If something can be said to be more American than apple pie, it’s probably blue jeans. Unfortunately, the trademark denim blue color has become dependent upon toxic chemical processes. Natural indigo, the original plant source of that famous blue jean color, has been almost entirely forgotten in the textile supply chain. Stony Creek Colors, our latest investment, is working to bring back natural, American-made indigo dyes and give farmers needed opportunities to grow new, sustainable crops.
Lisa Curtis first encountered moringa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger when a local woman suggested she eat the tree’s leaves to combat fatigue caused by her vegetarian diet. Soon she felt better and became an advocate for the nutritional power of moringa, a drought-tolerant tree that has provided food around the world for thousands of years. Read how Curtis’ company Kuli Kuli, our latest investment, is creating an market for moringa to improve nutrition and livelihoods of women farmers in the developing world.
The problem is clear: Two of the top three expenses for most Americans are food and fuel, even despite today’s lower gas prices. Our current food and fuel systems are tightly interconnected and unsustainable. Sustainable America’s mission is to tackle these issues by helping to reduce America’s oil consumption by 50 percent and increase food availability by 50 percent over the next two decades. Here are a few highlights of our organization’s accomplishments and milestones that made a difference in 2014.
We’re excited about the four investments we made in 2014, and hope that over time, these companies contribute to improving life for all of us. In keeping with our overall mission, our investments were made in companies that seek to reduce oil used in transportation, repurpose food waste and strengthen local agriculture. Here’s a rundown of these four sustainable startups poised for growth.
A road trip to Oregon farmland crystalized a new business idea for partners Craig Wichner and Jason Bradford. “It was very clear farmland was a great asset and that it was basically being underutilized,” says Wichner, “that growing monocrops was operationally efficient, but it was the worst way to get returns from farmland itself.” With investment and the use of sustainable agriculture templates, they developed Farmland LP, a system of livestock, vegetable and grain rotations that could both reclaim land for organic farming and turn a profit.
XL Hybrids converts existing gas-fueled commercial vehicles like cargo vans, shuttle buses and delivery trucks into hybrids. It’s a solution that can increase an entire vehicle fleet’s fuel efficiency by 20 percent, and that’s gotten the attention of companies like FedEx and Coca-Cola. The Boston-based company has gotten our attention, too. We’re excited to announce that XL Hybrids is the latest business that Sustainable America is investing in as part of our overall goal to reduce our nation’s oil consumption by 50 percent over the next two decades.
A large segment of the driving population in the United States has to idle to do their jobs properly: truckers. How can we reduce the fuel that gets wasted to refrigerate their trucks and keep their cabs warm in winter? Fortunately, there are smart and dedicated entrepreneurs out there trying to solve this problem through technology. We’re proud to announce that we’ve just made an investment in one of these companies: eNow, Inc., a Rhode Island-based clean technology company that integrates thin-film solar panels and auxiliary power management systems into long-haul and delivery trucks, reducing the need for those trucks to idle their engines to power auxiliary functions.
If you’ve been keeping up with Sustainable America, you know that we believe in the power of entrepreneurs and markets to effect positive change, and that we make early-stage investments to help spur the development of sustainable food and fuel businesses. Local and sustainable agriculture is one of our focus areas, and we’ve made a small investment in the Conservation Capital Fund that we’re excited about.
If you’ve been keeping up with Sustainable America, you know that we’re on a mission to divert food waste from landfills and repurpose it into sustainable, value-added products like compost. We’re happy to report that we’ve closed our first compost-related investment in an exciting young company that does just that: EcoScraps. The Utah-based business collects fruit and vegetable scraps from grocery stores and wholesale produce providers and turns it into nutrient-rich, organic garden products like compost, potting mix and natural fertilizer. The EcoScraps line is sold in some of the same stores that supply the scraps, creating a tidy, full-circle process.