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Consumer demand pushes green market forward

PHOTO COURTESY OF ZEROTRUCK Diesel trucks undergoing the first stage of conversion to electricity-powered at ZeroTrucks in Allentown.

Everywhere you look, things are turning green.

Everywhere you look, things are turning green.

Sustainable, ecofriendly and efficient, if your product or service isn’t addressing the want of today’s consumer – particularly the young – you could be ignoring the potential in the demand.

The definition of green – products or services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources – has broadened significantly from the days when it meant you worked with live plants. Green now includes processes, lifecycles and a general way of thinking.

But ask someone who is trying to break in a new product or improved process, and you’ll hear that cash is a lacking essential nutrient. Venture capitalists are holding back in favor of guaranteed growth with quicker returns.

Thus, to get new technology to the masses, green still relies on incentives and loans from government or special-interest groups as well as assistance from economic development organizations such as Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

But where bankers won’t necessarily go, others will. Since the graduation of the millennial generation, consumers and innovators have been talking about sustainability to a degree that previous generations did not.

“The demand is there. … People understand the cost benefit,” said Andrea Wittchen, co-founder of iSpring Associates, a Lehigh Valley consulting firm that helps businesses pursue sustainability. “We’ve reached a tipping point in which we know you just can’t keep taking stuff out of the earth and still be around in 100 years.”

Emerging, evolving or retooling the traditional, the Greater Lehigh Valley has many examples of green commerce in a variety of sectors.

Byron Zerphy, the founder of Allentown’s Solar Technology Inc., saw a logical application for alternative-energy technology when he created a sun-powered highway construction sign in 1990. Today, solar signs have become the industry standard.

With a staff of eight, ZeroTruck has been converting the drive system in medium-duty trucks to zero-emission, electric power in Allentown since 2011.

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