Archive for the ‘Green schools’ Category

KidWind and Green School Supplies

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Wind power is growing leaps and bounds, with the total capacity for electricity produced from wind power growing 45% in 2007 alone.  If T. Boone Pickens has his way, wind power will grow to provide 20% of our electricity in just ten years.  Such rapid growth in wind power creates a huge opportunity for many businesses, opportunities that extend far beyond wind farms right into the classrooms of the next generation. 

Green schools are a growing trend, with schools going green in various ways.  Many schools are greening their facilities by installing solar panels, installing organic landscaping, and making their buildings energy efficient.  The USGBC has a green schools program tracking and encouraging the construction of green LEED certified school buildings, estimating that green schools can save $100,000 a year.  Saving money and creating a healthy work and study environment is good for everyone involved, but green school buildings are only the start. 

In 75 Green Businesses I talk about the opportunities for schools and teachers to green what happens inside of schools as well, describing work going on at schools greening their curriculum like the Bertschi school in Seattle.  Green businesses of the future will rely on the kids going through our educational system today.  A report from the American Solar Energy Society estimates that the green economy will generate 40 million jobs in the US by 2030, high-quality, rewarding jobs created by innovative, entrepreneurial businesses.  Parents and educators are realizing that our kids need to be prepared for this increasingly green world of the future.

Getting there will require a solid grounding in basics, but going beyond the basics will open up the possibility for kids to go even farther.  Learning about renewable energy, waste reduction, energy efficiency, water conservation, and organic agriculture will open up a broad range of future career and business opportunities.  And learning about these things by getting your hands on them is pretty fun too.

As more schools and teachers catch this trend, there is a need for teaching materials that can bring to life the principles involved.  Michael Arquin founded the KidWind Project five years ago to meet this need.  KidWind designs, produces and sells kits and materials to teach about wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy.  Their wind turbine kits are scalable, modular, and reasonably priced.  Walking the green walk, their materials are also increasingly produced domestically, using recycled material, using wind power.  The sales of KidWind have tripled every year so far, so that KidWind now employees ten people and will soon be launching KidSolar and KidH2 (about fuel cells).   In addition to selling wind turbine kits, KidWind provides workshops, curriculum materials, and other forms of outreach to the community.  We back our products up with extensive teacher training and free curricular materials,” says Arquin.  “We are not really in this to pack boxes - we are in it to help teachers learn how to integrate renewable energies into everyday teaching.”

The opportunity is not limited to green schools, but to eager and curious kids everywhere.  The greener that schools get, the more opportunities there will be to help them.  Green schools are going to need recycled paper, pencils from sustainably harvested trees, and healthy, organic school lunches.  Businesses that can meet these needs will be furthering the next generation of green entrepreneurs.  Helping them learn about the great green world we can create will help to make it happen. 


Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference”, describing a broad range of opportunities for entrepreneurs from many backgrounds to join the green business revolution.  He is also the founder of Starting Up Green, helping green entrepreneurs to succeed with tips, success stories, eco-entrepreneur profiles, and connections to experts.

Green Money: Person-to-Person Lending with Prosper

Friday, September 5th, 2008

One common concern among entrepreneurs is raising money they need to advance their company from startup to small business and beyond.  Small amounts of money can sometimes make a big difference for businesses early in their development, but money can be hard to find in today’s credit crunch.  Even quite credit-worthy businesses are finding small business loans hard to come by, or that loans are offered at much higher interest rates than expected.  Many have turned to credit cards to finance their ventures, and paid the price in the long run.  There are other ways to get access to money though, including person-to-person lending. 


In person-to-person lending, also called peer-to-peer lending, money is loaned by individuals, unlike bank loans.  Prosper is the largest person-to-person lending marketplace in the US, and has helped to mediate over $170 million in loans so far.  Borrowers make a loan listing for any use, and lenders bid for loans, driving down the rate.  Bids with the lowest rates are combined into one loan.  The purpose of loans can include using them for small businesses, although all loans are created as personal loans.  The size of loans ranges up to $25,000, providing an alternative to small business loans or credit cards.  Since Prosper is not a bank, they have actually seen their business increase even as traditional lending from banks dries up.


Prosper does not specifically target green entrepreneurs, but green businesses looking for small loans may fare well in this system.  Lenders in the Prosper system usually want to know how the money will be spent by borrowers, and are attracted to lend to borrowers like green entrepreneurs, helping to lower interest rates and attract money for these loans.  Lenders in Prosper can look at more than just a credit score to make their decisions.  A survey of lenders in Prosper found that 93% of lenders are interested in lending for green projects, and that 25% of lenders have bid on these projects.  Most banks on the other hand do not consider whether a business is green or not when considering a loan. 


I recently talked with Mike Arquin, founder of The KidWind Project, about borrowing through Prosper to help move his business forward.  KidWind is producing and selling educational materials like wind turbine kits for students and teachers, as well as providing training and curriculum materials about wind and other forms of renewable energy.  When they needed money for the development of new products, making injection molds, Mike found after exploring bank loans that the rates and terms with Prosper were very attractive.  “It was seven days and we got the money,” Mike said when I spoke with him.  Now, five years into the company, they are tripling in size each year and have ten people working for KidWind.  Person-to-person lending may not work for everyone, but it’s good to have another option available when you need money to grow your green business.

Back to School

Friday, May 9th, 2008

 College for many is a time of exploring options, seeing what the world has to offer and how each of us can fit in.  This can be both exhilarating and terrifying.  On one hand, students are often told to pursue the practical course, the course that will bring home the bacon.  On the other hand, students will hear the siren song of the life of meaning beyond the 9 to 5, and perhaps be drawn toward a career course, and a life course, that makes a difference in the world.  Going green might just let them do both. I participated this week in a panel on green biotech at the UC San Diego Life Sciences Career Expo, and had a great time meeting some students looking for a way to get involved.   How can college students get involved in the green business movement?  Lots of ways.  One way is to start out working in the green business community for those developing new products.  One of the other panelists at the event was Stephen Mayfield, Associate Dean of Biology at the Scripps Research Institute and one of the founders of Sapphire Energy in San Diego, one of the contenders developing algal production of biofuels.  Mayfield reported that Sapphire is eagerly hiring for many positions, including entry level positions for those from the life sciences.  With oil over $120 per barrel lately, there is no lack of interest in finding a better way to fuel our cars.  Producing fuel from algae is very attractive in many ways, if the cost can be low enough.  There is more work ahead, but those that succeed in delivering these fuels will do very well for themselves even as they fight climate change and reduce many of the pollution problems related to our use of petroleum.   Other students will find ways to start small and start on their own.  There are going to be a great number of green Facebooks out there, businesses that start in dorm rooms and garages and grow rapidly by connecting people to work together providing much needed environmental solutions.   Either way, there has never been a greater time for college students to go green.