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December 2010 —
Sustainable Toys for the Holidays
Hazelnut Kids; Traverse City, MI
Tracy Coe took over Hazelnut Kids, the green toy company, less than two years ago, and already she's been a finalist for Green America's People's Choice Award (for Green Business of the Year) not just once, but twice!
"Since being recognized by Green America, we’ve been contacted by other members [of Green America's Green Business Network], two of which were quite beneficial," says Tracy of her latest steps for sustainability, in cooperation with other green businesses. "Globe Guard Products sells recycled packing materials and we plan on incorporating them into our process next year. And NatureBag offers an 'all in one' kit for observing and enjoying nature, and we just recently added them to our store."
November 2010 — One Step: From Farm to Table
Braga Organic Farms, Inc.; Madera, CA
"People are striving to better understand where their food comes from, and how it is processed," say Mike and Julie Braga, of Braga Organic Farms. Those are questions that the Bragas are always happy to answer.
If one of their customers is asking about a bag of Braga's organic pistachios, Mike and Julie can look out the window of their home and see the trees those pistachios grew on, before explaining in detail (see below) how their organic processes protect the earth. For shoppers trying to find sustainable choices for food products not available from their local farmers' market, the Bragas offer a solution. Pistachios don't grow everywhere, but when you buy from Mike and Julie, you're having a positive effect on THEIR local environment. You're purchasing direct from the farmer, and you're also keeping toxic chemicals out of the soil and water around their central California farm.
October 2010 — Reusables for Every Part of Your Life
Reuseit.com; Chicago, IL
Only one member of Green America's Green Business Network™ has come out on top in our annual People's Choice Award contest not just once, but twice. Vincent Cobb's business ReusableBags.com earned the award in 2007, then pulled the most votes again in 2009, earning our People's Choice Longtime Leadership Award.
ReusableBags.com has a new identity now as reuseit.com, which embodies a broader definition of a resusable lifestyle beyond bags. "Consumption issues are top-of-mind and people are searching for ways to address the problem," says Vincent. "I'm excited to leverage our position -- and responsibility -- to lead the reusables movement. My vision of the next phase: People migrating towards higher-quality, long-lasting reusables."
September 2010 — Fair Trade Tea, Direct from the Source
Rishi Tea; Milwaukee, WI
For more than 1,000 years, tea has been the most consumed beverage next to water. Rishi Tea has a commitment to both. As a winner of eleven First Place Awards for Best Tea at the 2009 World Tea Championship, they prove that their direct-from-the-source Fair Trade business model results in a superior product.
But their community commitment doesn't stop at the source. Since 2008, Rishi Tea has also partnered with Clean Water Fund donating more than $10,000 to their efforts of cleaning and restoring North America’s waters through the sales of their Organic Cinnamon Plum seasonal blend. We asked Rishi Tea founder Joshua Kaiser to tell us more about Fair Trade tea, clean water, and -- bonus -- a third beverage, his favorite organic soy milk, for blending the perfect chai.
August 2010 — Two Words: Green Energy
New Generation Energy, Boston, MA
"In 2005, the crusty old man leaning into Benjamin Braddock's ear wouldn't be whispering 'plastics'," says Chuck Lewin, using a reference to The Graduate to illustrate his epiphany, five years ago, when he decided to form New Generation Energy (NGE), a non-profit organization that finances green-energy projects through investment notes and donations.
"I happen to think that we are in the Golden Age of green energy right now," Lewin coninues. "In thirty years, I can pretty much promise you that renewable technologies will become the 'established' choice, and technologies like internal combustion engines will be headed for the museum.The green energy battles we are fighting right now are the big battles, and they are the important battles. I am looking forward to being part of it!"
July 2010 — "It's a Buddha doodle!"
Uddhaboodle Arts; San Diego, CA
Laura Pasternack was spending an evening around the fire with a bottle of wine and some good friends around the time she was launching her line of responsible, recycled-paper greeting cards.
Her first design, a brush painting of a seated Buddha inspired one friend to declare: "It's a Buddha doodle!" "No," Laura replied spontaneously, "It's an Uddhaboodle." "We all laughed, but the name stuck," Laura tells us. "I find that when I tell people the name of my company is Uddhaboodle Arts they usually chuckle or smile a little. I like that." We like it too, so we asked Laura to tell us more about Uddhaboodle's origins, her work as an artist, and the challenges of running a green business.
The singer Dar Williams loves her English Retreads handbag. A Green America member, she wrote to us recently singing its praises. "I've been a non-consumer employing the three Rs, and a consumer who uses the power of the purse and pen, all the more so thanks to Green America. And the Green Pages led me to the best handbag I've ever had (thank you English Retreads).
"English Retreads owner Heather English cites stumbling across the Dar Williams quote in one of Green America's newsletters as one of her favorite connections ever made for her through Green America. For this June's interview, we asked Heather to tell us more about the recycled materials in her handbags and her made-in-the-USA manufacturing process (and we find out the unlikely place where she got the inspiration for English Retreads)!
"With a birth name like Lake Louise, and growing up in the Haight/Ashbury area of San Francisco in the 60’s and 70’s, I was clearly destined to follow a path of earth, spirit, and body consciousness," says Lake Louise Ziwa, founder and CEO (Chief Eco-Beauty Officer) of SMB Essentials.
An educator by profession, with a Master's in Education from Stanford University, Ziwa's turn as a green entrepreneur follows a successful turn as a professor of ecological tourism at the University of Costa Rica. At the helm of SMB, she continues to educate, sharing her knowledge about sustainable skin-care, beauty, and health via her Web site and in trade-show settings. We asked her to tell us more about her all-natural products, the history of her business, and what's coming next (hint: an all-new line of products coming out this summer).
"If not now, when, if not here, where, and if not you or us, then who? I guess that's the quote I live by." That's what Bauer Power owner Mark Bauer says about his decision, in the mid-2000s, to go into the renewable energy business, to bring greater availability for solar and wind power to the Midwest.
As an active nature lover, former Marine, and educator for the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, Mark has always had an interest in reducing the impact we have on the environment. As Bauer Power prepares to exhibit at their first Green Festival in Chicago (May 22 - 23), we asked Mark to tell us more about his green business and what's inspiring him now.
This month, we profile one of our newest Green Business Network members, Angel Wind Energy. When the housing market tanked in 2008, the Harrouns (the family behind Angel Wind Energy) were in the general construction trade, and saw their business drying up. So, they took action, and made a switch to a more specialized business -- residential wind energy -- before joining our business network last year, in 2009.
We asked Ben Harroun to tell us more about his company's move into wind energy, their sourcing standards for the turbines they install, and the origin of the "angel" in their name.
As a founding member of the Green America Business Network, Equal Exchange has a long history of going the extra mile. They were Fair Trade before there really was a Fair Trade movement in this country, and now their efforts to support the workers all along their supply chain go well beyond the already-high bar set by the Fair Trade certification process.
We asked Rodney to tell us more about Equal Exchange's worker-supportive business practices, its most popular products ("our organic Love Buzz coffee or our 71% organic Very Dark Chocolate bar"), and how its new domestic Fair Trade program is supporting pecan-farmers in Georgia, almond-farmers in California, and more...
Imagine you're an occasional driver. You ride your bike for most of your transportation, and you take the bus when you can, but you keep your homemade biodiesel car for weekend getaways and roadtrips. Wouldn't it be great if there were an eco-friendly auto club that gave you discounts for your green transportation steps, and would offer you the same roadside assistance whether you breakdown in your car or on your bike?
Allow us to introduce you to the Better World Club. We asked Better World's founder, Mitch Rofsky, to tell us more about the greenest auto club out there, and we found out there's so much more coming from Better World in the near future. Check out the interview below for the scoop on Better World 2.0 -- a one-stop green travel-and-transportation Web destination that you'll want to know about.