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May 02, 2007


Jason Graham-Nye

After reading the headline I thought the conclusion might go the other way. Given we have moved 10,000 miles to launch our own green business, I much prefer how this post ended up!



Clifford Waldeck

Kudos to the Wal-Marts and others doing their part to better green their products, supply chains and operations. Their efforts truly helped build the bubble. I'm rooting for the small green businesses that will evolve into the business giants of the future. They'll solidify the bubble so it will never burst.

Go small green biz go!


David Biddle

It can probably go into the tenth reason category, but the roll out of new technologies and new services is really gathering speed. If a carbon tax were to be implemented for transportation fuels and coal-fired electricity, the cost-competitiveness of state-of-the-art offerings from home PVs to Tesla Sedans for all would be more than obvious.

Even more important, however, is the fact that in the next 10 years, new energy systems are going to pop up the way PC chips did back in the late 70s. The goal is for all of us to get off the grid with independent, clean power. A fuel cell car that doubles as a household generator is a vision the way I remember folks talking about "super computers" the size of a three-ring binder. Mark my words, if the market conditions are right and we have leadership and a willingness to invest and take chances, change is going to come like we've never imagined.

Bruce Harrison

An inferred subtext is that this isn't a "green bubble" but an eco-geo platform. Original environmental drivers have coupled with energy drivers to create a base for (dare we say?) sustainable economic churn. No "bubble" to pop but of course there will be ups and downs, good stuff and stupid stuff, winners and losers...that's life. There will also be innovation, investment, technology and service development, changed attitudes, more players going in the same direction -- on and on in the new green, carbonized American economy.


I must admit, here in South Africa a number of these trends are also becoming visible. I am a little concerned that some "green" technologies are been driven harder than others. But I guess that's the free market! These are exciting times and I just trust that the media bubble that is likely to burst does not detract from the actual issue of climate change the need to do something.


You paint a great picture, Joel. I hope it can happen in time. I go back and forth between hope and pessimism. The latest scientific reports that the Artic polar cap will be ice free in summer by 2020 rather than 2050 is disheartening, as well as the disappearance of the bees and, where I live, the worst drought on record.

I believe that people need to see green beyond the 'tree hugging' altruistic phase, as saving animals and plants apparently wasn't enough for its own sake, and as saving US -- humanity -- from food and water shortages, disease and catastrophic weather events.

Unfortunately, it will probably be another scare that gets people's attention. As I said, I hope it's not too late.

Wyatt Brown

There certainly is money to be made in survival!

Do-gooders aside, smart capital flows like water or electricity, down the most efficient and logical path.

This is the financial opportunity presented by a green-centric economy.

Rich Engler

#6 is a key issue: "What is Green?" will be a relative thing until everything is zero waste/zero hazard. We've got a long way to go.

I don't think that any business will be truly sustainable (#7) for a long time--we just don't have the technology yet (materials, energy, water, etc). At the same time, we are starting to see restorative technology. It all depends on where the market potential is. I, for one, am glad that business finally recognizes (#10) that doing "greener" right is profitable.

Jason Gohlke

Great analysis of why sustainable business isn't going anywhere any time soon.

You may be aware of the California League of Conservation Voters' upcoming event celebrating California's green tech revolution... if not, click my name for details.

Peter Williams


I think people may be misunderstanding the nature of a bubble. All Joel's arguments could be true (I happen to believe they are). But there could still be a bubble when too much investment (either VC or stock purchases) floods into an industry not yet ready and able to absorb it. Too much money chasing too few ideas pushes the price, in this case company valuations, up, and gives us a bubble.
Some counterpart of all Joel's arguments applied to the internet, and look what happened there!
To go further, it may well be that a bubble is part of an inevitable shake-out as expectations and reality come into line..?

Catherine Barton

As a change agent in a 60-year-old manufacturing company, I've never seen speedier progress take longer! While we've taken almost 18 months (and still going) to convert our Vertical Interior Product line to greener more sustainable raw materials, manuf processes and streamlined installation techniques (phew!) ..... I guess we're lucky to be working with companies like GE Plastics (bio-resins replacing PVC) and RIT's Sustainable Systems Research Center to help us in our ongoing efforts. Greatest lesson learned to date: It's an ongoing effort - Becoming Green not Being Green is what we are challenged with!

Andrea Learned

I found this article, thanks to a friend - and just wanted to chime in on point #3: consumers are waking up. They are, and from my perspective women may be the key consumers driving businesses to get up to speed faster on sustainability/environmental concerns. The very good linear reasons/rationale for addressing sustainability haven't motivated businesses enough (or quickly enough), but the less linear/more emotional aspects of it may finally cause real change.


I'm with Andrea on this one, women will drive the difference, and we need better reasons that market fluff.

I differ with your asumption that "no bar" is better. Isn't "no bar" what got us into this mess? As a consumer, I take the "trust, but verify" approach. Give me third party, quantified proof that the life cycle of a product is really carbon neutral.

Hun Boon

People can only recognise climate change if it hits them in the face, which was what has been happening over the past few years.

We have been preaching the green message for years. The only difference is that people are finally starting to listen and act.

Georjean Adams

Another key factor to add into the "top" are the values of the next generation of employees. Those much needed good and great employees will only work for companies that are ecosystem smart.


In order to become restorative businesses I believe businesses need to get beyond "how do I make my current activities greener?" to "what would my business be if it were sustainable and restorative?"


Media and the US public love disasters, and if they can't find a real one, a predicted disaster will do. And if the prediction can't be scientific, then fantasy will do. I worked on Superfund sites, Exxon Valdez samples, and here comes some kind of green revolution promising the american dream of sustainable dollars. I don't buy it. Or maybe it's just that I won't live long enough to see real change, just more excited media.

Patrik M

I think you make excellent points. I would say that investor experience from the dot-com bubble is another important aspect that will hinder the renewable energy and cleantech sectors to become bubbles. I develop that on my blog.

Jim Ronay

Care is needed when getting excited about "new" trends. Typically five stages occur at 20 yr intervals of a new product or capability. Development, introduction, growth, maturity, decline. Computers seem to be in the beginning of the maturity stage. The Internet in late stage 2. I suspect "green" is in early stage 2.

Tom White

I'm impressed to see that urban economic developers are starting to see more green opportunities in job training, workforce development and local food security.

There's also a new conjunction between environmental justice and social equity movements in the urban areas, with entrepreneurs like Van Jones in Oakland and Majora Carter in the South Bronx and the Apollo Alliance starting to "green the ghetto" with some serious social enterprises.

I've posted some interviews with these social entrepreneurs on the SEReporter website and SEblog.

John Neville

Joel - nice list of reasons - except one: moving beyond sustainability. Perhaps moving beyond regulatory compliance would be more fitting. What businesses are doing without exception, I think, are moving towards becoming less unsustainable. That seems to be the real focus today - reducing unsustainability. To become more sustainable, we need to stop growing the economy, our population and our levels of consumption. I don't see any evidence of that happening anywhere. When a business adds a new line of sustainable products, that action is unsustainable in this finite world. So - while encouraging more sustainable businesses, as you do - and as we do at Sustainable Arizona - we also need to be realistic about what we are doing. We are becoming less unsustainable.


Great post and even better counter points.

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