Climate Corner: An innovation opportunity in 2024

Dec 23, 2023

Jonathan Brier

Action on climate and the environment shouldn’t be political, it is a business opportunity which when objectives and values are aligned in the business model can be good for the environment too. The discussion around the climate often has opposition pitting jobs, business, and economic growth against regulation, and change from the status quo. It doesn’t have to be, but it does require being open to change from the status quo and acting with intentionality. Change may come in how we source, design, and think about our products, services, and economy, but we should lean into it and see what we can do instead of focusing on what we can’t or don’t want to do.

Many opportunities exist to improve the Mid-Ohio Valley competitiveness locally and internationally as well as attract/retain youth, build our economy focused on sustainable models which have a triple bottom line of economic value, social, and environmental impact while remaining competitive.

I earned a Masters of Science in Information specializing in social computing to work on citizen science, but one of the most memorable courses was an elective I took alongside MBA students at the University of Michigan Ross Business School in Social Entrepreneurship. The course opened my eyes to alternative ways of thinking of business models that were economical and good for society and the environment.

Cradle to Cradle (ISBN 978-0099535478) is a reading from this course which continues to be a top recommendation. It explores the concept of thinking about products from initial material selection through its entire lifecycle until its end of life and waste and reuse opportunities. Design from the beginning to end often results in more repairable products as well as more reusable or repurposable and not just the profit model of the first sale.

My favorite case study was how a textile manufacturer sold its product, but needed to pay to dispose of the waste scrap from cutting the product as the scraps were considered hazardous waste. After investing in a search for new dyes the same cuttings could be sold to farmers for composting instead of being a cost. In addition to new revenue it reduced landfill use.

My challenge to the Mid-Ohio Valley for 2024 is to:

* Identify one product or service that you use or care about or one problem you want to fix.

* Identify what one change could make that product more useful at the end of its life, easier to dispose of, more efficient and/or less wasteful, or a new product or service that would address what you identified.

* Speak up to those responsible or make the change yourself if you can.

For governments and business networking groups:

* How are we fostering the idea and value chains and supporting business waste transformation to a raw material for a nearby business?

* How many concrete facilities sponsor recycling collection for glass as a component of their products? Could we leverage barge transport on the Ohio River to become a recycling stronghold?

* While there is a third party certification for cradle to cradle: Implementing the concepts behind this design thinking doesn’t require certification, it requires a mindset and practice. Certifications may open additional doors. Over 500 companies have certified products, how many are in the Mid-Ohio Valley?

My gifts to you this season:

* If social entrepreneurship is of interest to you consider a read of Michael Gordon Becoming a Social Entrepreneur (ISBN 978-0367197735).

* If you would like to think about innovative alternatives: Mycelium aka a fungus can replace foam and more (

* If the right to repair and work on the things you own is important, check out the work of The Repair Association (

* A Social Enterprise list by Rural Action in Ohio (

* Reimagine Appalachia complements much of this “rethinking” while leaning into what is good for those living here too (

* What if waste did not exist? Cradle to Cradle founder video

* Why do we need cradle to cradle thinking? There are many product reports by Healthy Stuff Labs which shows we are looking only at part of our product design and not proactively considering choices in product materials.


Jonathan Brier is a Marietta, Ohio resident, Information Scientist, and an Eagle Scout. He is the Data Services Librarian at Ohio University, a member of the Association of Computing Machinery, American Association for the Advancement of Science, OpenStreetMap US, a Board member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, and a Wikipedia contributor.