They say necessity is the mother of invention. Increasingly, sustainability is simply the foundation of great business ideas. For some inspiration from some social business entrepreneurs that are thinking way out of the box, I invite you to visit the BBC's World Challenge 09 Web site where you can read about some ideas that are good for the planet, both economically and ecologically. Period. No caveats.
The World Challenge is a competition aimed at showcasing enterprise and innovation at a grass roots level. Because this is a competition, I feel compelled to mention all 12 finalists in at least some small way.
- An effort in Kenya to use sewage at the Meru Prison converted into biogas as an alternative source of fuel, conserving firewood
- A solar project in South Mount Hebron, one of the poorest of the occupied Palestinian territories
- An educational program in India (the Barefoot Solar Engineers) that helps illiterate women from Africa become trained as solar installers and technicians. The women are themselves trained by other women, using visual techniques so that language isn't a barrier.
- A recycling effort developed by IBSA and focused on Haiti, with the aim of reducing gang violence
- The Danamon Go Green program in Indonesia, which converts market waste into fertilizer
- A project for creating safe kerosene bottle lamps in Sri Lanka
- A conservation effort in Namibia that has the dual goal of restoring cheetah habit by harvesting invasive thornbushes as a fuel source
- A venture in the United States that uses discarded coffee grounds as a way of growing specialty mushrooms
- A project to help Afghan women market and sell embroidered goods
- An eco-tourism program in Thailand intended to stimulate development in areas devastated by the tsunami
- Research in the United Kingdom on a cattle feed additive that decreases methane emissions (yes, it stops the cows from farting as much)
- A project to distribute fuel-efficient "Jiko" stoves in the Congo, in an effort to preserve mountain gorilla habitat
Voting on this year's crop of finalists begins on Sept. 28 and ends on Nov. 13.