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From compostable note cards and eco-conscious consulting to organic cotton baby clothes and reusable lunch bags, the mom entrepreneurs in this year’s Leading Moms in Business contest have made it clear: average products that don’t have the environment in mind just won’t cut it these days—even if they are fashionable, high-end or name brand. Moms are leading the pack when it comes to demanding more eco-friendly, organic and sustainable products from companies. And when companies fail to deliver? Eco-minded mom entrepreneurs like some of our winners simply turn around and launch the products themselves.
In the immediate term, these mom entrepreneurs are most concerned with helping the planet through their eco-friendly products, whether they’re recyclable or reusable, toxic free, made from organic or sustainable materials or leave a smaller footprint. But in the bigger, greener scheme of things, a lot of their commitment has to do with ensuring a healthy life and safe environment for their children after they are gone.
“My young son is a constant reminder of my environmental principles and goals,” says mom entrepreneur Meghan Crowell, founder of ConservingNow (ranked No. 98), a campaign-based community that educates people on eco-friendly initiatives through its informational website and complementary products. She’s always been passionate about the environment, but in 2005, with the birth of her first child fast approaching, Crowell “wanted to do something that would provide my son and his future family with a healthy planet.”
The idea for the Reno, Nevada, company’s first campaign came when Crowell and her mom were eating lunch at Whole Foods and heard “customer after customer exclaim that they had forgotten their reusable shopping bags again,” explains the 34-year-old mom entrepreneur. Although the products will vary based on each campaign, ConservingNow’s current line is focused on reminding people to “Bring Your Own Bags,” through mouse pads, key chains, T-shirts, window stickers and reusable shopping bags, of course.
The eco-friendly aspect doesn’t stop with the message, either. “We carefully source all our products to make sure they are as green as they can be, from production to distribution to sales,” Crowell says. “It isn’t enough to sell green products; we can make more of a difference by working with suppliers who also adhere to sustainable and eco-friendly practices.” In addition, any sales or donations are sent back to the community in the form of classroom kits for schools.
“We are passionate about what we do and our impact has been significant,” says Crowell, estimating that their efforts and reminder products have helped keep more than 40 million plastic bags out of the ecosystem so far this year.
The very goal ConservingNow is working toward is a concern that has been with Martha Van Inwegen since childhood. “Where are we going to put all this trash?” she would ponder. Now, 53 years later, the mom entrepreneur is still distressed by it: “[Americans] are constantly purchasing and it has to go somewhere. If we’re not recycling, then it has to go in a landfill.”
This troubling concept is why when she launched her body products line, Life Elements (ranked No. 81), in 2005, the mom entrepreneur made sure it was natural, eco-friendly and sold and shipped in recyclable packaging. The Atascadero, California, company’s latest and best-selling products are Action Wipes, wet wipes that are all-natural, reusable and domestically made. The wipes, which are popular with athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, can be washed, repurposed and even “recharged” with a Sports Spray that is sold separately.
“Nothing goes into landfills,” Van Inwegen says, referencing her childhood stress point. “The whole line keeps with our environmental roots.”
And like Crowell, Van Inwegen hopes her product’s eco-friendly qualities and company’s significant environmental initiatives and contributions play some role in creating a greener future for her children. Although the mom entrepreneur’s two kids were already grown when she started her business, her new husband had a 7-year-old daughter. So in both her work life and family life, she’s always thinking about what she can do to make an impact. Says Van Inwegen, “And because I’m raising a child again, I want to teach and show her that this is the right thing.”
Green through and through
Clearly, Crowell and Van Inwegen have every aspect of their eco-friendly products covered. So what eco-minded steps the two mom entrepreneurs can’t take themselves, they leave up to the environmental organizations they’ve each partnered with. ConservingNow is active with EcoHearth, Plastic Bag Ban Report and Care2, while Life Elements joined Green America, CarbonFund.org and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Both mom entrepreneurs also give one percent of their sales to 1% for the Planet, which disperses its donations to various environmental organizations.
“It takes one step at a time to get anywhere,” Van Inwegen says. “So whatever size of company you are, whatever little step you can take, eventually we can turn it around.” And once again, mom entrepreneurs are leading the pack—this time, with their businesses.