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American Latinos Greening the Nation

tiscareno-satoHow do we get America’s 50 million Latinos, our fastest-growing demographic group with $1.2+ trillion in purchasing power (and growing rapidly), on the path of environmental sustainability? Demonstrating powerful examples of Latino leaders is a great place to start.

Rodrigo Prudencio says childhood family trips throughout Bolivia and Latin America planted the seeds for a lifetime of environmental advocacy that has manifested in different professional roles.

Carmen Rad tells of how growing up on an island (Puerto Rico) made her wonder at a young age, “Where does all that waste go?” She learned about reducing waste from her mother who taught her to reuse everything and is “the greenest person I know.”

The passion that drives these Latino professionals to do right by the environment in their professional and personal lives is palpable when speaking to them. We can use these examples to create a massive ripple effect to move more of America’s Latinos down the path of sustainability.

Leading with Venture Capital

The saying about the guitar has driven Rodrigo Prudencio’s career progression. It’s a career path with environmental advocacy at the heart of everything, its roots sprouted while traveling as a child throughout Latin America. Now as a father, he’s thinking about his legacy.

Rodrigo understands that to affect real change, you need to be in a position of power. Talking about it won’t do it; policy work won’t always do it. He did policy work at the State Department and the National Wildlife Federation then decided to get closer to the action.

He focused on energy markets during his MBA program at U.C. Berkeley. He joined a start up funded by Nth Power LLC, a San Francisco-based VC firm exclusively focused on energy technologies. Nth Power has invested in start ups since 1997. The visionary founders believed there would be a convergence of deregulation of energy markets, resource constraints and improved technologies. How right they were.

Rodrigo soon became a partner at Nth Power, a big guitar in his hand. His focus is clear, “Everything I do here at Nth Power is to find companies that will lower the amount of energy that we use.”

From his professional and personal experiences, Rodrigo emphasizes, “I refuse to believe that there’s a tradeoff between a better standard of living and our ability to use resources wisely. My job with my team here is to find the entrepreneurs that will make this possible.”

Ernst & Young LLP reported the amount of venture capital invested in alternative energy sources increased by 73% in the three months ending in July 2009. When I asked about the innovation activity level he’s seeing, Rodrigo answered very positively. “There are three to four times more entrepreneurs at work now in energy-related improvements then when I started. It’s very encouraging.”

Shooting for Zero Waste in Commercial Printing

Are you getting ready to print banners for a corporate event? Have you considered how the materials and inks will be disposed of after your event?

Carmen Rad wanted to eliminate the waste associated with commercial banners with short shelf lives that end up in landfills. She and her husband (a textile expert) developed a fully biodegradable material. Then they worked with Hewlett-Packard to create a printer for eco-friendly UV inks to print on their new material. She was among the first to buy the new printer.

“I purchased a million-dollar machine and took a big risk to set an example in my industry. I’m hoping others will follow,” Carmen states.

Her commercial printing business, Los Angeles-based CR & A Custom, will print whatever your company needs and leave no waste afterwards.

For their innovation and commitment to changing the commercial printing business, her business received the “Green Firm of the Year Award” from the LA Minority Business Opportunity Committee. Carmen was also recognized as “Manufacturer of the Year” by the National Latina Women Business Association, L.A. Chapter. The little girl from Puerto Rico who once wondered where all the waste goes has grown up and is doing her part to produce less of it.

My journey to provide a snapshot of Latino participation in the American green economy uncovered the deep cultural roots of conservation with which many of us have been raised. The wisdom of our ancestors has propelled many into positions of great power to impact positive change in how we work, consume, live, run businesses, power our homes, cars and buildings.

You’ve met some of the DO-ers, those putting their money and careers where their mouths are, sometimes taking huge risks to do right by our planet. Now it’s up to us to emulate and support them as business people and consumers so they can keep up the momentum.

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is President of Gracefully Global, a unified communications consulting and content development firm focused on bringing insight and expertise on sustainable collaboration technologies to the global Latino business market.

This article is an except from the feature article in the Fall 2009 issue of Hispanic MBA Magazine, “The Greening of America: Hispanic Environmental Advocates Take the Lead,” published by the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. There are thirteen people profiled in the original article. Download the entire article here.

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