Friday, May 27, 2016

Daily News-Record: Valley Businesswoman Makes Return White House Visit

SUNRNR Owner In On Sustainable Energy Talk

Posted: April 30, 2016
HARRISONBURG — Jenny French is learning her way around the White House.
The president and co-owner of SUNRNR of Virginia has made three by-invitation trips to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the last 13 months. On April 20, she was part of a group that attended a three-hour briefing on climate and sustainable energy in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.
“I’ve been so deep in the business that this reminded me that [climate change is] not just about renewable energy,” said French, whose company makes portable units that can generate and store renewable energy. “All businesses, all people will be impacted.
“This pulled me out of my job to see the bigger picture.”
French was invited to the event by Business Forward, an organization comprised of a wide range of companies from across America that advocates ways the federal government can make it easier for businesses to create jobs and advance the economy. The White House Business Council also was involved in the event.
She said Sen. Mark Warner’s office put her on Business Forward’s radar.
White House staff members and a U.S. Department of Energy official led the briefing. The clean and renewable energy economy, the impacts of climate change on human health and business, and Obama administration priorities on climate were the main discussion topics.
The importance of climate to national security, French said, also was discussed.
The overriding message, she said, was that climate affects large and small businesses. The briefing included more than 50 business leaders from across the country in fields ranging from renewable energy to food security to apparel to construction.
Among those who spoke for the businesses in attendance were someone from a ski resort that has suffered from unusual weather patterns to someone whose supply chain was disrupted by storms overseas.
SUNRNR President Thar Energy CEO
French and Thar Energy CEO at Briefing
French, a Harrisonburg resident whose company is based in Shenandoah, said she came away thinking about climate change as a global economic issue that should be dealt with.
“We need to try to let people understand the urgency of this,” she said, “without getting into the political ramifications or sides.”
Thinking Green
Climate change wasn’t directly on the agenda on either of French’s trips to the White House last year. She attended a White House Small Business Exporters Roundtable to discuss foreign trade issues, sitting next to President Barack Obama during part of the event, and was invited back when the president signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In November, she was part of a U.S. trade mission to the Canary Islands.
French said winter is the slow season for SUNRNR (pronounced like “sunrunner”), a portable and storable system that can capture and store power generated by the sun, wind or water.
So with the help of some students from James Madison University, efforts were focused on a “soft rebranding” that included refining the company’s message, its documents and a rethinking of its name.
Many people are confused by SUNRNR, she said, so they’re considering changing it to “SUNRUNR.” The full term “sunrunner” already is trademarked.
A new product also was developed to add more solar panels. French said existing customers were contacted and told about that development, which led to additional sales and helpful customer feedback.
Multiple signs are pointing to new business for the company, she said, mainly because of the assistance it’s received from local, state and federal sources. Two dealers are meeting tomorrow to discuss sales to Zambia in southern Africa, and contacts made on the Canary Islands trip could result in the hiring of a sales representative in Mauritania in western Africa.
Her latest White House visit, French said, has her thinking “green.” The color symbolizes money and the ecology, but it also represents naiveté when it comes to climate change.
“We’re not getting the urgency,” she said. “This is urgent, whether it’s the flooding in Houston or the sea level rising in Norfolk.” 
Contact Vic Bradshaw at 574-6279 or

Monday, May 23, 2016

Two Great Resources for Choosing Green Travel Options for You & Your Business

For the Conservation-Conscious Traveler
So you’ve bought the hybrid car, completed an energy audit on your home, invested in some level of renewable energy to power your home, and researched energy-conscious companies to support. What are other choices can you make to live more sustainably?
Making sure you are choosing green and eco-conscious travel options is another way to ramp up your sustainability quotient.  Whether you are making domestic or international travel plans, the growth of a number of green and ecotourism associations can help you locate green lodging, restaurants, resorts and more.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is a non-profit association committed to promoting responsible tourism practices that benefit conservation and communities. With a global network that spans more than 190 countries, TIES is leading the way to make travel and tourism more sustainable. TIES offers a fully searchable database of environmentally-conscious businesses that can help travelers find destinations that fit their conservation and sustainability ideals.
Virginia’s Green Travel Alliance encourages green practices in the state’s tourism industry. ​ More than 1600 tourism businesses and organizations have self-certified their environmental commitments with the Virginia Green program, making it the #1 state-based green tourism program in the United States. 
For Businesses Looking for More Green Choices
Joining organizations like TIES and VGTA not only provide tourism-related businesses with increased visibility, but offer access to cutting-edge conservation and sustainability innovation and training for best practices.  
VGTA and TIES offer a number of business-enhancing opportunities. Some specific programs include:
Industry-Specific Best Practices Resources. Organizations like VGTA and TIES help your business incorporate best practices specific to the tourism industry via workshops, conferences and regular updates on projects, industry events, publications, speaking engagements and networking tools.
Access to data, reports and annual awards can also help businesses measure the benefits of incorporating more green practices and promote that aspect of their company to a wider audience. With hotels alone spending an estimated $7.5 billion on energy per year in 2012, having accurate data on what the introduction of wind turbines, solar panels and/or a myriad of other energy efficient technologies can do to reduce a company’s operating expenses, as well as knowing that such investments can be used as a highly-desirable marketing asset are invaluable resources for many tourism businesses.
Education & Engagement. Educating and engaging the general public towards making environmentally sound consumer choices is also a huge part of the VGTA and TIES missions. Showcasing green products and services at expos around the world like this recent event in Washington, DC is just one way that these type organizations are supporting and promoting green businesses.
The Virginia Green Travel Alliance adds an additional “lead by example” aspect to their educational efforts by recruiting, training and deploying “green team” volunteers at festivals and sporting events around the state to effectively bring recycling, waste reduction, and composting of food wastes to an increasing number of activities each year. This not only makes for greener events, but it emphasizes the importance of choosing green options for travel and entertainment activities.
Act as a Clearinghouse & Green Network. One of the main focuses of Virginia’s Green Travel Alliance is support and promotion of innovative practices and projects through unique partnerships. The Virginia Green Supplier Network is a great example of this business benefit, which provides Virginia Green participants access to a database of green products and services. TIES offers a similar member-only network that promotes information, products and services exchange between members.
Choosing green options for running your business or for vacation planning is easier than ever, thanks to the ongoing growth of organizations like the Virginia Green Travel Alliance and The International Ecotourism Society. Consumers and businesses alike can reap the benefits of better energy and conservation practices through education, promotion and networking via collaborative efforts like these, and know they are doing right by our communities and our planet!

Are you a destination business looking for ways to decrease your energy impact but are not quite ready for a major installation? Contact Sunrunr today for some effective entry-level options for your tourism business.