Elevating Impact Summit 2014 & Finding your Social Innovation Path

On 5/9/14, I conducted an interview with Abby Chroman. She works with Impact Entrepreneurs helping to communicate great ideas, launch PSU’s online certificate in The Business of Social Innovation, and design the 2014 Elevating Impact Summit happening in Portland on 6/20/14.  Before joining PSU Abby worked for five years with Ashoka, where she helped select and connect leading social entrepreneurs in the US, and created an online space for social entrepreneurs to collaborate around the world.

Picture from EIS 2013

Tell us about EIS 2014

Around the world pragmatic, creative innovators are designing unprecedented solutions to pressing social and environmental issues and creating value for their companies, communities, and society at large. The Elevating Impact Summit is put on by Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs and celebrates these new approaches to generating social and environmental impact across business, social, public, and academic sectors.

This year’s Elevating Impact program includes keynote addresses from globally renowned social entrepreneurs Kat Taylor, Founder of One PacificCoast Bank, Marc Freedman, Founder of Encore.org, and Victoria Hale, Founder of Medicines 360, along with lively panel discussions on impact funding, encore careers, and communities in transition. The event also hosts pitches from the region’s rising social innovators, the annual Impact Awards, and authentic first-person stories of resilience. The one-day gathering in beautiful Portland, OR attracts around 400 participants each year.

What is a social innovation?

Social innovations are creative new ideas and approaches to solving social and environmental challenges around the world – from maternal health to disaster preparedness and from financial systems reform to international conflict resolution. Social innovation takes place in and across traditional sectors and both within existing institutions and by entrepreneurial change leaders forging brand new systems and organizations.

Why are you interested in social innovation?

This is kind of new as a “field”. It’s not business, non-profit, or public sector, and it’s not limited to people with a certain skill set. I think I’m attracted to social innovation because in it there are pathways for anyone to participate in positive social change. Almost everyone I know has an issue they care about. What if they could create a life where they contributed to improving the world by addressing the issue they care most about?  I know business executives who are applying their acumen and expertise to help grow social enterprises (Look at Ashoka’s ASN program), young people who are taking charge and solving problems around them (see Peace First) and older people who are giving back with amazing new ideas (Elevating Impact keynote speaker Marc Freedman is pioneering this idea). Systems are emerging in which everyone has something to offer. Ecoapprentice, for example, matches crowdsourced knowledge with businesses looking for sustainable solutions. I’m optimistic. Creative individuals and teams are transforming industries around the world, and systems as we know them. It makes me excited for our future.

Impact Entrepreneurs is the program hosting EIS 2014; what is Impact Entrepreneurs?

Impact Entrepreneurs is a program of Portland State University (PSU) that was founded in 2010 in the PSU School of Business Administration. We are committed to fostering economic, social, and ecological prosperity through entrepreneurial action. We work with partners locally and globally to deliver initiatives that strengthen organizations, build entrepreneurial impact-focused leaders, and catalyze social innovation. Along with a group of cross-campus collaborators, we are also a part of the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium, a select group of institutions of higher education that demonstrate commitment and cutting-edge approaches to galvanizing solutions to major human and environmental challenges.

DISCOUNT! Want to attend EIS 2014? The full day event, including lunch and reception, is just $50 if you register before 5/20 with the discount code: CC_ECOA.

Interested in becoming a social entrepreneur? Start by proposing an EcoSolution to any of our challenges. Membership to EcoApprentice is free. We look forward to attending EIS 2014!


EcoInterview ~ Lucy Vallejo-Anderson on Oregon Unlimited’s new EcoCommunity

Today is the roll out of the new EcoCommunity Hub on Oregon Unlimited!

Oregon Unlimited is a Meyer Memorial Trust funded platform where Oregonians can connect and share ideas on creating change that’s good for Oregon. EcoApprentice has been invited to serve as the EcoCommunity Ambassadors for OU’s newest knowledge hub. We are excited about working with OU and look forward to connecting and creating “sustainable” change.  
Lucy Vallejo-Anderson is the Community Manager for Oregon Unlimited.  Lucy is a native Oregonian, born and raised in Portland. Having lived in Los Angeles during her college years, she is happy to be back in the Pacific Northwest. She loves being able to meet new people and become exposed to the inspiring work that people are doing in their communities. 
Tell us about Oregon Unlimited
Lucy: Oregon Unlimited is an online community designed for Oregonians to connect and collaborate in order to work together to make our communities and state better. The idea came about during the Meyer Memorial Trust’s Ideas 4 Oregon campaign in 2010, which was created in celebration of Meyer giving away $500 million in grants. Wanting to help make Oregon a state where ideas could develop and thrive, the foundation pledged $1 million to help bring the winning submission to life. What emerged was a request for a virtual town hall where folks could be productive, share best practices, and get things done. Basically, Oregon Unlimited is part project management and part social network – helping you get things done but with the added bonus of getting the chance to learn new things and meeting like-minded people!

What inspired the launching of the EcoCommunity Sustainability Hub?

Lucy: I think it can be agreed upon that Oregonians care about their environment, so when Richard Halpern from EcoApprentice posted something on OU and I checked out the work that he does and the innovative business model they use, it made sense to start up a conversation about how his network of eco-warriors and problem solvers should connect with the OU community’s passion.  After brainstorming together we came up with the EcoCommunity Hub idea. We like the name because it’s inclusive of all things ecological and economical. This encompasses both the values of OU and the great work that EcoApprentice is doing.

Is OU for businesses and non-profit organizations?  How might each entity use the site?

Lucy: OU is for both! Organizations, businesses, individuals – there’s something for everyone here.  Because the tool is so flexible, it has the ability to be customized to a variety of needs. We’ve seen individuals hop on OU with nothing more than an idea and get support and answers from other OU members.  Non-profits and other organizations have been able to create partnerships, share best practices, exchange knowledge, and spread the word about the work they do. Not to mention this will give them a place to engage with their communities! In addition, OU has an amazing project management tool, which makes it easy to collect resources, assign tasks, and make sure that goals are achieved!

Do you have long term goals for OU?
Lucy: Our goals are pretty simple: to create a space where Oregonians can collaborate and move forward with their initiatives. We hope that Oregon Unlimited will become the go-to place to create positive change in Oregon.

What do you enjoy most about your work at OU?

Lucy: I love the people I work with and being able to help facilitate conversations that haven’t had the opportunity to happen yet. Getting to meet individuals that are doing such wonderful things in their communities is always inspiring. I can only hope that OU can support them so they can continue to do what they do!

We would love to hear your innovative solution ideas as we post more EcoChallenges (with cash EcoBounty awards for solutions). To get notified of new opportunities, become a member at EcoApprentice here.

EcoApprentice Member Spotlight ~ ThinkEco²

It’s always great to see a sustainable solution turned into business success! EcoApprentice business member ThinkEco² has done just that by repurposing used cedar in San Diego. The Co-Founder of  ThinkEco²,  Jules Lavallee, shares about her business:

Think Eco for the Holidays

Holidays are approaching. Eco-friendly gifts are truly unique and thoughtful. ThinkEco² is making good use from aged and rustic fence by handcrafting creative eco-friendly gifts.

The Founder of ThinkEco², Brian Behncke, owns and operates Briven Construction during the day and handcrafts 100% recycled cedar products at night with his crew.  The wood is taken from Behnckes fence job sites. In his decision to use recycled,  Brian saw a local company reclaiming and reusing glass, and thought the same could be done with wood. He noticed a lot of wood being thrown into the landfill and wanted to start his own recycling business.
ThinkEco² gifts include rustic wine racks, 6 pot garden planters with tray,  wine and liquor gift boxes.  Cedar is a great choice for wine racks and garden planters, since it is naturally resistant to pets and rot. ThinkEco2 handcrafted wine racks are offered rustic or in a variety of color frames including black, white, green, and red. They fit nicely onto a countertop. For garden lovers, their handmade garden planters are perfect for a balcony or small space. In addition to beautifully handcrafted gifts, ThinkEco² specialized in wedding trays,  uniquely crafted flower pots, and Groomsmen gift boxes.
Creating handmade purposeful products from recycled cedar has it’s rewards. It is not only good for the environment, but it is profitable. We enjoy making a difference and building fun and creative products.  Our plan is to hire Veterans in San Diego.
To find out more about ThinkEco2 visit www.etsy.com/shop/thinkeco2
Jules Lavallee, Founder of ThinkEco² combines eco-conscious living with philanthropy.  She donates her wine racks to charities including TNT Memorial, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, and Mama’s Kitchen. ThinkEco² products are proudly handmade in the USA.


Got a sustainability success story or an EcoChallenge at work or in your community?  We’d love to post it! Our community is filled with think-outside-the-box innovators. Membership is free. Go to EcoApprentice.

EcoInterview ~ Jacen Green with PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs

On 5/15/13 I interviewed Jacen Greene, Ames Fellow for Social Entrepreneurship with Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs. They are putting together the Elevating Impact Summit on June 21 at The Gerding Theater in Portland Oregon.   What a great event to meet & network with bold thinking social entrepreneurs and learn about exciting projects in the works. We are really looking forward to this!

Executive Director, Carolyn McKnight, leading a field study program in India.

What is the Portland State University Impact Entrepreneurs program?

Impact Entrepreneurs  is an initiative of the PSU School of Business. We believe in the power of business to create positive change, and we work with local and global partners, entrepreneurs, students and faculty to strengthen organizations, develop leaders, and catalyze social entrepreneurship for a more just world.
Can anybody join PSU Impact Entrepreneurs? (i.e. do you have to be a student, business major?)
We’re not a membership-based organization; instead, we provide a number of programs tailored to support social entrepreneurs at every stage of their personal and organizational growth, regardless of their affiliation with PSU. We offer a field study program for students and community members to study social entrepreneurship in Cambodia, an incubator for local social entrepreneurs to develop the skills and connections to succeed in business, and run leadership development and management training programs for partners such as Mercy Corps.
Tell us about the Elevating Impact Summit coming up in PDX on June 21st
The Elevating Impact Summit  is a celebration of new approaches to generating social impact across business, social, public, and academic sectors. The event features a dynamic day of interactive discussion and learning sessions, inspiring speakers, first-hand accounts from social entrepreneurs and innovators, and opportunities to connect with a diverse audience of professionals, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and students. We’re also hosting a pitch competition with slots reserved for the public (learn more or apply at impactentrepreneurs.wordpress.com) and announcing the recipients of the first annual Impact Awards.
The Summit is a great way to learn about social entrepreneurship, get inspired by the amazing work of innovative local and global organizations, and discover how you can use business tools to create positive change! Register by May 21st for $75 (goes up to $100).
For more thinking-outside-the-box, go to EcoApprentice to post or solve an EcoChallenge.  We would love to share compelling challenges from social entrepreneurs!

EcoInterview ~ University of Oregon Net Impact Founders

On 4/25/13 I interviewed University of Oregon Net Impact Co-Founders Garrett Dunlavey and Ryan Seo. They are super busy getting ready for this very cool conference coming up on May 2 in Portland titled The Future of Sustainable Business.


U of O Net Impact team changing the world for the greater good!

 1. What is Net Impact?

Net Impact is a Non-profit organization that attempts to solve worldly challenges through the power of business. Our headquarters is in San Francisco, but there are hundreds of chapters all over the world: undergraduate, graduate, professional, and corporate. Our chapter at the University of Oregon aims to educate, collaborate with, and positively influence both the campus and local community within the triple bottom line: Profit, Planet, and People.

2. What motivated you to start it and how do you see it impacted your future career? 

As it turns out, we both met in the International Business and Economics Club after finding out that there was no sustainable business group on campus. Since we felt like something was missing, we decided it was time to change that and started creating the organization.

3. What is the most valuable thing you have learned by being part of Net Impact?

I don’t imagine many undergraduates are able to gain very much experience running a non-profit organization. Plus, without any way of paying working members we had to rely exclusively on motivation, passion, and encouragement. While chiché, we truly had to learn to revere a much less familiar set of values than what business school alone will teach.

Additionally, we learned the importance in observing and allocating work exclusively by someone’s strengths and interests. In that way campaigns are not only done more quickly and effectively, but it is also preferable to those that work under this strategy.

4. Tell us about the SPRNG Conference on May 2 in PDX

SPRNG (Sustainable Practices Raising Net Growth) is a student-driven conference that is put on by the UO Net Impact chapter. We’re trying to enhance the shared network of professionals to help catalyze collaboration towards sustainable ends. From policy to consulting to development, our three speakers and five panelists are all coming from all different backgrounds to address the role collaboration plays. Moving forward, it is apparent that progress will require sectors to team up towards the triple bottom line.

5. The challenges on EcoApprentice encourage experiential learning (by doing), what types of career/work experiences are Net Impact students most interested in?

Students from just about every discipline join with the intent on doing something “real.” While in college, everyone is deciding what roles they want to play in the world and by the time they come to Net Impact they have felt a call to do something more than just earn grades. I think as long as they feel that they are working on something tangible and they are happy. Our role is simply to help them harness that passion and energy.

There is rumbling underneath…

Mount Ngaruahoe New Zealand

EcoApprentice has been pretty quiet the last couple of months.  That is, on the surface. Yet much like a volcano, there is lots of rumbling underneath.

A while back, my Advisory Board gave me some great advice: “Stop building EcoApprentice and start building a team to build EcoApprentice.” I had taken it as far as I could as a sole proprietor, not to mention I felt and looked like I just ran an ultra-marathon.  Our “beta” version was successful in demonstrating the concept. We are at well over 250 members; a diverse mix of biz, non-profits, schools, and sustainable-minded individuals.

I found a very talented business partner (press release soon) and we are in the process of navigating a path forward to develop version 3.0.  We are excited about adding lots of features, social media connectivity, and our revenue model. v3.0 will include lots to incentivize EcoChallenge participation + build community.

For now,  the seismograph readings are growing more active even if the volcano looks quiet. The steam is building…

Stay tuned for our re-launch in spring of 2013!



EcoInterview with “Petey” ~ a Green Dog

“Petey” is a mixed breed dog who shops at Green Dog Pet Supply, the first environmentally friendly pet supply store in the USA. Green Dog specializes in environmentally friendly pet supplies and gifts for dogs, cats & their people. The inside of the store was built almost entirely from reclaimed materials, and products include those that were locally made from sustainable materials, organic ingredients, non toxic materials, recycled materials, or things that are exceptionally durable so that they are less likely to be land-filled.


How long have you been a “green dog”?

Since forever. Okay, really only since I was 11 weeks old, which is technically a “green puppy.” Green Dog Pet Supply is my second living room. THE FLOORS ARE AWESOME. Green Dog was one of the first places I ever went, and they helped me to learn about how to be a green dog.

I thought dogs were color blind, do you know what the color green looks like?

It looks like bully sticks from pastured beef, super stinky training treats made from organic ingredients, and new toys made from recycled materials, and GRASS! GRASS IS GREEN! Grass is the ultimate aperitif (as long as it’s grown without yucky chemicals).

What can humans do (from a dog’s perspective) to make the world a greener place?

I love to ride in the car, but walks are the best. More walking, less driving? More hanging out with me outside, less spending money places where I’m not allowed inside? I mean, if I’m not invited, it can’t be very green. I eat meat, but I also love raw carrots, apples and green beans. Maybe humans could eat those? They don’t have any wrappers. You can get them at the farmer’s market. I LOVE THE FARMER’S MARKET. I met my last girlfriend there. She doesn’t know it, yet, but she’s totally my girlfriend. I wish she would call.

Do you know any green cats? Ever chase one?

Yes! Gigi is a green cat (she likes locally made organic catnip toys) and I don’t understand why her affection for “tag” isn’t as great as mine. It’s actually a very classy game.

Any ideas what to do with what dogs do — after going potty outside?

It’s not that big of a deal. Have you seen those green bags? They’re green, so they must be good, so just use those and stop acting like you don’t go potty too. I KNOW YOU DO.

Does green dog food taste as good as less green dog food?

I have never had non-green food so I wouldn’t know, but my food OH MY GOSH. MY FOOD IS SO GOOD. I would eat Sock Flavor if they made it. Could you make that happen? If you do, I’ll kiss you. On the mouth. (Wait, was that too forward?)

If your green dog or cat has a cool EcoChallenge, or you want to join a community of people, businesses, (and pets) that care about sustainability, become a member of EcoApprentice for free.

 Stay tuned for more green dog advice from Petey!

Chelsea Peil asks: What are we here to do?

Chelsea Peil is a freelance sustainability centric creative advisor and project manager. She has worked on social marketing and PR campaigns, educational programming, and content development for innovative businesses in Portland, OR as well as projects on EcoApprentice. You are welcome to connect with her on LinkedIN.

What are we here to do?

Well, it’s up to all of us to make the answer to this question meaningful for the precious lives we share in everyday life. Being a part of everyday work with organizations that want my unique skill set to develop their projects and assistance to make them happen is part of the answer of why I am here. Let’s make it fun, beautiful and authentic to our values!
Through international studies, traveling, and growing up in the United States; I see creating a lifestyle and connection to the earth’s natural resources more difficult because of the materialism that surrounds us.  I believe the business community can help to influence people to stop this disconnection. This has inspired me to be involved as a cultural practitioner to integrate sustainability into programs, such as fashion shows with Junk to Funk.org, web show content, thought leaders videos, curriculum and organizational development. We have a choice to participate in the global effort of restoring healthy relationships to earth and doing it like pros.

Humor, art and imagination go along way in developing practices and messaging not only worth telling the world about, but appealing and beautiful. Currently, I am excited to be apart of EcoApprentice’s collective intelligence efforts and personally collecting cross-cultural wisdom for addressing the challenges we must face together. Now is the time to seize the opportunities to create ways of being that can support thriving existence for all life for many generations.


Are you a business with an EcoChallenge? Post it on EcoApprentice and invite your customers (or community) to come up with an answer good for people and planet.  Plus, it’s a great tool to drive your brand in a positive way! Join here for free.


EcoInterview Dan Smolen, Founder of The Green Suits

On 12/5/11, I had the pleasure of interviewing EcoApprentice member Dan Smolen. Dan is a nationally recognized executive recruiter, serial entrepreneur, environmental and public policy activist, and published author.

What inspired you to create The Green Suits? I’ve been an executive recruiter about fourteen years, a business executive twenty-eight years, and an environmentalist for over thirty years. About six years ago, the “green jobs” fervor was well underway, and I knew that as a “head hunter” I had to be involved in a big way. But most green jobs at that time were what David Foster of the Blue Green Alliance described as “blue-collar jobs done for a green purpose.” Absent from that and most of the other green jobs discussions was a green business executive narrative. That absence provided me an interesting opportunity to help empower the millions of sustainability and purpose-driven business executives in the U.S. and abroad who wanted to turn their careers green. That is what inspired me to write Tailoring the Green Suit: Empowering Yourself for an Executive Career in the New Green Economy and to rebrand my recruitment firm and business executive community, The Green Suits.

For executives seeking to change the world for the better, is it easier to try and create shift from the company they are in, or seek out a new company that has already adopted a sustainable mind-set? This is a very interesting question, one that I am asked at least a half-dozen times each week. For most sustainability-minded executives—who have been rendered risk-averse by the current job climate—the idea of creating shift in their current companies truly resonates. I am counseling them to turn their current jobs and companies green before they venture out to apply for and land an obviously green position in another company (such as Director of Sustainability). I think it is easier to turn one’s current job green, because the executive already knows the business culture and is likely aware of what it will take to create positive and lasting change in the company.

For new college graduates, what are a couple of the top value propositions they can bring to the table to inspire a green executive to hire them? The most important is to demonstrate that they are indeed capable of creating great value for their company or organization. And it all starts with the positive sustainability and social-responsibility contributions they have already documented in their apprenticeships and volunteer program assignments. Their unique value propositions must communicate that they are serious, hard-working, efficient, productive, and passionate—a great ambassador for sustainability, social responsibility, and the New Green Economy.

In your book, Tailoring the Green Suit, you are optimistic that the best days for the Green Executive lie ahead. What suggests such optimism? If for nothing else, the ninety-million strong, sustainability and socially responsible ‘Millennial Generation’ which is currently entering the work force en masse will demand that the companies and organizations where they work become greener. They will also demand that the assignments which they hold positively impact the Triple Bottom Line, so that they and their companies become stewards of the planet and people while they increase their profits.


We are happy to be collaborating with Dan and The Green Suits as a Partner for the better good!

To participate in the conversation to turn environmental challenges into sustainable solutions, become a member of EcoApprentice.


EcoInterview – Albe Zakes, VP of Media Relations for TerraCycle

On 9/16/11, I had a fun and informative interview with Albe Zakes.  He is the VP of Media Relations for TerraCycle. He has been with TerraCycle since 2006. That same year, INC magazine ran a story calling TerraCycle the “coolest little start-up in America”.

They are still very cool and now exemplify a company that’s known for being at the forefront of waste reduction worldwide! When it comes to sustainability – they get it in a BIG way.

Richard: Tell me about TerraCycle

Albe: TerraCycle is an innovative company whose main goal is to eliminate waste. We have a great program in which we pay schools & nonprofits to collect material that would otherwise end up in landfills.  Currently, we collect over 40 different waste kinds of waste, including drink pouches, candy wrappers, used pens, even glue & lotion bottles.  Anyone can sign up for free to collect & return these items, that would otherwise have been sent to a landfill, and TerraCycle pays $.02 per unit to the charity of school of the collector’s choice. These are new end of life solutions! Reuse, recycle, and Re-purpose!

We already have 70,000 locations in the US and about 60%, or 42,000, of these are schools.  Since 2007, we’ve diverted over 2 billion pieces of waste from landfills.  Waste is shipped to regional depots to reduce the environmental impact of the shipping.  In the spirit of keeping it eco-friendly, TerraCycle purchases carbon offsets for the rest.  But waste isn’t just generated in the home, some of it comes from the factory too.  We work with our partners to collect this pre-consumer waste so it doesn’t end up in a landfill either.

Richard: How did you convince major corporations to get involved?

Albe: Well, it was not easy! We focused on the benefits: consumer engagement, consumer activation, and brand ambassadorship. For example, take a Capri Sun drink pouch – rather than just tossing it in the garbage, having students repurpose the wrapper as part of the Brigade program keeps promoting the brand. Large corporations spend millions of dollars on market research and trademarks – but far less is spent on coming up with a solution for the packaging after the consumer users the item!  By working with TerraCycle, these corporations build brand equity  by turning the negative experience of seeing a wrapper or package as litter into the positive experience of recycling and being part of a larger movement.

Richard: What are TerraCycle’s greatest challenges?

Albe: Consumer education — i.e. why/what impact does tossing your garbage have? People wonder if recycling, in general, is really worth it.  Is it really eco-friendly? Buying eco-friendly does cost a little more, which is fine when the economy is good because people are willing to pay for it.  But when the economy is generally bad, they’re not so willing to pay the extra cash for a green product.  At TerraCycle, we make recycled products that are competitively priced with products made from virgin material.  We want to be able to not only address people’s environmental concerns, but make it cost effective as well.

Richard: What’s cool about your job?

Albe: EVERYTHING!!!   I particularly like going out to elementary schools to get kids engaged and excited.  If I show up with a backpack made from Capri Sun drink pouches or speakers made from M&Ms wrappers, it’s very easy for the students to see what we are doing and the logic — they see the power of the products. I have presented at the Harvard Business School and at Princeton — but it pales in comparison to the excitement I see in the faces of elementary school students.

I also really like giving pragmatic and very practical advice through our Internship Program. It’s very hands on and we really focus on providing valuable skills in a positive and fun way! Interns learn (for example) the art of PR, which be applied to many career choices.

Richard: Where does TerraCycle go from here?

Albe: We want to expand outreach and meet new challenges for reducing waste.  I’m very excited about the R & D that’s going into coming up with ways to re-purpose difficult to recycle products. Two great examples are used cigarette butts and dirty diapers! We are continually looking for new waste streams, better solutions to our collection system, and ways for TerraCycle to collect and reuse more trash.

We are really supportive of start-ups (like EcoApprentice) that share our values and vision.  We don’t see other companies in the sustainability field as competitors, rather it’s all for the better good. Collaboration, cooperation, and support are necessary if the waste problem will ever be solved. It can’t just be one company working away at it.


To learn more about TerraCycle and how they Outsmart Waste, visit their website here.

We are excited to have TerraCycle as a member business on EcoApprentice; if you would like to join,  membership is free.