Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Environmental Entrepreneurs: Making Green by being Green

Last week, Andy and I swapped towns, with Andy headed to DC while I spoke at an event sponsored by Environmental Entrepreneurs in Boston. According to their website, “Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) is a national community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity”. The bottomline for E2 IS the bottomline. They seek to influence policy that promotes environmentally sound business practices, but is driven to demonstrate that these are not opposing views, but complementary. Sounds like dangerous "Greenies" to me.

In my presentations I talk about how I got started in the energy industry. In mid 2006, I was working with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and was asked to evaluate a Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement from a Marine General in the Anbar Province of Iraq. The General was asking for a hybrid electric power station. I wondered to myself, “When did the Marines become Birkenstock wearing, tree huggers?”. As it turned out, this was the JUON that accelerated the operational energy movement. It was from, then, Major General Zilmer, Commander USMC Forces, Iraq and it was because the most dangerous thing to do in his area of operation was to drive five gallons of diesel to the Syrian border outposts to run the radios and other electronics. It was a “business” decision. His most precious resources were endangered as a result of the need to power his outposts. That it might have a positive environmental impact was not even mentioned.

This is an example of how business decisions and environmental decision are complimentary and not in opposition. It is the same argument for building energy efficient buildings. The argument is invariable proffered that it is too expensive to build green. This is often heard in DOD circles were one group pays the capital cost and another pays for operations and maintenance. It may cost a nickel more to buy material that conserves energy, but the total life cycle cost usually makes it a no brainer. To quote FineHomebuliding.com ,” in what universe did it ever make sense to build a house that wasn’t energy efficient?”.

I sat down with Berl Hartman, the feisty Director of E2 New England. E2 is a virtual organization that prides itself on its independence (politically, economically, etc.). The organization was started in California by a couple of Silicon Valley folks (Bob Epstein and Nicole Lederer) and who figured out that it was possible to be environmentally responsible and economically viable. Pollution is an indicator of an inefficient system and that is bad for business. E2's mantra is making the polluter accountable for the pollution.

E2 serves as a business voice for the environment. When I joked about the Marines being Birkenstock wearing, tree huggers, I wasn’t joking. Any soldier who has ever had to report an oil spill of more than a pint in the motorpool knows what I mean. The military is the biggest bunch of Greenies going. They have to operate in a sustainable manner because they have to use that same training area over and over again. The commitment is manifested by the fact that each of the Services has its own agency such as the Army Environmental Command. DoD has figured out that sustainable operations make sense economically and for security. It is not about right or left, it is about right and wrong.

As the Services move forward with their various energy conservation, distribution and renewable projects, they have indicated that they will reach out to small businesses. For those big firms who will have to find responsible, capable small business partners, head to your local E2 meeting. I am not equating an E2 meeting to some kind of meat market, but….do you come here often? Dan Nolan


Brian Smith said...

Great observation about DoD's extreme focus on environmental sustainability. We spilled a barrel of non-toxic spray foam insulation A-Kit on the ground at Camp Victory, and from the number of people involved in verifying clean-up, you'd have though 3 Mile Island had just had a melt-down.

Dan Nolan said...

Under the heading, great minds think alike, Daniel Yergin wrote a piece on the Dreamliner that is absolutely worth reading.

Daniel Yergin: Energy Efficiency: The New "First Fuel"
November 9, 2011 15:36:12