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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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