The Sustainable Brands 2010 conference kicks off on Monday in Monterey, California. Although the conference will be bringing together some of the world's most recognized brands, including Dell, Coca-Cola, Nike, and Disney, it is also an ideal conference for small business owners and even startups. On Monday night, the winner of the second annual SB Innovation Open will be announced. Although there will only be one winner chosen, there are certainly some great companies and ideas represented among the top 10 finalists.

SB Innovation Open Finalists

  • BioLite
  • Blue Avocado
  • Cityscape Farms
  • Gaia Metrics
  • KOR Water
  • Myoo Create
  • Open Data Registry
  • Source4Style
  • The Clarity Project
  • Tremont Electric
  • ZippGo
These companies are not only embracing the importance of a sustainable business model but have also created products or services that are environmentally friendly. For example, Cityscape Farms creates a greenhouse system that can be used in urban settings. With the rise of urban farming, especially sustainable urban farming, this product can help provide a much needed service to residents of major cities - the availability of fresh and locally grown produce. Of course, as more urban farms crop up, more jobs become available.

The Cityscape Farms greenhouse system uses a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. Hydroponics is simply soilless farming and aquaculture is fish cultivation. The company's closed-loop aquaponics system uses filtered fish effluent to feed the crops. Their system can be installed on rooftops across the country. So now we may find more urban greenhouses installed on all of those green roofs that are popping up in cities across the nation.

ZippGo is another of the finalists that really caught my eye. The company provides zero waste moving supplies to consumers and businesses. If you've ever moved, either your home or your office, you know that it can take many boxes. Sure, the cardboard boxes can be reused but after a few reuses they are no longer reliable and end up getting recycled (best-case scenario) or throw in the trash (worst-case scenario).

The boxes that ZippGo provides its customers can be reused more than 500 times. Now I know that I'm not going to be moving more than a handful of times in my life so one set of boxes can realistically handle the needs of hundreds of businesses. To make the product even more desirable, the boxes are pre-assembled, don't require tape, and are crush, tear, and waterproof. That's my kind of moving box.

These companies are just two examples of the fantastic ideas being generated by today's sustainability minded entrepreneurs. Whether you are a small business owner or the sustainability director of a major international corporation one thing is certain, sustainable innovation is becoming an increasingly important part of doing business in today's eco-conscious environment.

Innovation rules at SB2010
Although the Sustainable Brands 2010 conference brings together the biggest names in business, it is also an ideal place for startups as is evidenced by the fin