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Penny Bauder; Anchorage, AK
As 2012 drew to a close, we wanted to celebrate our new People & Planet Awards contest by interviewing Penny Bauder, a member of our Green Business Network who also was one of our first award-winners in summer 2012.
Big Tree Organic Farms; Turlock, CA
With the fight over Prop 37 -- a ballot initiative to label GMO foods -- looming in California, we decided to interview the leader a California business that has made a strong commitment to organics, Big Tree Organic Farms. Since 1998, Big Tree Organic Farms (BTOF) has been setting an example for other agricultural businesses in the Golden State, and we celebrate their hard work.
"The ongoing growth and success of the green economy has captured the attention of conventional business," says Wendy Larson, CEO and general manager of BTOF. "Today’s domestic agricultural community is working diligently to reduce synthetic chemical use as a result of studying the successes of organic farmers around the country and recognizing consumers' preferences. This does not change the vision for Big Tree Organic Farms which has always been to promote organic farming."
A leadership-development fellowship in Guatemala exposed Deborah Schimberg to chicle, the natural ingredient that was once the raw material behind chewing gum. This initial inspiration led to the founding of her company, Glee Gum (GleeGum.com), and to a career as a green-business entrepreneur.
"I feel inspired by the ever-growing number of other green companies with similar values as ours, traveling similar paths. Together we’re helping to make the marketplace more eco-minded, and that’s a great, shared goal," says Deborah. "Green America is such a dynamic and supportive community. Thanks to the helpful advice and recommendations of our fellow members, we’ve connected with new distributors, placed our products with new retailers, and found a partner for our tree planting program, Trees for the Future."
Blending hemp's natural durability and odor-resistance with silky, Earth-friendly Tencel results in a fabric that resembles linen, only more supple and with better drape. It's a marriage of style and sustainability that has become the signature fabric at Sympatico Clothing, an eco-friendly, made-in-the-USA seller of clothing that is as chic as it is green.
"Artisan entrepreneurs are filling some of the gaps in US manufacturing, offering diversity and uniqueness," says Rose Gerstner, owner of Sympatico. "Seeing how sustainably based economics can replace a significant swath of our consumerist economy and culture is inspiring.
Gil Williams' green business, MacroSun International, was born in the summer of 1991 when he went on a dedicated buying trip through Thailand, Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka. With no formal experience in international trade or retail business, he leveraged his deep friendships with artists in Asia, the support of local friends, and an unwavering commitment to the vision of a truly Fair Trade business.
"Our first actual storefront was opened in a tiny space in the Central West End of St. Louis, Missouri later that year," recalls Gil. " The response from the local community was heartening, and MacroSun International has grown and evolved through the years. We moved into larger retail, gallery, and warehouse locations in St. Louis, and now offer our pieces throughout the world via our online catalog, and to wholesale customers throughout North America."
July 2012 —
Green Home, LLC; Hyattsville, MD
Brian Higgins' company Green Home, LLC does exactly what its name says it does: help homeowners ensure their homes are built as green as they can be.
"I started this company when I became convinced that green building was simply 21st Century building technology," says Brian. "When I look around and see what is happening to our planet, I am constantly reminded that we human beings, as an animal species, as intelligent beings, as a spiritual force, need to do better."
Redwood Hill Farm is truly a family affair. Started in 1968, by Kenneth and Cynthia Bice, the business today is run by their children, siblings David, Scott, Sharon, and Jennifer, manufacturing a range of dairy products available both online and in grocery stores nationwide (find a store near you here).
"For our parents the goal of the farm was to provide fresh, raw goat milk for our family and community," says Jennifer. "That's still our goal today, along with educating the public on the benefits of goat milk and expanding the line of healthful products made from the milk."
Cliff Boley made the transition from the building industry to the solar industry in 2008 and hasn't looked back. He sees the green movement as the solution to social ills both large and small.
"Green works, everywhere, mean more American jobs, and a better America than was handed to our generation," says Cliff. "Going green means we do not have to send our children to war to fight for oil. Going green means we keep our money in our communities building a future rather than shipping it overseas while we watch our cities die."
For Corie and Jerry Thornton, being green is a holistic pursuit. With their reusable bags designed to help you avoid disposables when you go shopping, they've also created a business that uses recycled materials for its made-in-the-USA manufacturing.
"We are very confident that green is here to stay," says Corie. "Americans can do a lot domestically to help us move towards a sustainable society and economy. Our philosophy is that we should do our part in keeping the US green first. If we are strong at home, we will have the strength, resources and capability to help others either by setting an example or sharing in the fruit of our efforts."
For Erick Smith and Cayuga Pure Organics, it's important for food to be BOTH organic AND local. Smith points out that while organic products have many pluses for your health and for the environment, most of the organic dry beans in the US were actually grown in China, and incorporate a huge carbon footprint.
"Ultimately it is up to consumer to be as sure as possible that they know the connection between the farm and the organic label on the food they buy," says Smith, whose farm in upstate New York supplies organic beans and grains to the New England area and elsewhere, via online sales.
February 2012 —
GreenChoice Bank; Chicago, IL
When you make a deposit with your bank, your money doesn't just sit there. The bank invests your money as they see fit, primarily by making loans, but the decisions on how to invest your money, with whom, and for what purpose, are made by each bank.
"GreenChoice Bank invests its customers’ deposits back into the local and sustainable business community, to support entrepreneurs who are creating jobs and to fund sustainable construction projects," says Steve Sherman, chief operating officer of GreenChoice Bank. GreenChoice Bank is one of many community banking options that can help you steer your money toward projects you believe in.
January 2012 —
Life Without Plastic; Wakefield, Quebec & Ogdensburg, NY
With backgrounds in law, business ethics, management, biochemistry and ecotoxicology, Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha made a life-changing decision after their son was born in 2003. They started looking for ways to reduce their family's toxin exposure in everyday life, and when they began to discover the problems with everyday plastic, their difficult search for stainless steel or glass baby bottles gave them the motivation to start their own business, Life Without Plastic.
"Both of us were feeling like we were spinning our wheels in our previous jobs and not really making a positive difference. Too many meetings and reports that led to nothing. We were looking for something more meaningful," says Jay. " We knew other families were on the same quest for plastic-free baby bottles, so we essentially started the company with just these two products."