Recognizing Green Innovation with International Green Industry Hall of Fame’s Sam Geil

March 12, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good and today we’ve got my friend, Sam Geil on the show with us. He’s the founder and CEO of the International Green Industry Hall of Fame. Welcome back, Sam Geil. SAM GEIL: Hello, John. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How are you today? SAM GEIL: Good. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Before we get going and talking about all the amazing things that you’ve done since you’ve created the International Green Industry Hall of Fame, I know you very well. I know your family but I want the listeners to hear more about your history, your journey leading up to the founding of the International Green Industry Hall of Fame and what you and your family have done prior to this great organization being created. SAM GEIL: Sure, sure. The concept of having a hall of fame for folks in the green industry came about over about a five- to six-year period. When I first came back from Fresno to join the family business, there were a number of opportunities within our business to green it up and I had been working on a sustainability plan in the company that I had left prior to the family business had just written a white paper on sustainability for the corporation. That was Grundfos Corporation out of Denmark and I took the essence of that white paper and my own desire to live a more sustainable life to the business and we basically greened up our business and then we acquired a company that had a line of green cleaning products so in the process of doing so, I attended numerous conferences and conventions, got certifications in green build and such to really understand first hand what not only the problems were but what were the remedies and then applied those in our business and one of the things that I observed and learned at the conferences at the conventions that I attended was there was really nobody giving these wonderful pioneers and inventors and innovators much credit and recognition for their work so when I went to these different booths and talked to different innovators from around the world of entrepreneurs, the one thing that was missing was that recognition and most of them didn’t have the money for marketing and promoting their products so I kind of had an epiphany that, geeze, if there was a way to do that and do that cost effectively, which is sustainable, that would be a really cool thing to do so then that kind of planted the seeds in my mind about how we go about doing that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What year was that? SAM GEIL: That was a period of time so I would say 2004 to 2008 and one of things that I had learned and picked up when I live in Kansas City was how Kansas City, Missouri, transformed their city by bringing in the Negro Baseball League Hall of Fame and the Jazz Hall of Fame and it basically transformed a whole section of Kansas City, Missouri, and there was kind of a rebirth of that area, kind of an economic development effort and it was really cool and I liked that sort of planted the seed of a Hall of Fame and so that was the framework that I used to kind of put together the business plan so it would be under the auspices or under the title of a hall of fame and then selected green industry because I like the idea of green. It’s really the best way to describe ecological sustainability for all ages, from kindergartners all the way up and then the industry being more industry focused, versus advocacy focused. The industry didn’t really have an organization that was really focused on putting together the whole industry. Solar has solar. Wind has wind. Biofuels have their groups and so on and so on but there wasn’t anybody or any group really bringing it all together because it is interconnected. It is synergistic so I think to split it off is great for those individual industry sectors but let’s all come together and let’s all work toward a common goal or a common good and that’s more sustainable. Collaboration is obviously more sustainable than not collaborating so the business plan was built and it was built around that and it was built around education that while we were able to capture the stories of all of these wonderful people and it’s in its infancy. The industry is in its infancy, which would be a great time to get all those stories in video and audio and then have a library where people can then access that library free of charge and that’s the website so the website is going to hold all of the information that we gather throughout the years and that’ll be free to the public. Everything is built on that there’s no charge. There’s no charge to be nominated. There’s no charge to be selected. There’s no charge to attend for those people and all of our inductees, which we call members, really for a lifetime don’t have to pay money to be a part of the hall of fame. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there, I’m on your website now. It is so gorgeous and you’ve done such a great job, both with the website and with building this organization from just a kernel and dream that you had. The testimony is to you because for our listeners out there that have tried to start a business or now are currently ecopreneurs or entrepreneurs, everybody knows how hard it is when everyone else says no or it hasn’t been done. Sam took this and I know personally, has made it his mission in everything he has done an amazing job with it but for our listeners out there, go to www.gogreenhall.org. It’s a great website. You can see everything that’s happened the year since Sam’s started it and obviously, the upcoming great event that’s about to happen so talk a little bit about who are the people you’ve honored along the way and some of the more memorable speeches or some of the more memorable inductions that you’ve done. I know you and I are both huge fans of Ray Anderson so speak a little bit about the people that you’ve met along the way that have touched you and touched the organization and therefore, shared their story and inspired so many others. SAM GEIL: Right. You hit on a big icon there with Ray C. Anderson. I attended a couple of conferences up in San Francisco and had the opportunity to meet with Ray. One of them was rather small. It was put on by Sustainable Industries Magazine and there might be 150 people there so when Ray was finished, I had the chance to pull him aside and we must have talked for half an hour and it was probably one of the most enlightening half hours I’ve ever had but I shared with him the business plan and the idea of having this hall of fame and he was so supportive. He just thought it was a great idea and that really helped. That was very, very inspiring to get that kind of endorsement so he’s definitely at the top of the list, if not number one. John, you have been very supportive over the years and I watched your transformation and that’s been very inspirational so I would have to put you up there in the top three. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re too kind. SAM GEIL: And then I would say probably a guy by the name of Jim Core. Jim Core is an engineer out of Winnipeg, Canada, and he’s developed a car for what he would call the common man, ‘The Common Man’s Car’. It can go 300 miles to the gallon and they’ve just done some great things. I call it the Tesla for the everyday guy and he’s been extremely motivational and he’s been extremely motivational and supportive and that was 2011. That was our first year that we inducted folks into the Hall of Fame and that includes A Corps and Grundfos and The City of Fresno’s recycling program, Driptech out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Duke’s Smart Homes at Duke University and then we had another ceremony, an induction in ’12 and that included some really cool people and we did some new things there. We actually started an Advocacy Award and awarded that to Climate Ride, a cycling event that they hold on the west and the east coast and they ride 350 miles and all the money that they raise goes towards organizations that are advocating for sustainability. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And you’ve done that ride. SAM GEIL: Yeah, I’ve done it three times. I’ll be doing it again this year. I was actually on the Board of Directors there when it got started and then left once things got going but that’s a wonderful organization and then we also started the Innovation Award and the first year we did that was Aqua Q and they actually got acquired by Badger Meter out of Milwaukee and what’s interesting, John, is that a number of our inductees have actually used our platform of being inducted as a springboard to success and that’s why we’re here and that’s what we want to do and so last year, we held our conference in Stockton, California, and it was sponsored by the Stockton Chamber of Commerce. You scratch your head there and say Chamber of Commerce? They actually have done more in the area of advocacy and education in The Central Valley than any group that I’m aware of and we’re actually going to induct them this year into the Hall of Fame because of their work. They call it Green Team San Joaquin and it’s amazing so there are just a number of amazing stories and I’ll give you a couple. Delight Design, they design lights that are powered by solar units for villages in Africa and what these solar lights do is they replace the kerosene lamps in these villages that are toxic and also very dangerous because if they tip over, they’ll basically burn the hut down and by using these lights, these special solar powered lights, the children can read at night and they can read without having the fumes from the kerosene and it’s safe and then we abducted another group called Empower Playgrounds. They make playground equipment that produces electricity, John. They make a merry-go-round that the kids play on because these kids love the merry-go-round. You get about 25 kids and as the merry-go-round spins, there’s a generator in the middle of it and it generates enough power for the entire village. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is awesome. For our listeners that just joined us, we’ve got Sam Geil on. He’s my longtime friend. He’s also the founder and CEO of the International Green Industry Hall of Fame. Learn more about what Sam’s doing at the Green Hall of Fame at www.gogreenhall.org. We’ve got about seven minutes left, Sam. Talk a little bit about what’s coming up, your big annual event, and how our listeners can get involved because the key is I want people to listen and then join, listen and then contact you and get involved with the great work you’re doing. SAM GEIL: Thank you, John. This year’s event will be held in the San Francisco Bay Area at San Jose State University March 28th and it’s an all day event starting at eight o’clock and ends at five and they can get involved by attending. We also streamed the event live over our website, which you’ve mentioned and so they can watch the ceremony live by going to our website and we do that because it’s the right way to go. You have to spend money traveling and getting to the site so those who can’t can log on and enjoy the event. We have a number of keynote speakers. We have John Lanier, who is the grandson of Ray C. Anderson, who’s going to talk about the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, which is doing great work, so this should be a pretty emotional keynote. Jim Kor, as I mentioned earlier, is going to talk. His topic is A Car for this Century; Why a small dedicated team quietly created a unique car, and named it URBEE. Then we have plenary sessions and those are folks that are going to present for 45 minutes. Rod Diridon is going to talk about transportation and the transformation of the transportation industry. Richard Cummings from UC – Merced is going to talk about Green from the Ground Up and that’s building a green university from the ground up. We’re also going to feature Tom Cotter talking about financing in the solar industry and then we have Farmer Al Courchesne from Frog Hollow Farms talking about organic farming and his organic farm university, exquisite stuff going on and so those are some of the highlights. We scholarship about 125 students from various universities and high schools that will be in attendance. We have schools driving 200 miles to attend. We have students from Stanford, Santa Clara, San Jose State to attend and they come free. We scholarship them in and we stick them in the front row so they can watch the proceedings and the speakers right up front. That’s our audience. We’re trying to influence the next generation to take this to another level and do it as quickly as possible because we know the urgency. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re right and I love the whole model, education and honoring people and honoring well-deserving people. If our listeners want to be considered next year or they want to be involved or they want to donate, how does it all work? How do they contact your colleagues? How do they get involved to support the Green Industry Hall of Fame? SAM GEIL: First thing I’d like to share with our audience is how they can best help us. It’s not the money. It’s getting online and nominating people and organizations that you feel are deserving of recognition and there’s no cost to do it. Simply go on our website, put in the nomination, and that’s it. We do the rest of the work. The second thing that people can do to help us out is come to the event and witness and be a part of what’s happening because the people who do come leave totally inspired and it does transform minds. We know that. We get that feedback and it’s an ongoing process. If you want to donate, great, but it’s not the highest priority at this point. The organization isn’t such that we need it. We don’t have any staff. We have no paid staff. Everything we do is 100% volunteer. One of my missions in life is to make templates for nonprofits that are sustainable and part of ecological sustainability is economic sustainability and so our model is also to make sure that the money that we have we use 100% towards the mission and that’s recognizing excellence in the green industries so that’s how people can get involved. Come to the event. Go on the website and watch it on March 28th and really, live green. Live the most sustainable lifestyle you possibly can. That at the end of the day is the mission and preserve this for the next generations. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it, and for our listeners out there, again, to learn more about Sam and his great work and all of his colleagues and what they’ve created at the Green Industry Hall of Fame, please go to www.gogreenhall.org. The annual event’s coming up on March 28th and like Sam said, you don’t have to actually come and create a bigger carbon footprint and actually come to the Bay Area. It’s all live stream and you can watch it and enjoy it and get involved and like Sam said, that’s the thing to do. Get involved because we can all become part of the solution. Sam, you’re a friend and I’m obviously very biased but truly, to have created this out of nothing and to have affected so many people and inspired so many young people, it’s just great to see that and I’m just honored to have you as a friend and you are really truly leading the way and the truth is you’re a true visionary. You’re a collaborative ecopreneur and in sum, you are one of the best green champions I’ve ever met and therefore, truly living proof that green is good. SAM GEIL: Thank you John, and God bless.