Chicago's Top 14 “Eco-Preneurs”

Though some have called the "green" movement a passing fad or accused green-goers of being "trendy," some of those green-goers have a lot invested in sustainability: business. Of the many businesses with a primary interest in providing sustainable products or services in a sustainable way, there are a few that stand out. These fourteen entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial teams have set a high standard for green business ventures.

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Though some have called the "green" movement a passing fad or accused green-goers of being "trendy," some of those green-goers have a lot invested in sustainability: business. Of the many businesses with a primary interest in providing sustainable products or services in a sustainable way, there are a few that stand out. These fourteen entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial teams have set a high standard for green business ventures.
Greg Christian | Beyond Green: Sustainable Food Partners n
nBeyond Green is trying to modify the entire food industry one institutional kitchen at a time. They consult with kitchens to reduce their energy use and waste while still making delicious and environmentally friendly food.
Why He Ranks n
nGreg started out as a caterer with a mind to serve great food "that also serves the environment and community." He not only founded Greg Christian Consulting and Beyond Green, he also used his knowledge from catering to establish the first zero-waste kitchen in the Midwest, and is a part of the B-Corporation.
Marilyn Jones | Consolidated Printing Company n
nMarilyn started Consolidated Printing in 1973 in her basement. Thirty-five years later it is a pioneer in green printing, using safe and natural inks, toners, parts washers, solvents, and more.
Why She Ranks n
nMarilyn and Consolidated Printing have won several awards, both for printing and for environmental prowess, including 3 Governors Pollution Prevention awards. Read the full list on her website.
Michael and Helen Cameron | Uncommon Ground n
nMichael and Helen have opened Uncommon Ground restaurants in Lakeview and Edgewater. Atop the Edgewater location is the country's first ever Certified Organic Roof Top Farm which boasts fresh, organic produce they use in both restaurants.
Why They Rank n
nMichael's and Helen's restaurants have been lauded multiple times for being the greenest in Chicago and even in America. Mayor Rahm Emanuel even chimed in, saying, “Uncommon Ground is a great example of what our city can do and what our country can do, use water and energy more efficiently, grow more sustainable food, while boasting the world’s most sustainable businesses."
Rich Cohen | Distant Village Packaging n
nRich founded Distant Village in 2000, and has since fostered a successful company that blends sustainability and design by producing handmade packaging and products from natural materials for clients and companies of all sizes.
Why He Ranks n
nNot only a member of Green America and a winner of many green awards such as "Best Eco-CSR Program of the Year" from the Department of Trade and Industry in the Philippines in 2010 - Rich and Distant Village also donate to organizations that prioritize the progress and betterment of developing nation communities.
Will Allen | Growing Power n
nBy way of Growing Power’s Chicago Projects Office, Chicago has been the humble recipient of a number of Will Allen's flourishing urban farms that are meant to address the issues of food security, nutrition, and public health.
Why He Ranks n
nThough technically a Milwaukee business, Growing Power’s Chicago Projects Office earned Will an honorary Chicago Ecopreneur title. He was awarded a Macarthur Foundation “Genius Grant” for his work with Growing Power in 2008.
Said Al-Hallaj | AllCell Technologies n
AllCell Technologies patented a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that has a variety of renewable energy uses, including powering different forms of transportation like cars, electric bikes, electric scooters and motorbikes.
Why He Ranks n
Said, formerly an Illinois Institute of Technology professor, actually co-invented the rechargeable battery. His years and years of research experience in renewable energy led him to be an innovator in the field.
Shannon Downey | Pivotal Productions n
Pivotal Productions is an event design and production company with an eye for creating and producing events that are as sustainable as possible. Pivotal has produced events for the Rebuilding Exchange and Growing Home, Inc. among others.
Photo by Paul Strabbing (Rebuilding Exchange photographer)
Why She Ranks n
Shannon founded Pivotal Productions just two years ago, which makes it the youngest company on the list. Shannon's passion for the environment led her to create her Lean, Mean, and Green List - a list of 100 ways to produce more environmentally responsible events. The company is also a part of the B-Corporation.
Brian Levin | Carbon Day Automotive n
nCarbon Day was founded by Brian in the midst of the economic recession as a distributor of Electric Vehicle charging stations. Carbon Day's stations will provide places for electric vehicle owners to charge their cars outside of their home.
Why He Ranks n
nBrian partnered with Coulomb Technologies on the charging station venture, and has now distributed 700 stations throughout the Midwest, with 250 in Chicago alone. Carbon Day Automotive has proven to be very innovative in the electric car field.
Pete Kadens and Glen Tullman | SoCore Energy n
nPete and Glen founded SoCore to focus on commercial rooftop solar solutions, for companies like Ikea, Walgreens, and JC Penney. One major service they offer, the Solar Rental Service, allows companies to rent solar energy for the first time.
Why They Rank n
nThe company itself has won a Chicago Innovation Award, but the two founders have racked up some accolades as well. Tullman, also the CEO of Allscripts, won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Area Enterepreneurship Hall of Fame among much more. Kadens is known for being a leader in sustainability, but also for philanthropic ventures like being the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the homeless aid agency Streetwise Organization of Chicago.
Tim Brown and Donna Ducharme | Delta Institute n
nTim and Donna created the Delta Institute with the idea that environmental change and a thriving economy go hand in hand. Delta tackles a wide range of green issues in the Great Lakes region from climate change to water quality.
Why They Rank n
nDonna has been a leader in changing the environment through changing policies for years, including during the time she served as Deputy Commissioner for Industrial Development with Chicago's Department of Planning and Development. Tim serves as the President of a green investment project development firm called Wabashco, anda Principal of another firm called Forest Hill Energy.
James Carlin and Jason Blumberg | Energy Results n
nJames' and Jason's two companies Revolution Environmental and Energy Results revolve around understanding how peoples' use of energy affects the world. The companies provide energy solutions for residences as well as businesses.
Why They Rank n
Jason is not just a green entrepreneur, but also a Professor of Entrepreneurship specializing in Clean- Technology Entrepreneurship at UChicago and James’ entrepreneurship skills come from years and years at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. The two co-founded both Revolution Environmental and its subsidiary Energy Results.
Deborah Sawyer | Environmental Design International n
Environmental Design International was founded by Deborah in 1991. Exelon contracted the environment-centric engineering firm in 2009 to build a massive solar-power plant which is expected to produce 1,500 homes’ worth of electricity.
Why She Ranks n
nDeborah didn’t start as an entrepreneur, but rather as an Environmental Scientist. Her work for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency led her to create EDI. Deborah and EDI received an “Eminent Conceptor Award” in 2011 at the ACEC-Illinois Engineering Excellence Competition.
Vincent Cobb | / n
nWhen Vincent founded he became a leader not only in the reusable bags movement that has flourished since, but in the reusables movement in general. His business now incorporates bags, bottles, and other disposables.
Why He Ranks n
nVincent is not only known for being a leader in the reusables movement. His company was actually endorsed by the 2006 film "An Inconvenient Truth." What higher accolade for green products is there?
Marvin Klein | PortionPac Chemical Corporation n
nPortionPac was co-founded by Marvin as am environmentally and user-friendly solution to harsh cleaning products. PortionPac develops products that are Green Seal-certified and better and safer for the environment and the people using them.
Why He Ranks n
nMarvin was inducted into the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame just last year in 2011. PortionPac has also been recognized for being one of the Top Small Company Workplaces in America, by Inc. Magazine.
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