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Portland Conference Seeks to Spread Sustainable Business Ideas

Five awesome Portland businesses get the tools they need from social entrepreneurs.


At the Net Impact conference in Portland, Oregon, some 2,600 business students and professionals are gathering to figure out how best to use their skills for good, not evil—starting with five awesome local businesses that are solving real problems.

“You can take the power of business and change the world,” Liz Maw, executive director of Net Impact, said this morning. “This conference is about helping you come up with your own sustainability and impact plan. We want you to Occupy Wall Street, but from the inside.”

They’re making an immediate impact on five responsible organizations working in Portland—home of books, beer and sustainability—by putting their talents to work in an intensive seminar to help them to take their work to a national level.

Focus the Nation is supporting young leaders at the state level to find opportunities to accelerate the transition to clean energy. Net Impacters will figure out innovative, replicable financing models to help implement small- to mid-sized renewable energy projects around the country.

GO Box is a new service providing reusable to-go containers for downtown Portland food carts (there are a ton of them) and their customers. At the conference, they’ll try to figure out the most efficient and profitable model for expanding GO Box beyond Portland and stop food packaging waste around the country.

Portland Pedal Power provides bike delivery and promotional services for companies that want to reduce their carbon footprint, but they need help figuring out how to expand operations and find leasing opportunities within Portland, then in other cities.

Upstream Public Health is advocating for policies to keep Oregonians in good health. They have a design and communications challenge for the social innovators at Net Impact: What can they do to better communicate the harm of soda consumption and change behavior?

The Bus Project is engaging new folks in democracy and using person-to-person politics to move Oregon forward. Now, they’re turning their attention to giving, asking Net Impact to help them engage the millennial generation in sustainable philanthropy.


The goal is to take these ideas that work so well locally and start making them a reality across the country—making social responsibility the rule, not the exception. As Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the city’s eccentric, sustainability-loving Congressman, told the audience this morning, “If you see something [in Portland] that works, steal it.”

Video courtesy Sustainable Business Oregon

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