Green Lines Series | Michael “Luni” Libes, Founder & Managing Director, of B Corp Certified Fledge

Our team met up with Michael “Luni” Libes for a one on one interview to find out more about the successful entrepreneur and the driving force behind Fledge. Read along to find out more about what inspires Luni to support young entrepreneurs and how the the “conscious company” accelerator is helping entrepreneurs who are bringing products and services to the growing number of consumers, who in their consumption are conscious of the environment, their health, of community, sustainability, and even conscious of consumption itself.

GoGreen Conference: “Fledge” is a beautiful concept and name for an incubator that focuses on fostering “conscious” companies. How did you get the idea of bringing cause-driven startups to one centralized environment? Do you have a stand-out story of collaboration between entrepreneurs in your space?

ImageLuni: After 20 years of being an entrepreneur it was time that I help the next generation of entrepreneurs. Instead of starting my sixth company that might only bring something of value to a few customers, I wanted to help entrepreneurs have a bigger reach and to help more people.

I joined as a mentor at TechStars and as a mentor in the Portland Incubator Experiment. I started talking to teams, teams working on other programs, going online and tearing apart websites and trying to understand how the models work. I did a full end to end analysis of 50 other programs to find out how much money they give out, how much money they take in, where their funding comes from and how their business models work.

I came to the conclusion that TechStars was in fact nearly the right model. Just a few things could be changed for success. The question was – what to do with the information? Now that I had the knowledge of yes this model works, the question was where should it be applied?

In doing this research, I was introduced to Brian Howe, cofounder of HUB Seattle. When I met Brian the HUB was only two weeks old and there was no one there. He told me that he had dreamed of having 500 active members and an accelerator within the HUB.

We worked on the plan for months trying to figure out if the HUB would benefit from an accelerator. We knew what worked in general, at least for tech companies and we believed the format might also work for socially conscious companies.

To test out our theory we created #Socent Weekend targeted to benefit social entrepreneurs which took place in February of 2012. During the weekend, 80 strangers stepped forward into a novel experiment, moving from raw ideas into operational social enterprises in just 50 hours and during that time thirteen companies were created.

With that encouragement, I sat down and wrote a business plan for Fledge.  The #Socent Weekend was the proof I needed that said there was a market for this type of project.  If there’s a market in Seattle, there’s probably a bigger market globally.

GoGreen Conference: You launched Fledge in 2012, the first accelerator to foster ‘conscious companies’. Over the past 2 years, what are the key ingredients to success that Fledge has brought to its companies? How is Fledge different from other accelerators?

Luni: The biggest distinction is the culture of the organization. Just like any other organization there’s a corporate culture and ours is focused on collaboration.

Many accelerators provide advice from mentors and guidance on deadlines. The best of these programs will put entrepreneurs together in the same room to talk to each other and help each other. Fledge takes the best practices of those models to the next level, we are all about collaboration.

For example, at Fledge, when we do pitch coaching, all our teams are in the room pitch coaching each other. We have outsiders who come in to provide their opinion and those are equal opinions to everyone else in the room. Everybody participates in everyone else’s pitches, everyone’s stories.

Our entrepreneurs are socially conscious and they are part of the DNA of the system. They understand stakeholders vs. shareholders vs. employees. They understand it takes more than just one person to make a company succeed.

Secondly, our “fledlgings” quickly realize that the problem one of their peers is having today may be their problem tomorrow. Thus in airing issues as a group, not only does one company benefit, but all the participants learn about solutions to problems they are likely to come across as well.

GoGreen Conference: As an instructor, an author and an entrepreneur, you have led five successful startups and you have inspired so many to improve their daily life, community and the world. What other projects are you currently working on and what inspired them? What is a piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur?

Luni: I created Fledge in 2012. A year later I realized that I had turned down over 90% of all the people who asked for help. That made me ask – how do we help the other 90%? I created a second program called Kick. The program helped 13 entrepreneurs who were all happy with the results.With that success, I thought that would simply be my summer program, and nothing more.

Two weeks later I was at the Social Capital Conference. In a meeting after meeting, the head of HUBs from all over the world were saying that they could use accelerator programs in their HUBs as well. But the question was how could they do it? I took that as a problem to solve.

After the third session of Fledge ended, I packaged up Kick for those potential customers. We started licensing it in January and as of yesterday we have 8 licensees: Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Kenya, plus two grant-funded programs, and more on the way.

I don’t think you can be a successful entrepreneur unless you want to solve other people’s problems. You can build a product you like, but unless it solves a problem someone else has, you’re not going to sell very many of them.

Join us on April 30th and hear Luni speak more about his involvement with the B Corp movement during the all group session Benchmark Your Performance with B Corp starting at 9:30 am. We are also proud to have Fledge participate as a Community Partner of the conference. Use their promotional code FLEDGE when you register for 20% off tickets!

Green Line Series | Dennis McLerran on EPA Programs and Outstanding Business Participants

ImageWe were thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Dennis McLerran, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator for Region 10 that covers the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, including 271 tribal governments in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Dennis leads a staff of 650 employees, with responsibility for an annual budget of $500 million. Before his leadership role at the EPA, Dennis served as Executive Director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, a state-chartered regional agency that adopts and enforces air quality standards that protect the health of 3.5 million Washington residents. As executive director, he led the development of an innovative strategy to reduce emissions at the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Metro Vancouver. Learn more about what Dennis will share at the EPA Executive Forum on April 29th at 3pm.

GoGreen Conference:  What is EPA doing in the Pacific Northwest to help businesses and governments work smarter and greener and to be more sustainable in their operations?

Dennis McLerran: In the Pacific Northwest, the EPA’s role is often as cheerleader or a facilitator for sustainability efforts – directing companies dedicated to sustainability to EPA tools and resources or the tools and resources that other organizations provide. This is what makes the Northwest so exciting for this work.  Companies here recognized early on that success in today’s global economy requires a focus on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.

Naturally we spend a lot of time showcasing all of the great work being done by regional companies, NGOs and local governments here – that in itself seems to spur new conversations and relationships and sustainability projects. If you look at who’s sponsoring and attending the GoGreen Seattle Conference, you will see the Northwest businesses who have been leading the way for a long time, as well as the ones carving out their niches with their own sustainable business models. It just so happens that these companies are also national and world leaders in their fields.

We like to think that the EPA’s programs have helped spur new ideas and enabled companies to seize opportunities in front of them.  For instance, a lot of these companies have partnered with EPA by taking advantage of tools and resources provided by EPA programs like WasteWise, Energy Star, the Green Power Partnership and the SmartWay Transport Partnership.  In 2013, EPA launched its Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) initiative, focused on reducing environmental impacts of materials use and disposal, while preserving natural capital throughout the life-cycle of materials.  We have literally thousands of companies and communities using these tools every day to make a real difference.

Through our Sustainable Food Management effort we’ve also launched our Food Recovery Challenge to help businesses save money by reducing their purchasing and food-waste disposal fees. They are able to support their communities by using surplus food to feed people, not landfills, and they reduce their environmental impacts through composting their inedible food waste.  Many hotels and restaurants have joined us to take this effort to the national stage.

EPA is also developing an electronics strategy, focused on increasing the amount of used electronics managed by third-party certified electronics recyclers, to ensure they are managed properly and safely from environmental and a worker-safety perspectives.  EPA has pioneered EPEAT which is a comprehensive environmental rating that helps identify greener computers and other electronics — a powerful tool for enhancing a business’s sustainability.

At the GoGreen Seattle EPA Executive Forum attendees will be hearing from some excellent speakers representing companies who have made impressive commitments to sustainability, and who have used EPA and local government tools and resources to help them fulfill those commitments.  These partnerships between businesses and governments are a great signal to the community that they are looking to ensure a sustainable future not just for themselves, but for our communities.

GoGreen Conference:  Share a few regional examples of businesses or organizations that have seen significant success with one or more of the U.S. EPA’s programs. How did they benefit and what did they accomplish by working with you to improve their environmental performance?

DM: The Northwest is known for its spirit of innovation and collaboration.  By pushing the envelope on sustainability, our region has created national leaders who have become proselytizers for sustainability.  For instance, Seattle Climate Partnership and the Eastside Sustainable Business Alliance have set a standard for national efforts on recycling, waste reduction, energy efficiency and LEAN manufacturing efforts. Bentall Kennedy, one of North America’s largest independent real estate investment advisors, received an EPA Energy Star program Sustained Excellence award in 2012 for continuing to set and achieve new energy efficiency goals for its portfolio using EPA tools and resources. Their key 2011 accomplishments included: benchmarking 119 eligible office and industrial buildings monthly (representing approximately 20 million square feet); reducing energy use by 2.5 percent in 2011 over the previous year, resulting in a cumulative reduction of 18.4 percent since 2008 and nearly $5 million in energy cost savings; and earning the ENERGY STAR rating for 69 buildings, representing 14.4 million square feet, $2.8 billion in market value, and more than 70 percent of its benchmarked portfolio. As Vice President Biden might say, that’s a pretty big deal.

The University of Washington received an honorable mention award from the US EPA’s WasteWise program in 2012 – a challenge program encouraging business and facilities to prevent waste, increase recycling, and purchase more recycled-content.  Taking advantage of EPA tools and resources, the UW reported a diversion rate of 57 percent for calendar year 2011, translating into 6,417 tons of waste diverted from landfills. Campus waste diversion efforts also aided in avoiding disposal costs of more than $900,000.

Evergreen Public Schools, the fourth-largest district in Washington (serving almost 27,000 students in 35 schools), received an EPA Energy Star Sustained Excellence award for its ongoing commitment to finding new ways to save energy and promote its successes with ENERGY STAR. Key 2011 accomplishments include: saving $1.7 million through a multifaceted energy management approach, for a total of more than $4 million since 2008; earning the ENERGY STAR for an additional elementary school, bringing the total to 22 certified buildings since 2008; and allocating almost $6 million to improve HVAC and lighting, replace boilers, and upgrade thermostats at several large district sites; distributing almost $26,000 in incentives to its schools for participating in energy-saving activities; and presenting about ENERGY STAR successes at meetings and events. And, despite a significant downturn in the local economy the district continued to identify, fund, and complete energy efficiency projects.

The Mariners, the Sounders and the Seahawks are founding members of the Green Sports Alliance, which is transforming the way sports teams and their venues think about their impact on the environment and their bottom-lines.  We’re particularly proud of this work because it started right here in the Northwest – and EPA Region 10 was a founding member. Now the Green Sports Alliance has gone national and even global, which is exactly what should happen because of the tremendous impact on the larger discussion through the enormous number of people sports teams can influence with this work.  Business owners and leaders who attend games understand that the sporting industry is a big-time, cutthroat, bottom line business. If the M’s, Hawks and Sounders can make these kinds of investments and commitments, then it must also be beneficial to the bottom-line.

The Seattle Mariners, a member of both EPA’s WasteWise and Energy Star programs, has received numerous awards for their efforts to prevent waste, increase recycling, buy recycled, and conserve energy and water at Safeco Field.  Their accomplishments are amazing: all paper products used in all the bathrooms are made from 100% recycled content and are manufactured here in Washington; they’ve installed low-flow urinals in all men’s rooms, saving over 1 million gallons of water each year; their motorized grounds-keeping equipment runs on B-20 biodiesel; they recycle or compost over 90 percent of all waste generated at Safeco Field.   That’s not a misprint…90 percent! These efforts have resulted in significant cost savings: diverting over 3 million pounds of waste from the landfill in 2013 saved the team $114,000 in disposal costs and energy and water conservation efforts have saved the team $1.75 million in utilities costs since 2006. Because of this remarkable commitment the Mariners have earned Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League Recycling Champion award, Washington State Recycling Association Recycler of the Year, and Seattle Business magazine’s Green Washington Environmental Leadership Award.  They’re also the first MLB team to stage a “carbon neutral” game on Earth Day.

In summary, companies, universities, school districts, sports teams and small businesses continue to work with us to make sense of their operations to maximize the triple bottom line.  As is most often the case, the businesses and organizations are leading the charge and the EPA is there to support them in their efforts.

ImageLearn more and hear from the organizations featured above at the GoGreen Seattle EPA Executive Forum on April 29th from 3:00-5:00pm, a new day and element featured as part of the GoGreen Conference for our 5th year in Seattle. Join EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran and a very special showcase of Outstanding Business Participants from EPA Region 10 from the EPA Food Recovery, Waste Wise and ENERGY STAR programs. Learn how Region 10 sustainability leaders became “Outstanding Participants” in these EPA programs — including overcoming challenges, best practices and steps to success. Network with 75+ Executives from companies like Starbucks, Nordstrom, Office Depot, Boeing and Microsoft to name a few. *Additional ticket required to attend.

GoGreen Seattle 2014 Keynote Kimbal Musk on Creating A Community Through Food

The story of The Kitchen started when Kimbal’s black lab jumped into the lap of stranger – just like a scene out of one of Woody Allen’s romantic comedies. Unlike Woody’s stories which always focus on him – Kimbal’s story ended with a bistro that is all about others – a place brings family, friends and community together. The ending of Kimbal’s story is the beginning of another, which defines the life of an entrepreneur, an innovator and a chef.

ImageIn this Green Line Series, Kimbal Musk, restaurateur who has founded and advised several companies including Zip2 (acquired by Compaq), PayPal (acquired by Ebay), Everdream (acquired by Dell), Tesla Motors (Publicly listed: TSLA), SpaceX, OneRiot (acquired by Walmart) and SolarCity, gives us insight into the story behind opening up The Kitchen and his non-profit organization The Kitchen Community.

GGC: A techie and a chef is a rare combination of a successful entrepreneur. What made you venture into the culinary world after your success with several technology startups?

Kimbal Musk: After selling my successful software company, I took a look at my life and decided that I really wanted to work in the Food Industry.  I decided to move to NYC, the greatest city in the world for food, and enrolled at the French Culinary Institute to learn how to cook. After graduation though, I had no expectation of opening a restaurant, the experience at the French Culinary Institute was more intense than I had anticipated.

My life changed in an instant the morning of 9/11. I lived below the security clearance zone and was able to volunteer for fire fighters for six weeks. That really changed my perspective on food and how food creates community. You can connect with people in ways you could never do without food. I was driving down through piles of smoldering metal in ATVs with coolers of sautéed salmon with dill sauce. It was an incredible experience.

GG: Let’s talk a little bit about your philanthropy work through The Kitchen Community and the Learning Gardens. What inspired you to create this non-profit and how do you see it benefiting future generations?

KM: Around four years ago, I had a serious accident and in-turn took a deep look at my life and what I could do for others with my experience and background in technology. I wanted to focus more philanthropy and embracing the philosophy of community through food. Hugo Matheson and I created the 501c3 non-profit arm of The Kitchen restaurants three years ago in 2011 to help expand the school garden efforts we had been doing in Boulder since 2004 in partnership with Growe Foundation.

GG: Can you tell me a little bit more about the Learning Gardens?

KM: Learning Gardens are extremely flexible and modular which allows the school to place them on any surface and create a shape that works for the space available. Some of the schools that have no outdoor space at all make the Learning Gardens work by putting them in thLearning Garden - Sunshinee entrance of the school. The function has always been to be attractive and fun. We want kids to play with the Learning Gardens spontaneously. We now encourage schools to place the Learning Gardens directly on the playground so that the children will be able to experience them every single day.

GG: We are very excited to have you as our GoGreen Seattle 2014 closing keynote. Without revealing too much, what are a few key takeaways that you have in store for our attendees?

KM: I really believe in community as the new currency of our time. Without community we don’t have commerce. I believe every business creates a community around their supply chain and their customers. If you look at it from that perspective, what are the positive impacts  businesses can have in their community beyond simply selling their product? How can businesses become a better member of their community?

GGC: You are a serial entrepreneur – The Kitchen will certainly not be the last of your ventures. How and where will your next story begin?

KM: Right now, I’m learning about the great companies and people that are out there and figuring out ways to make those systems better. Learning Gardens are really innovation on top of incredible work that’s been done by groups around the country including the group we have in Boulder. These people have done great things.

There are great organizations in Seattle that have forward-looking communities around the environment and learning outside and helping kids eat better. So we’re looking to Seattle as our next expansion point.

Special Invitation for the GoGreen Portland Network!

Planning is in full swing for GoGreen Portland taking place on October 16, 2014. But if you want to get in on the action a little earlier we invite you to take a quick trip up to Seattle, Washington for GoGreen Seattle 2014. The conference agenda will focus on going beyond business and sustainability as usual. With our 2014 program, we are taking a focused look at the food industry — at over $6 billion in revenue in just King County alone, we will highlight the important role of food as an economic driver within the Puget Sound region. In partnership with King County, the GoGreen Team has put together an ambitious agenda for the conference that you don’t want to miss.

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Join the conversation at GoGreen Seattle on April 29-30. Our Portland friends get 30% off tickets to attend. Just use the code ‘SISTERCITY’ when you register to redeem.

GoGreen Phoenix 2013 | Captured Moments

On December 3, 2013 we completed our 3rd annual GoGreen Phoenix Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center West Building. Each year we learn something new and love the enthusiasm our attendees bring to the day. It wouldn’t be possible without all of you change-makers, doers & shakers and most importantly our Title and Presenting Sponsors; The City of Phoenix and ASU Global Institute of Sustainability. Have a gander at some moments throughout the day and stay tuned for news on GoGreen Phoenix 2014!

Photos courtesy of Vanishing Moments Photography by Emmery Rose

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GoGreen Phoenix | Sport’s Game Changing Model for Sustainable Performance

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Share Your Expertise // 2014 Call For Proposals Released!

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Planning for GoGreen Seattle is in full swing and we are very excited to release a Call For Proposals for 2014′s event. We encourage all you change-makers and doers out there to contribute your insights and expertise via a case study or session proposal for the FIFTH annual sustainability conference for business and government in Washington State!

This coming April, we’ll be tackling a new slate of topics relevant to building a sustainable future in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time, we’ll be tying the day’s program together under a theme — urban agriculture and food systems. Additional areas of interest to feature original case studies include: the shared economy; positive system disruption; self reliant/self funding sustainability advancements; and intrapraneurship.

Check out the Call and submission guidelines at the link. Proposals are due by Friday, December 6, 2013

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