Green.org sat down with Mike Chodroff, CEO of The Ripple Center, to learn how they are developing successful sustainable entrepreneurs.
Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
Circuitous would be the best word to describe my professional career. I tell young people all the time to focus on what they are interested in and their career will create itself. After graduating Rutgers with degrees in journalism and communication, and immersed in several internships at NYC based television studios, I opted to switch paths and take advantage of new opportunities. I joined an investment firm and earned my Series 7 license, becoming a certified financial planner. Having acquired a comprehensive understanding of economics and finance, I moved onto entrepreneurship and became president of a start-up publishing company that produced Unofficial College Guides.
During these two jobs I saw first-hand that every business decision has a rippling impact on people and the planet. Wanting to share this knowledge, I moved into education and imparted the tenets of sustainability and stewardship to my students and colleagues for more than 20 years. And as president of a statewide environmental nonprofit, my commitment to community building and issues of justice continue to have an impact. Knowing that the health of our planet and its inhabitants is dependent upon organizational change, I founded The Ripple Center.
An educational ecosystem for molding social entrepreneurs who will disrupt existing systems and become changemakers for good could not be a more exciting endeavor for me. Entrepreneurship, education, environment, and ethics have always been at the center of who I am as a professional and as a human. And those values are the basis for building a community that can implement large scale change via the organizations that they create or influence from the inside. I truly believe that we are the creators of the world that we live in. I want to do my part to create a world that will be better for us all to live.
What would you do with $1 Billion dollars?
For starters, I would fully fund The Ripple Center for the next 20+ years. That would help us educate an army of social entrepreneurs that truly applied the principles of people and planet stewardship with building a business or organization. It would also create a campus for leaders in all different industries and sectors to learn about the environmental and social impacts we all have and how to make them the most positive ones possible. With the remaining $850 million dollars, I’d probably invest in environmental startups and projects that are looking to disrupt broken systems and revolutionize our energy, agriculture, infrastructure and technology sectors. And, in full transparency, I’d visit Patagonia, but bring the person who gave me the billion dollars.
Why do you think sustainability is such an important topic today?
Truth be told, we should be focused on reparation and regeneration as nothing in nature is sustainable. It is constantly changing and adapting. That being said, sustainability is such an important topic today for the same reason it was such an important topic 175 years ago when Eunice Foote recognized the potential relationship between carbon dioxide and our atmosphere warming. With the human population increasing exponentially, and most people feeling disconnected from nature, instead of recognizing that we are a part of it, we are probably a bit past the tipping point of preventing inevitable imbalances in nature. However, we can be talking about ways to repair things for future generations while also preparing present generations for some of the potential calamities to come.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
Working in the nonprofit sector, I think that individuals, foundations, and partner organizations are going to be more selective as to who they donate funds to. As we move to a more socially and environmentally conscious consumer, nonprofits, like corporations, will have to demonstrate how they also have organizational structures, missions, and values that truly benefit people and the planet.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Put your money where your values are. Know the difference between wants and needs. Research the companies you are purchasing from, investing in, banking with, donating to. No organization can exist without funding and if you withhold your dollars because of a company’s practices that degrade our environment, then they will be forced to make some changes. Individuals need to stop thinking about convenience in the moment, and more about the ripple effects their decisions will have in the long run. Each and every one of us is responsible for our decisions and we need to recognize the impact we have with every decision we make as consumers and producers.
Mike, thank you for sharing your passion for helping sustainable entrepreneurs.
Dylan Welch is the CEO and Host of Going Green, a podcast, website, and social media brand that highlights renewable energy, cleantech, and sustainable news.