From design/build schools to breweries and social entrepreneurs, AllEarth Renewables is proud to have helped innovative businesses and individuals across the northeast generate their own power from the sun. Our Renewable Revolutionaries video series goes behind the scenes to profile iconic brands and people that are pioneering a sustainable future for us all.
Jerry Greenfield is a true renewable revolutionary, having founded one of the most beloved companies in the world and pioneered the concept of a business that is not only profitable, but socially and environmentally conscious as well. The Ben & Jerry's co-founder is the first to admit that even he is surprised at their impact they've had, in terms of being able to maintain a strong mission while still remaining a successful, viable company. When Ben & Jerry's first began, people thought that the company's social and environmental mission would prevent the business from being successful. "We were ridiculed," he says. "The world was saying this was not going to work."
Now, it's become clear that something as simple as making ice cream can have an "enormous impact" on the world. Greenfield is pragmatic, recognizing that asking people to stop flying and driving for environmental reasons is not realistic. What we need to do instead, he believes, is find other ways to make a difference. Ben & Jerry's, for example, instituted an internal carbon tax, essentially taxing itself for its carbon footprint and using that money to reinvest in carbon-reducing strategies.
Renewables are a big piece of this. When people think about renewables, they often focus on the perceived negatives--"I'm not sure I like seeing a whole big field of [wind turbines or solar panels]." The problem with that approach is that we're not thinking about what the alternatives to renewables would be. As Greenfield says, "The environmental and social and human cost for those [alternatives] are so enormous. The extraction of those fossil fuels, the pollution and the cleanup, are all costs that get externalized by those companies. They're not paying for them, they sort of put them on the public, and that's not right."
It's really about making conscious decisions. When it comes down to it, the shift away from fossil fuels will have more than environmental benefits--while it will certainly make the planet cleaner, it's also going to produce more jobs and ultimately be more profitable.
"The more caring and giving Ben & Jerry's has been, the more financially successful it's been. And I think the shift to renewables and away from fossil fuels is going to be the same thing."
Ben & Jerry's uses its platform as a globally-famous company to spread the word about these issues to its fans and supporting important initiatives for change, like sponsoring buses to send Vermonters to the People's Climate March in New York City in September 2014, the largest climate march in history. Encouraging activism and action is important to Greenfield; as he says, "I think there's times you have to go to the street, to get people together face-to-face and say 'This has got to change. That's the way to change things.'"
To learn more about the Renewable Revolutionaries series, and to watch other episodes, please visit the Renewable Revolutionaries page.