Huntington’s Rona Fried a ‘green’ Internet Pioneer

Entrepreneur and environmentalist aren’t the most commonly associated words, but Rona Fried knows how to bring them together.

The Huntington resident, who has a habit of doing battle against locally invasive plants, is the founder and president of one of the top green business websites on the Internet, SustainableBusiness.com. She is also a nationally respected voice regarding green investing, publishing a monthly online newsletter on the subject, Progressive Investor, as well as contributing an “Investing in Clean Energy” column for each edition of Solar Today, the American Solar Energy Society’s flagship publication.

She selects the stocks for the Nasdaq OMX Green Economy Index, a stock index that tracks all the publicly traded green companies worldwide, and sits on the advisory board of four clean energy indexes.

While you might expect to find a finance degree or MBA hanging from the wall of her home office, they don’t. Instead, the Great Neck native earned a Ph.D. in social and organizational psychology from SUNY Buffalo in the early 1980s and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison before that.

“I was thrilled,” Fried said with a boisterous laugh about leaving the field in which she studied. “I did that work for over 10 years and then entered a different phase of my life.”

That phase – the environmentally conscience one that keeps a Honda Civic Hybrid in the driveway and a compost pile in the back yard – swept into Fried’s life during grad school when a classmate gave her a copy of Sierra Magazine, published by the Sierra Club, a major environmental group she hadn’t heard of at the time.

“When I read the magazine, it hit me like a sledgehammer,” she said. “I was so absorbed in it. I knew then I wanted to do something environmental full time.”

Reading everything she could get her hands on, and talking to as many knowledgeable people as she could, Fried dove head first into the environmental movement. In the early 1990s, when few knew the term “green business,” she opened a green retail store called Earthwares in Chapel Hill, N.C., and by 1996 she had founded SustainableBusiness.com (SB.com), one of the first websites in the world to focus on green business news.

A year after founding SB.com, Dr. Fried added Green Dream Jobs to the website, which gathers green jobs across the US in sectors including renewable energy, green building, organic foods, investing and environmentally oriented positions.

Despite offers from Fortune 500 companies to buy SB.com, Fried held onto it during the wild internet years at the turn of the millennium, ultimately surviving the now infamous dot-com bubble that claimed hundreds if not thousands of web sites, including competitors.

When the dust settled, SB.com added Progressive Investor in 2002, the first green investing newsletter published in the United States. At that time, there were just a couple dozen publicly traded green stocks; now there are over 600. Today, even after a rush of competition in green jobs and green business news websites, SB.com retains one of the top positions.

“As the Internet grew, there was an explosion in our field,” Fried said. “We grew along with that.”

Fried is getting ready to launch two new services: a Green Jobs Educational Database, which profiles all the certificate and degree programs in the US, and a Green Investor Database, which profiles investors around the world that finance young green businesses.

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