Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Glee Gum
Providence, RI

Congratulations to Summer 2014
People & Planet Award winner Glee Gum!

Seeds of a Green Idea
In 1992, educator Deborah Schimberg and her family traveled to Northern Guatemala. There they visited an economically depressed chicle-producing community and learned about chicle, the sap of the sapodilla trees that grow in the rainforests of Central America, and had once been the basis of the entire chewing gum industry. When synthetic resins became the norm in the 1940s and ‘50s, the market for chicle diminished. And that’s a shame, because the harvest of chicle is sustainable and benefits both the rainforest and the local economy.

Crafting in the Kitchen
Upon their return to the States, Deborah and her children experimented with this sticky tree sap in their kitchen. By tweaking a traditional formula and adding confectioner’s sugar, corn syrup, and flavoring, they found a way to create homemade chewing gum. With hopes of building a new market for chicle and educating folks about it, Deborah founded Verve, inc. and began commercially producing a Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit for kids.

The Gum Kit stuck! Its popularity led to Verve’s development of another chicle-based line, Glee Gum — now the leading natural chewing gum on the market. Verve also introduced two more DIY kits: Chocolate and Gummies. Over the years, the three Make Your Own Candy Kits have been enjoyed by thousands of children at hundreds of schools, museums, summer camps, and birthday parties.

Connect, Create, Captivate
All three Make Your Own Candy Kits connect kids to the global community by tracing the origins of raw materials they encounter in their daily lives. The Gummies Kit’s secret is carrageenan made from seaweed from the Philippines, while the Chocolate Kit’s great taste comes courtesy of organic cocoa butter from Costa Rica. In creating delicious, natural gum, gummies and chocolate, kids also create connections to each other, between various fields of studies, and to other communities and cultures. Through the process, they learn about the rainforest, ethnobotany, chemistry, mathematics, measurement, ecology, environmental issues, home economics, nutrition, and more!

Investing in a Greener Future
In addition to being a dedicated member of Green America, Verve is a proud partner of Trees for the Future, helping to plant trees in Central America and support other sustainable land management programs throughout the world. To empower the next generation, Verve also supports the Cloud Forest School, a bilingual school with an environmental focus in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and the Maya Intercultural University of Quintana Roo, a public university dedicated to social and economic development in the region of Quintana Roo and the Yucatan.

From chewing gum to candy kits, Verve’s products are designed to help people think about where goods come from, how natural resources can be used responsibly, and how communities around the world depend upon each other to help build a healthier future. The $5K prize winnings would enable Verve to ship complimentary Make Your Own Candy Kits to 250 public school classrooms in the US this coming school year. And that would be sweet indeed!