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Sustainable Business is a Smart Move for Students

By Sharon Chen
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At the College of the Atlantic in Maine, students have the unique opportunity to start their own companies, earn college credits, and learn about translating sustainability into smart business. Jay Friedlander, a College of the Atlantic professor and the founder of the Sustainable Business Program, notes that his program aims to teach students how to “create a business that's a positive win on all sides, as opposed to the old industrial model that takes from nature, grinds it up, spits out a product and doesn't know where that product goes at the end of its life.”

Graduates of the Sustainable Business Program have gone on to design and aid in the construction of a bio-butanol facility, and to grow produce inside industrial warehouses near food distribution centers, so that residents in densely populated urban areas still have access to local, sustainably-raised produce. They learn economics, business, and perhaps most importantly they learn how to approach these disciplines with an eye to sustainability.

The College of the Atlantic’s program is a great example of interdisciplinary education with a focus on sustainability and business. As green jobs and green lifestyles continue to grow, a background in sustainable business will be an important way for students to get ahead.


A 'Hatchery' for student entrepreneurs: Foundation grant helps launch COA's venture incubator

Laurie Schreiber | Mainebiz | September 7, 2015

A donation to College of the Atlantic's business incubator will allow an unusual program to graduate from its scraping-by status to a permanent place in the curriculum.

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, honoring a Mount Desert Island summer resident, has given $1.5 million to the program, which the college calls "The Hatchery."

On the scenic campus of this small, alternative college of about 350 students, where space is at a premium, The Hatchery is located in a refurbished tennis shed.

"It's our version of the Silicon Valley garage," jokes Jay Friedlander, who runs the program.

The Hatchery gives COA students a chance to start a business and earn college credit in an interdisciplinary environment. Since the program was established in 2010, efforts have focused on alternative energy, advocacy, food systems and the creative economy. Each student admitted into the program receives up to $5,000 in seed capital and has access to mentors, lawyers, accountants, designers and public relations professionals.

Friedlander arrived at COA seven years ago to found the college's Sustainable Business Program. He previously served as chief operating officer for the former O'Naturals Inc., a Falmouth-based natural and organic fast-food restaurant group. He's also worked with senior executives of Fortune 500 companies as a strategy consultant, developing and implementing global brand experiences and customer-centered growth strategies for clients that included Citigroup.

Friedlander defines sustainable business in terms of abundance.

"What you're looking for is enterprise — for-profit, nonprofit, little businesses, huge businesses — that creates abundance for the environment, for society, and also as a business," he says. "You're looking for the trifecta: How do you grow an enterprise that is financially robust and, as it grows, helps with issues such as resource usage and social capital? How do you create a business that's a positive win on all sides, as opposed to the old industrial model that takes from nature, grinds it up, spits out a product and doesn't know where that product goes at the end of its life?"

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