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The List: 6 Sustainability Heroes to Watch

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The people with the power to change the world, one eco-friendly move at a time.

I always like to watch the IMAX movies that show at my city’s science museum, and I’ve noticed that every one of them has a similar theme. The movie about monarch butterfly migration talked about how the monarch populations are vastly declining as urban sprawl and pesticides reduce their food source. And last week, I took my ocean-loving daughters to see a movie about the marine life surrounding the South Pacific islands, only to squirm in my seat as the narrator shared facts about overfishing, dynamite fishing, and dying coral reefs.

Clearly we need a hero or three! And as a follow up to my “Where Are They Now” piece from a few months ago, in which I checked in with environmental superstars from the past, I thought I’d try to identify some people whose eco-conscious stars are on the rise. Keep an eye on these folks, as they have the power to change the world for the better.

  1. Sam Kaas: A Chicago chef who used to cook for the Obama family before they moved to Washington, Kaas followed them to the White House kitchen in 2009 and has since become one of first lady Michelle Obama’s longest-serving advisors. He helped her plant the White House vegetable garden and is a senior policy advisor for nutrition policy. One of his major tasks is improving the eating habits of children through the Let’s Move! Initiative. He’s also a proponent of local foods and organic farming and gardening methods, many of which he employs right in the White House garden.
  2. Elizabeth Kolbert: This award-winning New Yorker reporter has become one of the most outspoken voices on the issues surrounding global warming. She traveled to Alaska, Iceland, and the Netherlands for her 2006 book Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, a wake-up call for the future. Her latest book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, just came out last month and is even more of a clarion call, because she theorizes that the titular extinction is us.
  3. Bill Nye: Bill Nye the Science Guy aims to make science more accessible to all with his humorous, entertaining approach. His 2007-2008 show Stuff Happens explored how our everyday actions impacted the environment. With his kid-friendly demeanor, he has the power to educate a whole new generation of people about what they can do to reverse the damage already done to their environment.
  4. Rogan Gregory and Scott Hahn: This duo founded Loomstate, a sustainable clothing company that employs tactics to ensure that their clothing has a minimal impact on the environment. They use organic cotton from farms that are truly sustainable and socially responsible, minimize waste in production (An anorak design they produced created zero waste), they recommend hand-washing their garments as it uses less energy than machines, and they contribute to important environmental causes. Their newest collection, 321, is designed so that each piece can be worn 3 ways, with the idea that people will need to buy less clothing.
  5. Elon Musk: The founder of Tesla Motors is one of the richest automotive titans, and you’d have to have some scratch of your own to afford one of his $70,000 electric cars. But maybe not for long: he recently announced plans to build a factory that will produce lithium-ion batteries for more affordable electric vehicles. He also gets votes from us for the stake he holds in SolarCity, a solar panel company he co-founded.
  6. Colin and Livia Firth: We love it when celebrities use their popularity to further important causes. Colin Firth is a great example. Several years ago he and his wife Livia received an award from the Environmental Media Association for their store and consultancy Eco-Age. Last year Livia founded Livia Firth Designs, an upscale clothing and accessories line, and her Green Carpet Challenge encourages designers to seek more sustainable materials, production methods and logistics to bring their clothing to market.

Who are your sustainability heroes? Nominate your favorites in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.