40 people who are redefining "green"

Submitted by Charles Frost on Sat, 04/24/2010 - 22:13.

One Giant Leap for Greenkind

40 people who are redefining green 

Four decades after the first Earth Day, the circle of people working toward a cleaner, greener world has expanded way beyond treehugging hippies, red-paint-throwing protesters, posturing politicos, and card-carrying members of enviro groups. To mark this milestone, we've found 40 unexpected people who are altering the green landscape.

Erika AllenNat Damm

Erika Allen

Projects Manager, Growing Power
Chicago, Ill.

Erika Allen grew up on a farm in Rockville, Md., working in the fields with her father. "We didn't have a TV and we relied on a wood stove, but we were known as the ‘food family' because we had so much food. We could feed 30 people for supper," she said recently. Today, her dad, Will Allen, is one of the world's most famous farmers—the recipient of a MacArthur "genius" grant for his innovative work as an urban farmer/community organizer in Milwaukee, Wis. Erika is continuing the family mission as head of the Chicago operations of Growing Power, her dad's nonprofit. Since launching the Chicago branch in 2002, she's helped make one-time "food deserts" bloom, launching community gardens and bringing fresh food to economically devastated neighborhoods. Growing Power also employs inner-city teens to run a model veggie garden in Chicago's lake-side Grant Park, where they harvest 50 varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers in the shadow of skyscrapers.

Ambessa CantaveNat Damm

Ambessa Cantave

Educator, Alliance for Climate Education
Oakland, Calif.

Ambessa Cantave, 33, uses his skills as an entertainer and his green savvy to help young people throughout the Bay Area connect with the environmental movement. As an educator at the Alliance for Climate Education, he makes high-energy, inspiring presentations to high school kids about global warming (take notes, Al Gore). And as a cofounder and creative director at Grind for the Green, he uses hip-hop culture to help move at-risk youth toward good, green jobs. Cantave also spreads messages of eco-consciousness and self-awareness through the hip-hop group FIYAWATA. Read a Grist article about Cantave's work at the Alliance.

Watch Cantave's energizing Alliance for Climate Education presentation:

Amrbose CarrollNat Damm

Ambrose Carroll

Pastor, Renewal Worship Center
Denver, Colo.

The Renewal Worship Center, founded in April 2009 by Rev. Ambrose Carroll, 40, is one of the first churches in the U.S. to have started up with an explicitly environmental emphasis; it also has a mission to reach out to all different kinds of people, including struggling African Americans in the inner city. Its nonprofit arm, RENEWAL, focuses on green-job training and placement in the northeastern Denver area. Carroll is also coordinator of Denver's Green Jobs Interfaith Coalition and has collaborated with other Denver clergy to call for strong clean-energy and climate legislation.

Valerie CaseyNat Damm. original photo by Brian Smale

Valerie Casey

Founder, Designers Accord
Oakland, Calif.

Designer Valerie Casey, 37, wants to green not just her own projects but her entire industry. She started the Designers Accord—aka the "Kyoto Treaty of Design"—in 2007 to encourage the creative community to integrate the principles of sustainability into all design practice and to share knowledge with each other. So far, she estimates, more than 600 design firms, 30 corporations, and dozens of colleges and universities from more than 100 countries have ratified the accord. It all started in 2007 with a manifesto Casey wrote calling on the design community to "stimulate mass change" and "create a network in which every client is compelled to engage in a discussion of sustainability." She now runs her own consultancy in San Francisco. Read about a talk Casey gave at South by Southwest.

Leslie ChristianNat Damm

Leslie Christian

Founder, Upstream 21 and Portfolio 21
Seattle, Wash.

"Small companies are critical to the future of our communities," says Leslie Christian, 62—so she helped concoct an innovative way to support them. Upstream 21, whose board she chairs, is a Portland, Ore.-based regional holding company that acquires and supports small, locally focused, privately held companies in the Pacific Northwest—currently, three forest products companies that are embracing sustainable practices. Right from the drafting of its foundational document, Upstream 21 aimed to break away from business as usual: "Our corporate charter specifically states that the best interests of employees, customers, suppliers, the community, and the environment must be balanced with those of the shareholders over both the short and long term," Christian explains. She is also president and CEO of Portfolio 21 Investments, which specializes in environmentally and socially responsible investing.

Watch Christian explain the Upstream 21 vision:

Robert CialdiniNat Damm

Robert Cialdini

Tempe, Ariz.

Robert Cialdini, 64, until recently a psychology and marketing professor at Arizona State University, wrote Influence, the classic book on persuasion. Lately he's been researching the best ways to persuade people to save energy. In 2007, he coauthored a study [PDF] that found that giving people info about neighborhood energy-use norms (combined with smiley faces) led to large home energy savings. His research inspired the creation of the company Opower, which sells software that utilities can use to make smarter bills and inspire energy efficiency. Cialdini now serves as chief scientist for Opower and is president of the Influence at Work consulting firm. Read a Grist interview with Cialdini and Grist article about Cialdini's work and Opower.

Jim CochranNat Damm

Jim Cochran

Farmer, Swanton Berry Farm
Davenport, Calif.

Despite what many consumers may think, organic rules don't ensure fair treatment of workers—and tight profit margins mean that working conditions and pay on organic farms are too often no different from those in conventional operations. But Jim Cochran, 62, who launched California's first organic strawberry farm in 1987, refused to accept the established norms. In 1998, he became the first organic grower to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers union—and he approached them. Then, in 2005, Cochran rolled out what might be the nation's first stock-ownership plan for farm employees; workers begin earning stock in the operation after putting in 500 hours. "The dignity of farm labor is a founding principle of Swanton Berry Farm," Cochran says. If the farm's crowded stands at Bay Area farmers markets are any indication, it is possible to protect the earth, treat workers well, and make a profit at the same time.

Cisco DeVriesNat Damm

Cisco DeVries

President, Renewable Funding
Oakland, Calif.

Sure, you'd love to have solar panels on your roof, but where would you get tens of thousands of dollars to install them? Cisco Devries, 36, has come up with an innovative answer: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a new type of financing program that lets private property owners pay for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects over 10 to 20 years via an addition to their property tax bill, instead of coming up with the cash up front; the financing comes via municipal bonds, and if an owner sells the property, the tax surcharge transfers to the new owner. The concept was first introduced in (where else?) Berkeley, Calif., in 2007; since then, 17 states have cleared the way for municipalities to use property taxes in this way, and more than 200 U.S. cities and counties are working to launch programs. DeVries' company, Renewable Funding, helps communities set up and run PACE programs. Read a Grist post by DeVries.

Matt GoldenNat Damm

Matt Golden

President, Founder, and Chief Building Scientist, Recurve
Sausalito, Calif.

Matt Golden, 35, has become a golden boy of the nascent energy-efficiency industry. He started Recurve—formerly called Sustainable Spaces—back in 2004 before retrofit was hip. While Recurve works on a software-driven solution to scale up the energy-efficiency business from mom-and-pop shops to a sustainable industry, Golden spends much of his time in Washington lobbying for Home Star and other legislation to fund energy-efficiency work and create thousands of jobs. Read more about Golden in a Grist article on Home Star and a Grist article on Sustainable Spaces.

Zakiya HarrisNat Damm

Zakiya Harris

Founder and Executive Director, Grind for the Green
Berkeley, Calif.

Zakiya Harris, 32, founded Grind for the Green in 2007 to use hip-hop to move youth of color from the margins to the epicenter of the green movement, helping steer them toward educational opportunities and green careers. The group puts on the solar-powered G4G Eco-Music Festival in San Francisco, and this Earth Day it's rolling out a Get Fresh campaign that aims to get young people educated about and active in environmental issues. Harris also makes her own music as one half of the eco-conscious hip-hop duo FIYAWATA and works as an eco-marketing consultant.

Leanne Mal-ly HilgartNat Damm

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart

Founder, Vaute Couture
Chicago, Ill.

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, 27, launched Vaute Couture last year with a line of chic, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, ethically and locally produced coats that are warm enough for Chicago winters. As a vegan, model, and MBA, she brings a unique perspective to her work—and strong values too; all profits from one of her styles are donated to Farm Sanctuary, a haven for rescued farm animals. Vaute Couture also sells vegan-themed T-shirts and jewelry. Hilgart tells you about it all on her blog.

Watch Hilgart talk about her business:

Rob JonesNat Damm

Rob Jones

Cofounder, Crop Mob
Carrboro, N.C.

Like a growing number of young folks across the country, Rob Jones, 27, likes to get his hands in the dirt, making his foodshed and community more robust and vibrant. Once each month, Jones and a band of young agrarians alight upon an area farm. Calling themselves the Crop Mob" href="http://cropmob.org/about" jquery1272164801093="79">Crop Mob, they do a big project together—say, break new ground for raised beds or harvest a labor-intensive crop like sweet potatoes. The host farmers make a big meal, and everyone eats together. Sustainable agriculture is "way, way, way more labor-intensive than industrial agriculture," Jones told The New York Times Magazine" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/magazine/28food-t-000.html" jquery1272164801093="80">Jones told The New York Times Magazine, and the long hours can hamper one's social life. Crop Mobs help by creating a "sense of community that people are looking for"—and "you get a lot of work done." Since the Times article came out, the idea has gone viral. Crop Mobs have broken out all over the country" href="http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&source=embed&msa=0&msid=100558489454771298925.000480799f3b846091775&ll=38.410558,-97.03125&spn=47.614427,74.707031&z=3" jquery1272164801093="81">broken out all over the country. Read a Grist article about Crop Mobs" href="http://www.grist.org/article/2010-02-25-are-you-a-farmer-at-heart-start-a-crop-mob">Grist article about Crop Mobs.

Dorothy LeNat Damm

Dorothy Le

Planning and Policy Director, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
Los Angeles, Calif.

Dorothy Le wants to get you out and about on two wheels. Not sure where to start? Watch her series of videos on how to find the bike that's right for you. At the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, she works to make the archetypal car-obsessed city more welcoming to cyclists and to make the cycling community more welcoming to women and people of color. Le has organized community bike tours, women's bicycle rides, safety workshops, a bicycle count. While a student at UCLA, she led E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity, an environmental and social-justice organization, and helped launch the Green Initiative Fund, a grant-making fund for sustainability projects on the UCLA campus.

Watch a video about Le's bike activism:

Anita MaltbiaNat Damm

Anita Maltbia

Director, Green Impact Zone
Kansas City, Mo.

Anita Maltbia is spearheading the transformation of 150 square blocks of Kansas City, Mo., from blight to bright. The Green Impact Zone project, which she directs, is resuscitating this economically depressed African-American neighborhood by putting local residents to work weatherizing the zone's 2,500 homes and by developing a bus rapid-transit system that will connect the zone to other parts of the region. With $50 million in funding from the federal economic-stimulus package, the initiative will also offer community policing, job training, and health and wellness programs. Maltbia, who has 30 years of experience in city government and community activism, earned a coveted spot in the First Lady's box at this year's State of the Union address.

Valerie MartinezNat Damm

Valerie Martinez

Executive Director, Indigenous People's Green Jobs Coalition
Minneapolis, Minn.

Valerie Martinez, a 31-year-old Mexican/Cree/Apache/Ojibwe woman, spreads the benefits of the green economy to American-Indian communities in Minnesota through the Indigenous People's Green Jobs Coalition. She's also working with urban-ag pioneer Will Allen to bring small-scale sustainable food production to Little Earth of United Tribes, an affordable-housing community for Native Americans in south Minneapolis. 

Mike MathieuNat Damm

Mike Mathieu

Founder, Front Seat
Seattle, Wash.

After working at Microsoft and founding an internet publishing firm, Mike Mathieu, 41, decided to put his software smarts to work for the greater social good. Seattle-based Front Seat, which he founded and chairs, has launched "civic software" projects like Walk Score, which shows you how walkable any given U.S. address is (Grist HQ scores a whopping 98 out of 100—a "Walkers' Paradise"), and City-Go-Round, which spotlights innovative public transit apps, like Exit Strategy NYC, an app that shows you exactly where you should stand on the subway platform to arrive directly in front of the exit at your destination (brilliant). Walk Score has already started to change the way the real estate industry thinks about walkability; its scores have been incorporated into real-estate sites like Zillow.com as well as many agents' individual listings, giving prospective homebuyers more info about the kinds of neighborhoods and lifestyles they might be buying into.

Patti MorenoNat Damm

Patti Moreno

Founder, Garden Girl TV and Urban Sustainable Living
Roxbury, Mass.

Patti Moreno, 38, aka "The Garden Girl," wants to sow the seeds of inspiration and get everyone growing organic veggies and living a more self-sustaining life. In her how-to videos and on her websites, Garden Girl TV and Urban Sustainable Living, she demystifies gardening (indoor and out), raising chickens, shearing rabbits, spinning wool, cooking, and even aquaculture. Before you know it, her infectious enthusiasm could have you not just building raised garden beds but considering goat adoption. Watch Garden Girl videos on Grist.

Watch Garden Girl explain how to start a vegetable garden:

Irma MuñozNat Damm

Irma Muñoz

Founder, Mujeres de la Tierra
Baldwin Vista, Calif.

Los Angeles native Irma Muñoz, 57, founded Mujeres de la Tierra (Women of the Earth) in 2004, after two neighbors died of cancers that they suspected had been caused by nearby oil wells. Her group organizes women in Southern California to fight for cleaner, healthier neighborhoods for their families. Muñoz also serves as an environmental affairs commissioner for Los Angeles. "I think when you talk about the environment, most people are talking about the natural elements: air, water, the earth. But for me, and for many in my community, the environment starts with the family," she says.

Chandrasekhar "Spike" NarayanNat Damm

Chandrasekhar "Spike" Narayan

Leader of Science and Technology Organization, IBM’s Almaden Research Center
Silicon Valley, Calif.

Spike Narayan and his team at IBM's Almaden Research Center work on bleeding-edge technologies that are at the nexus of efforts to create a sustainable world—endlessly recyclable plasticslithium-air batteries that could dramatically extend the range of electric cars, and infrastructure for smart cities. Given Narayan and the Almaden Research Center's proximity to Silicon Valley venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, expect to see some of these technologies hit the market in the coming years.

Jack NewmanNat Damm

Jack Newman

Cofounder and Senior Vice President of Research, Amyris
Berkeley, Calif.

He may look like an amiable Deadhead, but Jack Newman, 44—that would be Dr. Newman to you—is a Berkeley microbiologist who cofounded Amyris, a start-up that went from bioengineering a microbe to produce an anti-malarial drug to genetically tweaking a bug to excrete biodiesel (crazy, right?). Amyris, which has a pilot project under way in Brazil, is backed by high-profile Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

The other 20 can be found here at Grist Magazine: http://www.grist.org/article/2010-04-22-earth-day-40-people-who-are-redefining-green/PALL