Boulder County is home to some incredible women who, on top of running or owning a sustainable business, are also leaders in their community, working to educate and encourage others to be more eco-friendly. Boulderganic caught up with a few of the women to talk about their work and their lives.
President, CEO and founder of Ethical Impact
Ethical Impact, founded by Kathryn Alexander in 2003, is helping to change the face of green businesses in Colorado by offering consulting services to companies looking to implement sustainable business practices. And what better way to teach sustainability than to lead by example: 100 percent of Ethical Impact’s energy use for the last eight years has been offset by wind power, and the company produces only 30 gallons of waste a month.
Alexander says her goal is to bring the companies she works with through three stages of sustainability. The first, she says, is “what most people think about when they think of sustainability in business,” which is the wise use of resources. The second goal is to get companies to understand the big picture of how everything is connected and the implications of those connections. The final stage is for companies to realize that “their actions need to nourish the planet so we’re actually improving our environment as opposed to just managing it or trying not to destroy it,” she says. “There aren’t too many companies at stage three.”
Outside her company, Alexander sits on the board of Colorado Business Women, a group that focuses on strengthening women professionally and financially. She also teaches a course on social responsibility, ethics and values for the Sustainable Practices Program at the University of Colorado Boulder’s. And when she isn’t too busy saving the world, Alexander turns her attention to horses; she is an equestrian enthusiast and a former barrel racer.
President and owner of Blue Spruce Design and Construction
Weeks started Blue Spruce Design and Construction in 1997. The firm takes on both residential and commercial projects. Blue Spruce Design and Construction’s unique remodeling projects include some of Boulder’s popular restaurants, like The Greenbriar Inn, L’Atelier and The Flagstaff House.
Her typical approach to green renovation is to tackle the “low-hanging fruit” — generally the problems requiring the easiest and quickest solutions — first by encouraging people to get the best energy-efficient windows, installations and lights they can afford.
“In a lot of ways, most of the green environmental features have become much more affordable,” Weeks explains. What many people don’t realize is that with incentives and grants from environmental organizations and energy companies, many sustainable projects almost pay for themselves, she says.
Weeks was also recently elected as the president of the board of directors of the Colorado Green Building Guild (CGBG), a nonprofit trade organization that represents green building leaders. The CGBG (back when it was the Boulder Green Building Guild) proposed changes to Boulder’s building codes to require new commercial construction and residential remodels to meet certain energy-efficiency requirements.
Weeks was elected to the board of directors of the CGBG three years ago. She and the CGBG have been working on a new development, a website that will feature blogs and videos that focus on sustainability. The website will also be a place where consumers can come to connect with professional green contractors directly.
“[The website] is going to be really dynamic, it’s going to be really informative, and it’s going to benefit both the contractor and consumer,” she says.
A single mother who raised two “only children” born 15 years apart, she is also on the board of the YWCA (You, Women, Children, All of us), one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the country. It offers Boulder’s only drop-in daycare and provides women with career counseling.
Majority owner of Ballantine Environmental Resources
Marianne Ballantine’s Ballantine Environmental Resources specializes in environmental education and ecological restoration nationwide. Ballantine runs the company alongside her husband, Todd Ballantine, and says the business could not operate without the synergy of their talents. Marianne Ballantine operates the business and administrative end of things. Todd Ballantine, a wetland biologist, is an environmental guru who pioneered the first EPA-approved reclaimed water technique.
The company works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Parks Service to create visitor centers and interpretive signs along trails to educate visitors.
Marianne Ballantine’s work was recently recognized by Make Mine a Million (M3) Dollar Business, a national organization that aims to support women-owned businesses. The organization teaches female business owners how to pitch their businesses to venture capitalists in a two-minute presentation. As a winner of the annual M3 business award last year, she received eight months of executive coaching. Following her own experience with M3, she decided to coordinate this year’s meet-up to help support other women-owned businesses in reaching the million-dollar mark in revenue.
Marianne Ballantine says she believes women are going to be the real leaders in sustainable business in the future.
“Women generally make more sustainable and healthy choices and decisions,” she says.
That’s not to take anything away from her other half. As Ballantine explains, “very few couples would be as happy working together as we are.”