In Uganda, an estimated 13,000 people die every year from health issues related to fumes from wood burning cookstoves. At AEST, Betty Ikalany makes energy-saving cookstoves and smoke-free briquettes from agricultural waste--nut shells, charcoal dust and cassava stems. Her products, distributed by women micro-entrepreneurs, reduce deforestation—and the need for women to walk long distances to gather firewood.
GO Box takes the waste out of take-out. It supplies 80 Portland, Oregon, restaurant and food cart vendors with reusable containers, the vision of founder Laura Weiss. An app guides diners to participating food vendors and drop boxes. The containers are picked up by bike, washed and returned to vendors. Laura’s next business challenge: licensing GO Box in other cities.
Growing up in North Carolina, Molly Hemstreet watched 88% of the state’s textile jobs vanish. She founded Opportunity Threads with a new business model: Employees are worker-owners, each with an equal voice. Products are sewn with upcycled, local and sustainable fabrics and all factory scraps are recycled.
There is no such thing as “ugly fruit” at Rubies in the Rubble. Londoners Jenny Dawson Costa and Alicia Lawson work with UK farmers to turn 2000 tons of unsellable fruits and vegetables into jams, relishes and chutneys. Next up: expansion into other food categories, including ketchup and soup.
Founded by Amy Chasan, Sweet Generation is a NYC caterer and bakery that trains at-risk youth in baking and business—proof that you can change the world, one cupcake at a time. Using crowd-sourced funding, Sweet Generation opened its first store in 2015. Amy’s future plans include culinary classes and a High School Equivalency program.
Sword & Plough turns surplus camouflage fabric, brass shell casings and military waste into fashionable items, employing veterans along the way. It’s a peaceable--and sustainable--project created by former U.S. Army Captain Emily Nunez Cavness and Betsy Nunez, sisters raised in a military family.
Kabira Stokes believes in second chances; both for electronics and for formerly incarcerated people. Isidore Electronics Recycling in Los Angeles repairs and recycles "pretty much anything with a cord." In the process, it provides job training for those who have come out of California's correctional system and face severe barriers to work. "Work," Kabira believes, " is a tool of healing and of rehabilitation; it is our most powerful crime-fighter."
When streetlights are upgraded for LED conversions, old fixtures are typically exported as scrap to countries with weak environmental regulations. Laurel Kleiber has a different solution. Her company, Laurel Environmental Group, works with US cities, municipalities and utilities to recycle streetlights locally. At its Oceanside, California, facility or at satellite locations, Laurel Environmental Group dismantles the discarded lights, separates all components and recycles them individually, an innovative, near-zero waste process.
The fermented foods movement has a local advocate in Olympia, Washington. In 2008 Sash Sunday cofounded OlyKraut to make organic sauerkrauts, pickles and sipping brines naturally filled with probiotics. "We believe in growing a healthy regional food system as well as thriving, happy gut microbes," she says. OlyKraut is committed to doing its part to provide good jobs to its employees, healing food to its customers and support for its local farmers.
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz grew up in the Philippines, where women in poor, urban communities scavenge dumpsites for scrap fabric to turn into handwoven rugs. In 2008 Reese founded Rags2Riches to create change by eliminating middlemen, providing fair wages and empowering the artisans through health and financial training. One of the keys to her success has been working with artisans not only as suppliers but as business partners.
In Bengali, "upohar" means gift. It's the name Srirupa Dasgupta chose for the catering company she founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 2011. Now a restaurant as well, Upohar employs, trains and pays a living wage to newly resettled refugee and homeless women who would otherwise have significant barriers to employment. It specializes in vegan and vegetarian food from the employees' home countries, providing affordable food with a global spin.
With a series of Detroit juice bars called DROUGHT, Caitlin James and her three sisters are fighting a drought in modern nourishment. Their juices—raw, organic and cold pressed—are sold by the glass bottle or in sets that support cleanses. We're inspired by their dedication to healthy living—and to their hometown.
At Cook on Clay on Whidbey Island, Washington, ceramic artists Maryon Attwood and Robbie Lobell craft clay cookware that goes from oven to table. Their mission is to inspire home cooking with artful pieces that are safe and healthy, and also help save energy: their flameware clay stays hot longer than metal or glass.
Eskayel, founded by the Brooklyn-based designer Shanan Campanaro, creates luxurious home goods with the least environmental impact. Wallpaper starts with recycled content and textiles are dyed and processed according to the highest environmental standards. We admire Shanan's commitment to educating her industry peers and giving back through 1% for the Planet.
Cyndi Prince dreamed up LooHoo, which makes wool dryer balls, as a way to detox her family laundry and support Maine's local economy—domestic wool is wound into dryer balls by hand near her home in Camden. LooHoo's products are sturdy and long lasting and come in a beautiful range of environmentally responsible colors—including undyed versions.
Designer Lauren Lilly and her cofounder, Jody Rollins, started their Los Angeles–based company, Yellow 108, with an environmental mission: turning textile factory waste into limited edition hats and accessories. Lauren and Jody combine a strong fashion sensibility with a belief that workplaces should support healthy and happy lifestyles.
Aletha Thomas lives on Kauai and has a sweet business: creating artisanal jams and marmalades with locally sourced, seasonal fruit—lilikoi, papaya, limes and more. We admire Monkeypod Jam for the close relationships it has made with both farmers and the island community.