What work do you do?
I’m the founder and CEO of GreenPrint.
How does it relate to the environment?
We recently launched GreenPrint software which analyzes each page of every document sent to the printer and looks for typical waste characteristics (like that last page with just a URL, banner ad, logo, or legal jargon) and then eliminates wasteful pages automatically. GreenPrint also incorporates an easy-to-use PDF writer, an innovative print preview, and a reporting feature that keeps track of the number of pages, trees, CO2, and money saved. We estimate that by using GreenPrint, the average large organization will save over $2 million and 4,000 trees a year, as well as prevent 25 million pounds of CO2 emissions. The average family saves over $90 in paper and ink each year.
What are you working on at the moment?
We’ve just announced a new initiative offering to pay Fortune 500 companies to go green. Essentially we’re giving away the software to large organizations in exchange for half of the savings it creates. Because the environmental benefit of using the software in a large organization is so significant, we want to do everything we can to make it as easy as possible to get GreenPrint on board. We also see it as symbolic of GreenPrint’s revolutionary proposition — saving money while saving the environment. As far as we can tell, no other company has ever offered to pay the Fortune 500 to go green. We’re hoping we can get a large portion of the Fortune 500 companies to take advantage of this opportunity — we’re pretty excited about it.
We are also looking to expand our line of eco-fonts. Our EverGreen, which we launched earlier this year, reduces paper use by 15 to 20 percent vs. Arial and Times New Roman. We want to introduce additional fonts later this year.
How do you get to work?
I ride on the handlebars of our technical director’s “fixed-gear” bike, which eliminates the need to spend any other time on adrenaline-seeking activities.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
I have always loved entrepreneurialism. I had a gaggle of businesses growing up — gutter cleaning, a snack shop, web design — and started a co-op bookstore in college which challenged the campus monopoly and received a tremendously positive response from students. After college I received two fellowships — one to look at the impact of tourism on the mountainous communities of Asia, and another to do an M.B.A. at Oxford. I accepted a job at Ford of Europe and helped create an innovation department. I very quickly decided the corporate life was not for me, quit, and moved to San Francisco to explore entrepreneurial opportunities. I launched ProgressiveRx.com a few months later to try to provide a low-cost option for those without health-care benefits, then founded Progressive Health Worldwide to provide free pediatric tuberculosis clinics for kids in rural India.
GreenPrint was created in 2005 as the result of frustration over a wasted page with just a URL which was printed at the end of a New York Times article, and as a potential solution for the mountains of orphaned pages printed daily at Ford when I was there (and millions of similar print stations around the world). When I couldn’t find any sort of solution available on CNET or through a Google search, I started to brainstorm potential solutions with a friend from the product innovation department at Ford, who went on to become our technical director.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Portland, Ore. After moving away for undergrad (in Scotland and then Los Angeles) I lived and worked in Nepal, London, New York, and San Francisco, among other places, before moving back to Portland in 2006. I wanted to base GreenPrint in Portland because it is such a fantastic place — it offers that great balance of a cosmopolitan feel and the ability to be at the ocean or on a mountain within an hour’s drive, as well as a great sense of community.
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
My first few months at Ford were awful. Although I was brought on as a “hotshot M.B.A.,” there was a reorganization a day after I was hired and so I spent the first few months constantly asking for work. Eventually, I just started inventing projects I thought should be undertaken. There is not much that’s worse than sitting in a windowless office in Essex, England, with absolutely nothing to do.
What’s been the best?
The last six months have been unbelievable. Probably the apex was Walt Mossberg’s review of GreenPrint in The Wall Street Journal just a month after we launched. It’s been an incredible experience to have been a part of taking GreenPrint from a rough idea to a tangible product that’s been downloaded and reviewed all over the world.
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
From a rational point of view, oil companies making huge profits yet pushing off the cleanup of MTBE leaks onto American taxpayers, with the help of local and national politicians, I thought was absolutely ridiculous. From an emotional point of view, seeing the total disregard for the environment by a large portion of the local community in places like Nepal was probably the most infuriating.
Who is your environmental hero?
I am incredibly impressed with the work Sustainable Harvest International is doing. It seems like an ingenious model — pay people in the developing world a good living wage to plant trees that reduce CO2 (and often help feed the community) and provide a real alternative to slash-and-burn and other types of work that are environmentally harmful. It’s a tremendous win-win and incredibly cost effective.
What’s your environmental vice?
Hot showers with water pressure that completely envelops me. I try to keep them short, but on a per-minute basis they are certainly not environmentally optimal.
How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? Read any good books lately?
Now that I am back in Portland, I try to spend as much time outside as possible hiking, skiing, rafting, and fly fishing. I’m also training for a marathon and have used that time to listen to books on my iPod. Two of them in the last few months have been fantastic: Mountains Beyond Mountains, about Paul Farmer’s work through Partners in Health in Haiti, was nearly life changing; A Long Way Gone, about the life of a child soldier in Sierra Leone, was also incredibly moving. I also thought The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin were very well written.
What’s your favorite meal?
Wow. That is a tough one. I love food and wine. A good French or Pacific Northwest meal is tough to beat, but so is good pad ka pow or noodle soup from a street vendor in Thailand. I’ll have to do some more research and get back to you.
Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?
Frugality — I hate to see things wasted. I am a big fan of efficiency.
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
There is a lake in the Jefferson wilderness in central Oregon that hasn’t had a maintained path to it for 30 years, so it only gets a couple of visitors a year. The water is a beautiful teal color with lots of hybrid brook trout, and Mount Jefferson sets the backdrop. Very tough to beat.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
I’d like to see at least 25 percent of the dollars donated to environmental projects be spent on programs in the developing world. Not only does the developing world have far more serious environmental problems than the West, the dollars spent there would also provide jobs that would raise the standard of living. How great would it be to engage in a project that benefited the global environment while also reducing infant mortality and childhood malnutrition?
Who was your favorite musical artist when you were 18? How about now?
Led Zeppelin. If it ain’t broke …
What’s your favorite TV show? Movie?
Which actor would play you in the story of your life?
I’ve been confused for Josh Hartnett a couple of times, but I would love to see Paris Hilton play the part. I think it’s the sort of part that could transform her career, and it seems like she needs a bit of that right now.
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
I’d like everyone to spend some time in one of the Least Developed Countries. A few months in any of those that I’ve been to provided more insight into the biggest global problems than a lifetime of articles and TV programs. I also think they expose innovative solutions for improved conservation (usually developed by necessity).
Have you approached Microsoft and/or Apple? I hope my next computer has your software already downloaded! — Gale Tichenor, Huntington Station, N.Y.
Our ultimate goal is exactly that — to be pre-loaded on the next computer you buy. GreenPrint solves a problem nearly every computer user has — and the solution applied globally would save tens of millions of trees and hundreds of millions of pounds of CO2 every year, while saving consumers billions of dollars in ink and paper. We would love to talk with Microsoft and Apple about how we can work together to achieve that goal. If you’ve got Bill’s or Steve’s number lying around, send it our way. We’d love to give them a ring.
How much does your product cost? — Magdalena Bogart, Los Altos, Calif.
GreenPrint is $35 for the Home version and $70 for the Enterprise version (although the coupon code EarthDay2007 is, I think, still valid for $5 off either).
We also sell a font called EverGreen that reduces paper consumption by 15 to 20 percent, when compared to Arial and Times New Roman. The font sells for $10 and works on Macs or PCs.
Would you consider offering your software at no charge? What about partnering with a larger organization like Google? — Sara Graham, St. Louis, Mo.
Giving the software away at no cost is a tough business model. It reminds me of a Saturday Night Live skit about a bank that only made change. The president of the bank says, “Our customers sometimes ask how we can make money just making change. Our answer: Volume.”
We do currently offer the software at no charge up front to large organizations in exchange for a portion of the savings it creates. At the moment, we don’t have the ability to make the same offer for smaller organizations and home users, but we are continually looking for ways to make it more accessible to everyone. Our goal is to get GreenPrint on every computer out there; however, without generating revenue, we’ll never get there.
We would also like to demonstrate that environmental ideas/products can be turned into profitable businesses. If we gave the software away at no cost, not only would it lead to the end of GreenPrint — and any future products or feature improvements — but we also would not be able to provide an example of successful green entrepreneurialism.
A4 paper — an international standard or an extra inch of waste? — Kate Mannle, Seattle, Wash.
Like universal health care and the metric system, the “A” standards seem far too sensible for us to adopt (the Bush administration is also currently investigating the possibility that the A standard may “hate freedom”). The A standard is better than “letter” because A’s more easily facilitate scaling (A3 is twice the size of A4, which is twice the size of A5, and so on). Adopting the international standard would probably significantly reduce waste.
I am curious to hear your perspective on corporate America, specifically in regards to why it was not for you. — John Suhar, Milwaukee, Wis.
I was once asked by an executive at Ford if I could spend a few minutes to help him spruce up a PowerPoint. Seven iterations and three days later, we had custom stop lights for bullet points and tons of bells and whistles. I visited his office on the morning of the fourth day, and he said, “This is exactly what I wanted. However, I just got out of a meeting with the VP of Marketing, and he reminded me that this is crunch time so we should just worry about substance and not waste any time on formatting. So could you go back and spend some time making it look like we didn’t spend any time on formatting?”
Ford had some amazing pluses. They had incredible benefits and a great work-life balance, but even while leading the innovation team, I never felt as if there was an opportunity to have a significant impact. The bureaucracy made any substantive change almost impossible, and I felt as if I was constantly trying to do the right thing for the company in spite of red tape that made it nearly impossible. Ironically, it was the offer of a big promotion that ultimately led to my decision to quit. I decided that, as nice as the lifestyle was, if I wasn’t passionate about the work and couldn’t be effective, it wasn’t worth it.
What did you do in order to get ready to “take the plunge” so to speak when you started your first business venture? — Erika Hennessey, Basking Ridge, N.J.
It may not seem very insightful, but the best piece of advice I received during my M.B.A. at Oxford was from a successful entrepreneur who was asked a similar question. He responded, “If you want to be an entrepreneur, just start something — anything! It doesn’t matter if your first venture is successful or not. What you’ll learn will be invaluable in eventually creating a very successful business. There are always a million reasons to wait to start something, but almost invariably, the future doesn’t make taking the plunge any easier.” However, another successful entrepreneur I recently heard answering questions said, tongue in cheek, “The only thing you need to be a successful entrepreneur is tenacity and a willingness to forgo an income for 10 years.”
My advice would be a combination of both thoughts. Find an idea that you are passionate about as soon as possible, and run it by as many friends, family, and potential customers as you can before moving ahead. If you don’t have enough savings to pay your cost of living while you are getting things going, see if you can work part-time to pay the bills. It’s a really tough road, but I can’t imagine anything else being as much fun.
When you get a short list of ideas, feel free to if you’d like some feedback.
I work at a university where those mountains of extra paper can be found at the print stations. How can we get the software? — Joey G., Ithaca, N.Y.
We have a 50 percent discount for educational organizations and environmental nonprofits, in addition to volume discounts. For large universities (over 1,000 users), we will provide the software at no cost up front in exchange for a portion of the savings that result.
The waste reduction potential on a per-computer basis — especially in the labs — is enormous. We have a pilot running right now with the largest university in Oregon and a number of other local colleges and universities have purchased or are piloting GreenPrint. We are always interested in setting up more.
We also offer free pilots of the Enterprise version so you can try it with 50 to 300 users and see if you like it. Feel free to if you’d like to discuss further.
Where can I get the software for MS Word and Epson printers? — Laurence Topliffe, Fairfield, Iowa
GreenPrint works with every application and every printer, so it will work with both MS Word and your Epson printer, as long as you have a PC.
When will your Mac edition be released? — Kate Mannle, Seattle, Wash.
Not soon enough! We’ve had trouble finding Mac developers with relevant experience (as well as the budget to pay them). As a result, we’ve had to push the launch date back, but we hope to have a Mac version out before the end of the year.
Are you single? — Victoria, New York, N.Y.