Becoming an Enviropreneur™

“Enviropreneur™” – a person who finds creative or insightful ways to turn environmental problems into assets.

As the Ocean Conservancy calendar in my office notes, only 4% of the earth’s oceans are free from human impact. Our global economic model relentlessly pursues growth, going farther and farther, deeper and deeper, into ever more hostile environments to extract natural resources. It is my goal to encourage marine conservation/stewardship by applying business concepts to make special places, such as coral reefs, economically valuable and therefore worth preserving because they contribute to, rather than hinder, global economic growth.

From my earliest childhood, I have been passionate about environmental issues. My first fascination was with rainforests, but from the moment I started SCUBA diving at age 14, I fell in love with the underwater world and became committed to protecting the fragile marine environment. In the 15 years since my first underwater adventure, I have pursued what Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, has characterized as “intersectional experiences.” Johansson suggests that the best opportunities for innovation are created at “intersections” – the, “mixing of disciplines, cultures, and domains in which one can specialize through education, work, hobbies, traditions, or other life experiences.”

Creating such “intersections” has been the hallmark of my educational, professional, and personal experience. My undergraduate studies were in environmental planning, public relations, political science, and marketing, I have an MBA in real estate and sustainability, and I have worked on consulting projects across real estate, engineering, and environmental issues. Additionally, as a Professional Association of Diving Professionals (PADI) Divemaster, I have completed hundreds of SCUBA dives across remote areas of the world.

These “intersectional experiences” helped me develop a proposed approach to apply the financial and property rights concept “Marine Payments for Ecosystem Services” (MPES) to put a value on marine resources, such as coral reefs (asset) and invasive lionfish (liability), and provide a source of sustainable income for local communities by either enhancing the assets through active management or converting the liabilities into assets. Based on this concept, I was accepted to the Property & Environment Research Center’s (PERC) Enviropreneur™ Institute in beautiful Bozeman, Montana. PERC is a non-profit, environmental think seeking market solutions to environmental problems. PERC’s Enviropreneur™ Institute focuses on how business, property rights and economic principles can be applied to environmental problems. Through training and interaction with experts in the field of free market environmentalism, the Enviroprenuer™ Institute, “provides environmental leaders with a basic understanding of economics, finance, contracting, marketing and management so that the leaders can pursue specific projects for improving environmental quality through contracts, property rights and markets” (Columbia News Service, They turn conservation into profit by Michael Dang, 5/22/2007).

For two weeks I will be working with 15 other Enviropreneurs™ to create sustainable business models that can make a lasting positive impact on the environment (please see http://www.perc.org/enviroprog/enviropreneur/camp/participants.php for a list of participants). Upon graduation from the program, I will join the ranks of 150+ other Enviropreneurs™ worldwide allowing me to more successfully pursue my passion of enhancing marine conservation through the application of business concepts. Please join me in the experience of becoming an Enviropreneur™ (when Internet connections in remote parts of Montana permit) by following me on Twitter @BrettWHowell from June 26th -July 10th. My Twitter feed will also be retweeted @gaiaendeavors.

Water, water everywhere

I was walking through the water aisle at the grocery store a few days ago and I thought to myself, what has happened (and is happening) to our global water supplies?   When water bottles and other “not-from-the-home-tap” water first appeared on store shelves, marketing was primarily focused on the portability and convenience of water bottles and the “elegance” of importing water.   Now, it seems to me, the marketing implication is that previously potable and/or usable water has become quite possibly too dirty to drink and/or use.  To learn more, I conducted an Internet search to see what some members of the worldwide community are doing to contribute to solving water-related challenges.  The good news is there are already a lot of good ideas out there!  Below are some of the ideas and data that I thought would be interesting for you too.

As with everything on the Internet (or anywhere else, for that matter), please help us verify the claims made and/or data provided on the links.   While we have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the links, the nature of the Internet does not always allow for proper peer review prior to publication.  As entrepreneurs continue developing solutions to worldwide environmental challenges, we are all going to be confronted with a host of “first draft” material.  This kind of material, in my experience, is usually filled with brilliant ideas, but it also may contain an occasional oversight (hence: “first draft”).  As such, please help us verify, think up, and implement new and existing solutions. :-)

Finally, please help make Gaia Endeavors as interactive as possible by adding more links and continuing the discussion in the comments section!  By the way, we are still constructing exciting, useful and robust functionality to the website.  Thanks for your support!

 

An alternative Mother’s Day bouquet, thanks to the hard work of Coral Restoration Foundation

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day! It is tradition, no matter where we are in the world, for my brother and me to get our Mother, Julie, a bouquet of flowers to celebrate her special day. This year, in the spirit of advancing organizations working to solve environmental problems, instead of simply buying another dozen roses, we decided to adopt a coral from the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF). For being such an incredible Mother, Julie helped to support the maintenance of Staghorn Nubbin K2-143 growing in CRF’s Ken Line Nursery in the Florida Keys. Over the next year she can login to www.adoptacoral.org to check on the status of her nubbin (photo below).

CRF, led by Ken Nedimyer, is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to restoring coral reefs. They have taken the pioneering approach of “growing” coral in nurseries throughout the Florida Keys, which are then transplanted onto reefs as part of restoration activities. CRF owns and operates the largest offshore coral nursery in the United States, including three separate nurseries in the Florida Keys. CRF has transplanted corals to 22 different reef areas in the Upper Keys, and has recently received a permit for a landscape scale restoration project at Molasses Reef off Key Largo, Florida that will initially involve transplanting 1200 corals from the nursery to the reef. The goal of each restoration project is to re-establish genetically diverse thickets of coral and nurture them to maturity so they can spawn and repopulate downstream reef areas.

Ken, a longtime aquarist, came up with the idea of growing and transplanting corals after noticing that corals were propagating on live rock on his aquaculture lease area in the Florida Keys. However, rather than applying the technology purely for a profit, which Ken could have easily done, he took the path less traveled by establishing a foundation dedicated to long-term reef restoration.

In late March 2011, I had the opportunity to meet Ken Nedimyer, CRF President, and Kevin Gaines, CRF Operations Manager, during a site visit to one of the nurseries with the Alex C. Walker Foundation and Georgia Aquarium. During two truly breathtaking dives, I first saw one of CRF’s nurseries, which had over 7,000 corals at the time, and then dove on one of CRF’s main restoration sites, Molasses Reef. Ken and his team are an amazing example of environmental social entrepreneurs. The approaches that CRF is pioneering have the potential to restore reefs to approximately their original biodiversity and stability worldwide.

While the opportunity to adopt a coral for Mother’s Day has passed, coral adoptions and donations are accepted year round. Please consider visiting CRF by clicking here, a great organization with a big heart for restoring the biodiversity of Florida’s reefs.

Welcome to Gaia Endeavors

Welcome to our blog, Gaia Endeavors! The Internet has fostered and helped develop an abundance of good ideas, forever changing the worldwide economy, while bringing those ideas to a wider, more accessible audience than ever before. We believe that the Internet and social media have the potential to make a substantial, meaningful impact on solving the world’s environmental and social problems, so we decided to join the conversation.

Gaia was the Greek goddess personifying Earth, effectively the Greek representation of “Mother Nature.” Our blog carries the name of Gaia with the hope that our interactions and conversations can help to speed solutions to Earth’s many challenges. We thought it particularly appropriate to launch Gaia Endeavors the week after Mother’s Day to highlight the drive for positive, sustainable growth.

Earth provides an abundance of resources for sustenance and healthy development if we are careful stewards. One of our goals is to encourage innovative ideas and approaches that will contribute to sustainable development. Thus far, the best approach that we have found for addressing environmental challenges is through diverse, well-informed discussion and practical, effective implementation. We have created these platforms to contribute to the conversation. Please join us!

Brett Howell & Arya Mazdyasni