The Plenty 20


From small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, they're pushing the eco envelope and changing the world.


By Danielle Wood


Illustration by Matthew Bandsuch

The company’s green awakening isn’t about altruism—it’s big business. GE expects to generate at least $20 billion in revenue from green technologies by 2010. So far, there are more than 40 products in development, from water-stingy washing machines and fuel-efficient airplane engines to hybrid locomotives and mammoth desalination plants.

In the first full year of the program, revenues from Ecomagination products topped $10 billion. With numbers like that, GE has been leading by example, showing corporate America that doing good and doing well don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

6: Organic Valley
La Farge, Wisconsin
In the U.S., today’s food production is dominated by just a handful of mammoth industrial farms—the sheer sizes of which cause massive erosion and pollute our air, water, and soil with hazardous gases, toxic chemicals, and harmful pathogens. Big farms have given consumers cheap prices—but they come with a price, too. For years, large farms have squeezed out smaller competitors, who can’t charge the same low prices.

Recognizing that there’s power in numbers, in 1988, Organic Valley, a member-owned co-op, recruited seven organic dairy farms to unite against Big Agriculture. Today, the label is made up of 900 independent farms whose combined size makes them able to compete against the giants. Organic Valley cheese sits right next to Kraft on grocery shelves, and the co-op boasts 90,000 acres under its umbrella. Its farms produce juice, milk, eggs, meats—more than 200 products in total. And they offer a lifeline to struggling family farms, paying them up to 40 percent more than what they’d get for conventionally-grown fare.

7: Tesla motors
San Carlos, California
The old knock on electric cars was that they performed more like golf carts than sports cars (or even sedans). Tesla Motors wants to change that. The company’s electric Roadster, which sells for a cool $100,000, has the look and pick-up of a world-class sports car—and it’s just as reliable as many of the high-end gas-guzzlers on the market. Plans are also in the works for more affordable models, according to CEO Martin Eberhard: Tesla is aiming to produce a $50,000 electric sedan by 2009.

To date, Tesla has already sold more than 200 Roadsters, mostly sight unseen. This year the company will launch customer centers, where consumers can kick the tires on the Roadster, then squeal off down the street for a test drive—no gas required.

8: Southwest Windpower
Flagstaff, Arizona
These days, you don’t have to be an engineer to convert your home to run on alternative energy. After years of research and development (and cash infusion from investors), last summer Southwest Windpower introduced the Skystream—the first small wind turbine designed to easily hook into a home utility system. With a price tag of $10,000 to $13,000 (including installation), the Skystream costs half of what its predecessors did. And the resulting power is not only clean, it’s cheap: only 10 cents per kilowatt hour, as opposed to the 15 to 35 cents that local utilities typically charge.

Granted, you’ll need at least a half-acre property and a breeze of ten miles an hour or more to make it work. And depending on local zoning rules, you may need to get a permit for the 35- to 100-foot Skystream rising from your backyard. But assuming that conditions are right, Skystream can enable homeowners to make their houses greener and cleaner.

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Comments

Whoa! Unjournalist conduct! Dr. Berzin, et.al., didn't discover algal technology -- their work is based on the achievements of the (atrociously underfunded) Aquatic Species Program, 1978-1996, Department of Energy, U.S.A. -- and they would be the first ones to give credit where it's due. Ignoring the opposition to this development is a sure-fire formula for failure.

solar power

About Konarka.. the company is named after the famous ancient Hindu temple of the Sun. Also, 3 of the 4 founding scientists appear to be Indian-born. But they are nowhere to be seen in any news about the company. Wonder what happened to them? Did the current management team treat them fairly? It's odd that not one of the 3 is on the board. Hmmm....

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