If you’ve not already taken steps to live more environmentally responsible, then Practically Green is the startup that will get that ball rolling for you. All you have to do is sign up and take an assessment quiz that will let you know how green you’re already living. Don’t worry because if you’re not doing so hot, then Practically Green will recommend ways for you start you on your green lifestyle.
It’s already a successful startup lead by founder Susan Hunt Stevens who is a highly motivated and successful entrepreneur who began Practically Green after her 1 year-old son who experienced an allergic reaction to a cashew he had eaten. With that event, Susan made immediate environmental health changes for her and her family which in turn lead her to become interested in sustainable design for which she went to graduate school for at night.
Susan’s story is a compelling one and I invite you to read what she said about her experience as an entrepreneur and founder of Practically Green:
Was the licensing and customizing of the mobile and web platform of Practically Green for businesses part of the initial vision you had for the company?
We started knowing that we wanted to make it easier, faster and way more fun for people to embrace sustainable choices and that bringing visibility to social norms was key to that.
However, I don’t think we realized how powerful colleagues are as social influencers until we kept getting asked by CEO’s and Heads of Sustainability to offer a corporate version of our program. That’s when the real power for offering this in a configurable version became clear.
At what point did you become interested in sustainability and environmental related issues and how did it go from an interest to a startup?
The real wake-up call for me was in 2006 when my 1 year-old son went into anaphylactic shock from eating a cashew. I started reading food and personal care labels and going “why the heck is THAT in here.” That led to blogging about green personal changes and embracing new lifestyle choices around environmental health.
A year or so later this led to a major green home renovation and then going back to grad school at night for sustainable design. It was in that program that I had the idea of creating a LEED-like program for personal sustainability.
It took awhile to go from concept to starting the business, but one day I had breakfast with a venture capitalist friend who told me I need to go start Practically Green THAT day. I decided to take the leap about a month after that.
That said, I was born in Seattle in 1970, a few months before the first earth day; my dad researches and writes about John Muir; and I hate both driving and clear cutting. Might have been in my DNA from the start?
How has your previous professional experience informed what your vision is for Practically Green and how have you gone about executing those goals with Practically Green?
I’ve spent most of my career in digital publishing, media and marketing and know how hard it is to create an engaging platform that grows organically. It also would have been easy to think of Practically Green as a content business versus an online platform or app that helps people accomplish their goals. I understood the difference very clearly from the start.
In what way has Practically Green evolved that you didn’t anticipate at launch?
I don’t think I appreciated how truly cutting edge our approach of combining social media and game mechanics and applying it to real-life behavior change would prove to be. We started doing this before the word “gamification” really existed.
I just knew what would likely work based on 15 years trying to grow websites. But the result is that to continue pushing the envelope, my team needs to be filled with people who come from game platforms, wellness app companies, etc—-not media backgrounds. It’s been truly fun to find and work with such amazing people.
Can you tell me how Practically Green was funded at launch and whether or not you found securing investors a difficult process?
I funded it myself for the first year. After that my funding is largely by professional angels and family offices. Fundraising is never easy, but I’m fortunate to have people who want to fund a business that is tackling an enormous problem and understand the huge opportunity we have on our hands if we execute well.
What are the fundamental actions you believe support health and sustainability that people should be doing, but aren’t?
- First, eat less meat. I had NO idea how energy intensive raising meat is and how easy, affordable and healthy it is to have 1, 2 or 3 days a week as a vegetarian. I could never drop a good burger altogether, but I can easily avoid it a few days a week.
- Second, go low flow. Change that shower head and your faucets at the least. You can save money and 38 states are going to face water shortages in the next 5 years. It’s not that hard and I’m so NOT handy.
- Third, get to know your food and your farmer. I still can’t believe what’s in store-bought food sometimes. Just the other day, my husband brought home bread that wasn’t our normal brand and I Googled one of the ingredients I didn’t recognize. It’s a dough conditioner that’s banned in several countries and can trigger asthma conditions and my daughter has asthma. It still ticks me off when I stumble on stuff like this.
What advice would you give someone interested in launching their own startup?
I could fill a novel. But definitely think it through with people you trust. My husband is a great filter for ideas and which ones are likely to work and which ones won’t.
What motivates you both professionally and personally?
Succeeding at something that matters. I’m competitive, but it really matters to me that whatever I’m spending time on is innovative and has a positive impact on our world and society.
What new elements of Practically Green are you most excited about right now?
We are doing more and more with mobile and I think it opens up a whole new way to think about habit creation and behavior changes for our users. I also think we are seeing some fascinating things in our data about how social influence works to drive changes in groups.
Can you tell me what your daily routine is like?
I wake up around 5am and work until the kids are up and then spend time with them before walking them to school, which along with a 7:45pm dance party counts as my exercise for the day. I try to be home by 7pm and do dinner and bedtime with them– and then usually back to work for a few hours.
When you’re not involved with Practically Green, what how do you enjoy spending your time?
I love going out on the town and seeing friends. I also love cheese and wine, a good restaurant, wandering the streets of international cities, reading the New York Times over a great latte and chocolate croissant and if there is an opportunity to go dancing, I’m there!
How can our readers get in touch with you?