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 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 75 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on September 1, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Gary Eberhart, who serves on the board of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, which serves 32,000 children and adult students at 56 campuses, making it one of the largest school districts in California.

Gary Eberhart

Amid decreasing budgets and increasing energy costs, the Mt. Diablo School District secured a $350 million bond from the community to add solar energy to 51 of the district’s schools.  Eberhart and his fellow board members determined that purchasing a solar energy system through a bond program would be more cost-effective than buying power from a solar provider under a long-term purchase agreement. Specifically, Eberhart, who has served on the school board for 17 years, determined they could invest the estimated $220 million savings back into the schools over the system’s 30-year life expectancy.  The bond measure was approved by 60 percent of the community.

Mt. Diablo’s 12.2-megawatt system is the largest program in the world for a school district and will meet 92 percent of the district’s energy needs.  After a competitive selection process for the contractor, the installation took one year and all but a handful of the 51 systems are now up and running.  The solar panels were installed primarily in parking lots and on playground structures, which Eberhart says look better and are easier to maintain than roof panels.  The solar energy systems are also providing a unique educational tool for students, who can monitor energy and cost savings through real-time data.

Could your school district use solar energy?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Eberhart:   Episode 75 of The Wendel Forum (27:43 mins; mp3)

Mount Diablo Unified School District Website: http://www.mdusd.org/Pages/default.aspx

Information about the Bond Program: http://mdusdmeasurec.org

Strategic Facilities Planning, Eberhart’s Company Website: http://www.strategicfacilitiesplanning.com

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

Bill Acevedo’s Online Profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 74 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on August 25, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Jenn Vervier, director of sustainability at New Belgium Brewing Company

Jenn Vervier

New Belgium Brewing Company prides itself on providing meaningful employment for its owners and workers.  It promotes a “high-involvement culture,” in which individuals “bring their whole selves to work” and everyone’s voice is heard.  Specifically, the company engages in participative decision-making, soliciting feedback from top to bottom.  All co-workers are included in strategic planning and business operations, and financial reports are shared monthly with all workers.

But – they don’t forget that business can be fun!  New Belgium Brewing Company is employee-owned, with workers brought into the ownership after a year.  On that anniversary, they also receive a bike.  Once employees have worked there for five years, they receive a weeklong, all-expenses-paid trip to Belgium to learn about Belgian beer culture.  Those are certainly nice perks!

Make no mistake about it, though, sustainability is a guiding business principle of the company.  In addition to donating to environmental causes, New Belgium Brewing Company is also one of the first breweries to publish a life- cycle carbon footprint of its processes for consumers.  Plus, New Belgium is constantly looking for ways to hone the efficiency and limit the impacts of its operations.  For example, the company instituted a new method of dry hopping that saves millions of gallons of water a year, and it also has changed its bottle lubricants to similarly conserve water.  For a beer company, conserving water has a tremendous influence on the bottom line and the environment.

In addition, New Belgium has a 200kW solar PV array, 800kW of cogeneration, which produces electricity from the methane captured from its on-site process water treatment, and 200kW of thermal storage—making cold water or ice at night, off peak, to use in the brewing process and in office HVAC during the hottest part of the day.

Are you more likely to drink New Belgium Brewing Company beer after learning about its core values?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Vervier: Episode 74 of The Wendel Forum (27:50 mins; mp3)

New Belgium Brewing Company Website: http://www.newbelgium.com/

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

Bill Acevedo’s Online Profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 73 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on August 18, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Lindsay Riddell who covers Cleantech, Sustainability, Startups and Venture Capital for the San Francisco Business Times.  They discuss a number of trends in the cleantech environment.
 
Lindsay Riddell photo

Lindsay Riddell covers Cleantech, Sustainability, Startups and Venture Capital for the San Francisco Business Times

Biofules and Biochemicals

Bill and Riddell start of the conversation with a discussion of what’s happening in the Bay Area biofuel and biochemical industries.  Companies in this space are looking for a variety of approaches to break down or convert renewable materials into fuels, soaps, chemicals, oils, food products, fragrances and others that typically rely on petroleum-based production.
 
With the economic downturn, capital became increasingly scarce and companies had to scale back or retool their plans for expansion.  Now, as these companies mature, they are undertaking new approaches for attracting venture investment.  The more established companies have created a roadmap for some of the emerging companies. 
 
Organizations such as the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), which is a joint venture between the University of California campuses at Berkeley, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, are helping to accelerate innovation and bring discoveries to market more quickly.  Riddell discusses some of the strategies these companies are taking to survive the short term and thrive in the long term.
 

Investment trends

 
Not surprising, with the economic downfall of the past few years, Riddell acknowledges that investor enthusiasm has waned.  She observes that there is still money available for good ideas, but the investment community has been behaving more conservatively. Meanwhile, there are still resources in places like Greenstart, a startup accelerator that works with companies focused on solutions that combine cleantech and IT.  Software applications that address issues such as energy efficiency are still finding some success in the marketplace.

Carbon Data

Riddell recently wrote an article on Facebook’s voluntary reporting on their carbon footprint.  She and Bill discuss the pros and cons of releasing this data and the market pressures at play for companies to become more transparent in their operations.  This move is likened to Wal-Mart coming out several years ago with a commitment to dedicate shelf space to products that have higher levels of sustainability.  It’s clear that these big companies can have incredible influence in the marketplace and change expectations for both consumers and investors.

Electric Vehicles

The Bay Area is home to a thriving network related to the electric vehicle industry – car manufacturers, battery manufacturers, chargers and application developers for locating electric car chargers, crowd-sourcing for charging – the list goes on.  Some of the more interesting new developments include apps for available parking spaces with charging stations, car sharing apps, and there’s even an app that essentially takes the act of hitchhiking to the internet. Most of these are mobile technologies that employ various aspects of GPS tracking.
 
What do you consider to be the most important clean tech trends in the Bay Area?  What’s just over the horizon?
 
Post Links:
 
Listen to the interview with Lindsay Riddell: Episode 73 of The Wendel Forum (27:47 mins; mp3)
 
San Francisco Business Times website: www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco
 
Follow Lindsay Riddell on Twitter: @LRiddellSF
 
California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences:  http://qb3.org/
 
 
960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com
 
Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo
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