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Non-Profits & Spin-Offs: Green Business for the Greater Good

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By Minara El-Rahman on October 29, 2009 11:25 AM

In this economic downturn, charities have increasingly attempted to find alternative ways to help fund themselves. Sometimes these charities have thought outside the box. They have spun off into for-profit organizations that help fund their charitable ventures. But what is so special about these small businesses? They are small businesses that are embracing green initiatives.

According to the The New York Times, this is a growing trend among small businesses: "Only a handful of these small businesses exist across the country. 'These social enterprises are early adopters of green industry,' Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, chief executive of Green for All, a national organization working to create green economic opportunities in disadvantaged communities, said via e-mail. 'These ventures are paving the way for mainstream business to integrate the concept of green jobs into everyday practices.'

These small businesses are part of a larger demand for greener products and policies for consumers. While there are greener small businesses that are not associated with charities, it is more often than not that they are: "The nonprofit groups that have started these small businesses have done so primarily to advance their own missions. 'This is an opportunity to move folks out of poverty into prosperity, while greening our planet,' said Michele McGeoy, executive director of Solar Richmond, a solar jobs training program in the San Francisco Bay Area. 'It's a win-win situation.'

It is exactly this win-win situation that keeps these business owners optimistic: "While the weak economy is cause for concern among these businesses and their nonprofit founders, virtually every organization executive interviewed for this article was optimistic about business prospects and about the possibility of starting additional ventures.

'We still think it's a good time to go ahead with this,' Ms. Abell said. Her organization has entered into what it calls a "collaboration" with a natural cleaning products supplier, Seventh Generation, and has started a new cleaning collective this year. 'We're thrilled to be able to create new jobs, especially in this economy,' she said."

Small business owners should be cheered about the bright prospects of going green. Secretary Chu of the U.S. Dept, of Energy announced plans to provide $151 million in grants for green initiatives.

So while there are some bleak spots in the economy, at least small business owners have a green spot to be inspired by. Let's help move this trend into mainstream business.

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