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Case Study - Clean Currents, LLC and Latino Economic Development Corporation

Clean Currents and Latino Economic Development Corporation
2009 Mayor's Environmental Excellence Award Winner:
Outstanding Achievement for Innovation in Green Products or Services

Clean Currents and Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) have teamed up to offer a unique approach to businesses in the District of Columbia, helping them switch to clean energy in a cost-effective manner while gaining maximum public benefit.

Clean Currents is a clean energy broker/aggregator licensed by the District of Columbia's Public Service Commission. They operate in the District, Maryland, and other areas where there is interest in procuring green power. The Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1991. Their mission is to improve the wealth-building capacity of low- and moderate-income Latinos and other underserved communities in the District area through small business development, affordable housing preservation and homeownership counseling. 

A program of our Small Business Development Department is Local First DC, a network of locally-owned, small business owners. Local First DC serves to strengthen the District's local business community through the organization of cooperative buying groups, such as green energy buying groups, the implementation of a social marketing campaign, and the development of green business initiatives for small businesses. To date, the two entities have conducted three unique clean energy buying groups, helping 22 District businesses procure green power.

The three group purchases total 3,590,000 KWh of electricity, which offsets approximately 4,136,000 lbs. of carbon, the main greenhouse gas causing global climate change. According to the US EPA, this equals taking approximately 468 cars off the road, or planting 65,500 tree seedlings. It's equal to the amount of greenhouse gases produce by burning 13.3 railcars worth of coal.

The first buying group garnered a substantial amount of publicity for the businesses involved, for LEDC and Clean Currents, and for the U Street neighborhood. As with all of the buying groups, the purpose was to make an environmental statement and save money through the dynamics of a group purchase.

Several U Street area merchants, including Ben's Chili Bowl, Coppi's Organic Pizza, Boundless Yoga, Busboys and Poets, Cake Love, Love Cafe, Rumberos, The Diner, Tryst and Luna Grill and Diner, participated in the purchase. The approximate purchase size was 1,990,000 kWh a year for three years with a carbon emissions offset of 2,225,000 lbs.

LEDC is working daily to strengthen small businesses and the connection between their environmental actions and neighborhood growth, particularly those businesses owned by low to moderate income populations in the District. Of the 22 businesses that have participated in the clean energy purchasing group, 18 of them are minority and/or women owned businesses.

In addition to these groups, we also organize regular networking events and business trainings for small business owners on sustainability topics such as recycling and composting, clean energy and local food. In 2008 we piloted a Green Cleaning workshop in Spanish, in order to educate owners of cleaning companies on how they can incorporate green practices into their businesses. The workshop attracted over 30 participants and received media attention in the Washington Hispanic newspaper. We are continually developing additional green business trainings and initiatives in order to help our clients remain competitive in the marketplace.

Clean Currents makes a point of ensuring its actions reach a broader audience, and thus have a greater impact on the community. Building on the success of the first LEDC/Clean Currents buying group, Clean Currents developed Chesapeake Green (C Green) a residential wind power program. Not only does the environment benefit from the firm's C Green product, but also the residents who participate. Clean Currents saw the first LEDC buying group as an opportunity to educate and promote solutions to global warming, to empower the local neighborhoods, and to create a sense of community.

Senior management and employees at LEDC, not only teach others how to green their businesses but also take seriously greening our own operations. In 2007 we implemented a recycling plan, which is closely monitored by our Office Manager in order to ensure that it is effectively carried out. Under the guidance of the Director of Small Business Development, LEDC developed a Green Office Pledge outlining 10 green business strategies, which was adopted by the entire staff in August 2008. We have also replaced all Styrofoam™ products with recyclable or biodegradable paper products, are committed to lowering our energy usage by limiting usage of air conditioning and heating, and installed bike racks behind our offices.

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