Support from Sustainable Travel International

Thank you to Sustainable Travel International for providing this wonderful testimonial for EcoApprentice and Portland State University.
“On behalf of Sustainable Travel International, I applaud the hard work of the Portland State University students who worked with Byron Williams at Grand Cru Wine Tours.  Their dedication made the STEP Certification a reality for his organization.  To be sure, certification is not to be taken lightly and EcoApprentice students made the process an overwhelming success.

As an advocate of experiential education, I am excited to learn that the students had such a positive experience and one that will help shape their professional careers.  The very foundation of well-rounded education is to learn and experience outside of the classroom walls.  The students now have a practical skill set that they can incorporate throughout their careers.  And it doesn’t stop there – Grand Cru Wine Tours is also a beneficiary.  The Sustainability Policy and Training Manual created by the EcoApprentice students is a wonderful example of how the STEP Standard of Best Practice can be incorporated into almost all aspects of business operations and how to fully utilize the STEP-Sustainability Management Framework for positive results well into the future. 

We were very pleased with the work of the students, the commitment of Byron and his organization, and the professional follow-through for all those involved.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with EcoApprentice and working to Leave the World a Better Place®.”

Robert Chappell
Director of Standards Development
Sustainable Travel International

If you’d like to share an EcoChallenge for your business, become a member today for free and share your EcoChallenge. 


Three Questions

I love tough questions; in particular, those asked with skepticism. There are a few questions I’m asked over and over…

The third most asked question:Why are you for-profit when EcoApprentice looks so much like a non-profit? People wonder why, with our make-the-world-a better-place mission, we’ve chosen not to go the nonprofit route.

Answer: We believe that it’s possible to be pro-business and pro-environment at the same time. As much as we are seeking to save the planet, we are also mindful that making it cash positive as a business can be tough as hell, particularly in today’s economy. Sustainable best practices lead to a more efficient business, and being more efficient saves money and makes money. Really? Yes, and how better to prove it than by walking the talk! There are many outstanding nonprofit organizations that do a great job for the environment and local economies. This is not a profit vs nonprofit question, as one is not better than the other. We have chosen to go for it as a business because you can be pro-business and pro-environment. We aim to make it work as entrepreneurs while  promoting sustainability.  Great examples of other businesses that are already doing this are found at 1% for the Planet.

The second most asked question:
What if (insert big industrial polluting company) wants to join EcoApprentice? Would you let those (bleeping bleeps) join?

Answer: Yes. There is no green litmus test for joining EcoApprentice. Our view is if a company that has a poor history of caring about environmental policies suddenly has an epiphany and decides to join – then it’s for the good. At least it’s a step in the right direction. Any EcoSolution has to be agreed upon as “completed” by the respondents who worked on it, so we have a built in greenwashing check.

And the number one question I am asked is….

How is EcoApprentice going to make money?

Answer: We have a few different revenue models we are exploring, depending on what happens down the trail.  Our focus is to take a product to businesses and corporations that is worth paying for. While EcoApprentice 1.0 is more a prototype than a product,  we are receiving lots of great feedback and adapting accordingly. Our goal is to show the value in eco-efficiency; and that by becoming a member, EcoApprentice will save a business money and drive customers their direction.  For anyone that remembers the movie Field of Dreams – you could say EcoApprentice is building something we believe has value, even before we have earned a penny.  The worth is in the great ideas that happen when people come together to innovate.
We do know two things for sure:

1. There will never be a charge for students, schools, and nonprofit organizations to become members.

2. We need to earn a living to maintain a business that will make a difference and continue to grow.

EcoApprentice is FREE for all users, check it out. Check back often to see what we come up with! We welcome any suggestions, business propositions, strategic partnerships, or tough new questions!

EcoInterview with Michael Barthmus of Doppio

EcoApprentice interviewed Doppio Coffee + Lounge proprietor Michael Barthmus of Hood River to learn more about his business and his EcoChallenge.

1) Define steps you’re taking to make Doppio more eco-friendly?

“One of the most important things is localizing the product mix.” Michael provides local products when possible.  Cost and ecological impact for transporting products is high.  Switching from water from a Norwegian company to a local Hood River, Oregon resource was far more eco-friendly and helps support the local economy (a value important to Michael, he is very involved in GOI, or Gorge Owned Business Network, an organization whose mission is to encourage supporting local business, as well as helping businesses to be more green and sustainable. “Almost all of the to-go packaging is made from compostable materials, and we are working with a start-up composter called Dirt Hugger to complete the cycle of returning natural products back to the soil, and staying out of the landfull…the every-elusive win-win.”

Localizing product mix isn’t always an easy fix, according to Michael.  Red Bull is produced out of the country, but replacing it with a similar energy drink produced locally is challenging. It’s hard to get away from the brand because of the marketing cache of “Red Bull”. 

Michael works with local resources to compost coffee grounds and any by-product of his business that can be composted.

2) How would having solutions to your EcoChallenges impact your business?

Working towards EcoSolutions for EcoChallenges for Doppio may not always be about making or saving money, at least from a pure bottom line standpoint. Yet Michael believes businesses could impact profitability positively by speaking to the consumers that really care about patronizing businesses who make effort towards green and sustainable solutions. “Though all our efforts aren’t money-making or money-saving, I believe we get more of the customer base who care about these issues.”

3) Some businesses are concerned about sharing with the world that they have an EcoChallenge. How can EcoApprentice help them overcome this concern?

Being transparent about your green efforts let’s your customers know you’re making effort in becoming ecofriendly. “I don’t believe anyone thinks that you have to be 100% ecofriendly to care about making that a business priority.”

Read about Doppio’s EcoChallenge “Closing the loop on compostable packaging” or Become a Member and post an EcoChallenge today.  

EcoInterview PSU MBA Students

EcoApprentice interviewed Kara Sigua, lead for the MBA student team from Portland State University. Kara and her team worked on our first EcoSolution with wine tour company Grand Cru Wine Tours in Monmouth, Oregon.
1) How can EcoApprentice help students get real-world experience? 
The only way to get real-world experience is to work on real-world problems. Students will only benefit if they are challenged to solve real problems that may require some outside the box ways of thinking. EcoApprentice can provide the bridge between these problems and the innovative minds of students.
By partnering students with businesses they’re able to see the application of what they’re learning in the classroom applied to real life situations.
EcoApprentice provides a knowledge sharing platform that networks students with businesses in need.  By working with businesses to solve EcoChallenges, students get a feel for what it takes to tackle age-old problems with a new “eco” lens.
2) Why do you consider eco issues to be a priority?
We have managed to exploit every part of this world we live in and if we don’t change our way of thinking regarding the way we operate there won’t be much of a future. We need to consider long term consequences when making decisions not just in our day to day lives but more importantly in the decisions we make in our work-places that can have a much grander impact.
There are so many unsustainable things about the way we live our lives today – from fuel for our cars to the sourcing of our food.  I think if we don’t pay attention to these issues we’re going to really start to see the consequences in our lifetimes.  It is no longer a problem for the future; at the rate we’re exploiting our planet and competing for resources, if we don’t come up with alternative ways to do things, I think it will be devastating to our planet very soon.
I believe that humans make an impact on the global ecosystem and that it has been a negative impact for the last couple hundred years.  So, I believe it is important to change the way that we think about and conduct business.  In doing so, we will teach future generations to view the earth as an invaluable asset.
3) What are your individual goals? 
I am really concerned about energy usage and fuels in our world. There is a big push for renewable resources, but this is not coming fast enough and there are not enough incentives to push big industries to make a conscientious change towards renewable sources for fuels.
I am most passionate about food sourcing because I think the way we subsidize food is atrocious.  The absolute worst things for our health are also the “tastiest” and the cheapest.  The health costs associated with our eating habits continues to rise. I think there needs to be more education about where our food comes from and then people can start to think about how to make healthy, sustainable foods more affordable.
I am interested in getting consumers to choose “green” products and services.  Our current economy is based on the idea of profit and loss and doesn’t leave room for social or environmental responsibility.  However, if consumers demand and select socially and environmentally responsible products, then those are the companies that will become most profitable.  In the meantime, I am interested in convincing consumers and investors that value is not solely monetary and that businesses can be a force for change in the world.
4) What was something surprising you learned about working with Grand Cru on getting their sustainability certification? 
Sustainable Travel International has done such a great job of laying out the groundwork for a company to become eco certified. I was surprised to discover how detailed and vast the process is. Every single component of your business is evaluated and not just your actions but the actions of other entities you interact with must also be sustainable. This creates a chain of accountability which our world really needs.
I was impressed by the diversity in the sustainability requirements.  Beyond tracking carbon off-sets and recycling efforts, STI is really focusing on cultural and economic sustainability as well.  I think this is very important because it reminds people of the importance of locally sourcing and giving back to the local economy, so they can continue to support business as customers.
I was surprised to find out that Grand Cru is the first wine tour company in Oregon to get sustainably certified.  This certification will create lasting competitive advantage for Grand Cru because they are paving the way for sustainability in their industry. Read more about Grand Cru’s EcoChallenge and EcoSolution.

EcoInterview with Lisa Williams of MEDIA forte marketing

1) Tell us about why you choose to work with EcoApprentice as a Marketing Consultant.

I met EcoApprentice’s Founder, Richard Halpern, a little more than a year ago.  I received a call for a meeting in my home town of Hood River.  I’m blessed to have a number of local clients, but often times requests from leads who find me in Google’s Local search are small businesses which aren’t a good match for our service offerings, but having a passion for search marketing I can often recommend resources.

I listened to Richard’s business idea, reviewed the initial design work, and explored online marketing needs and wasn’t sure if it was a good fit. MEDIA forte marketing has a focus on Ecommerce Retail or Lead Development and though EcoApprentice had been well-planned, a general marketing plan was just the beginning of Richard’s needs.  We had a full production schedule at the time and I would normally have provided some  resources and passed on the meeting, but the combination of it being Dec 13th (I love the holidays;)  and Richard’s passionate insistence prompted our first meeting and a great desire to be involved in such a killer concept.
Two hours later I had committed to breaking down the multitude of start up marketing needs into manageable smaller pieces and create a project plan that would be a combination of discounted fees and a percentage of the business for 2 years since budget was minimal. Richard, like many start up businesses entrpreneurs, was learning on-the-job the many nuances of what it takes to be successful. He had the commitment and passion, but lacked formalized business training. I knew the ride ahead may be filled with surprises and detours.

I love online marketing because it’s so very measurable, Paid Search and Natural Search Marketing in particular are enormously measurable and justifying a marketing budget is fairly easy since we provide a high level of return on investment for our Ecommerce retail clients.

This project was anything but easily measurable.  EcoApprentice needed to create awareness among investors and its’ target markets as well as help with content, site development recommendations, businesses to test the process and implementation of the idea, creation of an advisory board to help guide us in areas of expertise that weren’t represented in our small team and many, many other projects that required goals, strategies and tactics. The Founder already had another full-time job in Education, so making it work would reuire lots of over time and boot strapping!

So why after 4 days and the promise of a great deal of work and little pay after my first meeting with Richard was I so thrilled to be involved with EcoApprentice?

First, it’s an amazing idea that connects the world’s business sustainability issues (EcoChallanges) with bright, innovative people to solve those issues (EcoSolutions). Businesses can make money, save money and be more ecofriendly (which appeals to customers), it’s truly a win for any participating business and there’s no fee for becoming a member or posting EcoChallenges.

Second, Richard is charismatic in such an honest, compassionate and passionate way that I have seen the most in-demand business people including CEO’s, investors and sustainability experts share time and expertise towards EcoApprentice because they become passionate about the business and just want to contribute to its’ purpose.

Third, having embarked on a journey to write a book about “Sustainable Online Marketing”, I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me to implement what I was learning from the best online marketers and the most successful businesses.  Great clients and great relationships make great projects. Having had both wonderful and terrible experiences during my 12 years in business has convinced me that having a relationship centered approach is the key to sustainable online marketing. Technology, expertise and process matter, but the truly great, sustainable online  businesses invest in their relationships in order to succeed. Richard’s life and work philosophies embody this concept.

Richard’s successes as he has created, developed, grown and nurtured EcoApprentice are due in part to his ability to engage people towards a lofty and worthwhile goal of helping save the planet while understanding that businesses must also be compelled by revenue generation and cost savings.

One online marketer I admire (Jeffrey Hayzlett, past marketing genius for Kodak and Celebrity CMO) gives a piece of advice all business owners should heed, “Passion is no substitute for planning.”

As a member of the EcoApprentice team, I am honored to participate on a project that embodies great passion AND great planning. We hope you’ll join us.

Want to learn more about EcoApprentice?

Lisa Williams is president of MEDIA forte marketing, a 12-year old Online Marketing Agency located in Hood River, Oregon.  She is on the board of directors of SEMpdx (Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland) as their Membership Chair. She speaks at numerous search engine marketing conferences including SMX, SMX Advanced, SearchFest, InnoTech, Online Marketing Summit and others.  Williams is EcoApprentice Marketing Consultant and on the EcoApprentice Advisory Board.