Lake Norman & Mooresville

Davidson’s PiES promotes innovation, environment

Davidson-based Project for Innovation, Energy and Sustainability will hold its upcoming Green Drinks Lake Norman meeting at Charlotte’s Triple C Brewing on Dec. 2.

The meeting will be a joint effort between PiES and Sustain Charlotte.

PiES is a nonprofit that promotes sustainability in business and the community through three focus areas: incubation, education and networking. It offers sustainable business incubation both through physical office spaces at the Business Center at South Main Square in Davidson and through virtual support.

Businesses have to apply and present their plans for a sustainable or green business before the PiES board for approval to become part of the incubator. The board consists of experts in various aspects of business ownership and sustainable operations; it includes many well-known people from local organizations.

Some examples of incubator-member businesses are PCG Solar and a landscape architect who uses practices that help the environment in ways such as conserving water and using native plants.

“In addition to incubating businesses, we want to educate folks about bringing them sustainable businesses, so monthly we hold what we call Green Drinks,” said Laurie Walker of PiES.

“We bring in a speaker who is a representative of a sustainable business or a sustainable nonprofit. We call it ‘Oprah’ style – I interview the person and then we have Q-and-A.”

Walker, who will become executive director of PiES at the end of this year, said she asks the speakers questions such as how their businesses or organizations are sustainable and how to make sustainability feasible and profitable.

Though the meetings are usually held the last Thursday evening of the month, holidays in the last two months of the year disrupted the schedule.

At the last Green Drinks meeting, held Nov. 20 at Summit Coffee in Davidson, PiES hosted the Lime Energy Team for the Duke Energy Small Business Energy Saver program. The team explained how small businesses could become both more sustainable and more cost-efficient, through changes like using LED lighting.

Speakers already lined up for Green Drinks meetings in 2015 include Roy Alexander of the Davidson Lands Conservancy, and Lisa Shpritz, who works in environmental operations for Bank of America.

PiES also hosts competitions for high school and college-level students with ideas for sustainable businesses, products or processes. At 2014’s Green Idea Factory Competition, high school students won for ideas such as Austin Bruckner of Community School of Davidson’s plan to heat soil in order to extend the growing season. Another winning concept was how to improve the recycling of plastic bags, by Zak Kennedy of Hough High School.

The college-level competition proved to show real-world potential; a past winner from the competition is now a business that PiES is incubating.

“Last year we partnered with Davidson College in their venture competition, called ‘The Next Play’ where colleges and universities compete against each other in sports and sustainability business ideas,” said Walker.

“The company that won that competition last year, reQwip, is now a business member of our incubator. That’s an example of one of our companies.”

ReQwip’s website (www.reqwip.com/#about) notes, “We are creating the trusted, peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile and web marketplace for buying and selling new and used sports gear.”

Once Walker becomes executive director of PiES, she said she plans to have more educational programs with children. Another focus will be on increasing the number of virtual clients PiES works with. Walker also said PiES is planning a big Green Drinks event for St. Patrick’s Day.

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