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, 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.


Small Town Sustainability ~ Making it Work off the Beaten Path

The Historic Balch Hotel is located 1 hour and 40 minutes east of Portland Oregon in the small farming community of Dufer. EcoApprentice member Samantha Irwin (and her husband Jeff) own this beautiful hotel. Read how they made sustainability work for their business in a town of 500.

Rural America. It’s beautiful, open, has a touch of the wild, and attracts those independent types. That might be one of the reasons we’ve landed here in Dufur Oregon, restoring and operating a piece of history – the Historic Balch Hotel. We did trade in things people in the city take for granted like curbside recycling, composting options, and a grocery that is open past 7 p.m. Now we borrow from our neighbors, keep a tab at the grocery (just receive the monthly bill!), and don’t have to lock our doors. Not such a bad swap. What we’ve lost in convenience we’ve gained in opportunity to be resourceful!

So how does our business integrate sustainability in a small town where curbside recycling is not in the community vernacular and instead burn barrels are commonplace?

In the beginning educating staff on recycling that paper, or putting kitchen waste into the compost bin was a struggle. Changing habit can be slow. However, now four years into the future, I’m not the only one picking the can or paper cup out of the garbage. I feel an odd sense of motherly pride when I see some staff fishing something out of the garbage can. Am I normal? Have I created fanatics? Let’s hope so!

When we opened our doors in 2007 it took a great deal of effort to teach our team how to recycle. For many reasons, mainly education and convenience, it’s not done a heck of a lot in rural spaces. We were making strides but I wanted a visual to show staff exactly the impact that they were making. So, in 2010 we loosely began to keep track of our recycling and composting efforts. I think staff might have thought me slightly off my rocker but now I’m convinced they see a method to my madness. We created a fancy Tally System (a paper and pen taped to the kitchen wall).

Of course we kept track of the regular recycle items like paper, tin, glass etc. but also include food and yard debris. We coordinate trips to The Dalles recycling to take in our contribution and one of our staff members who lives off the grid (future blog post!) takes all the yard and kitchen waste to make some killer compost for themselves.

In 2010 our Balch Hotel staff saved over 38 dumpsters from being added to the landfill! That equates to $1216 in money we didn’t have to spend on garbage fees. It adds up! In 2011 we upped our ante to 65 dumpsters, thereby saving $2080.

Rest assured our recordkeeping is improving year to year and as our business grows it’s become a challenge to see how much better we can do. We even expanded our horizons and posted one of our housekeeping recycling challenges on EcoApprentice! Our staff is thinking differently now. That is good!

There is still no curbside recycling. We still do not need to lock our doors. Dufur is a special community where there are many things I would like to keep the same. Sometimes though, changes are needed. These changes are for the betterment of the community, and future generations.

I’m very proud of our team. When I hear of them taking these practices into their homes I know it’s reaching the next generation – as it should.


In the country, city, or someplace in between – we would love to hear from you and share your EcoChallenges + success stories.  Become a member on EcoApprentice for free.


EcoInterview ~ Anne Michelsen, Owner GreenInk Copywriting

Anne Michelsen is a freelance copywriter and illustrator who specializes in helping green companies attract, educate and retain their customers.  Check out her cool company, GreenInk Copywriting,  and her very wise + green blog here. I had an opportunity to interview her on March 9, 2012.

What inspired you to create Green Ink Copywriting?

“Inspired” is a good word.  I actually didn’t go to college to be a writer. I was a visual art major (and in fact I still do freelance illustration and fine art as well as writing.) But about eight years ago I kept getting this little voice telling me “You need to write.”  “Shut up,” I told it. “I can’t be a writer; I can’t even come up with a plot.” But it kept at me and I started to keep a journal.

Not long after that my husband and I moved to Wausau, WI to start up a second branch of his business. I started to write sales letters for him, and realized I really enjoyed that aspect of being in business.  Then one day he signed me up for a copywriting course from American Artists and Writers, Inc. (AWAI) and I was hooked.  This was a way I could follow that little voice – and not worry about plot lines!

When I started taking on clients I realized I wouldn’t be happy writing for companies I didn’t believe in, or promoting products that would trash the planet. Since sustainability is a passion my husband and I both share, and since we had tons of personal experience with sustainable lifestyle choices, I decided to specialize in writing for green companies. It’s a way I can use my talents and experience to help change the world for the better while supporting my family.

Why is being green a good business decision?

There are lots of reasons for a business to go green. Here are a few:

  • Reduced overhead. A lot of people think of green choices as more expensive, and sometimes that’s the case. But much of the time when you run the numbers and factor all its effects into the equation, the green choice is frequently cheaper in the long run.
  • Healthier work environments.  Green products such as non-toxic cleaners, and green practices like incorporating daylighting into building design almost always result in a more pleasant, less toxic place to work. This can reduce sick days and raise employee mood and morale, resulting in increased productivity and higher profits.
  • Consumers are looking for green products. According to the Shelton Group’s 2011 EcoPulse report, 69% of mainstream American consumers polled indicated that they actively look for green products when they shop.  This number is growing, up from 63% in 2010 and 60% in 2009.
  • It’s good publicity. Reporters do pick up on stories of companies making sustainable choices – especially when they involve particularly innovative solutions or represent a first in the local area.
  • Green businesses attract – and retain – talent. A survey by job site indicated that 80% of young professionals were looking for jobs that have a positive influence on the environment. Many companies which have incorporated green sustainability initiatives also find that they retain their employees longer. An example is the Canadian company LoyaltyOne, which reduced its employee turnover rate by 12% after switching to greener practices. This can have a profound effect on a company’s bottom line.

How does a green-business separate itself from the “greenwashers”?

Two words: transparency and integrity. I could write a book about it but that pretty much sums it up in a nutshell.


Contribute your great ~green~ ideas on EcoApprentice or post an EcoChallenge. We will send it out to the world for an answer.  Join here for free!

Portland Airport seeks a good home for retired escalator rails

Ever think about what happens to used escalator rails?

I never had, particularly while riding an escalator at the Portland International Airport.  Yet beyond the fast-paced world of running planes on time, is a sustainable mind-set that’s on the radar at the PDX airport.

Stan Jones, the Port of Portland Waste Minimization Manager recently posted a unique EcoChallenge on EcoApprentice entitled “Escalator Rail Reuse“.

NEEDED:  Home for thousands of feet of used escalator rail – HEAVY DUTY!, Nearly indestructible.

In the past, used rails have been sporadically reused for boat bumpers at docks/moorages and for bumper rail in loading dock areas, but the Port is seeking a more permanent solution.

Stan shared via a conversation on 3/8/12 that sustainability practices are  good for business, good for the environment, and good for our community. Sustainability = efficiency! And regarding escalator rails specifically he said - There are likely thousands and thousands of feet of waste escalator rails coming out of airports, malls, office buildings, etc across the country.  A practical reuse/upcycling solution could have a nationwide (world wide?) impact.

Might you have a great idea on an answer to this escalator conundrum?  It’s free to join and post it on EcoApprentice, or maybe you have your own unique EcoChallenge?  We would like to send it out to our community for an answer.  Till then, may all your escalator adventures take you up or down, just keep your hands on the rails!

How to Get a Job in Green Business

The following blog post was sent in by Stacey Cusack Krauss,  Public Relations Manager at TerraCycle Inc. since 2010.  A Boston University alum, Stacey previously worked at an entertainment PR agency, but now enjoys telling the TerraCycle story to the world.  From planting acorns at recess to setting up recycling bins for her college dorm to starting a paper reuse policy in her office, the environment has always been her biggest passion.   We are thrilled to have TerraCycle as a member company (and Partner) on EcoApprentice.

With the unemployment rate depressingly high, it’s hard to find a job these days.  It can be even harder to find a job you’re really passionate about.  But if the environment is your passion, you’ll be happy to hear there are 2 million “green jobs” and that number is expected to double in the next 5 years. The current administration is putting millions of dollars into creating green jobs and support sustainable industries (the Solyndra debacle aside.)

Here are some tips for landing that green job you’ve been dreaming about from TerraCycle employees that have done it themselves.


When Albe Zakes interviewed for a Publicist position in 2006, TerraCycle founder/CEO Tom Szaky liked him, but didn’t think he had enough experience for the job as a recent college graduate.  Rejected but not defeated, Albe went home and wrote an impassioned letter to Tom, explaining why he was perfect for the job.  He offered to work as an unpaid intern for two months to prove his point. Tom admired his commitment and passion and agreed to hire him as an intern.  Five years later, Albe is now the Vice President of Global Media Relations and a vital asset to the company.  As an anecdote, Albe always says it was his Dad who inspired him by telling him, “If you really want to work somewhere, you have to be willing to start by sweeping the floors. You be surprised how many execs started in the mailroom.”

To get in the door at a company you’d really like to work for, you may have to take an unpaid internship or lower-paying position than you originally sought.   It might seem like a step backwards, but if it gets you in the door and into a position where you can prove your value to the company, you’ll be one step closer to the job you really want.


Green companies, non-profits and other socially responsible businesses need mid- to upper-level professionals with business, marketing, PR and other useful skills.  It might take you some time to reach a level where you’d be an asset to a green company or non-profit.  After graduating with a major in Public Relations, I went to work at an entertainment agency in Manhattan that represented various home entertainment, video game and consumer product clients.   I thrived in the fast-paced, high-stress environment, but knew that I needed my work to matter in a bigger way.  So, with several years of experience under my belt, I started looking to make a move.  As soon as I found out about TerraCycle, I knew this was the place for me.  I applied, interviewed and practically begged for the job.  When I was hired, all those years of torturous work pitching DVDs were suddenly worth the effort.


If you’re trying to get a job in the environmental sector and you’re not gaining any direct experience at your day job, you should think about cultivating your passion in other ways.  Whether it’s lending a hand to a local clean-up group or writing for a green living blog, find some way to get involved in your spare time.  Not only will this help keep you sane when your day job threatens to suck the life out of you, volunteering, writing and freelancing can boost your resume, showing a very genuine passion that will help you stand out.  This way, when the interviewer asks why you want to make the jump with no direct experience, you’ll have more to go on than just words about passion for the planet.  The combination of your skills and experience combined with your obvious passion for the cause will make you an attractive candidate. You can also take classes at night in environmental studies, sustainable business or simply a certificate in the job function you want to perform. Just because you want to work at a triple bottom line company, doesn’t mean you don’t still need the hard skills to go with your passion.

We also encourage becoming a member at EcoApprentice to gain practical experience teaming up with businesses or non-profits to solve an EcoChallenge. It will look great on your resume!


To become a member at EcoApprentice, just click on this link.  Free to join.

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.


100 year old Condit dam is breached ~ The White Salmon River now runs free! (VIDEO)

Just a few miles from where I live in the Columbia River Gorge, something remarkable happened this week. The Condit Dam, which has been around for 100 years, is a dam no more! The White Salmon River is now running free!

It’s rare to see a better example of nature reclaiming then a dam coming out! Huge kudos to Columbia Riverkeeper who were instrumental in the dam removal. Riverkeepers share:

In the late 1990s, Columbia Riverkeeper (then Columbia River United) joined the Yakama Nation and conservation, fishing, and whitewater groups in opposing the relicensing of the dinosaur dam that produced only a tiny amount of power but blocked miles of critical salmon habitat.  In 1999, we signed an agreement with PacifiCorp and several state and federal agencies that required the demolition of the dam.  It’s been a long journey, but it all came together with one big boom.

Watch the explosion and the White Salmon River restored:

Watch the explosion plus some history leading up to the removal of Condit Dam:

The steelhead and salmon can now return to their native habitat, after a 100 year break!

Friends of the White Salmon River share more about the river:

From its origin in meadows on the southwest side of Washington state’s Mt. Adams, the 45 mile long White Salmon River travels through the Mt. Adams Wilderness to connect with Cascade Creek, a major tributary that begins on the White Salmon Glacier at about 11,000 feet altitude…Condit Dam lies about 3.3 miles (5.3 km) upstream of the confluence where the White Salmon River empties into the Columbia River. The area below the dam is part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, while parts of the river upstream belong to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system. The area is famous for its natural beauty and recreational activities such as whitewater rafting and fishing. Impoundment of the river in 1911 removed 33 miles (53 km) of steelhead habitat and 14 miles (23 km) of salmon.

For more on what some humans are doing to create a more sustainable ecosystem, check out 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.


5 Cool Things Our Members Are Doing!

Our members know that their businesses can be more eco-friendly and profitable by incorporating sustainable strategies into biz operations.  Here are just a few examples of intriguing challenges:

5) Jeffrey Hodgins is looking for a dry season cover crop that can be sown with two months old corn plants and live to survive the dry winter on the Central Mexican Volcanic Plateau. (The winner of this EcoChallenge will get two weeks free room & board at their home in Puebla.)

4) Truce Designs is looking for uses for their extra scrap fabric from their dry suit factory.

3) Allium Bistro is looking for an efficient, realistic and health-law compliant composting system for their restaurant.

2) Doppio Coffee Lounge is looking for a way to close the loop on compostable packaging for coffee cups, lids, boxes, etc.

1) EWEB (Eugene Water and Electric Board) is looking for high quality, useable, compostable, recyclable and/or made in the USA products for their prizes and promotions.

Become a member for free today and help find EcoSolutions for business EcoChallenges.  Change your Community.  Change the World.

Calling all EcoHeroes!

Love this idea from our friends at EventBrite. Calling all EcoHeroes! EcoApprentice members are special.  They care about being EcoFriendly in their businesses and their communities.

Nominate yourself or a friend to be an EcoHero.  We’ll share with the world (or at least our little corner of it) about your desires and actions to impact the world and your community by making it more sustainable and profitable.

What does it take to be an EcoHero? It’s simple, care about being EcoFriendly. What are YOU waiting for?  Become a member today and you’re on your way to being a hero!

We’ll be selecting a few EcoHeroes to include in our future newsletters and blog.

Just email us a couple paragraphs about you or a friend and your interest in being more sustainable (or EcoFriendly).  We’ll take care of the rest.

To get us started, we’re nominating our local friends at DirtHugger, check out their mission and you’ll know what makes them EcoHeroes!