHelper Angels, as they are now known, reside in one of the Abbey houses on the Abbey property. MonkHelper Marketing, Inc. now handles the management of LaserMonks.com, from business development, technology and website management, all vendor relations, corporate accounts and bid processes, graphics and branding of the LaserMonksgreen.com name, search engine and technology marketing, marketing and PR, and have built the entire customer service center from the ground up. This leaves the monks free to be monks, first and foremost, along with focusing on developing the business, media relations, advertising, speaking, and even more importantly, finding creative ways to use LaserMonksgreen.com income to help others.

LaserMonksgreen.com consciously markets its products and conducts its business and website with a focus on "people benefits" endeavoring to bring 900 years of monastic tradition to bear on all aspects of LaserMonksgreen.com. Through these efforts they aim to build long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with customers.  Unique touches on their website include an invitation for Prayer Requests, and thoughtful quotations to encourage a moment of reflection and growth in the midst of a busy day.  In addition  Luxor & Ludwig, a feature cartoon produced by Fr. Robert, the order's superior, provides a humorous view of the monks' life through the eyes of the Abbey mascots, an Egyptian Pharaoh Hound and Doberman Pinscher.

LaserMonksgreen.com is now shipping SoyPrint cartridges, the first laser printer cartridges that use toner powder derived from soybeans. Cartridges for the most popular laser printers are available under the SoyPrint brand with identical quality to their oil-based competitors.  The yield of SoyPrint cartridges is often greater than that of brand name oil based toners, commonly 20 percent better, while the print quality is identical. Soy ink has been available for some time, but this is the first soy toner cartridge for laser printers. SoyPrint cartridges are manufactured in the US and will be shipped from warehouses nationwide.

"With a nod to significantly reducing the environmental impact on our planet, the cartridges will be fully recyclable through a free program arranged by LaserMonksGreen.com and the manufacturer available to all purchasers," said Sarah Caniglia of MonkHelper Marketing. "For each SoyPrint cartridge sold the monks will plant a tree in the rainforest, while proceeds from the toner will be donated to charity."

In addition, The SoyPrint Sustainable Printing Program includes a quarterly report to customers reflecting the oil saved and the pounds of heavy plastic recycled through the return program. It is truly the most environmentally sustainable way to print. Now every office employee can help reduce our nation's dependence on oil every time they print a report or change the toner.

"LaserMonks save our customers money, lots of money. They can use these savings for all sorts of good works. But there's even more good news to the story. By purchasing printing supplies from LaserMonks, our customers not only save money, they support the monks' modest life of prayer and our good works. By helping you save money, we can help others throughout the world. Everyone wins with LaserMonks. Isn't that the way business should be?"  McCoy told Green Crier.

For more information, visit www.lasermonksgreen.com

Do you have a company to suggest? Contact jd@greencrier.com

The FruitGuys


Profile by J.D. King


Founded on the premise that bringing healthy brain food to the office can boost productivity, improve wellness and help companies improve their bottom lines, The FruitGuys was launched in 1998 by Chris Mittelstaedt.

 

Mittelstaedt has been an entrepreneur since college, but he got the idea for The FruitGuys during the height of the dot-com era. He told Green Crier “After hearing from friends working in Silicon Valley that they were working 12-hour days, eating free junk food, drinking jolt cola, and gaining pounds, I came up with the idea of delivering farm-fresh fruit to offices in the Bay area.”

 

That idea was well received and soon the FruitGuys quickly expanded beyond the Silicon Valley.  Currently the company  provides fresh seasonal fruit from local

farms to thousands of American businesses, from small family-run businesses to major Fortune 500 corporations, including Littler Mendelson, Yahoo!, Yamaha,

VMWare, Wells Fargo, among thousands of other industry leaders.

 

The FruitGuys, works closely with farmers all over the country to ensure that they buy fruit local to the regions that they serve. 70 to 90 percent of their fruit mixes

are locally grown within the three regions they serve (East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast) which reduces emissions from transportation and maximizes

freshness, explains Mittelstaedt.


Each morning, The FruitGuys’ buyer selects, based on quality and taste, fruits that were picked fresh from the field just hours earlier. When the fruit arrives at the warehouse, each case is carefully inspected, to ensued it meets their exacting standards. Then, that same afternoon as orders are hand-packed, each piece of

fruit is examined once again for quality, taste and ripeness. All fruit goes from farm

to home or office in three to four days.

 

“When you order fresh fruit from The FruitGuys, you’re making an investment in

the overall health of your business. You can trust that the FruitGuys will provide

your employees with the best quality, freshest fruit available because we buy

directly from the source, local family farms, whenever possible. All of our fruit is backed by our 100 percent quality guarantee,”  Mittelstaedt told Green Crier.

 

A staunch advocate of the small American farmer, Mittelstaedt has made farm/community stewardship a company priority.  To this end, The FruitGuys practices a unique integration of business sustainability and socially responsible stewardship that has become the cornerstone of their company culture. 

 

In one such program, The FruitGuys offers fruit at no cost to young women entrepreneurs in Bayview-Hunters Point, a low-income Bay area neighborhood where fresh produce makes up just 5 percent of the food sold in the local stores.  These women then sell the fruit at affordable costs to neighborhood families, both developing their entrepreneurial skills and bringing healthy doses of fresh fruit to

their community.  This program, and many others like it, was born out of Mittelstaedt’s belief that something as small and basic as fruit could make a both sustainable and responsible difference in a community.


The FruitGuys also started a Farm Stewardship program in which they identify the unique needs of a farmer and help them via various donations. An example of this program is when, in response to the growing national disappearance of honey

bees, they donated 48,000 bees to one farm in Sebastopol, CA that had been renting honey bees each season for pollination purposes. Most recently, they installed four bat boxes at another farm to attract bats, which control the insect population, reducing the need for chemical insecticides. 

 

The FruitGuys commitment to health and well being extends to the environment as well. “Our fruit is packed in earth-friendly crates, constructed with recycled cardboard and printed with soy based inks. We can pick up and reuse empty

crates in select areas, otherwise you can always recycle your crate or come up

with a new way to use it. For instance, the crates have been designed to fit

standard sized file folders," Mittelstaedt told Green Crier.

 

Last year The FruitGuys invested in a custom-made packaging machine that cut down their use of cardboard by 40 percent.  In addition, their boxes are moving from 70 percent to 100 percent post recyclable material.  Taking the concept one step further, they created a crate that could be “eaten” by the earth in the same way their fruit is eaten. All of the insulation and padding in the crates are made from cornstarch and can be degraded easily and properly.

 

“People have embraced The FruitGuys not only as their office's fresh-fruit provider, but as a responsible community partner who buys from small local farmers and donates tens of thousands of pounds fruit each year,” Mittelstaedt told Green Crier. “We have been very successful in saving money and energy by working with farmers and delivering locally to the regions they serve. What distinguishes us is our partnership approach to customers, growers, vendors and the world and, of course, we will dress in a banana suit for you.”

 

With over ten years of bringing fresh healthy snack options to America’s workplace, The FruitGuys plan to expand their efforts to help people eat healthy at home as well.  For more information, visit www.fruitguys.com



Profile by J.D. King

Green Depot is a leading supplier of environmentally friendly and sustainable building products, services and home solutions. Founded in 2005 by Sarah Beatty, Green Depot's mission has been - from the outset - to make green building products and services readily accessible so that green building can be easily adopted into standard construction operations.

"Our primary goal is to facilitate green living and building in communities so that it is easy, affordable and gratifying," Beatty told Green Crier. "Green Depot believes that any green choice - big or small - is a positive step for our future. We seek out the very best green building products and materials, with attention to factors such as recyclable content, local sourcing, low- or no-toxicity, and energy efficiency."

All of the products Green Depot sells must pass through its proprietary green filter," a strict quality and values criteria focusing on health, durability, performance, life cycle, natural resource conservation and energy conservation. This filter sets Green Depot apart from other green building suppliers and retailers in credibility, squarely addressing the issues of "greenwashing" that serve to confuse and mislead consumers.

In 2008, Green Depot evolved its goal of demystifying green for consumers by developing a system of icons to break down green into five simple categories: Air quality, Local, Social responsibility and Energy Conservation. These icons put a front end on Green Depot's proprietary in-house product "filter" methodology that ensures even-handed, accurate evaluation of each product carried and allows customers to choose products that address the aspects of green living that are most important to themselves, their budgets and their families.

The New User Friendly Face of Green Depot

On February 12, 2009, Green Depot opened its flagship retail store in Manhattan at 222 Bowery between Prince and Spring Street.  The store is a renovation of the 1885 Young Men's Institute, the home of the first YMCA in New York City, the studios of renowned artists Mark Rothko and Fernand Leger, and author William Burroughs. Green Depot enlisted the architecture and design services of Mapos LLC to re-fashion the space and anticipates platinum LEED certification. The firm worked closely with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which was particularly interested in preserving the building's façade.

The building is a defining model for green business. It includes a rejuvenated site in the ground floor of a landmarked Bowery building utilizing recycled building elements and exposed surfaces from the original historic building, such as glazed ceramic tile on the walls, maple "gymnasium" flooring and iron structural elements at the storefront.  It also incorporated exposed original tile that outlines the location of the YMCA's original swimming pool, added in 1915 and original wood trim and restored brick that survived a fire. 

The Bowery store is the first LIVE or "consumer friendly" location for The Green Depot. The emphasis is on homecare, design and lifestyle products.  This marks a significant departure from Green Depot's BUILD showrooms which cater more towards contractors and suppliers than DIYers. The new store experience will merge interactivity with the accessibility and hands-on service of an old-fashioned "local hardware store." 

Addressing the growing need for affordable, accessible green products, the 3,500 square-foot store will debut hundreds of premium products, including a host of private label and exclusive product lines. The store also boasts an exclusive series of sustainable design solutions, a baby section and a resource/design center for staff to assist customers. A paint bar with zero-VOC paints and cleaning products on tap are other major elements. These new offerings will expand upon the wide range of products already available at the company's other retail locations - in Brooklyn, Newark, Long Island, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago, and online at greendepot.com.

The new store is designed to provide consumers and professionals with the basic tools they need to design and build smart, practical, environmentally friendly spaces. Built with the intention to demonstrate high quality, high-performance green materials in action, the store stands as a living testament to the possibilities for green building and design

"Our new Bowery flagship store will be a touchstone for connecting consumers with healthy, affordable, energy-efficient products and services," Beatty told Green Crier.  "Our goal is to make the Green Depot store experience engaging, informative and fun, and empower everyday consumers who are trying to make the smartest choices for themselves and their families."

With the new flagship LIVE store in Manhattan, and BUILD showrooms in Brooklyn, Newark, Philadelphia, Boston, Greenport, Chicago, Albany (2009), and Newark, DE (2009), as well as 10 additional distribution centers spanning the Northeast, Green Depot is the nation's largest green building supplier, offering a broad range of superior quality, sustainable product lines, including: ceilings, walls, flooring, insulation, janitorial, soundproofing, paint, lawn & garden, lighting & electrical.

Launched in conjunction with the Bowery store grand opening, Green Depot's new ecommerce website provides national access to the retail product offerings and information at the Bowery store. For more information, visit www.greendepot.com.

 

It's Not paper, It's Not Plastic, Its-laS-tik


Profile by J.D. King

 

What’S ur bag was founded in 2006 by Susan Princiotto and launched it flagship product, the its-laS-tik bag in 2008.  Its-laS-tik bags offer a fashionable, functional, flexible and fun way to go green. Its-laS-tik bags are unlike any other reusable bag on the market: They take the stress off your hands, back, shoulders and knees with their elasticity and flexibility.  “Its-laS-tik actually mimics the bounce in your step,” Kristen Bykowski, Creative Director of its-laS-tik told Green Crier.

 

"Supporting the future of this planet and paying mind to its present day issues doesn’t mean forgetting to look great", Princiotto told Green Crier. "Its-laS-tik bags are more than just another reusable shopping bag; the variety of colors and patterns is simply staggering. And since you can use its-laS-tik for nearly anything, there’s no need to sacrifice looking stylish while out shopping at the grocery store, on the beach, heading to the gym or anywhere else."

 

While the whole world was "going green" Princiotto tried to do her part by composting in the back yard and unplugging her appliances at night. She even bought any array of reusable bags in hopes of eliminating the need for paper or plastic grocery bags.  While good in theory, those reusable bags were heavy, bulky and unattractive.  Knowing that a better solution must be possible, Princiotto got to work in her New Jersey basement and created a series of prototypes out of a variety of fabrics including cotton, hemp and even corn fibers.  With each prototype, she struggled to create the perfect bag, but the results all looked the same.

 

A firm believer that going green doesn't require one to neglect fashion, she persevered. After purchasing some shiny green fabric simply because it was ”pretty and green" Princiotto realized that she was on to something big.  When she completed the prototype with this new fabric and began filling it with groceries, she immediately noticed something extraordinarily different from the previous bags; this one held much more and the bag actually stretched to accommodate the contents. Not only did it hold more, it felt lighter. Its-laS-tic bags had arrived.

 

Utilizing flexible fabrics in highly fashionable prints, its-laS-tik bags differ significantly from other reusable bags that don’t stretch, only carry a certain amount of product and remain as heavy as the regular paper or plastic grocery bags they replace.  Its-laS-tik bags, on the other hand, stretch to fit its contents and holds it securely, moving with you as you walk which enables you to double the load per bag while never feeling the effects. Once emptied, the bag springs right back into its original shape.  They are washable, reusable and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns to suit everyone’s style.

 

Going Green after Katrina

 

In addition, unlike many other reusable bags that are made overseas, every its-laS-tik bag is made in the USA.  Specifically, Princiotto is committed to providing work to residents in New Orleans and putting money back into a struggling and deserving economy. After Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the city of New Orleans, Princiotto knew that if presented with an opportunity, she would help in any way possible. As its-laS-tik was transformed from dream to reality, it became clear that it was her time to give back. What’S ur bag commitment to keeping the bags made in the USA was resolute, and New Orleans seemed like the ideal location. 

 

Its-la-Stic bags are manufactured by survivors of hurricane Katrina and almost every aspect of the company is outsourced to the New Orleans community. The material is sourced locally and the packaging and labels are created and distributed by a business established in New Orleans in 1948. In addition, the company’s visionary graphic artist and website designer, Sheri' Mora, is a native of the city.

 

Its-laS-tik is also recycled in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Hope House, a non-profit organization founded in 1969 by two Roman Catholic nuns who depend solely on grants and donations to continue their work of charity and justice.  Their programs include, but are not limited to: Emergency rent, food and shelter assistance, after-school youth programs, adult learning programs, prison ministry and workshops on poverty and justice. 

 

its-laS-tik has partnered with Hope House as an additional means of giving back to the New Orleans community. 5 percent of all sales of the bags will be donated to Hope House. As well as donating 5 percent of profits, Hope House and its-laS-tik have also partnered up to provide work to the underprivileged community in New Orleans, allowing them to give back as well. If/when you send your its-laS-tik bags back to what’S ur bag the recycled bags will be re-created as rag rugs and other products, giving its-laS-tik bags a second life. 

 

"I've helped those in need my entire life," Princiotto told Green Crier "and I've felt closeness to New Orleans that I just can't describe. I love New Orleans and if I can help the environment while helping a city partially devastated by the environment, I feel like I've done some good in, and for this world."

 

Its-laS-tik bags are available in a wide array of colors and patterns. Small bags are 12" x 11", Large bags are 20" x 15", Pouches are 9" x 5".  For more information, vist www.whatsurbag-usa.com.

 



Redefining Recycling

 

Profile by J.D. King


Co-founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer, TerraCycle is arguably the first-ever Eco-Capitalist corporation. Their flagship product, TerraCycle Plant Food is created by feeding organic waste to worms, liquefying their poop and packaging the liquid in reused soda bottles. As a result, TerraCycle Plant Food is the first mass-produced consumer product to have a negative environmental footprint.

"At TerraCycle, we not only limit our consumption of natural capital and minimize our waste, we actually reverse the entire process," Szaky told Green Crier. "TerraCycle consumes waste as a raw material in creating a finished product that renews natural capital.  We not only limit our consumption of natural capital and minimize our waste; we actually reverse the entire process. TerraCycle consumes waste as a raw material in creating a finished product that renews natural capital."

TerraCycle produces a potent, all-natural, eco-friendly plant food that is the first mass-produced product in the world to be packaged in used plastic soda bottles. To go even further, the entire product is made out of garbage - from the contents to the packaging. TerraCycle processes organic garbage destined for landfills through a revolutionary process developed by the company's founders while students at Princeton University. TerraCycle is able to convert all this into liquid plant food in only three weeks.

Proven at the Rutgers University EcoComplex to outperform a leading synthetic plant food in many aspects of plant growth, TerraCycle Plant Food is more than simply eco-friendly - TerraCycle's products are environmentally beneficial, from production to application. TerraCycle Plant Food can be sprayed or misted directly onto houseplants, lawns, and gardens. It also can be applied in mass agricultural settings, distributed through the existing irrigation facilities of farms, vineyards, even golf courses and parks.

TerraCycle collects its used soda bottles by conducting environmental fundraisers at hundreds of elementary schools across the United States. TerraCycle has also partnered with numerous recycling centers as a source of these used bottles.  In addition, TerraCycle products are packed and shipped in boxes that other companies cannot use or would discard due to print errors.

The emerging concept of Eco-Capitalism holds that organizations must be accountable for their performance in the consumption and production of natural capital, an economic term for the goods and services available from nature. Such goods and services include the resources we use in conducting manufacturing and commerce, both nonrenewable (oil, coal, metal ore, etc.) and renewable (forests, fisheries, grasslands, etc.).

In a standard capitalist manufacturing model, raw material is procured, often with a serious environmental impact. The material is processed by a factory and is turned into a product that often ends up as garbage. In an eco-capitalist manufacturing model, garbage is used as the raw material. The material is processed by a sustainable factory and is turned into a product that can be re-used again as a raw material.

Traditional capitalistic business practices and public policies have typically ignored the value of natural capital resulting in wasteful use of energy, materials, water, fiber, topsoil, and ecosystems. Born when the bounty of the natural world seemed boundless, the previous Industrial Revolutions enabled workers to become vastly more productive in an era when low per-capita output and a relative scarcity of people were limiting progress in exploiting natural capital. Today we face the opposite situation: abundant people and labor-saving machines, but diminishing natural capital.

"In response to this changing pattern of scarcity, the currently emerging industrial revolution is driven by the tenants of eco-capitalism. Today's Industrial Revolution is transforming industrial processes and business practices so that they minimize consumption of what is now the limiting factor of production: natural capital,” Szaky told Green Crier.

How it Began

Terracycle's initial business plan was written for a business plan contest sponsored by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. The following summer, Szaky and Beyer made arrangements with Princeton Dining Services to accept dining hall waste and process it in their prototype 'Worm Gin'. The waste turned out to be a bit messier than they had anticipated, but they perservered. Towards the end of that summer, they found their first investor and moved into their first office.

After taking an extended leave of absence from Princeton in the spring of 2003, Szaky entered TerraCycle in the Carrot Capital business plan contest and won the grand prize of $1 million in seed capital. However, they turned down the money because they didn't like the direction in which Carrot Capital wanted to take the company.

The company continued, funded by prize money from business plan contests and angel investors. A major breakthrough was achieved in May of 2004 when The Home Depot began selling TerraCycle Plant Food on their website. In 2005, TerraCycle continued their growth as Whole Foods, Home Depot Canada, Wal*Mart Canada, Wild Oats and Do-It-Best began carrying the TerraCycle line.

Most recently, TerraCycle has been named one of the 100 most innovative companies by Red Herring magazine and been awarded the Environmental Stewardship Award from Home Depot Canada. The Environmental Stewardship Award is one of only two company-wide awards given by Home Depot Canada.

"It is said that there is no waste in nature. Everything that is not used goes back in some way to regenerate for the future. At TerraCycle, we believe that human production must achieve that same level of sustainability, and we are proud to demonstrate the achievability of that ideal," Szaky told Green Crier.

TerraCycle continues to develop innovative and practical uses for existing materials that would otherwise end up as landfill.  The expanded  product line includes lawn and garden care,  all natural cleaning products, fire logs, tote bags, lunch boxes, back packs, and office supplies all made form recycled and repurposed materials.  

They transform juice pouches into backpacks, lunch boxes and pencil cases.  Old floppy disks have found new life as a note pads.  Cookie and energy bar wrappers now serve as notebook covers and tote bags.  Just in time for Christmas, TerraCycle also offers fused wrapper stockings and tree skirts.  With additional creations like umbrellas, shower curtains and couture evening gowns, the possibilities appear to be limitless at TerraCycle.

TerraCycle products are available at retail stores nationwide and online. For more information, visit www.terracycle.com.

 

Spirit of the Sun Solar Systems



Power to the People. Naturally

Profile by J.D. King

 

Founded in June 2008, Cornville, Arizona-based Spirit of the Sun Solar Systems (S.O.S) prides itself on delivering state-of-the art mobile power units that meet commercial and residential needs in both cities and remote settings. Whether used as a backup to, or in place of grid power, S.O.S. mobile solar units offer consumers a durable and efficient solution.

 

 "S.O.S. mobile solar systems are custom manufactured solar generators that supply free electricity," Dan Jones, president of Spirit of the Sun Solar Systems told Green Crier.  "They are completely quiet and clean meaning that they work in harmony with Mother Earth, unlike conventional generators that use gas, emit fumes and make a lot of noise."

 

Building on a solid background in electronics from experiences in the Army and with IBM, Jones developed an interest in solar power while living "off the grid" for many years in upstate New York with his family.  Jones and family relocated to Arizona where he founded Sun Solar Systems, LLC. Inspired by his enthusiasm for making mobile solar powered generators, Jones' sister, Debra Jones, joined him as CFO of S.O.S.  Her extensive expertise in the high tech industry fit perfectly with her brother's new venture.

 

 "S.O.S is a heart-felt organization committed to help restore the Earth and assist humanity by providing, mobile, solar systems and education about solar energy," Jones told Green Crier. "At S.O.S., we are dedicated to help in the shift toward low environmental impact, by providing self-reliant power units that work in harmony with the Earth and the Spirit of the Sun."

 

S.O.S. custom made portable solar are ideal for a wide array of industries and businesses that rely on gas generators to power lights and equipment on the road. Unlike traditional generators, the S.O.S solar versions are completely silent and of course environmentally friendly.  

 

S.O.S. generators are ideal for a multitude of applications including: providing power in the event of natural disasters (hurricane, tornado, flood, etc.); providing power for remote locations such as construction sites, cabins and outdoor events; recreational vehicles; insuring that electric gates never get stuck open or closed during a power outage; holiday light displays; refrigeration for outdoor remote and mobile food vendors; recharging golf carts and more. Typically, it takes six to eight weeks from order to delivery of an S.O.S. customized generator.

 

"The response to our generators has been fantastic," Jones told Green Crier. "The cost of oil, gas and conventional electricity continues to soar which impacts everyone. Fortunately, the availability and affordability of solar technology gives people a practical choice. That, combined with a rapidly increasing interest in environmental issues, demonstrates that this market is only going to grow."

 

Based on the success they achieved in the Southwest, S.O.S plans to expand into the national market soon. For more information, visit www.sossolarsystems.com.

_____________________________________________________________

 

October 27, 2008


GreenEarth Cleaning



 

You've Never Worn Anything Like It

Profile by J.D. King

 

Co-founded by Jim Barry, Ron Benjamin and Jim Douglas in 1998, Kansas City, MO-based GreenEarth Cleaning is the world's largest solution provider for environmentally friendly dry cleaning.

 

"For decades, customers and dry cleaners had no real choice but to clean clothes in harsh, petrochemical solvents with known health and environmental risks. GreenEarth Cleaning is an environmentally safe dry cleaning process that replaces petroleum-based solvents with liquid silicone, a gentle solution made from one of the earth's safest and most abundant natural resources: silica, or sand," Tim Maxwell president of GreenEarth Cleaning told Green Crier.

 

"We are a company created and run by former dry cleaners. As dry cleaners, we worked hard, and successfully, to reduce emissions and control many of the risks associated with the use of petrochemical solvents. But we always hoped for a better alternative," Maxwell continued. "One that would meet the needs of customers and dry cleaners while protecting the communities in which we live."

 

GreenEarth Cleaning was discovered by a scientist working with a solution used in cosmetics who realized it was removing the fats and dirt from his hands without drying them out. He wondered...could it do the same for clothes?

Silicone has been around for a long time and has a wide variety of uses, but no one had found a way to use it for dry cleaning. The process of doing so was patented and now forms one of several baseline patents for the GreenEarth Cleaning system. It cleans as effectively as traditional dry cleaning without costing more to operate. In some cases, it can improve the look and feel of fabrics.

 

GreenEarth Cleaning licenses to quality dry cleaners operating stores around the globe. In return for an annual licensing fee, GreenEarth Cleaning provides technical, operating and marketing support to licensed affiliates. To ensure that affiliates benefit from the latest cutting-edge, clean technologies, GreenEarth Cleaning has partnered with Procter & Gamble and General Electric, as well as the industry's leading detergent and equipment manufacturers.

 

Eighty-five percent of dry cleaners use a solvent known as perc, short for perchloroethylene, a chlorinated hydrocarbon classified by the EPA as a Toxic Air Contaminant. Use of perc is highly regulated because indiscriminate disposal of perc can seriously contaminate soil and groundwater, and exposure can irritate eyes, nose and throat, as well as cause headaches, dizziness or fatigue. Perc is also classified by the EPA as a possible to probable human carcinogen.

 

In contrast, GreenEarth is so safe the EPA does not regulate it; it's safe for the air, water and soil. What's more, the GreenEarth solution is not a VOC; it is non-toxic, and non-hazardous. If you wanted to, you could safely rub it on your skin. In fact, you probably already do. That's because GreenEarth's solution is pure liquid silicone-essentially liquefied sand. It's the same base ingredient found in everyday shampoos, soaps and lotions. Plus, when released to the environment, liquid silicone safely degrades back into its three natural components: sand (SiO2), water and carbon dioxide.

 

GreenEarth solution is different from dry cleaning solvents in that liquid silicone is chemically inert, meaning it does not interact with the textile fabric or dyes during the cleaning process. This helps preserve the quality of garments, eliminates problems with fabric wear or color loss, maintains a soft "hand" and prevents shrinkage. Delicate silks, suede, leather, beads, sequins, painted garments, specialty buttons and trims, couture, heirloom fabrics and other "problem" items are no problem at all. And, unlike petroleum based solvents like perc or hydrocarbon, liquid silicone is odorless, so there is no lingering chemical smell on clothes.

Dry cleaners face a difficult dilemma: it can be very expensive to purchase and operate an environmentally responsible cleaning system. GreenEarth is the one truly "green" system that is affordable for dry cleaners. The cost for a machine capable of using GreenEarth is similar to the perc machines most dry cleaners currently use. And, because it requires less labor to process and finish items cleaned with the GreenEarth system and machines can be configured to use less energy than traditional systems, dry cleaners using GreenEarth enjoy better operating efficiency.

 

The only other recognized "green" alternatives in dry cleaning are CO2 and 100 percent wet cleaning. The problem for dry cleaners, especially the small "mom and pop" cleaners who are the backbone of the industry, is that it is very difficult to make a living operating exclusively with either of these eco-friendly systems. CO2 machines can cost up to three times as much as traditional dry cleaning machines. Wetcleaning requires more labor to produce and finish garments, thus both options are considerably more expensive to operate. Less than one-third of one percent of dry cleaners operate with CO2 or 100 percent wet cleaning exclusively.

 

The dry cleaning industry is under increasing regulatory scrutiny. California's ban on both the use of perc and the purchase of new perc machines is widely regarded as the beginning of the end of perc solvents. New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Toronto have similar bans under consideration. If the industry continues to drag its feet when it comes to adopting "more environment friendly alternatives", regulators can be expected to grow increasingly concerned and increase legislative pressure.

 

California's Air Resources Board has declared GreenEarth an "acceptable dry cleaning solvent alternative" and "sees no need" to regulate use of liquid silicone in dry cleaning. GreenEarth meets and exceeds all regulatory requirements and regulations in all states.

 

"We are fortunate to provide a product that produces a better consumer experience than the competing products in use in dry cleaning," Maxwell told Green Crier. "Customers love the soft, luxuriant feel of the garment, the complete lack of odor, and the vivid, vibrant colors that comes from cleaning without aggressive agents."

 

To date,  more than 300 million pounds of clothes cleaned in the GreenEarth Cleaning system in over 1,300 licensed machines around the world."We strive to increase awareness among industry operators that the less aggressive GreenEarth System can be more effective at satisfying customers'  garment care needs- while shining a positive light on the hard work that the industry does to be good citizens of the planet," Maxwell told Green Crier.

 

For more information or to find a GreenEarth Cleaning affiliate near you, visit http://www.greenearth.com/.

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ZeroEnergy Design


 

Custom Built High Performance Homes


Profile by J.D. King

Founded in 2005, Charlestow, MA-based ZeroEnergy Design (ZED) is a Home Design and Energy services firm that focuses on designing green, healthy and energy efficient homes.  The firm delivers fully integrated designs for high performance homes by collaborating with architects, mechanical engineers, and financial analysts.

 

“Having a home designed for you is a bit deeper than simple aesthetics. It’s a blend of form and function that considers your lifestyle, your values, your planned use, and your land,:  Adam Prince, Business Development Principal at ZED told Green Crier. “Your home should reflect what's important to you: Health, efficiency, resource preservation, consideration for future generations, and clean energy production.”

 

ZED develops both Zero Energy and Green Homes. Zero Energy homes produce as much energy as they consume yearly through the use of passive strategies (insulation, orientation, overhangs, etc.), efficient energy consuming systems (heating, cooling, hot water, lighting, appliances, ventilation), and renewable systems to produce energy (solar, wind, etc.). Green homes take into account energy performance, indoor air quality, sustainable building materials, water conservation and minimizing environmental impact.  Green homes are not necessarily Zero Energy homes, but can be and often are.


 

ZED was co-founded by David Wax, Emile Chin-Dickey, Stephanie Horowitz, Benjamin Uyeda, and Jordan Goldman. While at CornellUniversity the ZED management team led the 2005 Cornell University Solar Decathlon Team in a Department of Energy competition that presented an atypical home design challenge: construction, disassembly, and transportation under time constraints along with aesthetics, functionality, energy efficiency and production among other criteria. The end result was a transportable, zero energy home that integrated indoor & outdoor living.

 

Built by students (including the ZED management team) on the Cornell campus, the home was disassembled, shipped to and reassembled on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and performed in the two-week long Solar Decathlon competition. The Cornell entry placed second overall, and won many awards for architectural design, landscape design, energy performance, and other home elements.

 

Following the success of that challenge, the team decided to continue working together and formed ZeroEnergy Design (formerly Independence Energy), one of the fastest growing residential and deign engineering firms with over fifty high performance home projects completed to date.  Clients include individual homeowners, builders and developers across the United States and abroad.

 

The founders started ZED in response to what they saw lacking in the home deign and building industry; that designers were not addressing energy efficiency, water conservation, durability or indoor air quality in their designs.  The industry was slow to integrate new and innovative technologies.  As a result homes either looked good but performed poorly, or performed extraordinarily, but were aesthetically challenged. 

 

The ZED team realized that exceeding construction code requirements would yield large net benefits for homeowners' health, finances and environmental legacy.  They sought to combine good design with high performance and bring it to the residential housing sector.

 

The ZED approach can increase energy performance and lower utility bills by providing full energy consulting for new home designs. The ZED team analyzes home plans for energy performance if built to code, and then recommends specific areas for improvement. Using detailed computer simulations the ZED team then looks at opportunities for energy conservation, efficient consumption, and potential renewable energy production. Recommendations include the utility bill impact, so home owners can make a smart, data based decision about which features to include in their new home.

 

“During new home construction one should seize the opportunity to improve energy performance by 50 percent over what building code requires. These highly cost effective improvements include the building envelope (the outer shell of the building that defines the conditioned living space) and system efficiency (heating, cooling, hot water, lighting, appliances, ventilation),” Prince told Green Crier.

 

ZED’s Mechanical Engineers provide HVAC system design for new home design, such as radiant floors, forced air heating, and air conditioning. The service includes load calculations, specification and sizing of heating and cooling equipment, and duct and/or hydronic layouts. Proper sizing and design result in longer equipment lifespan, improved system performance, and lower utility costs. ZED drawings and documentation are utilized by builders to install the systems in homes.

 

ZED employs 3D rendering for photo-realistic visualizations of floor plan designs and aesthetic selections. These renderings enable home owners to critique layout and material selections to ensure that the house they envisioned is the house that is built. The ZED team specifies and designs all the energy related systems, such as heating, cooling, hot water, lighting, appliances, and renewable energy, to ensure each home has the best possible performance.


Selecting which energy efficient features to include is a difficult task. However, a cost benefit analysis on different solar and HVAC systems will determine what works best within a client's budget. Energy modeling uses up to 30 years of location-specific climate data, including solar exposure, temperature extremes, and humidity levels to develop an advanced energy load calculation.

 

“Our integration of architecture, engineering, and finance yields the strongest balance in the residential design market to date. With these talents we are able to holistically design the most beautiful and energy efficient home,” Prince told Green Crier. “We anticipate that ‘green' will eventually become mainstream, be a given attribute of every home design, and be written into building code.”

 

For more information, visit www.zeroenergy.com.

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The Sugar Cane Paper Company



A Sweet Solution


Profile by J.D. King

 

Founded in 2001, The Sugar Cane Paper Company is the largest manufacturer and distributor of bagasse-made, “treeless” paper goods in the world.   Bagasse is the fibrous residue left over in the sugar-making process after the sugar cane has been crushed and the sugar extracted. The Sugar Cane Paper Company uses this recycled material to produce paper and tableware products.

 

“Our mission is to reduce the environmental impact of disposable consumer products by offering consumers eco-friendly alternatives,” The Sugar Cane Paper Company President, Mark Harrison told Green Crier.

 

“The environmental community has brought consumer awareness and demand for FSC defined ‘recycled paper’ light-years from just five years ago. Recycling 54million tons of paper means that we have saved a lot of trees. But, is our recycling rate high enough? Probably not. ‘Treeless’ paper is the next big step in meeting consumer demand for preserving the world’s forest resources.”

Trees are a vital resource to our planet for producing oxygen, and reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They also have an invaluable role providing sheltered ecosystems while preventing land erosion. Trees are a renewable resource, but the time it takes to reach maturity just is not compatible with demand. Currently trees are quickly being logged worldwide as our thirst for disposable paper products continues to grow. By reducing the need for trees and switching to a truly sustainable alternative, we can allow more trees to do what they were meant to do; support and enhance the environment.

 

Sugar cane is a biodegradable product that can renew itself every twelve months. By using sugar cane instead of trees to make paper, the trees are saved for other uses, such as maintaining a forest. 

 

The Sugar Cane Paper Company’s practice of sustainability begins with its network of farmers. The core of its product -Sugar Cane Bagasse, is a high yield, rapid and renewable resource. The crop itself is listed as a perennial grass, giving it a high yield capacity, with an annual average of 3 harvests. The sugar cane crop is commonly propagated from cuttings which allows it to begin its first harvest in as little as 12 months on average, making it a truly rapid renewable resource.

 

After sugar is extracted from the cane, the crop, the remaining bagasse fiber is utilized as a true eco-friendly solution to diminishing forest resources. Since the bagasse is in itself agricultural waste, it is represented as 100 percent recycled material. Currently, there is an abundant supply of bagasse the world has yet to tap into. What better way to make a paper product than using abundant, sustainable, clean material made from agricultural waste?

 
The sugar cane process was first used by the Egyptians for producing paper. The process was lost when the technology of using wood fibers was discovered. Using the sugar cane fibers left over from the process of making table sugar, the fibers are woven to create plates, cups, paper products and more. The material of sugar cane compares favorably with the common materials we see on the market today, such as Styrofoam, plastic, and tree made paper. It can withstand heat and is microwaveable.

 

For several years, The Sugar Cane Paper Company has been developing, testing and finally perfecting the best way to make tree free, ECF (elemental chlorine free), high quality paper and tableware from bagasse, 100 percent of The Sugar Cane Paper Company’s paper products are from recycled materials—85 percent is recycled waste (bagasse) and the remaining 15 percent, recycled paper. Sugar Cane Paper Company products use only ECF chlorine-free bleaching and are 100% biodegradable. They are also recyclable and can be composted.

 

“The Sugar Cane Paper Company’s products come from recycled materials—bagasse-- recycled waste that would otherwise be burned, adding to the global warming crisis. Or, if not burned, dumped into our already overflowing landfills. And since they are 85 percent free of any tree fiber, they have little impact on our forests,”  Harrison told Green Crier.

 

Beyond eco-friendly, The Sugar Cane Paper Company has developed the most advanced technologies available, making its bagasse-made paper goods comparable in quality to existing paper products on the market and price-competitive—making “green’ affordable in the food industry.

 

In our fast paced world, Styrofoam (polystyrene) and plastic packaging has become the standard in many industries, especially the fast food industry. This packaging is petroleum-based, has limited biodegradability and typically ends up in landfills. The Sugar Cane Paper Company offers food vendors tree-free, biodegradable eco-friendly alternatives that can be recycled or composted.

 

Sugar cane products are a fast growing trend in Asia and are now reaching the United States. On June 1, 2007 the city of San Francisco passed a law banning the use of Styrofoam products. Food vendors are now required to use biodegradable or recyclable disposable food service ware and to-go containers. San Francisco is setting the example for other cities to follow.

 

Tree-made paper accounts for over 90 percent of the world's paper production and is the largest consumer of our forest resources, forests that provide habitats for flora and fauna as well as oxygen we breathe. The Sugar Cane Paper Company’s products provide restaurants, corporate cafeterias and other retail outlets the opportunity to offer employees and consumers the most eco-friendly paper goods ever produced. The use of ‘treeless” paper goods also provide the food industry with the opportunity to showcase its commitment to environmentally responsible products and operations.

“As stewards of our Earth, everyone can help our environment by simply choosing to use eco-friendly products,” Harrison told Green Crier. “The Sugar Cane Paper Company is dedicated to giving people and companies a choice in aiding our Earth in their daily lives and businesses without breaking the bank. We strive to be price competitive so that being Green doesn't mean paying more.”

 

The Sugar Cane Paper Company  “treeless” product line includes bowls, boxes, cups, plates, napkins, toilet paper, tissue and paper towels; making it the only company with this complete line of eco-friendly products in the U.S. marketplace. 

 

For more information visit www.sugarearth.com.


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PaperGeist
A ghost of paper's past.


Profile by J.D. King

Co-founded by Susan Janvrin and Matt Normand in 2006, the Tampa, Florida-based Papergeist creates beautiful one-of-a-kind notebooks from post-consumer reclaimed material including used office paper and album covers.

 

"Matt and I came up with the idea together, just brainstorming back and forth," Janvrin told Green Crier. "I knew I wanted to make books from album covers and used paper to give as gifts, but wasn't sure how to make them look good. Matt had the idea to ‘french fold' the pages so the used side is hidden, and spiral bind the open ends, which gives the old used paper an amazingly clean presentation. It was truly a 50/50 team effort."

 

The gifts were such a huge hit that Janvrin and Normand began selling their journals at a local a boutique and created a website as well. The books are individually made by hand, a time consuming process as each cover is hand cropped differently depending on the composition of the album art. Janvrin personally crops each cover with an eye for the finished look. In addition, strict quality control is required when folding the paper to ensure the edges line up correctly. Machines not properly calibrated could potentially waste paper.

 

Another factor affecting production is sourcing the used office paper.  Unlike other materials, it just can't be ordered if supplies run low. Fortunately Papergeist has a reliable network that keeps them well stocked and able to keep up with increasing demand. The used office paper comes from several workplace sources and can include anything from engineering drawings, calculations, pool designs, graphic design assignments, middle school worksheets and junk mail.  The name Papergeist refers to the faint ghost image that is visible once the paper is folded.

 

"Our products have been received with awe, enthusiasm and excitement," Janvrin told Green Crier. "People love the used paper, the vintage cover, the fact that each one is different. Someone nominated Papergeist for the Cooper Hewitt 2008 People's Choice award, sponsored by the NationalDesignMuseum. One of our books is also part of an exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art called ‘It's not easy being green'. It is an honor for the books to be regarded as museum worthy! We are beside ourselves."

 

Each notebook is truly a one of a kind work of art. At any given time the Papergeist website  features about 100 unique cover designs. When an order is placed, the selected notebook disappears for good from the online store and another completely new book design takes its place. 

 

As written on the inside page of each book they create, the Papergeist philosophy is to "minimize environmental impact while producing creative consumer products."

 

Everything the company does aligns with the aforementioned statement. For example, their point-of-purchase packaging consists of a simple label cut from a used 1/4 piece of paper. Only the clean side with the printed Papergeist logo is visible. The label is bound into the spiral; no shrinkwrap or extra packaging is needed nor used.  Papergeist's use of reclaimed material also extends to its shipping procedures.  When an order is placed online, all books are shipped in reused boxes and envelopes. For example, an order for two books may be packaged and shipped in an inside out cereal box (organic cereal naturally).

 

Papergeist is closing the loop on paper production and consumption. After use, every part of the notebook can either be recycled (including the cover) or reused. Even the plastic binding can be removed and sent back to Papergeist for $5 off future notebook purchases. According to Janvrin's calculations, Papergeist has saved 24,500 sheets of office paper to date which adds up to 400 notebooks and three trees. To commemorate this, Janvrin plans to plant one oak tree in their Tampa neighborhood for each tree Papergeist "saves".

 

The success of the album cover books has inspired Janvrin and Normand to experiment with different materials for their notebook covers and will soon add locally sourced post consumer board game covers, and puzzle covers to their product line. Only board games that are no longer playable due to missing pieces will be used.  Jarvin and Norman both enjoy assembling vintage puzzles that they find in thrift stores, but never know what to do once the puzzles are completed. Now they do.  The completed puzzles will be made into book covers as well.

 

In addition to the new cover materials, Papergeist will also introduce a couple of new formats which have already proven popular among friends. Joining the blank page and lined versions are the Teacher's Student Log Book which enables teachers to keep track of their students with parent names, contact info, and other information, and the Grid Book, which is a 1/8th inch grid perfect for designers, typographers, mathematicians and architectural sketchers.

 

Each 120 page Papergeist book sells for $22.  They are available at retail stores in many metropolitan areas nation wide.  They can also be ordered online. For more information, visit www.papergeist.com.

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September 22, 2008

Saving the Planet One Spotless Home at a Time


 Profile by J.D. King

 

Founded in 2008 by Geoffrey Goldman, Albany New York based EcoMaids is a cleaning service committed to using only methods and products that are safe for people, pets and the planet, in conjunction with sustainable equipment and supplies to reduce impact on the environment.

"Our typical customer is a household which fits the profile of a general cleaning service customer, but is seeking environmentally-friendly cleaning products for one reason or another," Goldman told Green Crier " Some have already made the commitment toward sustainable living, and the use of all-natural cleaning products is just one facet of their lifestyle. But most of our customers are primarily interested in the health benefits associated with green cleaning - some have a physical condition, such as asthma, which can be exacerbated by the use of certain chemicals. Others have infants, young children and/or pets, and are concerned about the overall safety of conventional cleaning products. And yet some are just ‘jumping on the green bandwagon' -with everything and everybody going green these days, experimenting with green cleaning is a relatively easy and low-risk way of trying to make a difference. "

Goldman initially made the personal switch to non-toxic, chemical-free cleaning products during his wife's Marta's pregnancy with their now 19-month old daughter. As a result, Goldman became more educated about sustainable living in general, and has made gradual lifestyle changes to positively impact the environment, including ditching the high-performance European luxury cars for a fuel-efficient, 4-cylinder compact; switching from consumable paper products to reusable microfiber in the home; recycling and composting; buying all-natural, organic foods and other products; and supporting environmentally-conscious organizations.

As a "serial entrepreneur", Goldman was contemplating his next endeavor when his wife suggested starting an environmentally-friendly cleaning service. He didn't give it a second thought - this was a big idea, and he had the tools to make it a success. Enhancing the already-proven business model of a maid service with the health and environmental benefits of all-natural products and sustainable equipment and supplies could make for a huge business opportunity.

Goldman came up with the name EcoMaids and then did what he does best - worked quickly and diligently to build the business from the ground up. Goldman wasn't satisfied with the idea of just opening a local green cleaning service either; instead, he would open one or two prototypes and develop a franchise system in order to expand the concept nationally.

EcoMaids opened its first location in Ridgewood, New Jersey in early 2008, followed almost immediately by the opening of a second location in Albany, New York. In addition to being independently successful cleaning operations, the two locations serve as prototype units for the company's franchise development initiatives. EcoMaid is already in the process of opening additional locations in other regions.

All start-up business face challenges and some of EcoMaids' are unique such as locating acceptable suppliers that meet its sustainability criteria, and overcoming consumer skepticism about green cleaning. EcoMaids strives to meet those challenges by focusing on the benefits to individual health and the environment. Using all-natural, chemical-free products is safer and healthier for consumers. EcoMaids uses only Green Seal certified cleaning products that eliminate dirt, odor and germs without contributing toxic elements into the home or workplace. In addition, by using biodegradable products, and sustainable equipment and supplies, EcoMaids reduces waste, pollution, and consumption of natural resources, minimizing its carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment.

"Everything else aside, EcoMaids strives to provide the best service possible," Goldman told Green Crier. "Our customers receive consistent and reliable service that is superior to the competition. We provide the most thorough and rigorous cleaning service possible. Plus, with each home we clean we are helping to clean the environment as well."

What further separates EcoMaid from the competition is its unwavering commitment to being a truly Green company. Goldman explains "Many cleaning companies offer to use ‘green' or ‘eco-friendly' products. But these companies are not dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment; they're simply trying to accommodate (or not alienate) certain customers. EcoMaids aims to conserve the environment in everything it does, from the paper is uses in its office, to the vehicles it employs, to the cotton used in its uniforms, and the suppliers it purchases from. Everything EcoMaids does is geared toward sustainability. And unlike the competition, EcoMaids will NOT use any products that do not meet its standards, even it requested by a customer. We've actually lost accounts because the homeowner insisted on using Pledge, or Windex, and we wouldn't comply."

In addition to the home cleaning market, EcoMaids has identified a tremendous opportunity providing commercial green cleaning services. Specifically, EcoMaids recently developed a high-performance green cleaning program that meets all LEED-Existing Building Certification standards. EcoMaids expects demand in this market to grow rapidly as LEED-certified construction becomes more prevalent, and existing buildings (LEED and non-LEED alike) begin to make the shift toward sustainable operations. EcoMaids recently contracted with a major retail chain with multiple locations in the Albany capital district, and is currently negotiating custodial contracts with various green residential buildings in New York and New Jersey.

For more information about EcoMaids, visit www.ecomaids.com.

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Winslow Management Company



Green Investing Yields Green Profit

Profile by J.D. King

Jack Robinson founded
Milwaukee, WI based Winslow Management Company in 1983 with the mission of demonstrating that an environmentally-focused investment strategy could yield positive results for clients. From its inception, Winslow has maintained a consistent and simple investment philosophy: carefully selected companies that offer innovative solutions and take advantage of green markets and business practices can offer investors significant growth over the long-term.

"At its core, Winslow's investment approach focuses on finding companies that seek to take advantage of green market opportunities, or companies that build competitive advantage through clean and efficient business practices," Robinson told Green Crier. "We invest in green solutions sectors, such as renewable energy, natural products, recycling, water management, and others; we also invest in environmentally responsible companies across a variety of industries. Our strategy is to find hidden opportunities among the companies in these market niches - companies that appear poised for rapid growth, or companies whose stocks are unrecognized by the broader market."

Over the past quarter-century, Winslow has developed extensive expertise in the arena of green investing. It has developed a comprehensive portfolio management approach that integrates financial and environmental analysis. It has also expanded its knowledge of crucial green markets, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable living, green building, green transport and natural products, over many years of active investment in these sectors. 

Winslow believes that companies providing green solutions will continue to benefit from a combination of ecological, regulatory, societal, and economic factors that are promoting environmental well being and responsibility. However, these are difficult markets to navigate and investment experience is critical to a successful strategy. To this end, he suggests a careful and selective approach to choosing portfolio companies when attempting to earn consistently above-average returns.

At the end of the day, Winslow measures its performance against the entire financial services industry - green and non-green managers alike - because that's how individual and institutional investors will measure long-term results.

"For our small cap portfolios, we typically invest in companies ranging from $50 million to $2 billion in market capitalization. For our multi-cap portfolios, we will invest in any company that offers desired growth characteristics, but our selection process tends to emphasize mid-cap and small-cap stocks - portfolio holdings typically range from $1 billion to $10 billion in market capitalization," Robinson told Green Crier.

Many of Winslow's portfolios, including the Winslow Green Growth Fund, operate with sustainable investment policies meaning they will not invest those portfolios in companies with particular characteristics.

Winslow's overarching restriction on these portfolios is that they will not invest in companies that derive a significant amount of profits from activities that they find to be ultimately unsustainable. These activities include: the manufacture of alcohol and tobacco; gambling operations; manufacture of military weapons systems or firearms; and the construction or operation of nuclear power facilities.

Other restrictions in these portfolios include avoidance of unnecessary animal testing (Winslow will not knowingly invest in companies that use animal testing except in cases where a strong rationale (such as an FDA mandate) requires such testing for healthcare products); avoidance of companies that manufacture genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for environmental release; and, compliance with all federal, state, and local environmental regulations.

Environmental and governance profiles of potential portfolio holdings are created by Winslow's in-house environmental analyst and are reviewed by the investment committee along with traditional financial analysis. Once completed, this analysis plays an important role in the investment decision-making. For products such as the Winslow Green Growth Fund, this analysis is crucial for determining whether companies satisfy existing environmental investment policies, and for all of Winslow's portfolios it provides valuable guidance as to a company's long-term competitive position and the overall quality & foresight of its management team. Winslow believes that this approach adds significant value to its investment decisions.

 Today, Winslow is widely recognized as a pioneer in the rapidly growing field of green investing. Winslow and its portfolio managers are regularly featured in a wide variety of media, such as Time, Barron's, Kiplinger's, SmartMoney, Outside Magazine, Marketwatch.com, TheStreet.com, Forbes, Investment Advisor, CNBC, Bloomberg TV & Radio, and the Christian Science Monitor. In 2007, Jack Robinson was recognized in the annual Barron's / Value Line mutual fund manager survey as one of the top 10 equity fund managers in the U.S. for the 2nd year in a row, earning the #2 ranking in the aggressive growth category and the #10 ranking overall. The Winslow Green Growth Fund was also named Best Socially Screened Fund of 2006 by Kiplinger's Personal Finance.

"We believe that a growing number of companies are finding that their environmental, social and corporate governance performance can provide a competitive advantage over their peers," Robinson told Green Crier. "Environmental efficiency can lead to cost advantages and quality improvements; social responsibility can provide bottom-line benefits in the form of lower employee turnover or improved brand identity; and strong governance practices can identify or prevent malfeasance before it takes root."

As Winslow celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2008, the company looks forward to another quarter-century of helping its clients and shareholders to capitalize on the potential opportunities in green investing.  For more information, visit www.winslowgreen.com.

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September 8, 2008

Equal Exchange



Transforming the World through Fair Trade

 

 

Profile by J.D. King

Equal Exchange, a pioneer and U.S. market leader in Fair Trade since 1986, is a full service provider of high quality, organic coffee, tea, cocoa products and chocolate to retailers and food service establishments.

Co-founded by Michael Rozyne and Jonathan Rosenthal, West Bridgewater, MA-based Equal Exchange’s goal was to create an unprecedented, progressive organization that balanced the interests of farmers, customers, shareholders and workers. With no business model to follow, the opted to forego the privileges that normally accrue to entrepreneurs. To this end, they structured Equal Exchange as a worker-owned cooperative, where every employee would also be an equal owner, each with one vote and each eligible to serve on the company’s board.

“Our vision is to create and foster a deep and far reaching cooperative model, with Equal Exchange serving as the engine of a complex economic network of two million producers, workers, investors, merchants, activists, and consumers who are using their land, labor, capital and votes to create the world they want to live in and leave for their children,” Rozyne told Green Crier.

In the context of agricultural commodities “fair trade” is a voluntary program practiced by some importers and food companies to create an alternative market for traditionally disadvantaged producers in developing countries, usually small-scale farmers. The components include:

  • direct purchasing from to those who are poorly served by the conventional markets, specifically small farmers and their cooperatives
  • agreed upon commodity floor prices that provide for a dignified livelihood
  • a promise by importers to make affordable credit available to the farmer cooperatives
  • a world-wide network of non-profit certifying organizations
  • a fee paid by the importers and wholesalers to cover the cost of certification
  • a seal that assures consumers that a product was fairly traded

In keeping with its Fair Trade mission Equal Exchange is a worker cooperative, owned and democratically controlled by its employees. The co-operative has been instrumental in demonstrating Fair Trade's economic and marketplace viability and has been one of the first to apply Fair Trade in new agricultural sectors such as tea and cocoa. In 2007 they adapted the model for work with U.S. farmers and farmer co-operatives.

In June 2006, Equal Exchange's worker-owners approved a powerful vision for Equal Exchange's next 20 years:

There will be...
A vibrant mutually cooperative community
of two million committed participants
trading fairly one billion dollars a year
in a way that transforms the world.

Participants work together in an effective global network of mutually beneficial trade that supports and extends sustainable agriculture, transforms relationships among people, and once again transforms national and international trade. People in this web participate knowingly and value the contributions made by other participants. For this diverse, committed community, these economic transactions serve as a source of hope.

This extended Equal Exchange network fosters cooperative development. It does so through: new lines of fairly traded products; broader economic participation by stakeholders; and the development of new entities and organizational relationships. The network’s products and services touch the lives of consumers on a daily basis.

“Activist consumers function as movement ambassadors, thinking, questioning, and challenging the status quo,” Rozyne told Green Crier. “They teach new economic models, take action, win elections, and build something new while challenging the old. To strengthen communities and reduce poverty they support grassroots development by extending opportunities to small business owners and small-scale producers worldwide.”

Equal Exchange continues to set an example as a world leader in fairness, ethical commerce, and economic democracy. In response to hundreds of requests from parents and teachers Equal Exchange introduced one of the first comprehensive Fair Trade curricula in the U.S. "Win Win Solutions: An Introduction to Fair Trade and Cooperative Economics" is designed for grades 4 through 9 and raises awareness of core issues concerning food production and global trade, and of the role of American consumers.

The curriculum helps demonstrate the link between personal actions and community efforts to create a more just and sustainable world. Win Win Solutions' four units and 16 classes incorporate participatory methods and satisfy many basic U.S. curriculum standards including Social Studies, Geography, Math, and Economics. Copies may be ordered, and sample pages viewed, online at
www.eualexchange.coop/educationaltools.

"After 20 years of talking to and educating American coffee drinkers about Fair Trade, it's time we talked and listened to our kids about Fair Trade," Virginia Berman, Equal Exchange Organizing director, told Green Crier.

Another catalyst came from Equal Exchange's increasing work with schools through its new fundraising program. Last year 200 schools used Equal Exchange's Fair Trade fundraiser as a way to help both their schools and farming communities around the world. The program has received a steady stream of requests for more tools to teach children about Fair Trade.

“The curriculum provides teachers with creative, well-designed lessons to engage kids in the central issues of fairness and equity. From a single activity to a sequence of classes, it allows teachers to select lessons that will best enhance their students' understanding of Fair Trade," noted Emily Schnee, education researcher, parent and fundraising organizer at Brooklyn New School (New York).

In addition to Fair Trade, the curriculum discusses cooperative economics, a vital but little known element of Fair Trade that helps bring democratic and equitable options to commercial activities. According to 7th grade Social Studies teacher, Nancy Evans, the curriculum is "easy to navigate, and the photos give Fair Trade a human face."

100 percent of Equal Exchange products are fairly traded, benefiting 39 small farmer cooperatives in 19 countries around the world. Major customers include Price Chopper, Shaw's, Stop & Shop, and Hannaford supermarkets, natural food stores, consumer food cooperatives, cafés, restaurants, and thousands of places of worship nationwide. Equal Exchange products can also be purchased online.

For more information visit www.equalexchange.com.

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Septemebr 1, 2008

Eternal Reefs, Inc.



An Environmental Living Legacy

Profile by J.D. King

Don Brawley founded Eternal Reefs, Inc. in 1998 to provide ecological cremation memorials in artificial reefs. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Eternal Reefs, Inc. offers a creative, environmentally enhancing means to memorialize the cremated remains of a loved one.

"We believe the greatest celebration of life is to provide the opportunity for new life, and the living-breathing legacy of a Memorial Reef is a dignified and meaningful environmental memorial for a loved one," Brawley told Green Crier. "As President John F. Kennedy said, ‘We are tied to the ocean, and when we go back to the sea...we are going back from whence we came.'"

Eternal Reefs was formed as an offshoot of the Reef Ball Development Group (RBDG). Brawley co-founded RBDG in 1992 with a group of environmentally conscious college friends who enjoyed diving. In order to reclaim the lost natural reefs, the foundation developed a patented mold system with an environmentally friendly concrete formula. Brawley served as Vice President of Research and Development and was instrumental in designing the "Reef Ball" artificial reef system, used world wide to replenish dwindling natural reef barriers. The Reef Ball Foundation became the recognized leader in scientifically designed artificial reefs. To date, there have been more than 400,000 reef balls placed in the ocean worldwide.

Eternal Reefs. was created when Carleton Glen Palmer, Brawley's father-in-law, requested that his cremated remains be added to the concrete in one of The Reef Ball Foundation's reefs. On May 1, 1998, the first in a series of memorial reefs was cast with Carlton Palmer's cremated remains. These memorials were placed in the Gulf of Mexico to create a beautiful reef that is now teeming with sea life.

An Eternal Reefs "memorial reef" is a designed reef system of environmentally safe cast concrete that is used to create new marine habitats for fish and other forms of sea life. Eternal Reefs takes the cremated remains and incorporates them into a cement mixture used to cast designed artificial reef formations. The memorial reefs are taken to a curing area and then placed in the permitted ocean location selected by the individual, friend or family member and approved by the Federal, State, and local governments. Eternal Reefs only utilizes permitted locations designated for fishing and diving recreational purposes or for habitat development.

"Frequently families chose a cremation urn thinking of it as a final resting place for a loved ones cremated remains," Brawley told Green Crier. "Sometimes these cremation urns end up on a shelf or in a closet for the next generation to deal with. An Eternal Reef is a permanent memorial that places the cremated remains in the ocean and creates new life as reef habitat for fish, turtles and other forms of sea life."

 

Eternal Reefs inaugurated the first community reef in the United States on October 3, 2001 in Charleston, South Carolina. The largest "green memorial" in the United States is located in Sarasota, Florida where over 100 Eternal Reefs Memorial Reefs are dedicated. The smallest Eternal Reefs Memorial Reef is two feet high and three feet wide and weighs 400 pounds. The largest is four feet high and six feet wide and weights 4,000 pounds.

Families can participate in the creation of the Memorial Reef which is a very rewarding experience and an important step in dealing with the loss of a loved one. Eternal Reefs encourages family and friends to come and be a part of the casting process. Participants mix in the remains, pour the concrete into the mold and can place handprints and write messages in the wet concrete. The day before the scheduled dedication of the reef site families and friends are invited to view the Memorial Reefs before they are placed in the ocean. Visitors take this opportunity to take photographs of the Memorial Reefs and make rubbings of the plaques. With sidewalk chalk, final farewell messages can also be written on the memorials. If someone is due Military Honors for service to our country, the honors are presented at the viewing.

On the scheduled dedication day, a charter boat takes all the families to the reef site to witness the placement of the Memorial Reefs and to dedicate the site to their loved one. Eternal Reefs provides a small "Tribute Reef" for each family and flowers to decorate it. After the Memorial Reefs have all been placed the boat moves directly over the reef site. Each family is given time to dedicate the site and drop the Tribute Reef as their loved ones name is read.

After all the families have dedicated the site, Eternal Reefs staff dedicates the site to all the individuals being memorialized and closes the dedication by reading a passage from President John F. Kennedy's speech "The Sea". With every Memorial Reef, the executor of the estate receives two memorial certificates that identify the longitude and latitude of the memorial. In addition, families are given the exact GPS coordinates so they can visit the reef site whenever they wish by boat to fish or dive on the Memorial Reef.

"We frequently hear from families who can't bring themselves to scatter a loved ones ashes," Brawley Tells Green Crier "Many families and individuals want a place to visit when remembering a family member or loved one. Eternal Reefs are located in a specific place known to the family and friends. It provides a living memorial to visit, which does not exist when there is a scattering of ashes."

For families and individuals that choose cremation rather than burial, Eternal Reefs offers a new memorial choice that replaces cremation urns and ash scattering with a permanent environmental living legacy. Expected to last 500 years, over 300 Memorial Reefs, have been placed off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia. For more information about Eternal Reefs please visit: www.eternalreefs.com.

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August 25, 2008

English Retreads



Profile by J.D. King

Re-inventing the Wheel

One man’s trash is another man’s (or woman’s) treasure. Founded in 2001 by Heather English, Boulder CO-based English Retreads transforms discarded material into attractive and durable fashion and accessories. Designed specifically for conscientious consumers and savvy fashionistas, each one-of-a-kind English Retreads product is handcrafted from reclaimed truck inner tubes.

Inspiration struck English while floating down Boulder Creek on--you guessed it--an inner tube. “I needed a new handbag but I was a hardcore vegetarian. I wanted something that was fashionable and invincible—but not made from leather,” English told Green Crier. “I didn’t find what I was looking for, so I went to McGuckin’s, (a favorite local hardware store) bought some tools and started my own personal sweatshop—with me doing the sweating.” After friends started asking for a bag just like hers, Heather knew she was on to something and English Retreads was born.

In keeping with its socially and environmentally conscious ideals, English Retreads believes in using only cruelty-free and vegan materials in conjunction with crafty ingenuity. English’s design philosophy is to create classic, one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted accessories that make a high-impact fashion statement and a low impact on the environment.

“Each new design begins with the idea of striving to keep more waste out of the landfill by creating fashionable, yet sturdy items out of recycled materials,” English told Green Crier. “And by turning recycling into a bold fashion statement, we at English Retreads can empower consumers with an ecologically sound alternative to animal products without compromising style or durability. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Truck stops in the Boulder area supply English with the used inner tubes—each of which probably has more than 60,000 miles on it before it gets reinvented. From this durable and plentiful material, English Retreads creates a diverse line of products including handbags, wallets, belts, key chains and dog collars. Made from one hundred percent vegan material, English Retread products are an ecologically sound alternative to animal leather. Following in the tire tracks of Henry Ford’s original Model T, English Retreads are available in any color you want—as long as it's black.

English found a way to combine her creative energy with her commitment to ethical and ecological business. She tells Green Crier “I love designing a unique product that I feel good about, and that people can feel good about buying.”

English Retreads are available on line and at retail stores nationwide. For more information about English Retreads, visit www.englishretreads.com.

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Profile by J.D. King

Founded in 2000 by Justin Carvin, Easthampton MA-based Greasecar manufactures do-it-yourself conversion kits that enable diesel engines to run on vegetable oil.

"The Greasecar system has been developed to offer more reliable operation and assembled from the highest quality materials and components," Carvin told Green Crier. "The Greasecar system has been installed in thousands of vehicles and logged millions of miles, we have been in research since 1998 giving us unmatched expertise in development, research, design and manufacture capabilities."

Greasecar systems are designed to work with any diesel passenger vehicle or truck. Custom kits are available for larger applications. The most common diesel passenger vehicles in the US are made by Volkswagen and Mercedes. Chevy, Ford, GMC and Dodge all have diesel options on most of their larger pickup trucks. In addition, Greasecar is currently working on newer Duramax trucks.

The Greasecar system is a two tank fuel system. The vehicles existing diesel tank and filter supply diesel fuel to the engine at start up and shut down. After start up radiator fluid transfers heat from the engine to the heat exchangers in the Greasecar fuel system. These heat exchangers heat the vegetable oil in the fuel filter, lines and fuel tank. The heat reduces the viscosity of vegetable oil so that it is similar to diesel and can be injected into the engine properly.

Carvin got involved in bio-fuels at HampshireCollege in 1998 and soon discovered the work of Carl Bielenberg, founder of the Better World Workshop, an appropriate technology group working in western Africa.

With the immediate goal of enabling domestic vegetable oil production - and the larger goal of empowering the people of rural Africa - the Better World Workshop had developed a hand-operated seed press, producing oil for cooking or soap. But what piqued Carvin's interest was that Bielenberg, a trained engineer aware of the diesel engine's vegetarian roots, had developed a system for running diesel generators on vegetable oil.

The difference between Bielenberg's success and the previous failures of others was the inclusion of a coolant-heated fuel filter, which allowed the vegetable oil to flow freely through the filter element in lower ambient temperatures. Though this breakthrough had wider - even global - implications, it also carried the immediate benefit of providing affordable fuel for diesel generators, electrifying rural villages with per capita incomes of less than a dollar a day.

Upon his return to the States, Bielenberg performed the same conversion on a Volkswagen Rabbit. And at HampshireCollege, a decrepit, antique, but very lucky tractor - an Allis Chalmers G - was about to get a new lease on a life. Provided, of course, it went vegetarian.

In 1996, Ariel Benjamin and Greg Kholer - two Hampshire students inspired by Bielenberg's work - embarked on a project to convert an old tractor to run on vegetable oil and put it to use at Hampshire's FarmCenter. Although it had received a small grant from the Lemelson Foundation, the project never progressed past the initial research until Carvin got involved. Fascinated by Bielenberg's research, Carvin worked with a team of students over the next two months to replace the tractor's engine and modify the fuel system, employing Bielenberg's design but fabricating the parts at the LemelsonAssistiveTechnologyDesignCenter at HampshireCollege.

In the spring of 1999, the students trucked the tractor down to Washington, DC, for the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Annual Presentation at the Smithsonian Institution. The tractor began work at the FarmCenter upon its return.

The success of the tractor inspired Carvin to further develop the technology. His first idea was to drop a diesel motor into his gas-powered 1970 Land Rover, but the estimated $3000 price tag made him turn to the local classifieds.

There, under the heading "Vehicles for Parts," he found a listing for a 1983 VW Quantum turbo-diesel: engine good, $400/best. Sporting huge paint blisters, no interior carpeting, and a sunroof covered in duct tape, the Quantum was the perfect guinea pig. Carvin talked a hundred dollars off the price - this would go toward registration and restoration - and two days later drove it home. With some Bondo, silicone, carpeting, and an afternoon, Carvin says, the Quantum "looked like four hundred bucks."

The Lemelson Foundation offered Carvin a small grant to continue his research, which began with collecting a small sample of hydrogenated soybean oil from the HampshireCollege dining commons. Partially congealed even in the New England fall, "it bore more resemblance to applesauce," Carvin said, "than it did to diesel fuel. If the Quantum would run on this stuff, it would run on anything."

Bielenberg's design, while adequate for generators in tropical climates, would need revision for cold-climate motor vehicle applications. Even in the relatively warm autumn temperatures, it became apparent that a heated tank would be necessary; running on waste oil was feasible, but running on a block of vegetable shortening seemed unlikely.

After making some modifications, the strong scent of cooking oil testified that the engine worked and the Quantum idled happily away. Carvin took some victory laps around campus - enough victory laps to nearly run out of vegetable oil - then switched back to diesel and headed out for a celebratory pint with some friends.

The next step was to make it practical. Carvin installed an electric fuel selection valve, which allowed switching fuels from inside the vehicle, and fabricated a 14-gallon stainless steel heated fuel tank. This addition, of course, provided a substantial increase in range, and allowed a hundred-mile trip home for Thanksgiving - the first true test, which the Quantum passed at eighty miles per hour uphill. The first Greasecar was on the road.

Now that the technology was proven, it was time to get the word out. Like Josh and Kaia Tickell and others, Carvin figured that a cross-country road trip in a Greasecar would simultaneously raise awareness of this new, clean fuel and demonstrate first-hand how well it worked.

Upon graduating in May of 2000 with a BA in mechanical design, Carvin began looking for a new vehicle. He needed something more accommodating than the Quantum -something that would double as a place to sleep - and with a small loan from his parents, he scraped together $1500 for a Volkswagen camper. After overhauling the camper, including a swapped-out engine, Carvin and his friend Skip Wrightson set off across country. Restaurants along the way provided fuel for the journey. Carvin and Wrightston painstakingly collected and heated the oil with a saucepan and a hot-plate before filtering it into the tank. The Greasecar garnered enormous media attention in major cities during their voyage, culminating in a California emissions test that was amazing enough to appear on Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

Interest in Greasecar has been consistently increasing ever since. With fourteen employees and an advanced and highly efficient production system, Greasecar is well equipped to provide thorough, personalized customer service and rapid order fulfillment.

For more information about Greasecar, visit www.greasecar.com.