Sustainability has been a major topic lately on the podcast. Kentucky is really working hard to set an example for the rest of the world when it comes to this topic. You might not guess that would be the case and we don’t blame you. Kentucky is well known for being a primary coal producer, but that doesn’t mean things can’t evolve and change. They need to change. For one, coal power production is quickly being replaced by alternative energy and that means coal companies are shutting down and people are losing their jobs. This is leading to very severe economic consequences in many parts of Kentucky and poor economic conditions lead to many other side effects like poor health and substance abuse. The second reason things need to change is our environment is being devastated by unsustainable business practices and natural disasters. Businesses are polluting and clearing land without considering the consequences and we are seeing record droughts and storms throughout the United States. Whether you believe in climate change or not, you should believe taking care of our planet is important.
To discuss the topic of sustainability some more, the Middle Tech team recently attended Land Betterment’s quarterly stakeholder meeting that was hosted at the Bulleit Bourbon Distillery in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Land Betterment is an environmental solutions company focused on fostering a positive impact through upcycling former coal mining sites to create sustainable community development and job creation. Their approach is unique and very important given it tackles several of the economic and environmental consequences of coal mining I mentioned above with a single project. Their website reads:
“We recognize that no community can sustain itself without the ability for its community to generate stable income from satisfying jobs. Such opportunities have to capitalize on the strengths of the population and ensure the environment is protected for the future. We combined the best of both worlds to clean up the environment and provide opportunities for the long term benefit of the community.”
Land Betterment’s projects include recycling plants, parks, distilleries, bee farms, eco-friendly housing developments, and farmland. As mentioned above, these projects are restoring the land as well as bringing jobs into the communities. The distillery project is one we like to highlight. It will be called Coal Craft Spirits and it’s a “farm to bottle small-batch craft spirits brand that is grown from the roots of organic craftsmanship with a focus on environmental stewardship, quality, and perfectionism. The mash bill for our spirits utilizes ingredients directly from our Betterment Harvests division.” This project will bring a social and tourist destination to the region while creating sustainable jobs.
Part of what separates Land Betterment from other companies in the industry is their local presence and empathy. This region takes pride in its people and community. Land Betterment makes sure to engage the community and build relationships that last using their knowledge of the people and land. This is in contrast to firms that buy land without having a presence locally. The Land Betterment team believes their approach is a more sustainable and long term solution given their deep familiarity with the people and region.
Bringing it back to the stakeholder event, Land Betterment also invited members of the startup and sustainability community in the region to join. The conversations that took place revolved primarily around the future of good business and sustainability. Ben Smock of Canopy, a company that promotes good business in Kentucky, had the following to say about Land Betterment and the future of good business,
“Sustainable practices become increasingly more important by the day. Our future depends on it. It's not just the work of individuals, nonprofit organizations, or governmental entities, it must also be a sincere focal point of the business sector. Catalytic solutions to social and environmental challenges must be creative, collaborative, and ultimately focused on people and planet, not just profit. Land Betterment represents a unique convergence of social and environmental sustainability, and hopefully will serve as a model for other businesses that endeavor to do well, and do good.”
We believe Land Betterment is definitely serving as a model of good business and we encourage you to listen to our full interview with the founders Kirk and Mark below!