Former journalist creates New Hampshire green cooperative

New Hampshire business alliances inspires businesses to think greener -- and rewards local consumers who buy from its members.

A year ago, former journalist Sarah Brown thought it would be a neat idea to help local businesses better communicate their green business ideals to potential customers in her Portsmouth, N.H., community. She saw herself as sort of a sustainability coordinator for hire. She never dreamed that 80 small companies would jump on board -- despite the wicked bad economy.

Brown's Green Alliance organization focuses on helping local companies of all types assess their business practices and figure out where they can become more green or more sustainable. Businesses that invest in becoming a Business Partner are required to undergo a 60-question sustainability evaluation AND be willing to have the results shared with the outside world on the Green Alliance web site. Stuff that gets considered are sourcing strategies, alternative energy usage, the company's willingness to help educate customers about green issues, and so on.

Here's a sample entry for the company that tipped me off about Green Alliance in the first place, Jenaly, an IT services firm.

There are three different green ratings that businesses can earn: Sprout, Bud or Blossom. None is perfect, Brown says, and all of them just want better insight into how they can do better. Each company will be reevaluated on an annual basis, a process that she's just starting with some of her initial members. Every business that joins the alliance gets their own page on the site, where their green credentials are explored and any current news is shared, including promotions to Green Alliance card holds.

That's the other piece of Green Alliance: for $35, local consumers can buy a "Green Card" that gets them discounts or entitles them to promo offers from the participating businesses. There are about 1,000 people in this coop, according to Brown. "The whole reason we are doing this is to influence the consumer to make better choices," she says.

Green Alliance doesn't seek to replace other local business associations, such as the Seacoast Buy Local organization, and in fact Brown has built out an advisory board of community green and climate experts to inform Green Alliance's work. "My goal is simple, reach people who don't necessarily consider themselves to be environmentalists," Brown says. "Even if you don't care about green, the card saves you a lot of money."

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com