Green Mistakes Eco-Friendly Startups Continue To Make


Helping the environment has been on the agenda for the majority of businesses for the last decade. Customers have and still are worried about the planet and their shopping preferences reflect that fact. It’s not beneath them to opt for a rival that makes them feel as if they are saving the environment and providing a quality product at the same time. Companies have had to react and they are doing so en mass now that the “fad” doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast.

Evolving to meet customer demands is a priority, but it isn’t one-hundred percent foolproof. Forgive the pun, yet startups make green errors on a daily basis and it impacts the firm. Business owners want to avoid this at all costs, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Here, then, are the mistakes and the solutions that should help you appease the planet and your customer base.

Conversion Costs

The initial transition period can be expensive even if the methods save the company money in the long-term. Take solar panels as a prime example. Installation costs alone are in the thousands of dollars and aren’t set to decrease anytime soon. Sadly, SMBs tend not to have a couple of thousand bucks lying around the office. And, it isn’t only the big projects because the smaller ones rack up the expenses too. Energy-saving light bulbs may last longer yet they aren’t as affordable as less efficient models. Businesses have to think about the future to stomach the costs in the first place. But, to lower them in the short-term, wait until the time is right. Experts predict local authorities will start providing grants for renewable energy, for instance. If you can hang around, there is no reason to spend money the startup doesn’t have.

Price Hike

Due to investments, prices may have to increase to cover the firm’s losses. It doesn’t matter how well you explain the necessity; the customers won’t accept the logic. Instead, they will think about how it impacts their bottom line. Usually, the situation ends up with consumers leaving their loyalty at the door as they look for a cheaper alternative. Once the business commits, it can’t back out or else it faces a PR backlash. Savvy bosses scour the market for budget yet quality materials which they know will keep prices low. Asia is a modern eBay of sorts as overheads are lower than in the West. Do be careful of shipping costs as they can be extortionate anywhere in the world. To buy in bulk is a smart way to cut the price by a significant amount as long as the materials don’t go to waste.

Customer Complaints

Consumers aren’t stupid and they will work out when a company is being disingenuous. Not to say that you are lying, but plenty of startups like to play the percentages. For instance, SMBs will gladly promote their efforts to help save the planet but will leave out the fine details. As soon as a customer sees something they class as a contradiction, they will jump on it and spread the word. And, word of mouth advertising can be destructive. There are two accessible and affordable solutions to this problem. The first is to go into partnership with an eco-conscious business. An organization such as GreenRush Packaging has services that are 100% green along the supply chain. Plus, some are a novelty and add will grab the attention of the customers. The second fix is to speak to a law expert. Because it’s a consultation, the fees shouldn’t be as exorbitant as usual.

Certificate Conundrum

One way to combat bad press is to get accredited by local and national authorities. That way, everything you publish will have a qualified source to back up the company’s claims. More and more, small businesses are finding these certificates harder to obtain, and the reasons are political. Departments with authority to grant SMBs a pass are full of people who have friends in ‘high’ places. Should one of them ask for a favor, then there’s a chance the application may get rejected. Anyone who doesn’t believe this happens should think about market share and protecting interests. When the company does attempt to apply, record everything and ask for documentation. Not to be a snitch, but filing a complaint may be the only option to what Andrew Georgiadis calls “entrenched bias.”

Paperless Dilemma

A simple way to go green is to stop using dead trees in the office. Although businesses are reliant on paper, there are plenty of alternatives. Nowadays, every employee has a smartphone with instant messaging apps and an email account. Rather than write it down on a piece of paper, colleagues can message back and forth to save the planet. In the beginning, the conversations can get lost in translation and work may suffer as a result. Bosses, though, can provide training for WhatsApp and Hangouts to prevent future complications. By far the biggest issue is the one regarding security. Should a server get hacked, there is no paper chase to act a physical factory reset. Therefore, startups must backup data onto a USB stick and store it outside of the office. Do this every three to six months and it should limit a hacker’s potential threat.

Unfair Competition

At the moment, green startups find that they are a disadvantage to traditional businesses. Why? It’s because the competition can set looser standards according to Sapling. In the future, legislation may dictate that every company has to start on the same level. However, until that point, regular firms can “do their bit” without taking on any of the same responsibilities. Sure, eco-friendly businesses will benefit down the line, but they have to survive that long and that isn’t guaranteed. Usually, green startups that succeed either give themselves breathing space to bend the rules or find a niche. The latter is a quality option as the firm should have a small monopoly.

Are you an environmentally-conscious SMB? Do you make any of the errors above?

SXSW Eco 2012 – NJ Startup: Staxxon Dynamic Container Systems



New Jersey/Ohio startup Staxxon is working to address one of the largest inefficiencies in the logistics industry – the empty shipping container.  Every year hundreds of millions of shipping containers are shipped empty taking up space, using valuable natural resources, and wearing out equipment.

According to Tom Stitt, Staxxon’s corporate development director, the company’s founder was inspired to begin working on a new container design while driving one of his daughters to college. “George [Kochanowski] kept seeing piles of containers [along the roadway] and thought there had to be a better way to deal with them than stacking them high,” says Stitt. ¹

Staxxon has created an “accordian-like” shipping container that can be folded to 1/5 it’s size.  This allows 5 empty containers to take up the space of just one container.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this could significantly alter the practices of logistics companies.  Each container takes up space on trucks, trains, and container ships, as well as shipping yards.  In April of this year they received a CSC Certificate for its 20′ container design and was issued the BIC registration code STXU for its test and trial containers. Below we have an in-person demonstration of the benefits via legos:

More details regarding Staxxon’s Dynamic Container Systems from their FAQ:

What technology and products is Staxxon developing?

Staxxon has developed, patented, prototype and obtained certification for a shipping container design that allows up to 5 empty containers to be folded, nested and moved in the same space as 1 container. In addition, Staxxon is developing an integrated system to support high speed folding/nesting and unfolding/un-nesting at terminals and depots that includes support for space/slot optimized freight bookings and related terminal/depot/ship/rail/truck workflow information technology.

Who will be Staxxon’s customers?

Staxxon will license  its container, folding nesting system and related information technology to its customers. This means that a container fleet owner/operators – carriers, leasing companies, governments – can continue to work with existing container vendors/manufacturers. Terminal/depot operators will be able to source the folding/nesting system from current suppliers. leading freight booking and terminal operating system providers will be able to integrate Staxxon’s information technology.

How much does Staxxon’s technology cost? How much will a container with Staxxon technology cost?

Staxxon’s business model is based on licensing its intellectual property, designs and know-how, not manufacturing. Container fleet owner/operators will continue to source containers from their current vendors at prices negotiated by the fleet owners/operators. Staxxon will support existing container manufacturers with assembly line configuration, sourcing, training, inspections and certification services. Staxxon’s target cost for a container that includes Staxxon technology is in a range that provides the container fleet owner/operator a 100% return on the total investment, including operating costs unique to Staxxon’s technology, over a 24-30 month period. *Emphasis mine


Staxxon homepage

The official Lego Video

Startups from Everywhere Else finally have a conference for them


Jessica Alba To Headline SXSWEco 2012 October 3-5 In Austin Texas

The producers of South By Southwest are preparing for their next SXSWEco event. The three day event will be held from October 3rd through October 5th in Downtown Austin. While it’s a bit smaller than the huge music, film and interactive festival held in March, it’s by no means a small event. In fact there are over 130 different talks, panels, work groups and special events during SXSWEco.  Oh, and don’t forget the parties.

One of the headline keynote speakers will be actress Jessica Alba.  Back in March, Alba, a Golden Globe nominated actress, launched her baby safe startup company called “The Honest Company”. The startup seeks to replace baby products laiden with harsh and untested chemicals, with natural products that are baby safe like diapers, household cleaners, soap, sunscreen, laundry detergent and even dishwasher gels.

The Honest Company went to town with a $27 million dollar venture round which included some of the heaviest of hitters. Investors in Netflix, Twitter, Living Social and Zynga all participated in Alba’s first round.

The folks at SXSW Eco have put together “An Honest Conversation With Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan”. Gavigan is Alba’s co-founder in The Honest Company.

Other highlighted speakers this year include: Lance Hosey (“The Shape of Green”), Annie Leonard (“The Story of Stuff”), and Senator Byron Dorgan with Jigar Shah. Distinguished Speakers include: Professor Michael Mann (Earth System Science Center), Tamar Adler (“An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace”), Juliet Eilperin (The Washington Post) and Bill McKibben (

Some of the other panels include:  “Energy Challenges on the U.S.- Mexico Border,” “The Intersection of Art + Sustainability,” “New Urbanism: Why Reshaping Cities is Green,” “Rust Belt to Fresh Coast: Milwaukee’s Quiet Revolt,” “Behind E-Waste: The Good, Green & Shocking Truths,” “The End of the Golden Age of Automobiles?” and “Risks and Rewards of More Texas Wind and Solar.”


For more information on SXSWEco click here

Register for SXSWEco here

More on the Honest Company click here

Startups Everywhere Else, click here

Startup Interview With Chicago Startup: The Plastic Bag Solution

The Plastic Bag Solution is a green startup located in Chicago IL where the issue of plastic bags is actually becoming a hot button topic among residents, environmentalists and government officials.  In fact 1st Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno introduced a ban in 2011 of single use plastic bags. The legislation is still waiting to be heard in the Health and Environment Committee. If the legislation is passed Chicago will be the largest city in the country to enact such legislation.

Plastic bags clog sewers,drains,cause animals to suffocate, and take hundreds of years to decompose. The Plastic Bag Solution provides an alternative to the plastic bag that is 100% compostable and great for the environment.

The Plastic Bag solution provides their compostable bags at a fraction of the cost as traditional plastic bags and also educates consumers, business owners and government officials on the use and benefits of their solution to plastic bags.

We got a chance to talk with Coleman Franklin, Co-Founder and Vice President of The Plastic Bag Solution about what their startup is all about and what they’re doing in Chicago.

Check out the interview below:

Read More…

Utah CleanTech Startup: EcoScraps Announces Product Availability In Southern California

Back in April we reported on an exciting startup in Utah that was founded by former Brigham Young students. They came up with the idea after eating at an all you can eat breakfast buffet and asking themselves where all the wasted food goes. Naturally we can’t really box up that uneaten food off people’s plates and send it to starving kids in third world countries. I’m sure we would if we could. However the team behind EcoScraps found something clean, green and good for the environment to do with that scrap food.

EcoScraps now takes food waste from grocery stores, and farms and has it hauled to their compost facilities for a discounted tipping fee compared to the dump. EcoScraps then takes the food waste and turns it into compost and potting soil. They sell their compost and potting soil in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and now Southern California.

Today the startup announced that their soil and compost products will be available in 40 big box home improvement stores in Southern California.

The company redirects 100 tons of produce waste each day from local grocery stores and restaurants. The waste is diverted away from landfills and turned into compost products, which can now be found in over 40 big box home improvement stores across Southern California.

“Every three days in America, enough food is thrown away to fill the Rose Bowl,” said EcoScraps CEO and co-founder Dan Blake. “By repurposing leftover fruit and vegetables, we are doing our part to take that valuable organic material and return it to good use. Our expansion into Southern California affords us the opportunity to put more food scraps to use, protecting the environment and enhancing gardens in America.”

EcoScraps is a no-chemical, no-poop alternative to typical manure- and chemical-based soil products on the market. The company’s products not only contain twice the amount of essential soil nutrients, but are safe for kids and pets too. By establishing a new infrastructure model for creating organic compost, EcoScraps has been able to quickly expand and reach a wide variety of consumers.

In June 2012, the World Bank released What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management, which reported that 810 million tons of organic waste will be generated this year alone. “America’s food waste accounts for 30 million tons, which is equivalent to 25 percent of all landfill waste in the U.S.,” Blake said. “This number is expected to almost double by 2025. EcoScraps takes the nutrients found in our fruits and vegetables and returns them back to the soil instead of letting them waste away in landfills. This creates healthier plants and a healthier planet.”

Learn more about EcoScraps here at their website
Here’s a story we ran in April about EcoScraps
Nibletz is the voice of startups “everywhere else” here are more stories from “everywhere else”
Nibletz is on a sneaker-strapped nationwide startup road trip. Here’s where you can help us out

Ohio Startup: Former Navy Seal Starts Earl Energy, CleanTech Generator Company

Doug Moorehead is a retired Navy Seal from Cambridge Ohio. He also happens to hold a materials science degree from MIT and an MBA from Harvard. Wired reports that his military service spanned South America, the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea.

As the President of CleanTech startup Earl Energy he is drawing from his experiences in desolate areas, military training, and education to create solar diesel generators. During his military duty he would see enormous generators powering very little. Also as part of his military duty he would guard “countless” fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those convoys would be transporting fuel at $35 a barrel or more. They also had a casualty rate of one soldier for every 24 convoys.

Keep in mind in the desert the fuel isn’t just powering vehicles, it’s powering everything.

The biggest load on the traditional fuel based generators employed by the armed forces is the constant running of the engines. Moorehead has created generators with solar panels on top. In addition to the solar panels the battery mechanism he has created only require the engine to run in short bursts. While traditional generators run for 24 hours at a time, Moorehead’s generator engines run for 4 to 5 hours a day, drastically reducing the amount of fuel needed to power them.

More after the break
Read More…

Portland Clean Tech Startup LucidEnergy Has Found A Way To Create Green Power In A Water Pipe

A CleanTech startup in Portland Oregon called LucidEnergy has announced that they’ve found a way to create clean energy in a segment of water pipe. Lucid’s method involves pipes that have been fitted with a simple 5 turbine system. These special pipes could be installed when a utility replaces a segment of pipe.

How effective is it?

Gregg Semler, LucidEnergy’s President and CEO says that a stretch of pipe carrying water downhill might be able to produce enough electricity to power 100 homes. Impressive. Not only that but all around it’s cheaper. Semler says that without any government subsidies the cost of installing his pipe method is three to four times better than solar or wind systems.

LucidEnergy’s first public test of this technology will start next week on April 26th. That’s when the project opens at Riverside Public Utilities in Southern California. Riverside has tested four generations of the system over the last two years. This last test has gone flawlessly according to cities assistant general manager for water Kevin Milligan.

“I think it’s great technology,” Milligan told the Portland Tribune. “It could be widely adopted by water utilities and result in some significant cost savings. And it’s green.”  The power generated from the Riverside test site is said to be enough to power 14 miles of street lights. Milligan says that after labor and capital construction, energy is his third highest expense. At his water fields in San Bernadino, CA he pays $.13 to $.25 per kilowatt hour. The Lucid system produces energy at a cost of $.05 to $.09 per kilowatt hour which is a significant savings.

Riverside will be the first city to publicly test the service however there has already been interst from San Antonio and New York as well as Israel and Zambia.


source: PortlandTribune

Seattle: Google Backed CleanTech Startup AltaRock To Start Drilling In Oregon

In 2008 Google invested in a new CleanTech startup called AltaRock. AltaRock plans on building engineered geothermal systems in places where natural resources aren’t already available for such systems. AltaRock will create geothermal reservoirs in areas without natural flowing streams.

AltaRock had embarked on a demonstration project of this technology in California in 2007 however the project ran into technical difficulties and ended in 2009. AltaRock applied to work on a similar project in Oregon in May of 2010 which was just recently approved.  Oregon’s Bureau of Land Management said they find no big environmental impact to the project.

For this project to work AltaRock needs to use special tools to drill wells that are a few miles deep. They will then inject cold water to fracture hot rocks. Electricity is produced by pumping water into the well where it will “flow along fissures of hot rocks and extend them” reports GigaOm. AltraRock needs to predict the paths of the expanded fissures to insure the production wells will intercept them. Each well typically costs a few million dollars. For the Oregon site AltaRock needs to build two new wells which they will use in conjunction with a well that’s 10,060 feet deep and already in place. The existing well will be used for injecting the water while the two new wells will be used to pump out the hot water.

AltaRock raised $26 million dollars earlier on in a round led by Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures and Vulcan Capital. They have also received a $21.4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

An MIT study has said that the enhanced geothermal system could create 100gw of electricity by 2050.

Source: GigaOM

Little Rock’s Verve Solutions, Offering Complete Energy Assesments, Wins Gone In 60 Pitch Contest

Over 200 entrepreneurs, startup founders and technorati turned out for a Gone in 60 seconds pitch contest Monday night in Little Rock. The contest was part of a tour that was created by Innovate Arkansas. Innovate Arkansas is a partnership that works with new technology based entrepreneurs to turn inventions and startups into viable businesses.

The Gone in 60 pitch contest, or G60 as it’s affectionately known in Arkansas, is a 60 second elevator pitch contest. The Little Rock event was held at Vino’s and saw about 20 pitches compete for prizes. The top prize was $1,000.00 and won by Verve Solutions.

Verve Solutions is an energy assessment, and efficiency solution provider based in Little Rock. The company was founded by Lolisa Crowe and Brian Broussard both twenty something entrepreneurs who both happen to be RESNET certified energy auditors. Also, both have a long history of energy conscious environmental leadership. Crowe was a volunteer with Americorps through the Clinton Foundation. Boussard has worked on earth day projects as well as on the campaign of environmentally conscious and landscape architect turned State Representative Mark Robertson.

The winning pitch was focused on how the current residential building was inefficient in terms of both environment and energy consumption. Home owners will have the ability to pursue energy efficiency improvement in a more affordable way thanks to Verve solutions.

So far the G60 has been to Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Rogers. The next stops are in El Dorado, Texarkana, Jonesboro and Conway.

For more information on G60 visit Innovate Arkansas

For more info on the winner of the Little Rock competition visit Verve Solutions


Ford & Yahoo Team Up For Reality Show About Electric Cars

Being on the road in a Prius makes you really appreciate both the hybrid and the full on electric car. While traveling to cover startups in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Cameron and I saw charging stations out in front of local government office buildings, which was a breath of fresh air. We also brought you this story earlier this month about a NC startup that is re-inventing the charging station.

With all this talk about electric cars it’s no wonder that Ford has teamed up with Yahoo to release a web-based reality show about electric cars.

The new show called “Plugged In” will chronicle the lives of three two person teams driving the new Ford Focus electric. The teams will compete in scavenger hunt like challenges in 10 major cities including Los Angeles in New York, mostly on the east and west coast where electric cars are gaining popularity and where gas is over $4.00 per gallon and quickly approaching $5.00.

More after the break
Read More…

North Carolina Startup, Evatran, Attracting Funds By Finding Ways To Cut The Cord For Electric Cars

Outside of Detroit, North Carolina is a mecca for innovation in the automobile sector. North Carolina also has a thriving tech community in the research triangle area which encompasses Raliegh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary and surrounding areas. One of those companies is Evatran.

Evatran is a spinoff of a company called MTC transformers, which is an electronics manufacturer based in Whytheville Virginia. Evatran moved to Morrisville NC to be closer to the global technology hub that exists there.

So what is this start up doing that is Evatran doing that is so phenomenal that Google, Hertz Rent A Car, Duke Energy and Clemson University have come to the plate with funding for them? They are looking to cut the cord to recharge electric cars. Evatran is working on a plugless recharging station for electric cars.

“Fundamentally, what we’re selling here is convenience,” said Evatran co-founder Rebecca Hough told the Winston Salem Journal. “The cord gets really dirty. People run over the cord.”

More after the break
Read More…