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Reinventing America for a Bright Green Future

As the Great Recession slowly recedes, it's clear that we're not going back to the world of 2006. The world has changed, whether we like it or not. But where exactly are we going? In his State of the Union Address tonight, President Obama spoke about reinventing America to compete in this new world, about investing in innovation to move our country and our economy forward. Green entrepreneurs are bound to be a central part of this new innovation economy but not just because the government says so. The future of business is green because it makes fundamental sense on every level. The innovation economy is a green economy and entrepreneurs everywhere are already busy building it.

They are already hard at work developing clean fuels, clean energy, good food, and other innovations that are both good for business and good for the environment. Green business is not just a luxury, and not just for polar bears. Green business is good business, as the sustainability innovators like Gary Hirshberg at Stonyfield Farm, Janine Benyus at the Biomimicry Institute, and Ray Anderson at Interface have demonstrated over and over again. By cutting waste, polluting less, and using nature as a business model the green business leaders have show that making money and making a difference can go hand in hand.

Some clear goals were laid out by the President, detailing the new direction we should move toward. President Obama proposed that we place a million electric cars on the road by 2015, and that 80% of our power should be generated from clean sources by 2035. We could argue about the details, and I'm sure we will, but these sound like worthy goals. What's more important than the numbers or the specific path that we take to reach them is the vision that we can work together to create an economy that is both strong and sustainable.

The world is loaded with problems that urgently need solutions and entrepreneurs across the country are already hard at work delivering these solutions, building great businesses along the way.

As the founder of Rent a Green Box, Spencer Brown has built a profitable business by supplying eco-friendly boxes made from recycled plastic for those who are moving. Not only does his business save trees and reduce landfill waste, but it saves people money and makes moving day easier.

As the founder of the EcoHub in San Diego, Yeves Perez is building a space where green companies work and grow together, finding common ground in their shared vision of an economy that is both green and strong.

James Cass in Las Vegas has worked for years developing the Mojave Breeze as an innovative air cooling technology which will save people money as well as saving the planet.

Milan Stevanovich in Michigan is developing Local Power using technology developed by Hardin Geothermal to create local utilities that extract energy from the ground with geothermal heat pump systems, helping cities and power consumers as well as reducing our reliance on dirtier and more expensive forms of energy.

Change is inevitable, but we have the power to decide what kind of change we want to see. I hope we can agree that we all want to create a strong economy with good jobs and a better cleaner world for today and for the future. If so, these fundamental connections should prove stronger and more resilient than the political differences that sometimes drive us apart. A move toward an innovative and greener economy that creates good jobs, strong businesses, and a healthier world sounds to me like the right direction for us all.

Read more State of the Union coverage

Glenn Croston is the author of 75 Green Businesses and Starting Green, and the founder of Starting Up Green, helping green businesses to tell their stories that change the world.