If you’ve been following Sustainable America, you know that we make impact investments in startups that seek to improve the sustainability of our food and fuel systems. We believe that entrepreneurs, businesses and markets are effective at creating the types of changes we’re hoping to realize over the next 20 years.
Investing in early-stage companies is inherently risky, but should the companies in our portfolio provide successful financial returns, those profits will be re-invested into the next deserving early-stage company. No fees or profits are taken by Sustainable America so we can maximize the effect of the capital that we’ve invested. Over time, we will be able to quantify how much impact our investments have made by measuring barrels of oil reduced or tons of sustainable food produced against our organizational goals.
We’re excited about the four investments we made in 2014, and hope that over time, these companies contribute to improving life for all of us. In keeping with our overall mission, our investments were made in companies that seek to reduce oil used in transportation, repurpose food waste and strengthen local agriculture. Here’s a recap of our 2014 investments:
eNow: Solar-Powered Idling Solution
As you may know, Sustainable America is on a crusade to get American drivers to stop idling their cars. But did you know that many drivers have to idle to do their jobs properly? Delivery trucks need to idle to run their lift gates, refrigerated trucks need to idle to keep food from spoiling, emergency vehicles need to run their flashing lights, and truckers need to heat and cool their cabs while they sleep at night. This “functional” idling accounts for 8% of the diesel burned each year in the U.S. — that’s 2 billion gallons! eNow aims to reduce truck idling with a solar-powered system that combines thin-film solar panels with a power management system and an auxiliary power unit (APU). In addition to powering systems on medium and heavy-duty trucks, it can also provide auxiliary power on commercial, transit and school buses. eNow has already had some early sales and is building a robust pipeline of potential clients spanning corporations, municipalities and auto parts companies. With 24 million trucks and 1.2 million buses on the road, the system has the potential to significantly reduce fuel use and emissions caused by idling. Learn more…
XL Hybrids: Delivering Better Gas Mileage
XL Hybrids converts existing gas-fueled cargo vans, shuttle buses and delivery trucks into hybrids, saving up to 20% of fuel usage per mile. Their system generates energy from a vehicle’s braking system to reduce overall fuel consumption by 20% in city/suburban delivery vehicles. The system is modular, built to adapt to OEM powertrains, and installs in a matter of hours. XL Hybrids’ customers have driven approximately 5 million miles with the system over the last few years. We’re keen on XL Hybrids’ business model, which can target both older fleet vehicles and the 650,000-plus new commercial vehicles that are purchased each year in the U.S. The company’s current customers include Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co, FedEx, Florida Power & Light, Harvard, MIT and several others. Learn more…
EcoScraps: From Scraps to Soil
EcoScraps is a company that diverts food waste from the landfill to help grow healthy home gardens. The Sandy, Utah-based business collects fruit and vegetable scraps from grocery stores and wholesalers and turns it into nutrient-rich, organic garden products. The EcoScraps line is sold in some of the same stores that supply the scraps, creating a tidy, full-circle process. EcoScraps has recycled over 15 million pounds of food waste to date, was rated one of the most promising social ventures in America by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and has achieved strong sales growth with products now on shelves at retailers like Home Depot, Target, Walmart and Lowe’s. That’s an impressive resume for a company that is just over three years old, and indicative of the appetite for products that are based on sustainable waste-to-value principles. Learn more…
Conservation Capital Fund: Grass-Fed Growth
Our most recent investment is in the Conservation Capital Fund of the Agrarian Freedom Project. Led by agrarian-entrepreneur Paul Schwennesen, the fund aims to connect young, innovative ranchers with the financial and technical resources that are fundamental to revitalizing small-scale ranching, rural agrarian economies and conservation stewardship of working lands in the West. Small-scale ranching is important to our food system for many reasons. Unlike industrial feedlot beef operations, where it is estimated that it takes up to 35 gallons of oil equivalent to raise one cow, raising free-range grass-fed beef requires very little excess feed, therefore using less fertilizers and oil products. One of the biggest barriers to success for would-be ranchers is the cost of conventional mortgage financing. What the Conservation Capital Fund does, in a nutshell, is provide aspiring agrarians with land at a financing rate that these low-margin businesses can support, pairing it with mentorship and training in environmental stewardship. The financing model allows for investors to be paid back in a creative way: a low fixed cash return plus a beef commodity payment and time allocated to investors to spend at the ranch. Learn more…
We continue to see compelling investment opportunities in both agriculture and transportation. We’re already looking at an ambitious set of potential investments for 2015 that we believe will contribute to the development of a more sustainable America. Stay tuned!
Director of Investments
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