Socially Responsible Business Archive


Reinventing Fire at the End of the Oil Age

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Forty years ago, key members of OPEC embargoed oil exports to the U.S. and other countries. Oil was scarce and prices soared. So what have we learned from the 1973 incident?

In short, not much. We are still largely living under the illusory belief that we can burn oil forever.

Four times since 1980, U.S. forces have intervened in the Persian Gulf to protect not Israel but oil. The Gulf hasn’t become more stable. Readiness for such interventions costs a half-trillion dollars per year—about ten times what we pay for oil from the Gulf, and rivaling total defense expenditures at the height of the Cold War. And burning oil emits two-fifths of fossil carbon, so abundant oil only speeds dangerous climate change that destabilizes the world and multiplies security threats.

In 2011, Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute penned a comprehensive guide to weaning the United States completely off oil and coal by 2050. Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era details how, by 2050, the United States could triple its energy efficiency while switching to more renewables and increasing the economy with no oil, coal, or nuclear energy and one-third less natural gas. All of this could cost $5 trillion less than “business as usual” and allow the United States to run a 158 percent bigger economy.

Reinventing Fire is a wise, detailed and comprehensive blueprint for gathering the best existing technologies for energy use and putting them to work right now to create jobs, end our dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels, and unleash the enormous economic potential of the coming energy revolution,” writes President Bill Clinton.

Now, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the oil embargo, we’re releasing Lovins’ book in an updated paperback edition.

Fracked oil and gas, Canadian tar sands, Saudi oil—none can beat modern efficiency and renewables on direct cost, price stability, or impacts, notes Lovins. The end of the conflict-creating, climate-threatening Oil Age is coming clearly into view, and not a moment too soon.

“Imagine fuel without fear,” writes Lovins in the Preface. “No runaway climate change. No oil spills, dead coal miners, dirty air, devastated lands, lost wildlife. No energy poverty. No oil-fed wars, tyrannies, or terrorists. Nothing to run out. Nothing to cut off. Nothing to worry about. Just energy abundance, benign and affordable, for all, for ever. That richer, fairer, cooler, safer world is possible, practical, even profitable—because saving and replacing fossil fuels increasingly works better and costs no more than buying and burning them. We just need a new fire.”

Reinventing Fire (Paperback edition) is available now and on sale for 35% off until October 23rd. Read an excerpt of Chapter One: Defossilizing Fuels below.

Defossilizing Fuels – An Excerpt from Reinventing Fire

Renewable Energy for Resilient Communities

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

How can we successfully bring our neighbors together and relocalize our food, energy, and financial systems?

To glean some of the best ideas percolating throughout the United States, and the world, sign up for the Community Resilience Chats—a webinar series that delves into details essential for communities that are ready to take the necessary steps to reclaim their future. These online discussions stem from The Community Resilience Guides co-published by Post Carbon Institute and Chelsea Green.

These online chats are co-produced by Chelsea Green, Transition US, and Post Carbon Institute.

In the next chat — Power from the People — community clean power visionaries, Lynn Benander of Co-op Power and Lyle Estill of Piedmont Biofuels will share their experiences in moving away from big energy. Join the conversation:

Community Resilience Chat: Power from the People – Webinar
September 10, 2013 at 2:00pm (EST)

The webinar is free, but space is limited so don’t wait to sign up. Participants will receive an exclusive 35% discount on Greg Pahl’s Power from the People. There will be a presentation and time for Q&A, but send in your burning questions on community clean power in advance to help shape the conversation.

If you missed the first Community Resilience Chat: Rebuilding the Foodshed with Philip Ackerman-Leist, you can watch it here:

 Next up on Community Resilience Chats: Local Dollars, Local Sense. Michael Shuman’s perspective sheds light on rebooting the economy to meet the needs of investors and entrepreneurs for a healthy and secure local economy.

Want to learn more about these books and how to make your community more self-reliant? Chelsea Green is offering  The Community Resilience Guides series as a special book set to make sure you and your neighbors have the tools and strategies you need to become more resilient.

Community Resilience: Rebuild, Renew, Reform

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Increasingly, citizens are finding new and innovative ways to reclaim, if not rebuild, their food, energy, and financial systems — and with incredibly successful results.

How can you help your community join this growing relocalization movement and become more resilient?

Chelsea Green Publishing has partnered with Transition US and Post Carbon Institute to bring you Community Resilience Chats—a webinar series that delves into details essential for communities that are ready to take the necessary steps to reclaim their future. These chats stem from the Community Resilience Guides co-published by Post Carbon Institute and Chelsea Green.

In the first Community Resilience Chat, Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of Rebuilding the Foodshed, tackled the array of questions that arise in the face of the foodscape revolution. Missed it? Watch the video here:

The next chat is tentatively scheduled for July 24th at 11 AM (PST): Power From the People. Greg Pahl’s book fortifies community resilience through the planning, finance and production of reliable, renewable, clean, local energy for a sustainable future. Two of the people featured in the book will talk about how they launched community-based energy projects.

Coming Soon: Local Dollars, Local Sense. Michael Shuman’s perspective sheds light on rebooting the economy to meet the needs of investors and entrepreneurs for a healthy and secure local economy.

Want more? Chelsea Green is offering The Community Resilience Guide Series Set to keep you informed in the conversation on rebuilding clean food systems, creating renewable energy and reforming the economy as resilient community.

Sustainable, Socially Responsible Start-Ups: Your Guide to Creating a Successful Food-Based Business

Monday, June 24th, 2013

It’s not uncommon for desk-chained daydreamers to spend hours thinking of quitting their jobs and pursuing their real dreams—whether those dreams involve starting a small family farm, opening a bakery, or something else entirely. But to do this you need—among other things—money. Lack of access to start-up capital deters many would-be entrepreneurs from doing the things they really want to do.

It shouldn’t be so hard for socially responsible, sustainable businesses to get their work off the ground, but unfortunately that’s often the case. Small businesses face a significant economic disadvantage in the marketplace. “Put another way, our capital markets are like a Mob-run casino,” writes Michael Shuman in the Foreword, “with the dice loaded to provide a huge edge to global business and undercut community-based businesses.”

Enter Elizabeth U. In Raising Dough, U, a social finance expert and founder of Finance for Food, lays out what you need to start a successful, socially responsible, food-based business.

“Elizabeth U has created a formidable one-stop guide to the brass tacks of building a successful sustainable food business,” writes Anna Lappe, founder of Real Food Media Projects and author of Diet for a Hot Planet. “For everyone who’s ever wanted to turn their passion for sustainable food into a thriving business, this book is for you.”

Through case studies and personal expertise, U outlines the necessary tools and options every socially responsible entrepreneur needs to be aware of before starting a business, including:

  • Different types of crowd-funding;
  • Fundraising laws;
  • Grants and other available capital options;
  • What to look for in a business partner;
  • How to choose an appropriate model; and more.

“Chances are good that you’re reading this book because you’re a farmer or local food entrepreneur looking for money,” Shuman writes in the Foreword. “Or you might be an investor looking to place your money in a local food business. Or perhaps you’re just interested in learning about how to start a food business. Or maybe you’ve just heard that this is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in local investing. Whatever your mission, prepare for a feast ahead.”

Raising Dough: The Complete Guide to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business is available now and on sale for 35% off.

Read the Introduction below.

 

Raising Dough Introduction by Chelsea Green Publishing

Workers of the World Unite: It’s May Day!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Most countries honor Labor Day on the first of May, but we Americans celebrate it at the end of summer, an excuse to barbecue and raise a glass to the passing season. Traditionally, May Day is not a beer and lawn chair kind of holiday, it’s a day of rallies, protests, and direct action in solidarity with the workers of the world, and a day of hope that our rights will be protected and upheld.

Workers have always been at the mercy of the owners of the factories, offices, and companies where they labor. In the often dark history of the industrial era, workers were routinely exploited, injured, and even murdered when they protested the inhumane conditions they faced each day. But when workers came together to form strong unions, they finally were able to defend themselves, at least a little bit.

Tireless labor leaders like Tony Mazzocchi fought for protection from toxic exposure, and ended up making meaningful progress toward a more humane version of capitalism. Mazzocchi’s work led to the passage of OSHA, which still regulates working conditions today. Les Leopold wrote a beautiful biography of Mazzocchi: The Man Who Hated Work But Loved Labor.

Today, labor unions are weaker than ever, and despite having won many important battles over the years, the state of worker power is eroding. Companies can easily outsource labor to more affordable markets overseas, and high unemployment makes it hard for workers to negotiate for better pay and benefits.

But there is a quiet revolution happening despite all this. Worker-owned companies are on the rise, from cooperatives that are wholly owned and operated by their workers, to gradual employee buy-out schemes like the Employee Stock Ownership Plan that Chelsea Green enacted last year.

Worker-ownership avoids the perennial conflict between labor and capital by understanding that the two can never be considered entirely apart from one another. Capital needs labor, and labor needs capital. Both need sustainability, and the only way to achieve that goal is to slow down, pay attention to place, and take care of all the people affected by the work of the company. As worker-ownership spreads, communities will be reinvigorated by increased wealth, and inequality will decrease because nobody in a company will hoard more wealth than is necessary for sustenance and encouragement. Learn more about this “next American revolution” in Gar Alperovitz’s new book, What Then Must We Do?

How to Use Crowdfunding to Finance Your Sustainable Book Project

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

When Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton decided to write the essential book on natural building techniques, they knew who the publisher should be, and they knew the subject like the backs of their hands — but they were missing some key research that would help their book stand apart.

So, the two builders harnessed the power of the crowd, raised almost $3000, and the results of their research (how straw bale buildings perform energy-wise in cold climates) became a key component to the design and building processes detailed in The Natural Building Companion, published in 2012, and furthered the needed research into straw bale building designs in cold climates. They also identified where further testing and research should be directed.

Using Kickstarter to fund their research, “forced us to ingratiate ourselves to our community, which turned out to be great networking, and it was incredible to see how much people wanted to support our work,” said Racusin. “It compelled us to work on communicating about what we are doing and why. It required a lot of work, not an easy passive process, but was worth it at the end of the day.”

Racusin said the research itself was critical to the final book and “turned out to be one of the most legitimizing components to the book, and has opened many doors for us to present at conferences and engage in conversations with a much broader professional community.”

As evident with Racusin and McArleton, if harnessed properly, crowdfunding can be a powerful tool in the aspiring author’s kit. Reaching out to potential readers before the book is even underway allows you to begin the grassroots process of promotion—a step that often doesn’t occur until after a book is published. Crowdfunding also allows an author to activate that waiting audience, by keeping them apprised of the book as it’s being written, and possibly learn from readers about what the book should address. And because the crowdfunded book starts off as a community effort, it touches upon the notion of a gift economy, one based on relationships, place, and concern for the earth instead of mere profit margin.
Funders get gifts in return for their support, depending on how much they donate, but in many cases signing up as a funder isn’t any more complicated than pre-ordering a copy of the book.

Want to take part in this bottom-up financing revolution? Right now two of our authors are seeking community-based funding for exciting and necessary book projects. Sign up to help today and take a look at what you’ll receive in exchange for your help!Farming the Woods is a forthcoming book on agroforestry — or building edible forest gardens. The authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel are more than half way to their fundraising goal of $8000. Help them out before May 6th and you’ll receive:

  • A signed copy of the book for a $50 donation;
  • Give $100 and get a signed copy of the book plus free admission to an upcoming mushroom inoculation workshop in New York state (includes a mushroom log to take home);
  • Give $1000 and get all the gifts offered to smaller contributors, plus a day-long workshop on your property (and the authors will leave you with tons of ideas plus 100 inoculated shiitake logs)!

For more information, and to donate, go here, and check out this video about the project:

Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, and star of the Perennial Vegetables DVD, believes that tree crops are the key to fighting climate change, and he’s fundraising to write the book that proves it: Carbon Farming: A Global Toolkit for Stabilizing the Climate with Tree Crops and Regenerative Agricultural Practices

  • Give $50 and receive a signed copy of the book plus Toensmeier’s collected articles from 2010-13;
  • Give $150 and get a copy of the book plus a “perennial staple crop sampler” of at least three different perennial staple crops, with recipes or instructions for consumption;
  • Give $500 and get a 30-minute phone consult about the garden or farm of your choice and a customized list of fifty useful plant species suited to your site.

Find out more about this exciting book and how to donate, here, and watch Eric’s video about the project:

If you’ve got an important project that needs a boost to get off the ground, crowdfunding might be your ticket to success. Give it a try!

Are You Part of the Next American Revolution?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

In 1886 Leo Tolstoy wrote a slim pamphlet entitled What Then Must We Do? about the abject state of the peasants in his country. He wrote, “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means—except by getting off his back.”

Gar Alperovitz has taken Tolstoy’s mysterious title for his own new book, What Then Must We Do? After all, with an economy as systemically unequal as ours, the question is still painfully relevant. Capitalism seems to have failed us, but for decades we have believed in the Thatcher-era dictum, “There Is No Alternative.” The mere mention of socialism sends politicians running for the hills, and Tea Partiers scrambling to scribble protest signs.

Alperovitz’s new book explains that, in fact, there is an alternative to corporate capitalism, one that is working to democratize the ownership of wealth, and is already taking root in some of the communities hardest hit in the recent economic crisis. This “next American revolution” is an economy based on empowered worker-owners, green jobs, and communities that can take care of themselves. In the excerpt below, Alperovitz tells the curious story of Youngstown, Ohio, a town that lost its steel mill and launched a quiet economic revolution in response.

Booklist says, “Alperovitz’s deliberately informal, conversational style makes normally rarefied economic concepts accessible to a wide audience, enhancing his inspiring message that, with the right strategies, a wholesale economic revolution is not only possible but achievable by well-organized, average citizens.”

Get the book for 35% off this week.

An Initial Way to Think About System Change: An Excerpt from What Then Must We Do? by Chelsea Green Publishing

We Need Slow Money…Fast. Come to the National Gathering!

Monday, April 1st, 2013

It’s clear: we need a new economy, one where wealth is based on the health of the soil, and the true well-being of people. Ever since the publication of Woody Tasch’s book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, Chelsea Green has been a prominent supporter of projects that push for a more-just way of doing business — and last year we even made the shift to employee ownership, ensuring our own legacy of financial independence and economic justice.

At the forefront of the movement to make a better economy a reality is Woody Tasch’s organization Slow Money, and later this month you can join the excitement at Slow Money’s 4th National Gathering in Boulder, Colorado, on April 29-30.

Looking for a new kind of social investing for the 21st century? If so, plan to join Slow Money’s emerging network of thought leaders, investors, donors, farmers, social entrepreneurs and everyday folks for two days of conversations, network building and action planning in a food-loving town. What could be better?

The event’s complete list of speakers is phenomenal, and includes several Chelsea Green authors, such as:

There will also be investment presentations from two dozen small food enterprises and break out sessions on topics ranging from New Visions of Corporate Philanthropy to Exploring Seeds and Biodiversity to Impact Investing, plus the opportunity to collaborate with folks from around the country who are finding new ways to connect money, culture and the soil—including members of the 16 chapters channeling millions of dollars into local small food enterprises.

The Slow Money National Gathering brings together people who are rebuilding local food systems across the U.S. and around the world. More than 2,000 people attended the first three national gatherings—with more than $22 million now invested in more than 185 small food enterprises!

Join this forward thinking group now. For details and to register, click here.

Chelsea Green will have a table set up, so stop by and say hello!

And stay tuned for our next great book on building a Slow economy, Raising Dough: The Complete Guide to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business. The author, Elizabeth Ü, will be at the Slow Money National Gathering as well. Here’s a preview of what the book’s about, in her own words:

Snapshots from the New Economy

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The top 400 wealthiest people in America own more riches than the bottom 180 million. The system is broken. But we don’t need to look far to find a better one.

Do you shop at a food co-op? Then you’re supporting a democratically-owned corporation that works to serve its members instead of distant shareholders focused merely on quarterly profits.

Do you bank at a credit union instead of a multinational corporate behemoth like Bank of America or Wells Fargo? Then you’re contributing your savings toward loans that go to help businesses, home owners, and people like you right in your community.

When you turn on the lights, does your power come from a municipally owned utility? If you live in Jacksonville, Florida, or Seattle, Washington it does. Now, what if you and your neighbors got together to demand your utility generate renewable energy? They’d have to listen, because you are their primary stakeholders.

Do you buy King Arthur Flour, rent cars from Avis, or buy books from Chelsea Green? If you do, you’re supporting companies that are owned by their employees, which means that the profits go to the workers — in other words to the people who make them possible.

Do you own a house through a community land trust — which made that house affordable, and will make sure it stays affordable when you decide to sell it. Or do you participate in a CSA or herd share that allows you to support a local farmer while making sure you get the fresh food you want? Or maybe when a restaurant or bookstore in your town threatened to go out of business you pitched in with some cash in return for discounts on your future purchases (the Slow Money model).

In Ohio, a state ravaged by the exodus of manufacturing, yet another example of a new-economy business model is starting up. The largest worker-owned greenhouse in the state is being financed by Evergreen Cooperatives, a unique partnership between public institutions, city government, and private nonprofits. The greenhouse will sell fresh produce to the hospitals and universities in the area, cutting the carbon footprint of those goods, and bringing good, green jobs to a neighborhood that needs them.

Gar Alperovitz is the founder of the Democracy Collaborative, a key partner in the project, and Gar has long been one of the leading champions of the worker-owned shift the economy so desperately needs. Next month his book What Then Must We Do? will explain how we must democratize wealth and build a community-sustaining economy from the ground up. Sustainable businesses are already changing lives and making money flow where it’s needed most. All we need is more of them.

These businesses define success as something deeper than profit. In doing so they’re living examples of what the new economy looks like. It’s not so complicated, it’s just what happens when business comes back down to earth.

(Illustration by Adrian J. Wallace)

Good Morning, Beautiful Business! The Memoir of a Social Entrepreneur

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

When Judy Wicks opened a restaurant in her Philadelphia home, she didn’t set out to change the world. But over the years she became not only a successful business woman but a game-changing activist, who, according to Inc. magazine enacted “more progressive business practices per square foot than any other entrepreneur.”

From pioneering the focus on local and humane foods in the White Dog Cafe, to laying down in front of a bulldozer to stop her block from being demolished by developers, Wicks let her heart lead her to find new ways of doing business. She went on to become a leader in the Social Venture Network, and from there spawned the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies when she realized that even “sustainable” business was following the old model of infinite growth. Organizations like Slow Money, Net Impact, Businesses for Social Responsibility, RSF Social Finance and more all grew out of the momentum Wicks helped sustain.

Now, in her memoir Good Morning, Beautiful Business, Judy Wicks shares lessons and insights from a life spent proving that business is the ideal driver for social change, and that community must be at the heart of local living economies. Judy says it best herself in the Preface, “Business, I learned, is about relationships. Money is simply a tool. What matters most are the relationships with everyone we buy from, sell to, and work with-and our relationships with Earth itself. My business was the way I expressed my love of life, and that’s made it a thing of beauty.” Continue reading the Preface below.

Good Morning, Beautiful Business is available now in both hardcover and paperback, and is 35% off this week.

“Once we say no to an immoral system, our next step is to build an alternative.” In this video, Judy describes how her mission developed, and how she became a food-economy pioneer.

Ben Cohen, cofounder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and an early inspiration to Judy, says of the book, “Judy Wicks is one of the most amazing women I have ever met.  She continues to blaze new paths on the road to a truly sustainable people-centered economy. This is a must-read book.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer agrees. The paper just published this profile of Wicks, as well as a review of the book.

Good Morning, Beautiful Business: Preface by Chelsea Green Publishing


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