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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe


6 Ways You Can Save Our Precious Earth Today


Based on research and observation, scientists and environmentalists have a good reason to believe that our precious Earth is in trouble. So, the need for an environmentally sustainable lifestyle cannot be overemphasized. The United Nations has reported that human-caused issues such as air pollution and deforestation threaten to harm the planet in irreversible ways. And, if we do not change our ways, there are both unintended and potentially permanent consequences we are going to face. With that said, far too many people believe that adopting a green lifestyle is expensive. That is not necessarily the case, though. Taking steps to help the planet doesn’t have to break the bank.

Here are 10 ways you can reduce your environmental impact without draining your wallet:

  1. Ditch bottled water: According to Ban the Bottle, the energy wasted using bottled water could power 190,000 homes. Also, EcoWatch has reported that in 2016, 480 billion plastic bottles were purchased, less than half of which got recycled; the rest then ended up in landfills. You can save both money and the planet by carrying a reusable water bottle and refilling it over and over. If you don’t like the taste of tap water, try filtering your own water with a filtered water pitcher at home.
  2. Have a compost pile in your backyard: You can do this even when you live in an apartment – start a tiny, in-home compost bin with some earthworms. With a little more space, you can invest in an outdoor bin capable of turning all your food waste into reusable matter.
  3. Abolish disposables in your home: Just because you can buy nearly anything in disposable form doesn’t mean you should. All the plastic silverware, plates, towels, and cups add huge amounts of waste to our landfills over time. So, invest in plates, cups, and cookware that you can use for a decade of more instead of buying stuff you simply throw away. And better yet, you don’t have to buy new ones – look for used cookware and dinnerware at garage sales or online resale sites.
  4. Grow your own vegetables: While eating vegetables is great for your health and the environment, much of the produce we consume is trucked or shipped in from distance environments; this creates pollution and waste in the process. You can reduce your food footprint by growing some of your own food and consuming it yourself.
  5. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that of the 1 trillion plastic bags used each year, only 5 percent are recycled. By investing in reusable grocery bags and bringing your own, you can avoid adding up to this problem.
  6. Eat leftovers. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, around one third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted every year. You can reduce waste by making sure to eat leftovers instead of throwing them away. Certain foods freeze well, while others can be saved and reheated for days.

These are just some of the ways you can help save our precious Earth. If you want to learn more how to get started today, read CouponChief’s cheap green living guide for saving the planet:

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In The Battle Of ‘Man Against Nature’ We Won And Lost

We who live out west are accustomed to driving long distances across open expanses, leading us to conclude that the world is vast, and we are small. Highway signs still mark the distance to the next town with food, gas and lodging, reinforcing a worldview that suggests a struggle of “man against nature,” one that nature is sure to win.

Across rolling Idaho farmland, the Grand Tetons loom in the distance. Credit: Devin Thorpe

Across rolling Idaho farmland, the Grand Tetons rise in the distance. Credit: Devin Thorpe

E.O. Wilson, the environmentalist, launched a movement and wrote a book by the title, Half Earth. I read the book long ago enough that I no longer remember its words, though I remember its point. We must preserve half the earth in its natural form so it remains available to the creatures who depend on it and to our posterity who, absent our commitment, will not experience its marvel, magic and majesty.

I found this endangered grizzly foraging for food in Yellowstone after the first snow fall. Credit: Devin Thorpe.

I found this endangered grizzly foraging for food in Yellowstone after the first snowfall. Credit: Devin Thorpe.

Returning from Yellowstone National Park for a short weekend as a tourist of the lowest variety, I reflect on the constant, natural reminders of Wilson’s work and movement.

The Park is not merely a place of beauty and serenity for people to see. It is a natural habitat for endangered species including grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines and bald eagles. It is also a living laboratory, a unique place where science can be conducted to better understand the planet’s geology.

Yellowstone's inherent beauty is not limited to what we see but includes what we learn. Credit: Devin Thorpe

Yellowstone’s inherent beauty is not limited to what we see but includes what we learn. Credit: Devin Thorpe

Yellowstone seems so much bigger than it is. While it requires days to see thoughtfully and would continue to surprise residents of many years, it is smaller than Connecticut and larger only than each of the U.S. states Delaware and Rhode Island, but not their total area. At 3,471 square miles, it is smaller than a square 60 miles on each side.

The total area of all National Parks in the U.S. is 81,563 square miles, just over 2 percent of the 3,796,742 square miles in the country. These are not our only protected areas, of course. The total protected area in the U.S. covers 499,800 square miles or about 14 percent of the land area of the U.S., still far short of Wilson’s goal.

The apparent scale of Yellowstone is an illusion. Credit: Devin Thorpe

The apparent scale of Yellowstone is an illusion. Credit: Devin Thorpe

So, I leave Yellowstone committed to E.O. Wilson’s movement to protect half the earth as natural space, knowing that time is short and already we must undo damage done, in some cases restoring land to its natural habitat rather than just protecting it.

One key to our success will be helping those of us who live in “flyover states,” so dubbed precisely because they are large and relatively sparsely populated, to recognize that in the battle traditionally framed as “man against nature,” humans won—and in the winning lost.

There are fewer than 1 million elk on the planet, meaning there are 7,400 times more people. Credit: Devin Thorpe

There are fewer than 1 million elk on the planet, meaning there are 7,400 times more people. Credit: Devin Thorpe

Ironically, driving across our large open spaces—mostly corporate farms and ranches–we’ve learned the wrong lessons, concluding the world is vast and we are small. In fact, we populate the world in vast numbers and the earth is small and effectively shrinking. We must act now to protect and preserve it.

Conserva Irrigation Brings Technology To Your Yard To Reduce Wasted Water

Fresh, clean water is one of the scarcest resources on the planet and much what we use to water our yards is wasted. Conserva Irrigation is employing technology to shut your system down when the soil contains enough moisture–and much more.

Founder and vice president, Russ Jundt, explains how the technology can reduce water usage by 40 to 60 percent. The systems work well for commercial and residential real estate in the U.S. and around the world.

The company, part of the Outdoor Living Brands, family of franchise companies is working to find new franchisees who want to be a part of saving this scarce resource.

Interview with Russ Jundt, the founder, vice president and brand leader of Conserva Irrigation.

The following is the pre-interview with Russ Jundt. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

Russ Jundt found a simple solution to one of the world’s most overlooked environmental issues — the tremendous amount of water wasted by traditional sprinkler systems. Due to an outdated industry with a lack of technology, 1.5 billion gallons of water are wasted daily (just in the U.S.), making it the world’s most limited yet wasted resource. With the use of Conserva’s proprietary irrigation assessment process and water-efficient technology, the average homeowner conserves 33,000 gallons of water per MONTH, while saving up to 60% on their monthly water bill. And on the commercial side, the company has helped hundreds of Target stores conserve 36 million gallons of water over the past year. Conserva is now in 44+ markets across the U.S., with plans on expanding to countries and markets with water crises and shortages.

More about Conserva Irrigation :


Conserva Irrigation is the very first national irrigation company that’s committed to conserving water — specifically, the 1.5 billion gallons of water that’s wasted daily through inefficient sprinkler systems. With less than 1% of the earth’s surface covered in usable fresh water and climate change limiting our access to clean drinking water, Conserva was created as a way to combat the tremendous amount of water wasted by traditional sprinkler systems, and conserve one of the earth’s most limited yet wasted resources, while drastically reducing water bills.

With Conserva’s proprietary irrigation assessment process and water-efficient technology, the average homeowner conserves 33,000 gallons of water per month, while saving 40-60% on their monthly water bill. And the company overall has conserved 100 million+ gallons of fresh water since its inception. With a presence in 44+ markets across the U.S., Conserva plans to expand its global footprint and bring its impact to countries and markets suffering from water shortages and crises.

For-profit/Nonprofit: For-profit

Revenue model: Conserva Irrigation is the first ever national landscape irrigation model.  It was founded solely on the principles of water conservation with the main goal of reducing the ridiculous amount of fresh water waste from sprinkler systems.  Revenue at the franchisor level is derived from standard franchising royalty fees while providing marketing, accounting, operational and business coaching services.

At the franchisee level revenue is generated by providing services to our residential and commercial customers for maintenance, repair and system upgrades.  The premise of Conserva Irrigation is to provide services that promote green lush, healthy turf and landscapes, while using substantially less fresh water. After Conserva upgrades an existing irrigation system it uses 40% – 60% less water than it did previously.  What a great business model – we get paid to help promote healthy plant material which cools the earth, replenishes oxygen, and reduces run-off, all the while saving hundreds of millions of gallons of water each year.

Scale: Conserva was founded in December of 2010 and opened its first beta site in the fall of 2011.  In 2013 it expanded its testing ground to other regions of the U.S. by opening additional pilot locations to explore regional idiosyncrasies in field practices and marketing.  In June of 2017 Conserva officially started franchising its model across the U.S. and in its first eleven months has opened up in 44 territories and continues to gain momentum. System sales in 2017 exceeded $4 million and are slated to double in 2018.

Russ Jundt
Photo Credit: Conserva Irrigation

Russ Jundt’s bio:


Russ Jundt came up with the idea of Conserva after spending 10 years in the irrigation industry and witnessing the tremendous amount of water wasted by traditional sprinkler systems. After developing a proprietary irrigation assessment process and coupling it with water-efficient technology, he founded Conserva Irrigation in 2011. As a former franchisee of Mosquito Squad, Outdoor Living Brands’ mosquito elimination company, Russ was fascinated with the franchise business model and wanted to apply it to his irrigation company. Conserva is now the fifth outdoor home service franchise under the Outdoor Living Brands umbrella of concepts and the very first national irrigation company committed to water conservation. It’s Russ’ goal, through the creation and development of Conserva Irrigation, to educate and create behavioral change in the use of fresh water in landscape irrigation systems across the world.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at!

Amidst ICO Flurry, This Social Entrepreneur Seeks $50M for Clean Energy In Developing World

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Everyone seems to want in on it. Even my septuagenarian neighbor who recently retired from her position as a clerk has taken up trading cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin jumped in value more than 50% in October alone. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being raised in new coin offerings every month. This surprising source of capital may be a natural match for social entrepreneurs.

Dan Bates, 60, the founder, president and CEO of ImpactPPA is now conducting presales in anticipation of a $50 million initial coin offering or ICO in the coming weeks. Bates has been doing clean energy projects in the developing world for a decade but ImpactPPA is a new business.

It will use not one but two cryptocurrencies. The first, a utility token, it calls NRG will be used to sell the electricity it produces on micro-grids and small utility-scale solar and wind projects. The second token, MPAQ, the one that will be offered in the ICO, will give the holders a voice in selecting the next projects. In part to avoid securities issues, MPAQ holders will not receive ownership or dividends.

Bates’s plan is to use the financing to fund projects that might otherwise have been financed by governments and big NGOs, including the World Bank. Those financing mechanisms are relatively slow.

Of the small villages and communities he works with, he says, “They don’t need to hire a lobbyist in Washington to try and get them a loan guarantee. They need power.”

Once the initial capital is deployed, Bates hopes that the sale of energy will provide adequate cash flow to fund more projects, allowing the company to snowball without the need to repay the initial $50 million.

That, of course, begs the question of why investors would put their money into the project if they won’t get ownership or dividends. The MPAQ token won’t be used in the sale of energy; that function will be accomplished with the NRG token. The “White Paper” just published by ImpactPPA is intended to answer the question.

A white paper plays the role of a prospectus in the wild west of initial coin offerings. As the name implies, a white paper has not been reviewed or approved by any regulatory body. Such a review would seem to violate the libertarian ethos of the crypto community.

Most of the white paper is devoted to the business plan.

Bates says the company has already lined up projects in Africa, Haiti and Latin America. In the developing world, reliable access to power can be life-changing.

Dan Bates, ImpactPPA

Bates shared an example from his work in Africa:

“My favorite project that we have is a guy who has the smallest unit that we make, a 750-watt device that runs a fan. That’s all it runs. But he lives in Nigeria and he had a chicken farm and his chickens were outdoors and they were being eaten by the wild animals. He moved them indoors but it’s so hot that they died of heat. So, now he takes one of these units and the fans blow air through it to keep the chickens cool. And, sure enough, he has a business now.”

Other projects he reports completing include a 150-kilowatt project in Haiti that serves a hospital and a school. “The project is completely expandable, so we will get to all 15,000 residents over time.” In Sudan, he’s looking at four 10 megawatt projects. Another 50-megawatt project may be on the table in Rwanda, he adds. “ImpactPPA has identified greater than 200 megawatts of projects and revenue opportunities in the near term.”

He adds that projects can be completed just 60 to 90 days after funding so the impact could be quick. It could also be significant. “Power begets education. Education, of course, begets a better way of life, better quality of life,” he says.

Today, about 1 billion people lack access to electricity. Billions more lack reliable access.

During the interview with Bates, which you can watch in the player at the top of the article, he shared his history with renewable energy:

When I started this project 10 years ago, it was designed to be U.S.-based; U.S. urban residential wind and solar is needed in the United States. But we pay 10 cents a kilowatt hour kilowatt hour average. And the lights always go on when you flip the switch

I met some guys in India. I traveled to India to see what the market would bear there and literally, Devin, in every meeting that I had on my first trip, the power would go off and the generator would kick back on a minute or two later and I thought to myself, I have a clean energy product. It’s scalable. It fits anywhere in the world. Why am I looking at the United States as my sole market? The globe is my market.

We started exploring opportunities in India. I was able to build a factory there to manufacture our products in Hyderabad. We’ve electrified over 150 or so off grid rural schools already. We’re selling the product to all sorts of people in the major cities as well as the rural areas.

Bates argues compellingly that “distributed energy will be the biggest driver for social change in the near future.”

Of course, to have the intended impact, customers need to be able to buy the power efficiently and affordably. Could the introduction of blockchain technology via the NRG token into the transaction prove to be a barrier?

Bates says the technology works now and is completely invisible to consumers. He argues that because people in the developing world are more accustomed to storing value on their phones and exchanging it for goods and services that they will painlessly adopt the new service. “They don’t need to know that it’s a blockchain device that’s running it.”

Vince Molinari, CEO of LiquidM Capital, LLC, (also a past client) who has spent decades on Wall Street and is now focused on cryptocurrencies, looked at the ImpactPPA website and provided some feedback.

First, he suggests some preliminary due diligence questions:

  • Is there expectation to speculate on the ICO itself as an alternative currency or an expectation of a rate of return from the underlying business or project?
  • The key to much of this is, is the token regulated and or approved in the jurisdiction of where it is being purchased and issued?
  • Is there alignment of the token holder and the issuer?
  • Are there investor protections for the token holders and fiduciary responsibility in place from the Issuer?

While it is beyond the scope of this article to answer those questions, they highlight some of the issues that those considering investments in ICOs should consider before investing.

Molinari, long an advocate for impact investing, says, “There is a massive opportunity for ICOs to be used to facilitate and aggregate capital to companies and projects globally which are doing levels of environmental, societal or cause-related good.” He points out that the crowdfunding approach that ICOs have been using may allow for issuers to connect effectively with affinity groups and diaspora communities that have a favorable predisposition to the offering.

Molinari is also a fan of the blockchain technology that underlies the ICO. “The ability to use smart contracts in the form of ICO is massively powerful and laudable. The ability to utilize the transparency of and immutable nature of blockchain to move capital to need, while reducing the ability for corruption and having the enabling outcome of disrupting and innovating energy generation and its associating financing is the epitome of democratization of access to capital and energy in one.”

Bates agrees. “I think the blockchain allows for this is be truly a disruptive technology if we do this right.”

Could ICOs provide a ready source of capital for more social enterprises? I can’t wait to find out.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at!

For This Family, The Bigger The Problem, The Bigger The Opportunity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that “roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted.”

Recognizing the journalistic injunction to avoid hyperbole, that truly is an enormous problem.

Justin Kamine, his brother Matthew and his father Hal determined that was just what they were looking for: an enormous opportunity. The Kamines have been developing infrastructure scale-projects since the senior Hal got into the cogeneration business in the mid-80s.

Justin Kamine joined me for a discussion about the company the family founded, KDC Ag, to tackle the problem.

The food waste problem also gives them an opportunity to address social and environmental problems they feel a desire to fix.

Food waste contributes to climate change as all the food that ends up in landfills required substantial energy to get there. Furthermore, the soil we use to grow crops is being consistently depleted; chemical fertilizers fail to restore all of the nutrients lost.

Justin Kamine, KDC Ag

Those chemical fertilizers, Kamine says, are overused. The first 50% of the nitrogen added does 80% of the good; the second 50% largely is lost to runoff, resulting in huge dead zones, especially in areas where runoff is concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Matthew Weatherley-White, Managing Director at CAPROCK, asked for comment, said, “Petroleum-based fertilizers mean, as Michael Pollan is fond of saying, that we are all eating oil.”

KDC Ag’s board of directors is comprised of luminaries, including former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman and philanthropist Howard Buffett.

Kamine cites Buffett as suggesting that conventional farmers need to be “much more environmentally sensitive and progressive.”

Six years ago, the Kamines invested in California Safe Soil, which has been working with the University of California at Davis to develop a process for converting waste food into fertilizer and animal feed. With that technology now commercialized, the Kamines formed KDC Ag to bring the technology to infrastructure scale with a goal of eliminating food waste over the next five years.

The new process mimics human digestion; they sometimes refer to it as compost 2.0. Waste food can be converted to fertilizer or animal food in three hours and is available for use the next day.

The KDC Ag process starts with virtually any supermarket waste food, including fruits and vegetables, meats and baked goods. The food pellets that result taste “like raisin bran,” according to Kamine. The pellets are fed to chicken and pigs. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits feeding the products to cows.

The liquid fertilizer can be added to a farmer’s drip irrigation system providing for precision agriculture that returns a broad range of nutrition to the soil. Food contains relatively little nitrogen so conventional farmers have KDC Ag add nitrogen to the liquid fertilizer. Organic farmers use it as it comes out of the system.

Craig Wichner, Managing Partner of Farmland LP, which invests in conventional farms and converts them to organic production, notes, “Using supermarket food waste to create fertilizer is completely philosophically aligned with organic production. They are taking a known good product (food at supermarkets), and closing the loop on the waste, converting it quickly and efficiently back into food for plants.”

The production process is sufficiently benign to be conducted in urban areas near the supermarkets supplying the food, allowing for an efficient backhaul distribution model employing trucks that deliver food to the stores to return to the farms carrying feed and/or fertilizer.

Because post-consumer food typically contains too much salt for a healthy soil amendment, those food wastes are not good candidates for the KDC Ag process.

Kamine was recently invited to participate in a clean tech competition hosted by the Prince of Monaco. Against 30 invited competitors, KDC Ag won the Clean Tech Equity Award.

What initially appealed to the Kamines, who report having $3.5 billion of infrastructure in their other businesses, is the scale of the opportunity. They hope to be operating in all 50 states within five years.

They earn approximately the same margin on both the feed and the fertilizer, allowing them to adjust according to demand without an impact on the bottom line. The margins are good enough, according to Kamine, to allow the company to invest quickly to scale up the business.

The KDC Ag process will reduce chemical fertilizer use, reduce carbon emissions, increase crop yields 10 to 40% and reduce water consumption all while reducing food waste at a potentially massive scale.

Weatherley-White’s reaction:

As an impact investor, I’m intrigued. Clear benefits to healthy soils. Equally clear benefits to landfill management and organic waste therein (including landfill-released GHG reduction). Using organic, composted fertilizer on crops is a fantastic benign-by-design chemical replacement. And the potential for scale is certainly compelling: the combination of food waste reduction and ag chemical substitution could be a massive opportunity.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at!

New Player In Living Walls Brings Outside Inside

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Sagegreenlife is bringing living walls to a growing market with new technologies that allow people to bring the outside inside.

The company builds its living, green plant walls on a patented hydroponic system without any soil. The “Biotile” stone was developed by UK-based Biotecture, Ltd.

Sagegreenlife’s founder, Richard Kincaid, 55, explains that LED plant lights provide an enabling technology by allowing plants to grow without direct sunlight.

Kincaid estimates the 2015 market for living walls at about $100 million. He hopes to see Sagegreenlife achieve revenue of $3 to $5 million for 2017. The business generates gross margins of about 60% but is not yet profitable.

The Luxottica living wall by Sagegreenlife

Watch my full interview with Kincaid in the video player at the top of the article.

Coming from a long career with Sam Zell at Equity Office Properties where he ultimately served as CEO and led the $39 billion (including debt) sale of the business, he began learning about the business of sustainable real estate, focusing on creating LEED-certified projects.

Kincaid is optimistic about the growth of a global market for green walls driven by the real benefits of the walls. “We help create more productive, healthier environments by making it easy to place living walls everywhere.”

In addition to LEED credits, he notes that companies get wellness credits for living walls. He explains that the walls absorb sound while purifying the air and increasing natural humidity.

Sheryl Schulze, senior project director at Gensler, a global design firm that sells Sagegreenlife walls, notes, “For years, the design industry has tried to solve for the successful engagement of diverse plant life in interiors. For people who experience living walls – and, the design teams creating environments to support the expectations – Sagegreenlife has made the entire process easier to implement.”

The Verdanta living wall by Sagegreenlife

The walls can be designed to display advertising as well. Schulze explains, “Brand messaging is key to successful organizations. Gensler understands that organizations attract and retain talent by the strength of their brand. When clients engage us, our mission is to build that message in the spaces we deliver. Sensory experience plays a large role in building that culture within organizations. The integration of live plants aid in that sensory storytelling.”

The collaboration between Sagegreenlife and Gensler has led to a new, smaller, portable wall that completely changes what a cubicle is. “Verdanta, the Next-Gen green wall, allows for the ability to easily reconfigure space to support various work modes while offering visual and acoustic privacy.”

Aaron Moulton, vice president of creative design for Treehouse, a sustainable home improvement company, found Sagegreenlife while conducting a search for sustainable products.

Moulton says his goal is to make spaces naturally more beautiful and healthier. “Humans need the psychological and physical health benefits of being near plant life and Sagegreenlife creates products that bring this ‘greenergy’ into homes and into commercial spaces to make them more productive and more importantly, happier!”

Moulton has what he calls a “technology positive” view of the world. He believes we can make a more sustainable world by using technologies, especially solar and batteries rather than by depriving ourselves of showers or electricity.

“We were in the design process for designing our flagship energy positive (produces more energy than it consumes) store and wanted a striking green wall that would both draw the eye, surround the doorway to our outdoor sales area and also be in line with our mission through the air scrubbing qualities of having plants in the space,” Moulton says.

By employing the Biotile technology, Moulton and Schulze agree that Kincaid and Sagegreenlife will capitalize on a global trend toward sustainability by helping people and companies bring the outside inside.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at!

Breaking the Bad From My Pilgrimage to the Home of Walter White


This article was originally written for

Last weekend, Gail and I visited Albuquerque, New Mexico on a quest to visit shooting locations for the show Breaking Bad. We drove from our home in Salt Lake City and then all around the city. We also visited Farmington and Santa Fe. We had a great time despite putting 1,800 miles on our rented Ford Focus in four days. I was feeling rather guilty about the environmental impact of such a trip so I found a way to offset my carbon impact.

Gail and I sold our car almost three years ago. I wrote about our decision for Forbes. It is one of the most popular articles I’ve written and by far the most well remembered. People still frequently comment on our decision to sell our BMW SUV. One of our motivations for selling it was to be more environmentally friendly. So this long road trip with virtually no socially redeeming value left me feeling a bit guilty.

The home of fictional Breaking Bad character Walter White

The home of fictional Breaking Bad character Walter White

Recently, I wrote a Forbes piece about Cool Effect, a crowdfunding site that sells carbon credits. I figured it was about time I put what I learned into practice.

First, I had to determine how much carbon my trip produced. There are lots of calculators out there so I picked the first one that tickled my fancy with a quick Google search. With less than one minute of data entry, the calculator estimated that my trip produced 0.46 metric tonnes of carbon. Frankly, I was relieved that it was so little. There were times I thought I could feel sea-level rising as I passed slow-moving trucks going uphill.

Next, I visited where I was presented with about a dozen projects that all provide carbon offsets. Today, the prices offered for carbon offsets ranged from $6.04 per tonne to $13.18. Each project does something different to reduce carbon.

The cheapest carbon offset project is called “What’s Cooking?” It provides fuel efficient cookstoves in Uganda, reducing the carbon emissions from cooking there.  The ancillary benefits of this program include saving money for low-income households as they buy and burn less fuel, mostly charcoal. It also reduces deforestation there–charcoal is produced by partially burning wood. Perhaps most importantly, the project improves the health of women and children who spend time around cooking fires.

The most expensive project is called “Putting Methane in Its Place.” The project is located on the Southern Ute Indian reservation in La Plata County, Colorado. There, natural coal seams exposed to the atmosphere by erosion are leaking methane. The Tribe developed a way to capture and use the methane, preventing it from leaking into the atmosphere and allowing Tribe members to use the methane rather than purchasing propane or natural gas that had been drilled. The project also creates jobs for Tribe members.

For my carbon offset–I went all kinds of crazy and bought one entire tonne of carbon offset despite having generated only 0.46 tonnes–I chose “Wind Power to the People.” This project in Costa Rica provides wind power to 50,000 people in 10,000 households in rural Costa Rica. It also provides income to co-op owners in impoverished areas.

All of the projects have been triple checked and verified to assure investors that the carbon offsets they buy are real.  A typical American will generate between 16 and 20 tonnes of carbon per year. A household of four might produce 80 tonnes. Offsetting 100 percent of that carbon production would cost as little as $483.20 or just about $40 per month. While not universally true, there is a positive correlation with income and carbon production. Bigger homes produce more carbon. More cars driven more miles produce more carbon. Taking public transit dramatically reduces your carbon footprint. So does eating less meat! The bottom line is that for most households, offsetting their carbon production is now as cheap as it is easy. Try breaking your bad at CoolEffect.

Wringing Costs From Solar Is Goal For This Berkeley PhD

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Jason Trager is more than a throwback to the sixties or a cliche. He may have earned a PhD at Berkeley with a focus on improving the energy efficiency in buildings by applying statistical process controls, but he’s also a hard core entrepreneur who relishes profit–so long as it doesn’t adversely impact others.

He calls himself and his firm “Sustainabilist.” He says that unlike a capitalist who hordes profits and socializes externalities like pollution and carbon, a Sustainabilist hordes profits without socializing externalities. He says, “Our quest is carbon reduction. Every dollar that we make can be linked to some amount of carbon that does not make it into the atmosphere.”

Sustainabilist, the firm, is working on a number of projects, but one key area of focus is on applying statistical process controls to the process of solar installation. By doing so, he hopes to not only improve the quality of solar installations but also to reduce costs, thereby accelerating adoption.

Jason explains, “The same statistics and operational frameworks that are used to mass-produce cars, pens, beer, and soda cans can be used to detect and minimize problems with solar installations and building operations.”

He notes that the soft costs of solar installations are especially challenging. “Through our methodology, we have been able to use data to pick out issues with contractor installation techniques. If we can improve the process of the installation of solar, we can potentially eliminate an estimated $181 million in expense that it costs contractors to go back to sites in order to fix problems,” he concludes.

Sustainabilist is also working on a platform called RosettaBlock that employs open-source standards to close the feedback loop between contractors, building owners and operators and the solar manufacturers. He hopes this feedback loop can help further reduce the cost of solar.

With his focus on the environment and sustainability, Jason lives up to the Berkeley reputation. His entrepreneurial drive may allow him to accelerate solar adoption to the benefit of everyone on the planet.

Jason Trager, courtesy of Sustainabilist

Jason Trager, courtesy of Sustainabilist

More about Sustainabilist:

Twitter: @sustainabilist

We provide contracting and consulting services to sustainable businesses and companies that wish to be more sustainable. Our specialities are: quality for solar and energy efficiency control through data science, marketing and communications for sustainable enterprises, and corporate social responsibility for the enterprise. We are also producing SaaS products for social good, such as RosettaBlock and the PlusFarm urban farming controller that we are producing in collaboration with Blue Planet Consulting and CommonGarden.

Jason’s bio:

Dr. Trager is an engineer and sustainability professional with experience in utilizing data to drive profitable results while simultaneously reducing the carbon footprint of businesses. Through his company, Sustainabilist, he demonstrates his passion for building technically sound businesses that reduce the rate of anthropogenic climate change. He earned a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, where he studied the application of statistical process control (SPC) and other mass production methodologies for energy efficiency in buildings. His program also included a designated emphasis in energy science and technology in addition to a certificate in Engineering and Business for Sustainability. He has since focused on applying SPC frameworks to improve the quality of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects with groups such as the Institute for Building Safety and Technology (IBTS), and kW Engineering.

Jason is the founder of Sustainabilist, a personalized political philosophy which guides the company. He believes that being a Sustainabilist is like being a capitalist, but that you are not obligated to maximise profit at expense of all else. Instead, the obligation is to internalize and minimize the negative externalities created by your business. It is acceptable to maximise profit as a Sustainabilist, but the previously given constraint must be satisfied at all times.

Jason’s areas of experience include business development, energy data science, product life cycle assessment, scientific coding, fundraising, team management, and bicycle repair. He is a serial entrepreneur who has been a key founder in three companies. Jason values teamwork and diversity on projects. He is committed to living by sustainable values and is always willing to have a discussion about how to improve the world.

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Expert: Now is the Time to Get Solar on Your Business

Clean Energy Advisors is a sponsor of the Your Mark on the World Center.

Erik Melang, 52, the CEO and co-founder of Distributive Solar, says now is the time for business owners to put solar panels on their facilities. He should know; in under one year since he launched the business, his team has 75 megawatts of solar projects in the pipeline.
Erik recently made the case for investing in solar now in a post on Linkedin and joined me for a quick conversation (watch it at the top of this article) to talk about the reasons.
He offers four primary reasons for considering solar now:

  1. The investment tax credit on solar installations will begin to expire in 2020. Given the time required to evaluate, design and install solar, there isn’t much cushion in the calendar to take advantage of the tax benefits.
  2. Even before the solar investment tax credit begins to expire, the accelerated depreciation provisions of the tax code will begin to be phased out. In 2018, the first year depreciation on new equipment will drop from 50 percent to 40 percent.
  3. Interest rates continue to be low, allowing a business with good credit to finance most if not all of the cost using ten-year financing that will allow the business to save more in electricity than it pays in total financing costs each year, thus providing instant positive cash flow and leaving the business with a free source of electricity after only ten years.
  4. The pre-tax cost of solar is lower today than many in the industry thought possible by 2017. Commercial-scale projects can be completed under $1.70 per watt installed before any tax considerations.

There are lots of solar calculators that can help you get a more exact number, but according to one, the average number of KWH produced by each watt of installed solar is 1.44 per year. If you pay, say, $0.20 per KWH to your utility, you avoid $0.288 per installed watt per year. In this hypothetical example, you would achieve savings of 16.9 percent.

Of course, every situation is different. The further south your business sits, the more sun you tend to get. Utility rates vary, having a lot to do with your community’s proximity to coal.

Erik says utility rates are likely to rise more or less with inflation as the cost of coal, oil and gas production will tend to rise with inflation. This suggests that your future savings could be even greater than your current savings.

Because the sun is likely to shine consistently year after year and the panels are guaranteed for 25 years, according to Erik, the risks are low. With double-digit returns possible–even before tax considerations–and when those returns are highly probable, it makes sense to give serious consideration to these opportunities.

Given that many utilities are making net metering difficult if not impossible, Erik recommends installing only enough solar panels to provide for your peak daytime load (or less) so that you never have to sell power back to the utility. This approach is called staying “behind the meter.” Like conservation tactics like LED light bulbs, you reduce your power bill and keep all of the savings. No need, he says, to get mired in the bureaucracy of selling power back to the utility.

Scott Hill, President of Clean Energy Advisors, a Your Mark on the World Center sponsors and investor in Distributive Solar, says, “The cost of solar is coming down to the point where it makes sense for businesses to consider taking some control over their energy needs. Plus, more and more customers are demanding the businesses they purchase products and services from are being responsible about their carbon footprint.”

One day soon, he notes, power storage technology will allow businesses to produce all of their own power reliably and affordably, but that day hasn’t arrived, yet.
Today, he says, is the day to put solar power to work for your business to reduce but not fully eliminate your power bill.

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

More about Distributive Solar:

Twitter: @distrsolar

Commercial Solar Origination. Recruiting, training and supporting commercial solar consultants to present the economic, branding and environmental benefits of going solar to commercial business owners.

Erik’s bio:

Twitter: @espmel

Erik Melang is a Co-Founder of Distributive Solar and oversees the firms Recruiting, training and support of Independent Sales Representatives. Erik previously served as Managing Director of Impact Partners, where he led impact strategies initiatives and renewable energy private equity investments. It is in this role that Erik was drawn to the amazing business opportunity around Commercial Solar Origination. The industry is in the early stages of mass adoption and Commercial Business Owners are realizing the tremendous economic benefits of deploying solar panels on their rooftops. Erik is an Appalachian State MBA with strong desire to learn and teach and is an avid follower of everything solar and all things “Impact.” Erik’s interest include Clean Energy, Fishing, Snow Skiing, Travel , Guitar Pickin’ and is a child adoption advocate.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at!

CEA Targets $800M of Solar Investment With New Partners

Clean Energy Advisors is a sponsor of the Your Mark on the World Center.

Clean Energy Advisors announced a major new financing that will take the firm from having invested about $140 million in solar energy projects to about $800 million. CEA President Scott Hill also notes that building on this success, the firm will establish a foundation to fund more charitable initiatives. (Watch or listen to my discussion with Scott using the players above.)Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

He notes that the cost of installation for small utility scale projects is about $1.50 or $1.60 per watt, yielding a cost of about $1.5 million per megawatt. The new financing should allow CEA to install another 400 MW in North Carolina. He also notes that the scale they are achieving should allow the firm to look beyond their traditional structure where Duke Energy is the primary “off-taker” or buyer of the energy from the projects financed.

The new scale also creates an opportunity for CEO to increase its philanthropic efforts. Scott says the firm has started the process of creating a foundation that will fund charitable work. Last year, the firm backed nonprofits Reverb and Headcount to build support for environmental causes at 25 concerts across the country. Scott says they’ll be doing that again. “People who attend concerts have a natural affinity for nonprofits.”

Scott also hopes that the firm can use the foundation to fund solar projects in the developing world like putting solar panels on schools that don’t have access to the grid. He says the firm will donate its time to manage projects that the foundation funds and hopes donors will help them make a big impact.

The acceleration of the solar industry is creating a bright future for the world, both in the developing world and here in the developed world.

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @cleanenergyadv

Clean Energy Advisors (CEA) creates ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax-advantaged predictable income, preserve capital, and have positive social and environmental impact.

Scott’s bio:

Twitter: @williamandhill

Scott Hill has over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience including a significant perspective on business start-ups and building successful small businesses. Mr. Hill has been with CEA since April 2014.

His duties include overseeing the firms family office, endowment, foundation, and UHNW client strategies. He has served as a panelist at US based family office conferences and enjoys speaking on impact investing, renewable energy opportunities, and the future of Solar PV worldwide.

Scott is a 1991 graduate of Columbia University and four year member of the football program. He lives near Nashville, TN with his wife and children. He’s also actively involved in his community and church.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at!

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