In Episode 90 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on February 9, 2013, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Nikhil Arora, co-founder of Back to the Roots, producer of gourmet mushroom growing kits nourished with recycled Peet’s Coffee grounds.

 

Back to the Roots co-founders Alex and NikBack to the Roots co-founders Alex and Nik

Back to the Roots co-founders Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora

Arora and his co-founder were about to graduate from UC Berkeley in 2009 when they learned during a class lecture that it’s possible to grow gourmet mushrooms in used coffee grounds. Inspired by the notion of turning waste into fresh, local food, they founded Back to the Roots. Since then, connecting families to food has become Arora’s “true passion,” and the company’s slickly designed, easy-to-use urban mushroom farm kits produce a gourmet crop of oyster mushrooms in about 10 days. Back to the Roots now also sells a three-gallon aquaponics garden, perfect for growing an herb garden on a kitchen counter or in a classroom.

Last year, President Obama invited Arora and his co-founder to the White House to discuss how the administration could support small businesses.  Arora says it was “cool to be representing Oakland,” which he describes as the epicenter of the start-up food culture.  In addition to a loan from the city, Back to the Roots received redevelopment funding to move its warehouse to Oakland.  The company also received a $25,000 loan from Whole Foods (which is fitting because produce guys from the Berkeley store were early advisors) and raised nearly $250,000 via Kick Starter.

With a core commitment to sustainability, Back to the Roots is a certified B Corporation.  Today, they’re working to build a global, “hip and fun” lifestyle brand that connects people to food.

Are you interested in growing your own food?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Arora:Episode 90 of The Wendel Forum(27:37 mins; mp3)

Back to the Roots Website: http://www.backtotheroots.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 89 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on January 19, 2013, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Karen Engel, executive director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance (the “EDA”), a public-private partnership serving the San Francisco East Bay, including Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The EDA strives to establish the East Bay as a world-recognized destination to grow businesses, attract capital and create quality jobs.

Karen Engel, Executive Director of East Bay EDA

Karen Engel, Executive Director of East Bay EDA

The EDA has been pursuing its mission for the past 22 years. It serves as a platform for community, government, academic and business leaders to examine and improve the region’s economy so that local businesses can grow and thrive. To that end, each year the EDA creates strategic priorities that respond to and proactively address issues in the region, which is home to 2.5 million people and many micro-economies.

The clean tech sector, in particular, is a critical part of the East Bay’s economic future. In fact, the East Bay has the second largest clean tech sector in the country, following only Silicon Valley, and is home to cutting-edge research into biofuels, alternative energy storage and battery technology. Similarly, with UC Berkeley and its attendant national laboratories, the East Bay boasts more life sciences square footage than even San Francisco’s Mission Bay.

Addressing workforce strategies, the EDA is building educational systems and integrated courses in local high schools, community colleges and universities that support the East Bay companies and business sectors. Similarly, addressing infrastructure and transportation, the EDA is working to promote transit-oriented development so that new projects are centered around the region’s transportation nodes.

On January 31, the EDA will host its first ever East Bay Innovation Awards at the Fox Theater in Oakland, where it will bestow awards to the most cutting-edge of 85 nominated companies.

What draws you and your spending dollars to the East Bay?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Engel:  Episode 89 of The Wendel Forum (27:46 mins; mp3)

East Bay EDA Website: http://www.eastbayeda.org

Innovation Awards event info: http://www.eastbayeda.org/iawards/innovation_home.html

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 88 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on January 12, 2013, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes John Knox, executive director of Earth Island Institute, a non-profit, public- interest membership organization that supports people working to protect the planet.

John Knox of Earth Island Institute visits The Wendel Forum

John Knox of Earth Island Institute visits The Wendel Forum

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Earth Island Institute can be viewed as an umbrella or incubator organization that assists local and global non-profits creating improvements to the environment, explains Knox. The Institute gives project directors autonomy in executing their work and also offers groups the streamlined benefit of one board, one annual report and one yearly audit. In its three decades, Earth Island Institute has supported 135 projects, including Food Shift (dedicated to curbing waste and building a more sustainable food system) and the Plastic Pollution Coalition (a global alliance of individuals, businesses and organizations focused on ending plastic pollution and its toxic impacts).

Beyond serving as a fiscal sponsor for environmentally-focused organizations, Earth Island Institute also educates the greater public through its quarterly Earth Island Journal, which features investigative journalism and thought-provoking essays about the environment. The Institute also hosts public programs at the Goldman Theater in its David Brower Center (a green building in downtown Berkeley named for the organization’s founder), and bestows Brower Youth Awards to North Americans ages 13 to 22 who have shown outstanding leadership on a project or campaign with a positive environmental and social impact.

What organizations do you know that work towards protecting the planet?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Knox: Episode 88 of The Wendel Forum (27:50 mins; mp3)

Earth Island Institute’s website: http://www.earthisland.org

Food Shift website: http://www.foodshift.net/

Plastic Pollution Coalition website: http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/ 

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 87 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on December 15, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Carla Din, director of East Bay Green Corridor, a nine-city partnership devoted to assisting green businesses, and Dr. Monika Weiss and Wolfgang Weiss,  CSO and CEO/CTO, respectively, of ergSol, an Oakland solar thermal company.

Photo of Carla Din, director of East Bay Green Corridor

Carla Din, director of East Bay Green Corridor, in studio

East Bay Green Corridor was founded in 2007 to advance a green energy economy in nine East Bay Area cities, including Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.  The organization develops policy and also markets and promotes clean energy start-ups with the goal of keeping those businesses in the East Bay. Unlike traditional accelerators, which focus on start-ups’ business plans and capital, East Bay Green Corridor introduces companies to its vast network of local supply chains, customers and resources, including several academic institutions and programs (such as the Cleantech to Market program at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business).  Already, it has worked with Alphabet Energy, which captures waste heat, Imprint Energy, which pioneers zinc-based rechargeable batteries, and Lucid Design Group, a cleantech software company.

photo of Dr. Monika Weiss and Wolfgang Weiss of ergSol

Dr. Monika Weiss and Wolfgang Weiss of ergSol

Din met Monika Weiss at a conference and since then East Bay Green Corridor has been facilitating relationships for ergSol, a developer and manufacturer of high temperature solar thermal systems based in Oakland.  Since the Weisses moved to the US 12 years ago, they’ve seen an increase in activity and interest in renewable energy.  With ergSol, a solar thermal system that can also be used for cooling as well as heating, they hope to bring US solar use up to the level of Europe.

How has relationship-building assisted your business?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Din and the ergSol executives: Episode 87 of The Wendel Forum (27:44 mins; mp3)

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

East Bay Green Corridor Website: http://www.ebgreencorridor.org

ergSol Website: http://ergsol.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 86 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on December 8, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Neil Grimmer, CEO and founder of Plum Organics, a line of healthy, organic foods for babies, toddlers and children.

Neil Grimmer, Founder of Plum Organics

Neil Grimmer, Founder of Plum Organics

Plum Organics was founded six years ago by a small group of parents who sought to raise healthy-well rounded eaters. The company has grown rapidly – it started with six products and now has 130, including cereals, snacks and training meals.

The baby food market is a competitive space, with heavy weights like Gerber, Beach Nut and Earth’s Best, which have been in business for decades.  Plum Organics differentiated itself by focusing on high design and great packaging, and targeting modern parents who share the values of sustainability and health.  Plum pioneered the spouted pouch, and the company’s R&D group is continually looking for new materials for sustainable packaging.  Progressive pediatrician Alan Green is the company’s health advisor and a contributor to its website.

A certified B Corp, Plum Organics sought investors that not only had cash, but also understood  the culture of Plum Organics and were similarly passionate about the mission of improving the health of kids and the planet.

Have you tried Plum Organics products?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Grimmer:  Episode 86 of The Wendel Forum (27:47 mins; mp3)

Plum Organics Website: http://www.plumorganics.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 84 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on November 10, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Aaron Binkley, Director of Sustainability at Prologis, and Rich Chien, PACE program manager at San Francisco’s Department of the Environment.

Richard Chien

Richard Chien, PACE program manager at SF’s Department of the Environment

San Francisco’s PACE program uses stimulus funds to improve the environmental performance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the City’s existing building stock.  Part of the Department of Energy’s green building policy, PACE launched the commercial building program a year ago.  It’s first project is Pier 1, the headquarters of Prologis, the country’s largest industrial real estate company.

Aaron Binkley

Aaron Binkley, Director of Sustainability at Prologis

At a cost of $1.6 million, the PACE-Prologis project will include rooftop solar panels and energy efficiency upgrades.  Specifically, the building will receive retrocommissioning of its heating and cooling systems (primarily related to software, controls, valves and motors) and a full lighting retrofit (replacing bulbs and some fixtures; adding sensors and daylight capture equipment). When it’s completed in 2013, the project will reduce energy purchases by one third from last year’s baseline.  All of the building’s tenants (including the Port of San Francisco) will benefit, and savings will be applied to all occupants on a pro rata basis.  The changes have been calibrated so as to not generate excess energy that needs to be sold back to the grid.

Piloted in Berkeley in 2007, the PACE program uses local governments’ taxing or bond-issuing authority to fund projects that have a public benefit.  The PACE-Prologis project is 100 percent privately funded, with bonds issued to private investors. Repayments are made through the property tax billing system, which allows for longer terms (up to 20 years). The property is the collateral and repayment obligations transfer to the new owner if the building sold.  The interest is federally taxable and California tax-free.

A challenge to the PACE program is that the loan agreements from residential and commercial lenders typically prevent land owners from further encumbering their properties without the lender’s approval.  Since the PACE bonds are repaid through increased property taxes, the bonds are effectively senior in security to the lenders’ loans.  Some lenders may be reluctant to approve PACE financing unless they are confident that the resulting energy savings will translate into a sufficiently higher property value so that their positions are not impaired.  One approach to lender reluctance is for the lender itself to purchase the PACE bonds.  In that case, the lender is only subordinated to itself and gets the benefit of the investment in the PACE bonds.

How could the PACE program impact your community?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Binkley and Chien: Episode 84 of The Wendel Forum (27:44 mins; mp3)

For information about PACE, visit: www.greenfinancesf.org and www.pacenow.org  

Prologis Corporate Responsibility Web Page: http://www.prologis.com/en/responsibility.html

960 KNEW AM Radio Website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rylons

In honor of election day (hope you’ve voted), here’s a second post of the day with our recent interview with Spreck Rosekrans discussing the Hetch Hetchy water system and San Francisco’s Measure F.

In Episode 83 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on November 3, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Spreck Rosekrans, director of policy for Restore Hetch Hetchy, a non-profit organization that seeks to transform the Hetch Hetchy from a reservoir that imports water to San Francisco back to its natural state as a valley in Yosemite.Hetch Hetchy

Rosekrans has been an environmental advocate for 25 years.  Prior to joining Restore Hetch Hetchy, he was asked by the Sierra Club to examine whether Hetch Hetchy can be restored.

SFPUC and Hetch Hetchy system schematic

Originally a valley, akin to but smaller than the Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy became a reservoir that supplied water to San Francisco after the City’s early 20th century earthquake and fire.  Soon after, legislation was passed to forbid future reservoirs from being built in national parks. In fact, that actually launched the environmental movement, according to Rosekrans, who notes that’s also when the Sierra Club developed from simply an outing club into an environmental-political organization.

Hetch Hetchy Valley Restored

Hetch Hetchy Valley Restored, artist’s rendering

According to Rosekrans, through improved water management, which might include water recycling and capturing rainwater, San Francisco could eliminate its reliance on Hetch Hetchy water.  But some, (including California Senator Dianne Feinstein) who are concerned about San Francisco’s sources of water and hydropower, are opposed to the restoration. Many of those opponents believe the Hetch Hetchy is San Francisco’s birthright, according to Rosekrans.  Others see it as an iconic dam with symbolic value, making restoration seem radical.  For their part, legislators don’t want to address the issue.  As a result, Restore Hetch Hetchy is taking the issue to the people of San Francisco through Measure F, which seeks to create a public plan that would modernize San Francisco’s water system, including water recycling and groundwater banking (in which cities exchange water with agricultural districts). Measure F would also establish a task force, which would come back to voters in 2016 with specific programs and facilities that would be an alternative to Hetch Hetchy.

While the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley would be years in the making, Measure F is a critical component to the restoration effort.  Do you support Measure F?
Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Rosekrans: Episode 83 of The Wendel Forum (27:52 mins; mp3)

Restore Hetch Hetchy’s Website: http://www.hetchhetchy.org

Measure F — Restore Hetch Hetchy’s Ballot Initiative: http://www.hetchhetchy.org/images/Reports/Ballot_Initiative.pdf

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 82 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on October 27, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Caroline Duell, the founder of Elemental Herbs, an organic body care company based on the central coast of California.

With a background in herbal medicine, Duell is a massage therapist and outdoor enthusiast who began making skin care products for her friends and family.  Later, after success selling the products at farmers markets, she launched Elemental Herbs, a California certified B Corporation.  That certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee – it measures a company’s commitment to operating a business responsibly and sustainably.

Caroline Duell, Founder of Elemental Herbs

Duell also runs a farm, from which she harvests some ingredients for her natural healing products such as All Good Goop, a moisturizer and salve.  While Duell also gets ingredients from outside suppliers, she only partners with similar-minded businesses.  In particular, she examines other companies’ employee benefits, utilities use, social benefits and transparency.  Though not certified organic, all Elemental Herbs holistic products and remedies contain organic ingredients and are free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

The Elemental Herbs farm also offers a CSA (community supported agriculture) and serves as an education center, including offering courses about sustainable living.  As a member of 1% for the Planet, one percent of all Elemental Herbs revenues is dedicated to fighting for social and environmental justice around the world.  Organizations it supports include a local marine mammal protection organization, a local trail organization, Save Our Snow, which provides information about how global warming affects the planet’s snowfall, and cityWILD, which brings inner city kids into the mountains.

Do you care about the company policies, as well as the ingredients, of your skin care products?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Duell: Episode 82 of The Wendel Forum (26:47 mins; mp3)

Elemental Herbs website: http://elementalherbs.com

B Corporation website: http://www.bcorporation.net/

1% for the Planet website: http://onepercentfortheplanet.org/en/

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 81 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on October 20, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Lauren Selman, founder of Reel Green Media, an environmental consulting and production company dedicated to greening the entertainment industry both on and off screen.

Lauren Selman of Reel Green Media

Lauren Selman of Reel Green Media

Reel Green Media started as a student project when Selman was at UC Berkeley. The company’s first movie project was Benjamin Bratt’s La Mission, which was filmed in San Francisco.  Selman initially zeroed in on composting and recycling movie set waste.  For example, the 80-person La Mission crew was going through as many as 500 disposable water bottles a day.  Selman substituted water jugs.  She then analyzed the energy used, including studying generators, transportation, hotel accommodations and caterers.  In addition, she consulted on whether the products that appeared on screen were environmentally friendly and promoting a green lifestyle.  In addition to movies, Reel Green Media now works on live events, such as the Golden Globes, the Emmys and the Oscars.

Selman also set out to reimagine beauty pageants, competing for the Miss Malibu title in a completely sustainable way with, for example, an all-organic dress and makeup.  She won the pageant’s Miss Congeniality title and the People’s Choice Award and influenced the way other contestants approached sustainability.

Bill and Selman discuss how greening the entertainment industry requires re-thinking basic concepts. For example, it’s not always easy to quickly get things – such as compostable plates – to remote areas where movies often film.  But studios are getting more on board with sustainable practices and both production structures and executives’ awareness is developing.  That, Selman says, will have ripple effect to entertainment industry vendors.

Are you more likely to see a movie that used sustainable practices in filming?
Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Selman: Episode 81 of The Wendel Forum (27:41 mins; mp3)

Reel Green Media: http://www.reelgreenmedia.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 80 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on October 13, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Elliot Kallen, founder and CEO of Prosperity Financial, a San Ramon, Calif.-based money market fund with $200 million under management.

Elliot Kallen, CEO of Prosperity Financial, visits The Wendel Forum

Elliot Kallen, CEO of Prosperity Financial, visits The Wendel Forum

Years ago, socially responsible investing meant simply avoiding investing in so-called sin products such as tobacco or the defense industry.  Increasingly, though, socially responsible investing means more. While it can mean investing in green companies, the issue is somewhat muddy.  For example, is it socially responsible to invest in a solar module product if the parts were made in China and the manufacturing process included toxic chemicals that ended up in the water supply?

Not surprisingly, therefore, everyone has a different opinion of what it means to be socially conscious.  Generally, though, it means thinking about doing the right thing and considering every facet – from environmental issues to a company’s shareholder governance and charitable activities to the private activities (such as aiding the Nazis) of a company’s founder.

In addition, there are different approaches to socially responsible investing.  For example, an investor can proactively support companies that are doing good things for society or devote a portion of a portfolio to green companies. Alternatively, an investor can simply seek the highest possible return on investments but then commit to donating 10 percent of those earnings to a socially responsible cause.  Kallen recommends finding an advisor who will listen to your goals.

What does socially responsible investing mean to you?
Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Elliot Kallen: Episode 80 of The Wendel Forum (26:55 mins; mp3)

Prosperity Financial Website: http://www.prosperityfg.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile:http://www.wendel.com/rylons

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