Christa Avampato is a NY Business Strategies blogger for Examiner.com and she asked me to share my views on green building and the philosophy of Eco Brooklyn.
Christa interviews NY business owners with a focus on entrepreneurship. It was good answering her questions. I saw Eco Brooklyn through her eyes and realized that it is very much what they call a “social entrepreneur” business.
Although technically I’d call it a social, ecological entrepreneur business in keeping with the triple bottom line of People, Planet, Profit.
The interview is on Examiner.com as well as copied below:
Interview with Gennaro Brooks-Church, Founder of Eco Brooklyn
Christa Introduction: As I was searching online for interesting Green entrepreneurs, I stumbled upon the site for Eco Brooklyn, a company devoted to educating and helping the New York community build greener co-ops and Brownstones. Eco Brooklyn is a social enterprise not just for its Green philosophy; they also make Green building education courses part of their core value proposition.
I had the opportunity to interview Gennaro Brooks-Church, founder of Eco Brooklyn. His inspirational story is one that illustrates that many times entrepreneurship chooses the entrepreneur rather than the other way around!
Christa: What inspired the creation of Eco Brooklyn?
Gennaro: Eco Brooklyn came about organically. Originally I was just going to build a green brownstone for my family but it quickly became clear that the stuff I was doing was unique. Other Brownstone owners started asking for my services and Eco Brooklyn was called into being. I saw the opportunity to build a creative and idealistic company that would do a lot of good.
Christa: What does success at Eco Brooklyn look like to you?
Gennaro: Success is measured by the triple bottom line – People, Planet, Profit – on a macro and micro level. In terms of people, Eco Brooklyn’s success is connected to the betterment of the community locally and globally. For the planet, the same goes for the local ecology as well as the planets overall health. And for profit, our financial success is measured by how much the company makes as well as how much the company helps improve the financial well being of the local and global community.
Although our focus is both macro and micro, the path by which we seek this success is very local. It is called Eco Brooklyn to highlight the importance of local action and a focus on the NY area. Everyone on the staff has broad international experience so it really is a group of global citizens acting locally. Our success is based on how effective we apply our tremendous idealism to concrete localized results.
We are constantly looking for the best green builders who share this passionate idealism. Each time we get another person on the team we feel we have succeeded in making our movement more powerful.
Christa: What’s the most gratifying part about running Eco Brooklyn?
Gennaro: It is really amazing to know you are on the cutting edge of a revolutionary movement. We know we are the most innovative green builder in Brooklyn and it is wonderful to be recognized for that because with recognition comes more opportunity to push the boundaries of green building.
We have big plans. We want to see all rooftops in Brooklyn have green roofs and solar. We want the salvage movement to become normal for all builders. Gray water, LED lighting, zero chemicals, toilet composting, edible gardens, beekeeping, chickens: we want Brooklyn to become a true ecological paradise.
What is so gratifying is that we are getting the jobs that make such a lofty goal happen.
This isn’t just crazy idealism. We’re seeing results. And that is exciting.
Christa: What was your professional background prior to Eco Brooklyn? How did you decide to make the jump and start your own business?
Gennaro: I’ve always been self employed and traveled a lot. I’ve been to over 35 countries. That gave me an understanding of how similar we are. I did a lot of work photographing Roma, or Gypsies. My site RomaPhotos.com shows some of the 60,000 images. I’ve done a lot of education, especially online. I really enjoy the power of the web to educate. Our company does a lot of educating because of that. And of course I’ve built a lot. The different building styles around the world taught me many things.
Christa: Did you feel any fear when starting your own business? If so, how did you overcome it?
Gennaro: I never really decided to start the business. This may sound strange but it started me. It is so comforting, empowering and liberating to be part of Eco Brooklyn. I wasn’t scared.
Christa: There is an ever-increasing amount of interest in green business practices, whole companies growing up around this movement. Could you describe the changes you’ve seen in this area and whether or not you think we are at a tipping point where adopting environmentally practices will not only become a strategic advantage but a necessity?
Gennaro: In five years there will be two kinds of builders: green builders and unemployed builders. That part is obvious but at Eco Brooklyn we want to take it even further. We are constantly exploring the forefront of cutting edge green building. We take green building practices, a lot of which are revolutionary already, and find ways to make them even better, It is the responsibility of companies like Eco Brooklyn to lead the way and define the best green building practices. Green builders have a responsibility to literally reverse ecological damage through building and nature restoration. Building must become an act of bringing back nature and resources. It must be done now and it must be done in a large scale. Green building is on its way to becoming the most powerful positive ecological force. It is a huge challenge but our survival depends on it. We have a lot of undoing to do.
Christa: Do you have advice for people interested in starting their own businesses or joining a start-up, particularly in the current economy? Any advice for people particularly interested in starting green businesses?
Gennaro: The green bandwagon is a crowded one. My advice is to be brave enough to follow your own path and not worry too much what the rest of the world is doing. I would be building green even if it wasn’t popular. It is right for myself and the world. I think that is why I am successful, not because green building is in. I tried getting on the Dot com bandwagon and did poorly even though many people succeeded. I learned my lesson. Now I follow my own path with all my heart. That kind of inner success is a million times more important than any outward success. But of course everything is connected. Inner success radiates outward regardless of what you do or who you are.