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.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.