In 1997, they were tree-hugging hippies. Today, they're renewable energy pros.
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Green Mountain Energy

The year was 1997.  

You woke up to an actual alarm clock, which was entirely different from your camera, your telephone, and your computer — that is, if you had a computer. The crowning achievement of the technology world was Tickle Me Elmo. It was a different time.

And somewhere in central Vermont, a group of “flannel-wearing, sandal-footed, long-haired tree-huggers” were quietly bringing about the nativity of the green energy industry.


Nearly 20 years ago, renewable energy awareness was near zero.

In 1997, renewable energy wasn’t a global phenomenon waiting to happen. Though it had potential, it was so far only important to a select few.

All images via iStock.

It took pioneering minds to identify and commit to renewability as the future of power and energy.

Green Mountain Energy Company's founders didn’t think they'd be starting a movement. Like Henry Ford and his Model T or the people who put peanut butter and jelly in the same jar, Green Mountain simply realized that they could bring people something that was needed. Then they got to work.

“There was an opportunity to be a green energy pioneer,” says general manager Mark Parsons. The company's founders knew there were reliable ways to power peoples' homes that were also gentle on the Earth. “It became our mission to change the way power is made.”

In its first year, Green Mountain started bringing people residential electricity powered by wind and solar — both renewable sources.

They were facing a tough crowd: It wasn’t easy to convince the people of the '90s that renewable energy was necessary or reliable.

“People were skeptical,” says Parsons. “Traditional fossil fuels were widely accepted, and the future of those resources wasn't questioned like it is today.”

Their burgeoning movement lacked public support. Still, Green Mountain put its trust in the basic idea that if they could create a better, more environmentally responsible product, people would choose it.

And while traditional fossil fuel resources are limited, the supply of green energy is endless. “The sun will shine and the wind will always blow,” says Parsons. All Green Mountain had to do was help people realize they had a choice to harness that sunlight and wind.

One home at a time, Green Mountain built its business on early adopters willing to take a stance and decide to go green with their electricity.

Switching your electricity isn't a flashy ordeal, with hashtags and celebrity endorsements and a free water bottle emblazoned with a leaf. It's just like flipping a switch and choosing to get power from a more renewable source.

It might not seem like much, but it is. 20 years later, all of those little improvement projects in thousands of homes have added up — both for the company and for the world. According to Green Mountain, as of 2016, their customers had prevented more than 54.4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide production by switching to green energy — the equivalent of planting 6.4 million trees or turning the lights out in 49.8 million houses for a year.

These days, green energy isn't just a resource — it's a whole movement.

After two decades in the industry, Green Mountain is an expert on where green energy is going. And they're optimistic about the future.

"The green conversation has gotten easier since 1997 as more information has come available," says Parsons. As society has learned more about renewable energy, switching to cleaner electricity has become a more popular choice.

"People are more knowledgeable and aware that their actions can make a difference," explains Parsons. And that's good news not just for Green Mountain, but for the world.

Today, you don't have to be a genius inventor to figure out that green energy is the future — and to get on board.

In 1997, those Green Mountain hippies from Vermont had to think way out of the box to find the path to their success today. But in 2017, renewable energy is just plain common sense.

"Being green feels good," says Parsons. "It's exciting to be a part of that change as we all aim to help protect the planet through making the right, small choices."

Update 8/21/2017: The share image was changed.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

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