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Natural Capitalism?

August 1, 2007

Tomorrow the summer session finally ends, which means that I am done with business writing! My students deserve kudos for completing some great projects. In small groups, my class constructed green business models for local, independently owned establishments in Lexington, KY. The idea of greening business practices has existed for at least 15 years–c.f. Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce–(1993), but it’s only now starting to become a semi-established business imperative. Students researched their respective businesses and presented ways for them to use resources more efficiently while still increasing profits.

Admirably, the students chose to work with businesses that are significant contributors to environmental decay in Lexington. For instance, one group presented a plan to the Mousetrap Cafe. The Mousetrap owner admitted that the restaurant no longer recycles cans and bottles because it’s not convenient. Worse, Mousetrap’s monthly electric bill is between $600-800, an absurd figure, considering that it’s a relatively tiny deli and that Kentucky’s is the cheapest electricity in the nation. The students presented a viable plan for Mousetrap to invest in energy efficient refrigerators and track lighting that will not only save the company money but also enhance its image.

While I’m still somewhat ambivalent concerning the concept of natural capitalism, it’s also clear that imploring small business owners, who actually have the means to pull the trigger on environmentally savvy investments, is a perfect way to make an impact on the environment. Ironically, large corporations like Wal -Mart are the foremost innovators in running businesses more efficiently. I congratulate my students for mounting arguments that will (hopefully) convince Lexington’s environmental pillagers to reform.

F.Y.I., the other businesses that my class covered are Jim Ball Homes (suburban builders), De sha’s (local fine dining establishment), Lexington Cartage (shipping), and Lextran (local buss system).

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