Annual Earth Day Reminds Us Importance Of Environmental Entrepreneurism 

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Welcome back to The Sunstone Way. 

On April 22, people nationwide – worldwide – will celebrate Earth Day. The recent solar eclipse may have reminded us just how small our planet is, but it is all we’ve got, so we must pay attention to it. 

This will be the 54th annual Earth Day – and there is still much to work on when it comes to taking care of our Planet Earth. 

I can’t think of the last day when there wasn’t an environmental story in the paper or on the web. This year’s Earth Day focus is Planet vs. Plastics – a fitting and pretty universal fight. But that was far from the case when activists first came up with Earth Day in 1970

Environmental Awakening 

The late 1960s were a time of activism, particularly on and near college campuses, with protests and teach-ins about the Vietnam War capturing much of the attention. Prompted by some environmental disasters – and a desire to talk about something besides war – some leaders began to call for attention to environmental protection. 

One of those disasters took place outside Santa Barbara here in California. On Jan. 28, 1969 an oil well six miles off the coast blew out, spewing out three million gallons of oil. It directly killed more than 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions, and decimated the Santa Barbara economy, particularly in regards to fishing and tourism. 

The spill prompted then-President Richard Nixon to visit the area, and sparked a debate over off-shore oil drilling that continues today. It also convinced Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson (a Democrat) to try to organize an environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970. But it was clear college students still were more interested in war protests, so the emphasis shifted to communities and environmentally focused events. 

A Movement Launches 

It would take years for the Santa Barbara coast to recover. But the movement had begun. The 1970s saw substantial environmental legislation, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Superfund, Toxics Substances Control Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. 

The Environmental Protection Agency was formed by act of Congress, and the infamous DDT pesticide was banned. The environmental movement was by no means a universally popular movement, but it remains strong these 54 years later. 

Entrepreneurial Environmentalism 

Taking care of our planet is good business – we consider it enriching our broader community. The innovation and creativity of this generation of entrepreneurs is a joy to behold. Let me mention a few that Sunstone has partnered with since early in their journeys. 

Evolectric formed in 2020 when two friends steeped in battery and transportation electrification decided to save the world by eliminating carbon emissions. Okay, a slight exaggeration. What Bill Beverley and Jakson Alvarez did want to do, though, is to convert existing combustion engine trucks to run on electricity, significantly reducing carbon emissions. 

I met them when they were in the first Long Beach Accelerator cohort. We’ve offered support as they developed their conversion kit – converting current trucks to electricity instead of trashing them and building new vehicles – and built their business. Just a couple of weeks ago, Evolectric cut the ribbon on a new manufacturing facility and headquarters at Rancho Dominguez, taking the next step to making a difference. 

Seatrec and its founder Dr. Yi Chao has partnered with Sunstone for several years as he developed his open-ocean energy harvesting system to power floats to better monitor weather and hurricanes, map sea floors and a number of other research applications. Dr. Chao’s great new idea is generating electricity through naturally occurring temperature differences in depths of ocean water. 

Dr. Chao recently was certified as a California Climate Tech startup, qualifying for the Climate Tech Finance Program. With the resulting $1 million loan guarantee, Seatrec is gearing up for commercial production of the infinitE™ float. 

Back on land, we are working with Sensegrass Inc., a company working to harness computer technology and data collection to help farmers use less fertilizer, the exact amount of water needed and more. Sensegrass is working to use nano-satellite mapping, rover bots, and AI-based applications to increase yields while reducing carbon. 

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. These entrepreneurs are showing how improving the environment is good business. That’s a very Earth Day sort of thing. And it is The Sunstone Way. 

As always, remember to be a Sunstone! 

John Keisler 

CEO & Managing Partner 

Sunstone Management, Inc. 

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©Sunstone Management, Inc. 2024 

More About Sunstone Management 
Sunstone Management is a diversified private capital sponsor firm headquartered in Southern California. Identified by Financial Times as one of America’s Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row. In the latest Pitchbook rankings, Sunstone Management was #15 in the third quarter of 2023 nationally, and #18 in the fourth quarter.1 

  1. Rankings from Pitchbook Venture Monitor, Q3 and Q4. 

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