A Conversation With Sustainne Founder Analiese Paik
Aug 30, 2018 04:07AM
Sustainne launched in October 2017 in Fairfield County with the mission to unite, nurture, and grow a community dedicated to sustainable living. Nearly a year later, the organization is a network of business members who work together to strengthen and grow their ecosystem through collaboration and innovation. Sustainne now counts almost 50 business members from Connecticut and two from Massachusetts, seven Community Partners, and two Media Partners, including Natural Awakenings. We recently spoke with Sustainne founder Analiese Paik.
How did you become so passionate about your work?
It all began with food. I was one of those PTA moms who lobbied hard for better school food. After a lot of introspection and weighing how I wanted to spend my time and what I was good at, I decided to create a sustainable food destination for the Fairfield County community. In 2009, I founded the Fairfield Green Food Guide (FairfieldGreenFoodGuide.com) to help consumers find local, sustainable food, and give voice to the burgeoning local food movement.
Almost a decade after founding the Fairfield Green Food Guide, I realized I was ready to do more and committed to creating an online destination and community dedicated to every aspect of sustainable living. That’s what led me to Sustainne.
How did you first discover your passion for healthy food, and clean and sustainable living?
I grew up composting, saving cans and recycling them, not wasting food. I’d watch my father comb the waterways for trash when we went fishing and clamming off LI Sound. Sometimes the garbage catch would be larger than the catch for dinner! We lived well, but frugally. We took care of our own house and yard, and didn’t seem to take anything we owned for granted. Stuff wasn’t unceremoniously thrown out; we kept and reused things.
I saw a significant change in consumer behavior begin to take place with food around 2008. Consumers began to prefer food from small local, organic growers, artisan food makers and farm-to-table restaurants, even though it cost more. Documentary food films like Food, Inc. and books like Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma exposed the ugly underbelly of industrial food and agriculture, and their negative impacts on the health of humans, animals, our soil and the planet.
How has Sustainne morphed since it began?
Consumers report in surveys that they’d prefer to make local sustainable purchases. Consumers are more willing to purchase with purpose. The number of local businesses offering sustainable products and services reached critical mass. I was convinced the time was right for an authority website that guides consumers with these purchasing choices. Sustainne’s first major service upgrade was the addition of a community calendar so site users could learn about and attend our business members’ events. We launched the Sustainne Podcast; we are currently holding our first giveaway featuring our business members’ food and merchandise, valued at $280. Our first Sustainable Living Expo will be held on October 13, in partnership with Stepping Stones Museum for Children, a Sustainne Community Partner. Experiences include an electric vehicle showcase, a textile recycling drive and a plastic film recycling drive. There will also be a community build of a model of the museum using recycled cardboard and 3D printed connectors.
What gets you most excited about the work you do?
I feel fortunate to be working with small to mid-sized business owners, Community Partners and Media Partners. Each Sustainne business member is a subject matter expert. We help them solve their business problems by connecting with other members; they share their wisdom with our audience via blog articles, newsletters, social media posts and podcasts. Their expertise runs the gamut from clean skin care, organic-based hair care, complementary and alternative medicine, food waste recycling and textile recycling. They cover sustainable food, agriculture, investing, lawn and land care, automotive maintenance, architecture, fashion and more. Consumers are asking businesses to do more—there is even a Zero Waste CT Facebook Group—and Sustainne members are meeting that demand.
Which challenges are you looking to conquer next?
The industrial carbon emissions last year were the highest ever recorded, and atmospheric carbon was the highest in 800,000 years. We are living climate change now. We have known since the 1970s that burning fossil fuels causes climate change, but we took no action for many decades. Seventeen of the warmest years in modern history occurred since 2001. Global sea levels have risen by more than 3 inches since we started measuring them in 1993, and the pace is accelerating. Over 100 wildfires are burning in 14 U.S. states, covering almost 1 million acres. We urgently need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make different lifestyle choices. Nobody is going to save us but ourselves. We are all responsible for fixing this. It’s nothing short of a planetary emergency.
What would you most like to see change?
How do we nudge decision makers into making more sustainable choices? Why is doing nothing even a choice? There are two things I urge everyone to do immediately: stop throwing food waste and used textiles in the garbage. These materials have value that we can recapture in a closed loop system. Sustainne business member Curbside Compost picks up food waste for recycling. Recovered food waste is either made into compost or converted into energy in an anaerobic digester. Bay State Textile collects used textiles for resale overseas or recycling into new products. In Massachusetts, where the practice of collecting used textiles in donation boxes placed at schools has been established for over five years, host schools are paid $100 a ton in rebates. Last year that amounted to $250,000, which went to PTAs and PTOs, while municipalities saved on disposal fees. That’s a better school fundraiser teaching the value of community and sustainability while raising money.
What is your vision for the next five years for Sustainne?
As the effects of climate change continue to accelerate, I expect consumers to increasingly turn to Sustainne in search of more sustainable lifestyle choices. Site users will find a growing number of sustainable businesses from Connecticut and neighboring states under our umbrella. Our annual membership fees remain affordable for even the smallest businesses. Sustainne will always be a free resource for all to explore and enjoy, including the searchable business directory, blog, events calendar, newsletter and podcast. Our upcoming Sustainable Living Expo is a huge first-year milestone. I have the museum to thank for making that a reality.
What do you most want Natural Awakenings readers to know about Sustainne’s mission and members?
We care deeply about your health and the health of our planet. Business members agree to a sustainability pledge that requires them to manage their businesses in a way that positively impacts their employees, communities and environment. They commit to continuously improving key sustainability practices. I encourage readers to sign up for our newsletter to receive sustainable living tips, learn about events and giveaways, and be the first to hear about members. Start setting aside used textiles now to bring to the expo to recycle on the Bay State Textiles truck. Bay State Textiles will be rebating $100 a ton to Stepping Stones Museum for Children. Admission to the expo is included in museum admission.
Visit Sustainne.com for more information. The Sustainable Living Expo will be held on October 13, in partnership with Stepping Stones Museum for Children, Norwalk. See ad, page 11.