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

Faces of the Green Pages

Conversations with Today's Green Business Leaders

Adrienne Catone

December 2011 —

Elegant, Playful, and Earth-Friendly; Los Angeles, CA

For the second year in a row, online clothing retailer received enough nominations from its loyal customers to earn a coveted spot among the top-ten green businesses competing for Green America's People's Choice Award.

As a perennial People's Choice favorite, seemed the perfect choice for our December interview. Currently based in Los Angeles (but with a possible move to Portland coming in 2012), offers a robust line of eco-friendly fashion: evening wear, intimates, jewelry, swimwear, coats, plus-sizes, and much more.

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Stephanie Schiff

November 2011 —

Sustainable Fiber Arts
Ecobutterfly Organics; Los Angeles, CA

"One company isn’t going to save the world," says Stephanie Schiff, owner of Ecobutterfly Organics. "It has to take place in the consciousness of the people as individuals, over and over, one at a time until the ideas eventually just become part of the way we think as a society."

Along with her online portal for purchasing super-sustainable fiber-arts supplies, Schiff provides information on the whys and hows of her business: WHY she won't use GMO corn-based packaging, or HOW she finds suppliers that meet her green standards. She says that as people become educated to how a green and fair supply chain works, she sees them shift to support a greener economy.

Through our interview, Ecobutterfly educated us on everything from color-grown cotton to the life-cycle of the Monarch butterfly.

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Jason & Kim
Mark Tilsen and
Karlene Hunter

October 2011 —
Restoring a Native Population

Native American Natural Foods; Kyle, SD

"Currently, the Great Plains are dominated by cattle and by industrial farming, which are not sustainable," says Mark Tilsen, co-founder of Native American Natural Foods. "These practices drastically reduce biodiversity, while grazing activity by buffalo actually encourages it. Industrial agriculture increases soil erosion, while the natural prairie grasses that buffalo prefer hold the soil in place."

To help restore the prairie and the buffalo population, Mark Tilsen and Karlene Hunter started a green business that would encourage growth in the buffalo population to supply the raw materials for their protein-rich snack bars.

We asked Mark to tell us more about the relationship of the buffalo to the prairie, how his company benefits the Oglala Lakota, and the meaning of the name Tanka...

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Jason & Kim
Jason and Kim

September 2011 —
gWhiz! Eco-friendly Diapers

gDiapers; Portland, OR

When Jason and Kim Graham-Nye traveled from Portland to San Francisco for the Green Festival in November of 2010 to collect their People's Choice Award for Green Business of the Year, it wasn't their first visit to the Green Festival.

While attending previous Festivals in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, Jason says, "We were able to meet new customers face-to-face and show them our product. It was absolutely critical to the success of the company. In addition to this, there was one particular Green Business Conference in Chicago in 2007 where I met 8 people in the space of 20 minutes -- during the ice-breaker activity -- and we have all stayed friends ever since. It's not all business!"

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Erika Weliczko
August 2011 —
Get Some Sun

REpower Solutions; Cleveland, OH

Erika Weliczko's REpower Solutions stays true to its name. Whether you're looking to upgrade to clean wind power or solar power, or to target energy-efficiency as a first step before investing in renewables, Weliczko has a solution for you.

Her company's energy audits help you locate and eliminate wasted energy, target the worst energy-hogging appliances in your home, and verify tax credits your upgrades might help you achieve. REpower's solar-enegy projects have included not only numerous farms and private homes, but also a project at the Cleveland Indians' baseball stadium, and an installation at the visitors' center of the Malabar State Park in Lucas, OH.

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Mary Eileen Boyle
Mary Kearns
July 2011 —
Clean and Green

Herban Lifestyle; Falls Church, VA

Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC, Mary Kearns' business calls one of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation home. But with easy access to the Shenandoah Mountains in the opposite direction, she's not that far from rural America as well. That's sort of the balance she sought to build into the name of her business.

"I wanted to get the idea across that herbs are an important part of my products, and to convey the idea that the ingredients come from the earth, as opposed to a chemistry lab," she says. "Since I am located in an urban area, I thought that “Herban Lifestyle” captured the idea of getting back to nature and the basics, even in the context of a non-rural environment."

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Anne O'Laughlin

June 2011 —
Fair Trade Fashion and Footwear

Autonomie Fair Trade; Boston, MA and Oakland, CA

How deep is the green-business commitment of Autonomie Fair Trade? So deep that a sale of their Fair Trade footwear is just the first step in helping their customers green their lives. For example, last year, Autonomie directed customers toward ways their old clothing or footwear could be put to good, green use.

"Throughout the summer of 2010 we sponsored a shoe drive where we collected our customers’ old shoes that we then donated to a recycling center in Minnesota that turned the shoes into oil spill clean-up kits that were donated to the Gulf oil spill relief effort," says Anne O'Laughlin, Autonomie's founder. "As a thank you to our customers for their generous donations, we gave them a coupon for 50% off a purchase of new footwear from our Web site."

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Ella Vickers

May 2011 —
Everything's on Sail(Cloth)!

Ella Vickers; Wrightsville Beach, NC and Greenwich, CT

Has your garment bag traveled to more locations around the world than you have? If you own a recycled sailcloth bag from Ella Vickers, it just might have.

In Ella Vickers' imagination, a used yacht sail is much more than just used fabric, it's a potential shower curtain or dog bed -- or any kind of bag: yoga bag, diaper bag, duffel bag, grocery sack, toiletry kit, handbag, briefcase, or messenger bag. We asked her to tell us more about how she came up with the idea of recycling sailcloth.

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Nat Peirce

April 2011 —
A "Grandiose" Idea: GrandyOats

GrandyOats Granola; Brownfield, ME

Since its founding more than three decades ago, popular Maine granola-maker GrandyOats' most popular product “is and has always been 'Classic Granola',” says president and head-honcho Nat Peirce.

But since then, GrandyOat's product line has greatly expanded, including new granola flavors like honey-apple crisp, goji-agave, chocolate-almond crisp, and low-fat cranberry chew. That's in addition to the trail mixes and organic roasted nuts like tamari almonds, curry cashews, maple cashews, and much more. We asked Nat to tell us more about what makes GrandyOats green, and their plans for the future...

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Mark and Sue
Mark and Sue

March 2011 —
A "Minnesotan Northern Exposure"

Adventure Inn; Ely, MN

Since acquiring the Adventure Inn six years ago, Mark and Sue Edgington have been tireless in transforming the property into the greenest retreat possible, right down to the individual room furnishings.

Says Sue: "I'm working with someone who is tearing down an old grain elevator from Duluth that was built in the 1880s. It is made from old growth white pine and I am hoping to have the lumber reused into beds. Each bedroom will have a Japanese wabi-sabi feel from re-using old materials and finding beauty in the simplicity of it all."

The new building that will house these beds represents an even grander project for the inn. Mark and Sue have been working on a new super-energy-efficient building, which follows Green America's challenge for each of us to reduce our energy-use 50-percent in the next five years. We asked them to tell us more...

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Mary Eileen Boyle
Sister Mary
Eileen Boyle

February 2011 —
Hot in Cleveland

Esperanza Threads; Bedford, OH

A green-business leader in responsible sourcing, Ohio-based Esperanza Threads exists not only to provide high-quality cotton products at reasonable prices, but also to provide good, green-collar jobs to those who need them most.

When Green America published our last Guide to Ending Sweatshops, Esperanza Threads was one of the first companies we turned to to help outfit our "sweat-free supermodels" (featured on page 13). Sister Mary Eileen and crew sent us a beautiful pair of hand-sewn, USA-grown and -made, loose-fitting pants that our "supermodel" told us were as comfortable (and chic!) as any she had ever tried on. We asked Sister Mary Eileen to tell us more about the cooperative workplace at Esperanza Threads, and how the business is making a difference in the lives of Cleveland-area workers.

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Tracy Coe
Diane Merker

January 2011 —
Lower Your Carbon Footprint in 2011

Positive Energy; Boulder, CO

Are you ready for some good news from the green economy? Thanks to stimulus-funding in support of energy-efficiency, green business owner Diane Merker says she's as busy as she's ever been.

Selling products like low-energy light fixtures, programmable thermostats, insuluation against home-heat loss, home-energy montiors, and more, Merker's business, Positive Energy, is a one-stop shop for drastically reducing your home-energy use. Energy efficiency for all of us is the first step toward pulling our greenhouse gas emissions way down, and using energy at a rate compatible with widespread use of renewables. Check out our interview with Diane, and check out her blog, Positively Green, for more information on how to save money and energy with Positive Energy.

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Read more interviews from 2010»

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