EcoApprentice aims to connect businesses with ideas
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
A new website out of Hood River wants to help businesses wrestle with their toughest eco-challenges.
EcoApprentice is an online community for students, faculty members, eco-minded citizens and businesses looking for help solving sustainability-oriented issues.
The concept takes the idea of crowdsourcing and uses it to harness the brainpower and sustainability passion of a younger generation to help businesses address problems that affect their triple-bottom-line performance.
"What we're trying to do is create a dynamic where a business can engage local students to become more efficient," said Richard Halpern founder of EcoApprentice. "If you look at the businesses that have signed up so far, we have everything from a restaurant to an orchard," Halpern said. "We can apply this to any businesses."
The service is free, and EcoApprentice has about 80 registered users, about half of them businesses.
Businesses post their challenge, and the student and expert users help them solve the problem.
An active challenge on the site Friday was submitted by Allium Bistro of West Linn, which is looking for an eco-friendly way to wash dishes while still meeting Oregon's health code requirements for restaurants.
Halpern, who works part-time as a school counselor, launched EcoApprentice in February to tap what he saw as the very best of the education system: Giving students the opportunity to apply their skills to real-world problems. He says faculty from four Oregon institutions have signed on and encouraged their students to do the same.
EcoApprentice is a bootstrapped startup, funded with about $50,000 from Halpern and his family. He decided not to charge a subscription fee.
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