Once upon a time, merely recycling your pop cans and newspapers put you into an elite class of people who were going to save the planet, not to mention the whales. There was a time when simply not littering made you ecologically superior.
Those days are long gone.
Today’s greenophiles are going above and beyond, leaving the status quo in their dust as they not only strive to make the world a better place, but actually invent new ways of doing so. Forget saving the planet one Coke can at a time; these greenovators are challenging the way we live with one groundbreaking idea after another.
Dave Kingsbury: Crispin Porter + Bogusky
Disruptive Thinker Transport
Nearly every day of the year, Dave Kingsbury hops on his bicycle for his morning commute—and rides the 20 miles from Nederland to Gunbarrel. He’s been doing it for years, but when he started working for international advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B) a few years ago, he realized the Miami-based company might be in need of a little cultural education.
Not long after he started, a colleague from human resources took him aside and asked him if he wanted some help to buy a car—despite the fact that he had two—thinking that his bike-commuting was due to lack of money and not a sense of personal responsibility.
One of CP+B’s philosophies is “don’t change the product, change the culture,” so Kingsbury set out to do just that.
At first, he and the company researched encouraging employees to use existing public transportation, but because of the long hours and late nights many CP+B employees work, it wasn’t a good fit. In a conversation with Alex Bogusky, Kingsbury said, “What we really need to do is just buy a bus,” to which Bogusky replied, “OK.”
That’s when Disruptive Thinker Transport was born.
In essence, Kingsbury’s idea sparked a change in thinking at CP+B. Surrounded by the environmentally and socially responsible attitudes of the area, the company happily jumped on board, so to speak, and began to look at the world and their role in it a bit differently.
“With this meshing of cultures,” Kingsbury said, “really anything is possible. It sounds like lip service until the bus pulls up.” The Disruptive Thinker makes three rounds through Boulder in the morning, picking up employees and shuttling them to work. At least twice a week, the bus makes a lunch run into town, taking anyone who wants to go. And every night, it runs from 5pm until after 10pm taking home tired workers. The bus itself runs on 50 percent biodiesel and has been outfitted with 3G wireless Internet so that employees can work on the road. The initiative also received $200 from Go Boulder, which was put toward a killer stereo. Next on the wish list is an iPod dock so that passengers can play DJ with their own tunes.
The CP+B family has also continued to embrace the attitudes of their Boulder home with more environmental programs and initiatives. They are working with their clients on everything from reducing packaging to hosting recycling drives—and their clients are some of the biggest and most influential companies in the world. In fact, one of their clients is B Cycle, the bike-sharing program recently introduced in Denver, and they have been lobbying to bring the program to Boulder. They have their own loaner bikes onsite, called the Factory Ride Program, for employees who need to make a short trip and don’t want to start up a car. If you bring your own bike to work, like Kingsbury, the company’s “extreme concierge” can give it a tune-up while you work—and if your skis, dirt bike, rollerblades or power tools need a tune-up, well, he can do that too.
“These kinds of programs are like social experiments,” Kingsbury said, and a company’s workforce that already has an open-minded culture is much more likely to try new things, embrace new trends and get on the bus. Kingsbury’s hope is that if he can show that an international player like CP+B can take these steps, other companies and groups will believe it’s possible too.
Steve Savage: Eco Products
Steve Savage is an unassuming kind of guy. You don’t look at him and immediately think, “Now there’s a guy on the forefront of the green revolution.” I mean, where are his dreads? His hemp clothes? The wafting scent of patchouli?
Savage is a different shade of green—less crunchy granola and much more savvy business guy. Eighteen years ago on a hike up Long’s Peak, his father, a chairman of Eco-Cycle, suggested that he get into the distribution of environmentally friendly consumer goods like recycled paper plates and biodegradable plastic forks derived from corn. For a while, that was good business, but Savage wanted more. Two years ago, he started looking into the possibility of manufacturing his own products and discovered that not only could he make them better, he could also make them cheaper.
That’s when Eco Products really began to take off, and it hasn’t slowed down since. It is now a major supplier of eco-friendly food service products to industry giants like Sysco, U.S. Foods and Staples. Its current “Re-think Disposable” campaign is well on its way to saving more than a million gallons of oil that would have gone into the production of traditional food-service items. And Eco Products is about to launch a direct-to-consumer line called Greenstripe, which will be sold in King Soopers and other mass market stores.
For many people, that might be enough. Supplying the world with compostable coffee cups seems like a great contribution to the world of green. But Eco Products hasn’t stopped there. In 1996, the company spun off its building supply division into Ellie’s Eco Products. The original idea for the store was to be open next to a natural foods market and provide all the non-food products eco-conscious consumers might need. The store has been so successful that they are planning to open a second location.
Additionally, Eco Products is a completely carbon neutral company, buying offsets for the carbon they must create. Its original building has Boulder County’s third-largest photovoltaic solar array on its roof. And the new building? Has the largest. And even that’s not enough. Employees who find a more eco-friendly way of commuting—say a bike or a hybrid car or an electric scooter like the one their CEO rides—are eligible for a monthly bonus. Employees also started a “ban the can” campaign, which does away with trash cans altogether. If you bring trash into the offices in any form, you have to pack it up with you.
That’s some serious environmental impact from a guy in chinos.
Dan Sturges: Intrago
Solving the problem of the last mile
Ever heard of the GEM? It stands for Global Electric Motorcars, and if you haven’t heard the name, chances are you’ve seen one. They look a little like a grown-up version of the red and yellow plastic Little Tykes car you or your kids once played with—half car, half golf cart. They are, in fact, the most popular electric vehicles in the world. Dan Sturges designed the GEM more than 12 years ago to fill the gap between a bike or a scooter and a full-sized automobile, and Chrysler has been producing them ever since.
The major driving force (if you’ll pardon the pun) behind Sturges’ development of the GEM and behind his newest venture, Intrago, is the belief that we need to move away from a transportation monoculture. Our cities and towns, our freeway systems, our very lives have all been designed around the idea of having a car, but if you only have to go a short distance, why do you need something as big, expensive and environmentally inefficient as a full-sized car?
Sturges believes you don’t, and to prove it, he and his company are developing a rental system for small electric vehicles. According to city data, the average trip in Boulder is only 0.6 miles, yet for most people, even a trip that length is an opportunity to rev up the engine. Sturges says if people had other options readily available, they would be much less likely to pull out their car.
Think of the B Cycle bike-share program in Denver, or Velolib in Paris; great ideas, but what if, instead of getting sweaty and winded on your way to work, you could rent an electric bicycle, scooter, Segway or other small electric vehicle to take you that last mile to your destination? Intrago is betting their idea would be appealing to a lot of people, especially to contained communities like universities, large corporate campuses, hospitals and the like.
Intrago is developing a proprietary hardware platform that will be able to charge and secure the vehicles as well as connect to the Internet to process the rentals. The platform can accommodate numerous vehicles like electric bicycles that are small and light enough to be very portable. A personal pin number and special key would unlock the system and the potential for an eco-friendly short-distance transportation solution. Look for them coming to a bus or train station near you.
Marion Murphy: Grow Your Own Meal
“I don’t know anything about farming,” Marion Murphy told me as we sipped chai lattes at Ziggy’s. “I grew up in Manhattan at 74th and 3rd. The closest I come to farming is being a foodie.”
And yet, this woman who, in her own words, knows nothing about farming, has taken on the challenge of reuniting Longmont with its farming roots through a unique—and uniquely serendipitous—demonstration project she calls “Grow Your Own Meal.”
It all started last fall when, on impulse, she decided to volunteer for President Obama’s election campaign. There, she met a young woman who impressed upon her that those who want to effect change have to go out and make it themselves. A few weeks later, she found herself reading journalist and food activist Michael Pollan’s article, “An Open Letter to our Farmer In Chief,” in The New York Times Magazine, which describes farming as an economic stimulus; that’s when a light went on.
Through another series of very fortunate events, she decided to lead the charge on a project to build an aquaponics greenhouse at the Longmont Water Treatment Plant. The greenhouse will utilize a complimentary system of growing fish and plants, which uses less water than conventional farming and absolutely zero chemical pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. The greenhouse itself will be run on electricity generated by the methane released from the water treatment process.
Murphy has started raising money to build her greenhouse, but she has already raised awareness of the project in the community and garnered some important partners including the city of Longmont, Live Well Longmont, the OUR Center, the St. Vrain Valley School District, Workforce Boulder and others. She hopes to attract private business entities to invest in the project, bringing together business interests, social responsibility and environmental responsibility in one brilliant package.
Not too shabby, even for a New Yorker.
Even if we’d wanted to, we couldn’t have singled out a green person from this group to feature. First of all, they call themselves a headless organization; everyone participates, and everyone has an equal share of the decision-making process, so there’s no one person to pick on as the leader of the group.
Secondly, every member has amazing green street cred: one is a green architect, one a purveyor of solar systems, one is apprenticing at an urban farm to learn how to bring farming to Louisville, one is a master gardener, one has a plug-in solar-powered Prius, and so on and so forth. They all bring something unique—and uniquely green—to the table.
The mission of the Transition movement (which has branches and affiliations all over the country) is one of education and community. The mission of Transition Louisville in particular is “working together for a sustainable future.” What does a sustainable future look like? In their ever-widening vision, it involves community gardening and urban farming, energy audits and green building practices, “smart mobility”—including a newly minted ride-share program taking advantage of the city of Louisville’s fleet cars—zero waste and much more.
Part of the program’s success and appeal is its deep involvement in the community. In the future, Transition Louisville plans to host movie nights (featuring films with green themes) and put on workshops and “re-skilling” classes teaching everything from the pros and cons of urban chickens to skills like canning, composting and home energy improvements.
For more information on Transition Louisville and the Transition movement, look for its booth Friday nights this summer at the Louisville Downtown Street Fair or visit uscoloradolouisville.ning.com or the national site, transitionus.org.
Ashleigh Guttierez: Miss Pre-Teen Colorado
& Eco-cycle’s Volunteer of the Year
When we say that Ashleigh Guttierez isn’t your average Broomfield teen, we really aren’t kidding. Between junior high, games with the Westminster Avalanche, a co-ed roller hockey team, and her duties as the reigning Miss Colorado Pre-Teen, Guttierez has somehow also managed to find time to volunteer with Eco-Cycle and was named one of their volunteers of the year for 2008.
“My fourth grade teacher scared the crap out of me when we were learning about global warming,” Guttierez admitted when asked why she was interested in the environment. After her scary wake-up call in the classroom, Guttierez was determined to make a difference. Her pageants became a natural stage for her to reach a broader audience with her message, and she began competing on a platform of “go green.” She is a passionate and extremely articulate spokesperson for her cause, but this beauty queen isn’t afraid to get a little bit dirty.
Volunteering with Eco-Cycle, she has worked at several events including Broomfield Days and the Superior Hard-to-Recycle Round Up, helping patrons decide which bin their waste should be thrown into (compost, recycle or landfill) and other duties.
Guttierez is a busy girl. When we met her, she was already plotting out her summer, which was to be filled with other events through Eco-Cycle, a teen leadership conference and the Miss Pre-Teen nationals in Florida. But she’s still hungry for more.
“I’d really like the opportunity to start talking to schools and kids about the environment,” she said. “The crown and the sash open doors.”
And she’s ready to go wherever they lead her.
RADventures in Green
Paul Wozniak has given up on grown-ups. “I wasn’t getting through to adults, so I just thought, ‘Forget them,’” said the Northern Colorado radio personality. “I’m not going to teach an old dog new tricks. I’m going to concentrate on the puppies.”
Wozniak, along with his wife Sarah, is working to educate kids about responsible planetary practices through a series of books and an interactive website.
With illustrations by J.C. Jones, The Green RADventures of Nico stars a mop-topped boy named Nico, his greenie babysitter named Hannah and the Green Minstrel. In the first book, Hannah takes Nico to the landfill to teach him about reusing and recycling; sequels on gardening and bicycling are in the works.
Radventuresofnico.com offers MP3s of the Green Minstrel’s Johnny Cash-inspired crooning—songs courtesy of Wozniak—and a blog.
“I want kids to teach their parents these lessons,” Wozniak said.
We expect some businesses to be interested in being green, but what about everybody else? These unexpectedly green entrepreneurs prove that everyone can do their part:
Eric Peltier owns Dovetail Lending LLC, Colorado’s first sustainable mortgage broker. Dovetail is carbon neutral, zero waste, wind powered, locally owned, and provides paperless originations. It’s all about the little choices Peltier makes, from choosing to work exclusively with title companies that allow clients to be emailed their signed closing documents to eliminating all fliers, handouts, door hangers and foam stress-balls. Could your mortgage be organic? Peltier thinks so. Learn more at dovetaillending.com.
One Purpose PR & Communications is a sustainable public relations, social media and communications consulting firm based in Longmont. Owner Lisa Trank creates marketing campaigns for a wide variety of projects—some intrinsically green, others simply interested in being environmentally responsible. Dedicated to “changing the world…one press release at a time,” she provides clients with a socially conscious, low/no carbon footprint way of attracting interest, customers and commerce by taking marketing online and off the grid. Her services are all about creatively conscious communications including green media kits, integrated social media strategy and online and in-person presentation consultation. Learn more at onepurposepr.com.