The Greener Business Bottom Line

The Environmental Defense Fund is one of the leaders in helping big businesses manage their way to greener operations. They’ve been around for 20 years and have worked with brands as large as McDonalds (eliminating the polystyrene containers) and Walmart (helping them to cut their emissions). Their whole philosophy is centered around the idea that what is good for the planet is also good business strategy. And, as someone who believes in the greener business bottom line, I was glad to read about EDF’s latest innovation for the agricultural industry.

One of the reasons why American agriculture is some of the most productive in the world is because the American farmer nurtures his crops by giving them plant nutrients such as phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen. It is the presence of these nitrates that make drinking water unsafe and the source of most nitrogen-rich water is from farmers who are feeding their plants what they need to grow. However, Pat Fuller (a Northwestern Phd student) ended up being the man to suggest a simple and economical solution to that problem.

Fuller used to work at a store that sold local fruits and vegetables when he was a kid and had gotten into a conversation with one of the farmers who’d told him that he collected algae from local ponds to create a compost that nourished his plants. Remembering that, Fuller came up with a system that collected agricultural runoff in order to cultivate this nitrogen-rich algae and use it as fertilizer, a system that has never been implemented on a large scale before and could have great implications for farmers and environmentalists alike. It’s not only cost-effective, it’s environmentally friendly and it’s about to be tested by Iowa soybean and corn farmers.

This is just one project, however, that EDF has looked to source from the crowd. They are also looking for help in sourcing “Efficient Technologies/Methodologies for Measuring the Reduction of Pollution from Nonpoint Sources” and “Cost Effective Analysis of Crop Fields for Growers.” But the series is just getting started and I’m sure it’s just the first of many crowdsourced innovations that we can hope to see from EDF and the crowd.

What are some other ways to advance green technology? Can crowdsourcing help us become more responsible businesses?

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