Heather Stephenson - Ideal Bite
- Tuesday, 31 March 2009
For many of us, turning a "green" leaf can seem overwhelming, almost intimidating. However, Heather Stephenson, co-founder of Ideal Bite created a brilliant way for us regular folks to learn a tip or two on how we can each do our part to help save the environment. I recently had the opportunity to interview Heather on how her and her partner, Jennifer, thought of their concept.
Naturally Savvy Guide, Andrea Donsky: How did Ideal Bite come to fruition?
Heather Stephenson: In 2001, my business partner, Jen, and I were both working in the dot.com boom. We were helping big companies make money and we were learning a lot, but something was missing. We didn’t feel a distinct sense of purpose in our work lives. Then in 2002, we both made some radical decisions. I decided to leave the day to day of the internet world so that I could explore other passions - one of those passions led me to go to school to study landscape design. While studying, I became obsessed with the concept of “green roofs” (building a roof garden on top of a roof) which ultimately instilled in me a love for sustainability. After a year, I started volunteering for a non-profit in NYC called Earth Pledge and eventually started my own rooftop gardening company called Urban Sage.
Then one night I met Jen at a bar. We were both passionate about sustainability and decided to join forces, using our dot com skill sets to consult for small green businesses on how to market themselves online. Keep in mind this was in 2004 – before Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth – and most people’s perception of “the environment” was very different from what it is today.
Our goal was to target regular women who wanted to know what to do and how to do it. We saw that Daily Candy had a great business model and approach to publishing small bits of useful information to a distinct audience, so we took a cue from them and started Ideal Bite in 2005.
Andrea: Can you suggest three simple changes people can make to help them in their green efforts?
Heather Stephenson: In terms of broad strokes, I would say:
- Give up bottled water and use filtered tap water instead. This is a simple change that not only helps you think about the water supply, but also your carbon footprint and re-usability.
- Think about the way you use your car. We are such an auto-driven society (note the pun). If we look at simple ways to look at how we drive and keep our cars, we can all make a big difference. For example, keep your car tires full, change the filters and most of all opt for public transportation whenever possible.
- Try using cloths to wipe down counters instead of disposable wipes or paper towels. It’s a simple switch, and more than saving on disposables, it just keeps the concept of reusing top of mind, in a simple, effective way.
Andrea: Are there any products you would recommend we try to help reduce our energy consumption?
Heather Stephenson: My favorite product from 2008 would have to be the Energy Detective. It’s a home electricity monitor that tells you how much energy you’re using in real time. I like it because with this monitor, there’s this moment of realization that one degree on the thermostat really makes a difference.
Andrea: Can you clarify for me what really happens to all of our recyclables after they leave our house? It is true they end up in the landfill and our efforts are futile?
Heather Stephenson: There’s a ton of misinformation out there regarding recycling. On the one hand you spend all this time sorting through your garbage and teaching yourself the plastic numbers and then you find out it’s being shipped to China to only end up in their landfill or one of their recycling centers. However, it’s not always the case. There are plenty of opportunities right here at home where they are recycling your recyclables. It depends on which city you live in. I live in San Francisco, and here they pick up my weekly composting and then use it around the city to fertilize the parks.
Regardless of what happens to your recyclables once they leave your house, I encourage you to keep on practicing the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra because there is a chance it will be recycled, and more importantly – again, it makes you more aware of your actions, and causes you to be more conscientious upstream in the consumer cycle (maybe you will forgo that tomato in the plastic packaging and opt for bulk produce buying instead). That said, I’m sure we will get smarter over the next 5 years. It’s much more important to me that I think about my consumption habits because it makes me a better consumer.
Andrea: How do you maintain balance in your life?
Heather Stephenson: I’m much better now. For the first couple of years after we started the company, it was Ideal Bite – morning and night. We have grown a lot now and having the right team in place really helps me to relinquish control a bit. I have forced myself not to work at night anymore- which gets me out to my yoga classes! Balance was a missing piece for years, but I really try hard now and I’d have to say I am doing a pretty good job these days.
Andrea: Thank you Heather.
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