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

17: Green Sandwich Technologies
North Hollywood, California
Most people don’t think much about the wood or metal framing that holds up their houses—but what if that framing could save them 60 percent on energy bills? Green Sandwich Technologies has developed insulated concrete panels that can be used to build homes and commercial structures. The panels provide nearly four times the insulation of wood- or metal-framed structures, and they’re made from at least 40 percent recycled content, including an eco-friendly foam made by chemical giant BASF. They can be fabricated from locally harvested biomass (like rice straw, mowings, or even roadside weeds) and then coated with Earthskin, a concrete replacement made almost entirely of dirt. Naturally fire-resistant, the panels are also strong enough to rebuff hurricanes and withstand earthquakes, and they can be used in roofs, floors, walls, and even countertops and pools. But more importantly to builders, Green Sandwich structures can be built in half the time of conventional construction—an enticement that might just make green buildings more popular.

18: Green Mountain Coffee
Waterbury, Vermont
Yuppies have been sipping organic, Fair Trade coffee for years now, but the masses have yet to follow suit. Enter Green Mountain Coffee, which ships 25 million pounds of beans a year and is the sole coffee supplier for the popular Newman’s Own Organics line. Last year, through a partnership with McDonalds, Green Mountain brought its product to the mainstream, allowing customers to order a cup of its Fair Trade joe with their hotcakes at more than 650 franchises throughout New England. And this past summer, in collaboration with International Paper, Green Mountain unveiled the first all-natural, renewably resourced, compostable hot beverage cup. Unlike conventional cups, which are lined with petroleum-based plastic to prevent leaks, these biodegradable sippers are lined with a bioplastic made from corn. With more than 2.5 million cups of Green Mountain coffee consumed daily, all that avoided trash adds up.

19: Fiberstars
Solon, Ohio
Can fiber optics replace lightbulbs? This company thinks so—its technology already lights the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta. (The U.S. government funded the research to develop the technology with about $16 million worth of grants.) Fiberstars uses a special fixture called a metal halide lamp to send light through a series of large plastic fibers that look something like plexiglass cables. The lights don’t create heat or ultraviolet rays, both of which degrade fragile papers, so they’re suited for use in museums and other archival areas. A single 70-watt metal halide lamp connected to the company’s fiber optic system can replace the output of eight normal 50-watt bulbs; better yet, the lights consume one-third the amount of energy of even the most miserly fluorescent bulbs. To date, most of Fiberstars’s customers have been hotels, casinos, and retailers—but if all goes well, consumers could be next.

20: NaturaLawn
Frederick, Maryland
At least 78 million American households blanket their yards with pesticides in search of the suburban emerald dream lawn—and we’ve got the polluted groundwater to prove it. Pesticides have been linked to birth defects, neurotoxicity, and liver and kidney damage, and exposure to pesticides increases the likelihood of childhood leukemia by sevenfold. After nine years in the field as a manager for Chemlawn, where he was surrounded by co-workers who were frequently sick, Philip Catron decided he’d had enough and launched a lawn-care franchise that eschewed the use of pesticides altogether. Today, the Frederick, Maryland company is the country’s largest organic-based lawn care business, with over 50,000 clients in 24 states. NaturaLawn’s customers have collectively prevented millions of pounds of pesticide usage—and lawns look so lush that you’d never know the difference. 

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Whoa! Unjournalist conduct! Dr. Berzin,, 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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