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Friday, October 29, 2010

A "Natural" Idea

I had the pleasure of touring a very interesting local start-up company in Green Island. It's a great example of how a small company can create BIG ideas that make a difference. That concept attracted my interest, since I envision Heatly School distinguishing itself someday as a small school with BIG ideas, and led to a call for information and an interest in learning more about the firm. I also had hope that they might provide a product that would be a much more eco-firendly substitute for the foam trays we use in our food service program. While they do not yet furnish such a replacement, they are manufacturing literally growing an innovative and award winning company that has recently been featured in Time magazine, Popular Science magazine, and even served as a clue in a murder case on the hit television show, CSI: New York.

Ecovative Design is the brainchild to two young graduates of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a renown research university located just across the Hudson River in Troy. In addition to receiving their undergraduate degrees, both of the company founders experienced the benefits of the innovation and entrepreneurship program at RPI that seeks to incubate ideas. The pair of men examined the way mushrooms were growing on wood chips and actually bonding the wood chips together. They imagined other potential uses of the resin-like substance that bonded the wood chips. Their persistent experimenting eventually yielded results and a product line that makes a difference, and makes a profit - all without negatively impacting the environment. The process combines mushroom roots and seed husks to produce packaging that protects items being shipped and transported. One of the primary clients thus far has been a noted international company that ships office furniture. The Ecovative packaging is an alternative to the traditional white foam inserted into the corners of shipping boxes. It requires far less energy and uses natural ingredients. It is also bio-degradable and can be composted in your backyard.

I hope Ecovative Deisgn continues to grow, expands its product line, makes a difference, enjoys success - and remains in Green Island. It was very interesting to learn about the product and view the process, but of even more intriguing was the manner in which the idea evolved, took shape, and took off! The success of the company offers a powerful lesson to individuals and small organizations that exercise imagination and explore innovation. It can be done, and in fact many enduring inventions started small and achieved success through persistence, experimentation, and determination. Michelangelo once explained that success often emerges from the point an individual reverses his or her perspective from the skeptical, "I'll believe it when I see it," to the optimistic, "I'll see it when I believe it." We're starting to believe it at Heatly. We're off the list of Schools In Need of Improvement and ready to advance to new opportunities and promising possibilities.

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