Articles


Sustainable Gifts for Cancer Patients

As a few of you may know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December and am currently undergoing 20 weeks of chemotherapy. What you find out when you have cancer is how generous your friends are and also how well they know you. Consequently, I have received some truly inspiring sustainable gifts. Here are a few of those gifts, along with some additions from me, that I would recommend if you have an ailing friend: The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops (http://www.thehyppo.com) – When you don’t want to eat, these all natural fruit filled goodies give you a reason to live. Sample flavors are Plum Mint, Hibiscus Watermelon, Peachy Peach,Coconut Dragonfruit Lime and Walnut Cream are just a few ..

'SHROOMS MAN. The Boom in Organic Mushroom Production

Jeremy McAdams was an architect when he started growing mushrooms on logs in his Minneapolis suburban backyard. Soon, his obsession became a commercial business Cherry Tree House Mushrooms. He and his wife Aimee now raise chemical-free organic shitakes and oyster mushrooms on a 40-acre farm in Wisconsin. Organic mushrooms are having a bit of a boom now. According to the USDA, Growers produced 109 million pounds of mushrooms that were certified organic during the 2016-2017 growing season, 20 percent above 2015-2016. Sixty-seven percent of the total, or 73.5 million pounds, were sold as certified organic mushrooms. This is up 21 percentage points from the 2015-2016 crop year. Agaricus..

These Blue Sky Companies Sell Cricket Foods Worth Chirping About

Crickets and other insect proteins are rising as an environmentally-responsible alternative to meat and even vegetarian protein sources. Supporters say that cricket flour contains twice as much protein as beef, 15 percent more iron than spinach, and is high in omega-3 fatty acids. They point out that cricket flour offers micronutrients such as calcium and B vitamins as well. And they can be raised in a basement, versus tapping out land and water resources required by other protein sources. Crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less feed than sheep, and half as much feed as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein, according to a UN ..

Six “Blue Sky” Companies Founded by Mindful Mamas

Moms are committed to doing what’s best for their kids so it’s no surprise they have founded companies that are mindful of child well-being: KidsWater (http://www.drinkkidswater.com/) was founded by two Minnesota moms (one a dentist) that wanted to find a substitute for sugar-rich sodas and juice. The result was a juice box full of natural flavorings and no added sugar. Flavors include Paddle Board Punch, Biking Berries and Leaping Lemonade. ChewBeads (http://www.chewbeads.com/aboutus.asp) are non-toxic plastic necklaces that are safe for teething toddlers. Mom founder Lisa Greenwald decided to found the company when she realized that traditional jewelry was often composed of p..

Blue Sky Companies with Unusual Capital Sources

Blue Sky companies tweak existing for-profit business models to maximize their social impact. Some of them find non-traditional capital sources, taking advantage of new rules around crowd source funding, public benefit corporation options and other legal options. Hybrids of for-profit businesses and non-profits abound. Here are some examples. Rooster Soup Co. (http://www.roostersoupcompany.com/)in Philadelphia was created in 2014 when Broad Street Ministry and Federal Donuts partnered with more than 1,500 supporters to crowdfund a restaurant that would convert unused food into meals and services for people who need it most. Every week, Federal Donuts turns 500 pounds of spare chic..

Five “Blue Sky” Delis Crafting Mind-blowing Meatless-Meat

Vegan delis, meatless butchers, phony baloney, “cruel free meat”! Vegan cuisine has been raised to a whole new level. Forget all those dry bean paste patties. This is about creating a meat-alternative that has the iron-rich taste of blood and the texture of a steak, the mouth-watering appeal of juicy bacon burgers or the mouth-feel of chicken and sausages. Here are a few pioneers in the space: HERBIVOROUS BUTCHER (https://www.theherbivorousbutcher.com/) was started by a Minneapolis sister and brother. The storefront and now online offerings include more than 100 flavors of sausage. YAMCHOPS (https://yamchops.com/pages/about-yamchops) in Toronto offers ironic plant-based items like “f..

Five Businesses that help the Homeless and the Hungry

These "Blue Sky" companies have made homelessness and hunger more than just a cause-marketing focus. It's part of their for-profit business models. ARTLIFTING (https://www.artlifting.com/pages/about-us) markets the artwork of the disabled and homeless as a way for them to secure income. Every artist earns 55% from the profit of each sale. 1% from each sale go toward strengthening art services for community partners that support ArtLifting artists, which includes art programming at social service agencies, shelters, and disability centers. The company currently represents 115 artists. THE GIVING KEYS (https://www.thegivingkeys.com/pages/about-us) sells keys with motivational messages...

Five Companies that Serve the Underserved

The following "blue sky" companies focus their missions on market niches that are commonly underserved by traditional businesses: SUNRISE BANK (https://sunrisebanks.com/about-us/) of St Paul MN. has a stated mission of being the “most innovative bank empowering the underserved to achieve”. The family-owned bank has focused its marketing and growth plans on low-income residents and the increasing population of immigrants that now live in Minnesota’s urban neighborhoods.The bank has proactively hired a diverse front-counter workforce and increased its outreach via multi-language services, philanthropy, financial literacy education, and volunteerism.Product lines also have been adapted...

Business Memoirs that Inspire

Here’s my list of favorite books that share practical and inspiring ways to incorporate ideals into your business: Mission in a Bottle by HonestTea founders Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff. Graphic “novel” that shows the practicalities of building a socially- and environmentally-concious company. I love the way they are forthright about the challenges of distribution, capital management and operations that nearly killed their business. Dare I say, a refreshing approach? Let my people go surfing: the education of a reluctant businessman by Yvon Chouinard. The legendary founder of Patagonia tells the history of the company and shows how his personal vision inculcates every part of..

Plantables Hires a Unique Workforce

Plantables is a worker-focused manufacturing business in Hudson Wisc. hand-makes products that beautify our garden and enhance the environment for bees and pollinators. Products include plantable greeting cards, clay seed balls and birdseed wreaths. But just as important as their products is their work force.The founder of the company Jim Schreiber, a former special education teacher, created the company to hire many of his former students who had no employment opportunities once they graduated from high school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 15% of individuals with disabilities are employed. More than 80% are not even in the labor market. The situa..

Finnegans Fights Hunger with Beer

Finnegans, a Minnesota-based for-profit beer company, gives 100% of its profits to its own 401-3(c) charitable arm to address hunger. They articulate their mission this way: “We believe in barstool philanthropy…Turning beer into food for the hungry.” The company engages its customers in a FINNEGANS Volunteer Brigade to participate in volunteer activities that benefit food shelves, ranging from food drives to fund drives. In its first 15 years, the company and donors to their community fund have given $1.2 million to food bank partners in five states. The website asserts that “doing good and having fun are not mutually exclusive.” One of the company’s most interesting inn..

Peace Coffee Partners with Farmers

Peace Coffee in Minneapolis was founded as a for-profit company in 1996 by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a think-tank focused on creating fair food, farm and trade policies around the world. The idea came from Mexican coffee producers who were looking for new markets for their organic and a partnership with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu. As a result, Peace Coffee was an early pioneer in Fair Trade – providing a good share of the market price to producers. The company’s website (http://www.peacecoffee.com/about-us/our-story) states their mission which remains 20- years after its founding: “Since our very first container of coffee, we've been committed ..

Vegan Shoes and The Winds of Change

In 2014, I bought a pair of vegan shoes. I didn't shop for vegan. But there they were, on the shelf of my neighborhood chain shoe store. To be honest, I bought them for the polka-dots. And they weren't some hippy dippy brand in Soho. They were Keen brand shoes in Lawrenceville, Georgia - about as mainstream as it gets. Those shoes sparked a realization for me that sustainability, the term that still raised eyebrows in my corporate workplace, was mainstream. Companies and products that embed social and environmental attributes (broadly named sustainability) are now ubiquitous: Organic foods now dominate my local grocer's shelves - not just the local co-op but also chain supermarke..