Commentary: Many Small Cos. Help the Environment

Article excerpt

In early May of each year, America's small businesses are recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration during Small Business Week activities for contributions, and rightfully so.
As a small business owner and the author of this column, I always enjoy learning about the new and exciting innovations and successes of small businesses.
Byron Kennard, executive director of The Center for Small Business and the Environment, recently shared with me the successes of several "Green Gazelles," small businesses that make a profit doing environmental good. The CSBE, a nonpartisan/nonprofit organization, works to promote small businesses and entrepreneurs that are succeeding by developing and using new technologies and processes to dramatically increase efficiency and resource productivity and exploiting lucrative opportunities in environmental protection, pollution prevention, energy and materials efficiency and resource conservation.
You may question whether there is a market for these Green Gazelles.
A recent study conducted by the Center for Women's Business Research shows that more than 75 percent of women business owners feel that the environmental friendliness of a product is either a moderate or major influence on their purchase decisions. Similarly, 77 percent of working women said that environmental friendliness is either a major or moderate influence on their products.
Factor this information with the fact that women business owners are the fastest-growing segment and that women are 52 percent of the population and there is definitely a market for environmentally friendly products and services.
The story of A.C. Wilson gives hope to the thought that small businesses can help save the planet.
The Knoxville, Tenn., entrepreneur has invented a device that allows long-haul truck drivers to heat and cool their cabs when they stop to rest without having to keep their engines running.
Federal law requires truck drivers to rest for eight hours for every 10 hours they drive, so they pull into a truck stop and run their engines to heat or cool their cabins as needed. Drivers often complain that the noise and fumes from the idling engines makes it difficult to sleep. Not to mention the effect this practice has on fuel consumption.
Wilson's company, IdleAire Technologies Corp., has its individual heat and air units above parking spaces at truck stops. These units are powered by electricity. A tube attaches these units to a console that allows drivers to turn off their engines and still adjust interior temperatures, providing a safer, quieter sleep environment.
The units also allow access to cable TV and the Internet. …