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Stirring It UpHow to Make Money and Save the WorldGary HirshbergFor Meg, whose partnership and love make the impossible possible, and forAlex, Ethan, and Danielle, who give me hope and purpose.ContentsA Note on the Production of This BookForeword1 Natural Profits2 Mission Control3 From Co2 Toward CoNO4 Hands Across the Aisle5 The Delicious Revolution6 No Such Place as Away7 Nurturing Those Who Nurture the Earth8 Future PerfectAfterwordSearchable TermsAbout the AuthorCopyrightA Note on the Production of This BookThrough a partnership with NativeEnergy, a privately held energy company (, the estimated global warming gas emissions resulting from the production of this book are being offset by an investment in a manure digester at the Warner Family Dairy Farm in Narvon, Pennsylvania. Over its operating life, the digester will capture and use the methane—a powerful global warming gas—given off by the manure the farm’s cows produce to instead produce electricity and heat energy. For more information on how the emissions were calculated, the offset project, or how you can offset your emissions, visit saved the following resources by printing Stirring It Up on New Leaf Pioneer 100 for the textand Neenah Environment 100 for the jacket. Both papers are made with 100% post-consumerwaste fiber versus virgin fiber.TREES:67 fully grownWATER28,769 gallonsENERGY:49 million BtuSOLID WASTE:3,209 poundsGREENHOUSE GASES:6,322 poundsForewordWhile sweating through my workout at a local gym recently, something caught my eye. There, outside in the parking lot, stood a varied collection of compact cars. It struck me that just a year ago, I’d glanced out the same window at rows crammed with big SUVs. Ours is a middle-income New Hampshire community, and I had wondered then how the owners of those rolling Parthenons of Excess were coping with rising fuel costs. Now, on this particular morning, I saw only one lonely SUV sticking out like a white elephant among the herd of VW Jettas, Toyota Corollas, and at least five or six hybrid Priuses.What had brought about this heartening turn to green? I wondered. Had all of my neighbors been won over after hearing Al Gore lay out the frightening facts of climate change in his film An Inconvenient Truth? Had our local churches persuaded their parishioners that saving the planet was covered under the divine directives written on Moses’s stone tablets? Or, perhaps, had a wave of guilt, morality, or newfound virtue washed over my fellow townsfolk?In truth, the explanation is far less dramatic—and one you may already have guessed since it is affecting every city, town, and village in America. This seemingly sudden turnabout has less to do with a moral awakening than with a spike in gasoline prices.My hunch about the prime reason my neighbors had changed their car preferences was borne out in a June 2007 poll by the Associated Press, in which 46 percent of Americans said soaring gasoline prices would cause them “serious hardship”; 66 percent said they planned to reduce their driving; and 47 percent said they were planning to buy a new fuel-efficient car.These numbers represent the kind of ecologically pleasing conversion the Sierra Club could only dream of in times past. And it’s all because the flow of greenbacks out of consumers’ pockets has brought the notion of going “green” back into vogue. The speed and effectiveness of this little revolution have been both breathtaking and absolute.As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Virtue is insufficient temptation.” Our planet will not be saved by preaching principles and exerting moral suasion. After more than three decades spent working in the environmental movement, I am convinced that economic self-interest—whether it is achieved by saving, earning, or both—is the most powerful, if not the only, force capable of bringing about the future we need in time to make a difference to the well-being of Mother Earth.And here’s the good news: Ecologically sound practices are also economically sound over the long term. Indeed, as the examples in this book will show, saving the planet can prove profitable in both a fiscally narrow sense and in a much broader context of job creation and greatly expanded economic development. Addressing climate and environmental challenges will give twenty-first-century businesspeople and ordinary citizens the chance to grasp what Pogo called “insurmountable opportunities,” possibilities that may exceed anything humankind has ever seen before.This book is an unabashedly optimistic and hopeful embrace of those opportunities. And lest you dismiss my enthusiasm as nothing more than the delusional rants of a child of the sixties, I hasten to remind you that I am a passionate capitalist who has created thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of capital appreciation for hundreds of investors in Stonyfield Farm. I measure progress with hard numbers and productive assets listed on balance sheets. I have little patience for big talk and no do.Nor is my perspective an outgrowth of my political leanings. Rather, it isa practical economic stance honed by several decades of trial and error in my hard-fought journey from windmill builder and antinuclear protester to CE- Yo of a profitable company. And, importantly, my view has been refined by the inspirational accomplishments of more than a dozen remarkable businesspeople whose stories are captured in these pages.As this century begins, we find our nation and our species mired in polarizing debates defined as red versus blue, rich versus poor, the developed world versus the still-developing one, local versus global. And each passing day of gridlock takes us closer to the precipice of environmental catastrophe even as our modern-day prophets, the scientific community, warn of the consequences. Without decisive and immediate action, they say, our children —indeed, all life on this planet—will be deprived of the clean air and water and the health-giving food that prior generations have taken for granted. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear in early 2007 the urgency when it said that we have but one decade in which to establish the new trajectory of carbon emissions needed to forestall a mid-century calamity.With such ominous warnings from a respected body of scientists, why the polarity and gridlock? When it comes to the planet, too many participants in the debate subscribe to the myth that ecology and economy are somehow mutually exclusive, or that big is bad and small is inherently good. And advocates for each position are seemingly more focused on proving themselves right and their opponents wrong than on actually averting the looming crisis.Such behavior is both pathetic and shameful—and it’s also intellectually dishonest. Globalization itself is not inherently bad; what is bad is our long tradition of allowing the rich to exploit the poor. Stories abound of ecologically and economically successful endeavors that promote sustainability and enable all parties—from suppliers to farmers to investors and consumers—to prosper. And in these success stories, the biggest winner of all is the planet.There can be no doubt or argument that one of the great contributors to environmental degradation is our excessive consumption, particularly in the United States. Experts have estimated that if everyone on the planetconsumed energy, water, and natural resources at the rates Americans do, we’d need three Earths to sustain us. Clearly, any rational steps to shrink our environmental and climate footprints must begin with reductions in consumption. There are many texts, guides, and resources that exist to help us all reduce our gluttonous ways. As the adage goes, we need to reduce first, then reuse what we’ve had to consume, and then recycle what we have consumed but cannot reuse.If I were writing a book on how to reduce our environmental footprint, my first three chapters would focus on why and how we must reduce our consumptive habits. I would also have a chapter arguing that the government must levy taxes on consumption rather than income, because I believe that would be the fairest and most effective incentive for change on a broad scale.But I’ll save those points for another book; this one has a different focus. The reality is that even after we have cut our consumption, we will still consume. And that is my topic here. How we consume makes all the difference. Conscientious consumption of goods that have lower environmental footprints sends a powerful message to the businesses that produce them (and the ones that don’t). By rewarding those companies’ efforts to reduce their resource use, we can wield enormous power. American businesses spend many hundreds of millions of dollars on market research to learn about our consumption choices; these findings are the nectar that fuels them. And as the messages come back that large numbers of us want less waste, fewer toxins, and more renewable resources used in the production of goods, the changes will follow.Every one of us must unquestionably reduce our resource consumption and the size of our environmental footprints. None of us can afford to avoid scrutinizing and changing our lifestyles. But the scientists tell us that, especially with regard to climate change, we have a lot less time than we had previously thought to start solving the problem. And after three decades straddling the worlds of business and environmental activism, I have concluded that the quickest and most powerful way to effect large-scale change is to use our purchasing power as both carrot and stick to prod business to get to work saving the planet.It’s time we jettisoned the notion that global and local are conflictingpositions. We need to and can think and act “glocally” by combining our best can-do, entrepreneurial spirit with a practical awareness that our traditional linear approach simply does not work in an inherently cyclical natural world. Certainly, a linear approach does not produce any true gains, as business leaders themselves have come to recognize. Rather, it produces something unknown in nature, and that is enormously costly waste. So, like practitioners of aikido who learn not to block opposing forces but rather to join the incoming thrusts and redirect them toward a different outcome, we need to act harmoniously with our planet by engaging the forces of capitalism to help create truly sustainable societies.I will be the first to admit that the unceasing alarms about impending ecological catastrophe send most people heading straight to the nearest bar or to some other diversionary setting where they can drown out the depressing pronouncements of the doomsayers. I also know that even the most committed of us feel a certain degree of impotence when we consider the scale of the problems and the forces at play. Sure, there are numerous things each of us could and should do every day that would make a difference to our planet. But who among us has the energy and dedication to do every single thing we can, especially when the deleterious effects of egregious pollution by giant industrial and commercial operations are visible for all to see? It’s more than a little discouraging to be cruising along the highway in my Prius and watch a Hummer blow by, let alone a monstrous diesel-powered tractor- trailer that leaves a cloud of soot in its wake. Our politicians and industrial titans get the same feeling when they see the economies of India and China exploding in a fossil-fuel-powered burst of energy. Why should we voluntarily make expensive investments to lessen our industrial production of carbon gases, they think, when China builds a new carbon-spewing coal plant every week?And even though all the talk about greening is music to my ears, I will readily concede that the guilt-tripping admonitions about changing lightbulbs and lowering thermostats feel like a less-than-effective salve for what ails us. Hearing these sirens reminds me of a line uttered by my favorite philosopher, Lily Tomlin, who says, “No matter how cynical I get, it’s hard to keep up.”But don’t get me wrong. While I am deeply sympathetic to thepsychological hurdles such incremental steps toward sustainability present, I am also a deep believer in the power of each of us to make a difference. The anthropologist Margaret Mead was right when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” But thirty-plus years after committing myself to being useful to the planet and twenty-four years after starting in business, I’ve come to a few hardheaded conclusions:It’s going to take a lot more than moral rectitude and virtuous principles to set us on a truly sustainable path. Business is the most powerful force on the planet; it got us into this mess and is the only force strong enough to get us out. Most environmental problems exist because business has not made solving them its priority. Only when the solutions to our environmental problems are accompanied by profitable, commercial strategies for enacting them will the business world get on board.In short, planetary fixes will never get off the ground unless they are part of a profit-making venture. But here’s the really cool thing: Sustainable ideas can and do work.And here’s another cool thing: All it takes to make use of ecologically sound and profitable ideas is willpower.And here’s the coolest thing of all: Many, many people are doing just that, right now—including those of us who labor under the Stonyfield banner.Indeed, my hopes and inspiration are reinforced by the hundreds of hardworking colleagues who have helped to create Stonyfield Farm. I am especially grateful to my co-creators, Samuel and Louise Kaymen, and to the many current and former members of my Executive Team, particularly the two long-timers, Steve Inamorati and Kasi Reddy. You are all magicians and alchemists, and I honor you. Special gratitude goes to my sister, Nancy Hirshberg, our vice president of natural resources; my chief of staff, Mary Townsend; and my chief operating officer, Diane Carhart, all of whom havenot only motivated me but also given me the freedom to organize my three decades of insights and knowledge into a form that has allowed this book to become a reality.I also wish to thank my colleagues at Groupe Danone, especially Daniel Carasso, Franck Riboud, Bernard Hours, Emmanuel Faber, Anne Thevenet- Abitbol, Dirk Van de Put, Jordi Constans, and Juan-Carlos Dalto, as well as the many others there who have become believers in the organic way of life and business. They have boosted my confidence that the largest corporations can become powers for good.There are so many other dear friends, peers, and fellow travelers who have challenged and inspired me to see that we are limited only by our imaginations. Yvon and Malinda Chouinard of Patagonia; Gun Denhart of Hanna Andersson; George Siemon and Theresa Marquez of Organic Valley; Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s; Jeff Swartz of Timberland; Walter Robb, Betsy Foster, and John Mackey of Whole Foods; Mike Funk of United Natural Foods; Steve McDonnell of Applegate Farms; Andrew Shapiro of GreenOrder; Steve Pimentel of Costco; and Linda Mason, Roger Brown, Peter Roy, Steve Demos, Lex Alexander, Seth Goldman, Paul Hawken, Nell Newman, Jeffrey Hollender, Joel Makower, Lisa Witter, Bob Burke, Drake Sadler, Eric Schlosser, and others too numerous to mention. I’ve profiled many of you in these pages, but mere words could never adequately express my admiration and gratitude for your contributions.I must also acknowledge Steve Palmer, Stonyfield’s attorney for a zillion years, who kept me from getting into too much mischief or, for that matter, jail. And this book would still be swirling around in my head were it not for my wonderful agent, Helen Rees, who kicked my butt into gear, and my cowriters at Wordworks Inc., Donna Carpenter and Maurice Coyle, and their capable colleagues Ruth Hlavicek, Larry Martz, Cindy Butler Sammons, and Robert Shnayerson, who dragged me kicking and screaming to my computer keyboard to actually finish the manuscript. I am also indebted to the talented people at Hyperion, Leslie Wells, Bob Miller, Ellen Archer, Will Schwalbe, and the rest of the team.Behind every success is usually an amazing mom, and, in my case, there are two—Louise Hirshberg, who pretty much single-handedly raised fivechildren and launched several business careers, thus proving beyond a doubt that absolutely anything is possible, and my mom-in-law, Doris, who never gave up on me. Without the two of you, my work would not have been possible. And my father, Howard, who taught me much that is good and bad about business.And, finally, it is my amazing and beautiful wife, Meg, and our radiant children, Alex, Ethan, and Danielle (my petite Napoleone) who give meaning and purpose to my every day. Your love and support mean everything to me.1Natural ProfitsFor more than twenty-five years, I’ve been turning green ideas into greenbacks, and if that seems far-fetched, I’m here to tell you that nature and business are born allies—potentially the richest partnership in the history of capitalism.Sustainability is the key to that alliance. A sustainable system is nature’s version of the proverb “waste not, want not.” Our solar-powered planet doesn’t exude waste. Our planet is a wondrous system of interdependent processes that nourish themselves. In my view, the more any business emulates this model, the more it can generate true wealth for its owners, customers, and all humans.How I became an eco-entrepreneur is a story that began in the late 1970s when I was executive director of the New Alchemy Institute, an ecological research and education center on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We built a solar- heated greenhouse that used no fossil fuels, herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. Yet it produced enough food to feed ten people three meals per day, 365 days per year. Even when the yard was covered with snow, it was toasty inside—a haven for everything from birds and bees to bananas, figs, and papayas. Tanks of water absorbed sunlight by day and radiated heat at night. Each tank raised about one hundred pounds of fish per year. Their waste fertilized plants, which, in turn, provided food for theherbivorous fish. Wind systems provided electrical and mechanical power.All this seemed to be a worthy achievement to this young idealist until 1982, when I visited my mother, then a senior buyer at Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida. There I rammed into one of those epiphanies that change your life forever.We toured the Land Pavilion where sponsor Kraft Foods was touting its vision of future farming. In tribute to the blessings of supposedly endlessly fertile land and unlimited resources, Kraft displayed, in a building both heated and cooled by fossil fuels, rivers of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides swooshing around the naked roots of anemic-looking plants grown hydroponically in plastic tubes. In this paean to fertility, there was not a single grain of actual soil. Natural farming is all about creating great dirt, rich with nutrients. This was a cartoon scene of chemistry gone mad. As I saw it, nothing grown the Kraft way would sustainably nourish a laboratory rat, much less soil itself.Kraft underscored its bizarre message with “Kitchen Kabaret,” a pseudo- musical featuring the four food groups and Bonnie Appetit, the show’s only live character. The other “actors” were animatronic robots named Miss Cheese, Miss Ice Cream, Miss Yogurt, and the like, who sang lyrics I wish I could forget:Your taste buds I’ll appease.I know how to please.It’s known that I am too good for words.Oh, isn’t that right, big boy?As bad as the lyrics were, I left feeling that the singing foodstuffs were secretly humming a very different and troubling tune:Just buy Velveeta, please.So what if it’s not real cheese?Real is what we’ll say it is,And Mother Nature’s on her knees.Every day, twenty-five thousand people paid to see this spectacle—more than visited my own New Alchemy Institute in a year. After viewing the Kraft-sponsored pavilion twice myself, I came away deeply disturbed.While stewing about all this, I had a eureka flash that eventually shaped my life, built my company, and led me to write this book. I blurted out to my mother: “I have to become Kraft.”Don’t misunderstand. I was still convinced that Kraft was crazy and only sustainable practices could save the planet. But now I faced the reality that people like me were unheard voices preaching to ourselves in an uncaring world. To change anything, we needed the leverage of powerful businesses like Kraft. If we had their cash and clout, people would listen and begin to make changes, which led to my key point: To persuade business to adopt sustainable practices, I would have to prove they were profitable.Ever since, the challenge of proving that sustainability pays—and hugely —has driven my career. Somewhat to my own surprise, I have succeeded. After years of work and many experiments, I have discovered that sustainable practices not only make money, but are invariably more profitable than conventional business methods. Now I want to share what I’ve learned and persuade other businesspeople to join the cause.Once corporations like Kraft realize that businesses can derive big profits from cleaning up the planet and operating in green, sustainable ways, the battle will be won. Business is the most powerful force on Earth. Unlike governments, which are usually bound by politics and convention, business can lead. Unlike churches, community groups, and nonprofits, business has money to back up its ideas. It can act quickly, get rules changed, and overcome entrenched interests. In one of those ironic twists that make life so interesting, the same boundless thirst for profit that got the planet into troublecan also get us out of it.Efficiency Isn’tThe first step is to understand that many widely held assumptions are wrong. Take the notion that modern agribusiness is a model of efficiency. Some analysts calculate that typical food producers use ten to fifteen calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce every single calorie of food energy they sell. By any standard, economic or environmental, that’s ridiculous—a suicidal ride to bankruptcy via inefficiency. But because the industry’s conventional accounting method adds up only dollars, not energy—or, for that matter, any so-called externalized costs, such as resource depletion, pollution, or the demise of farmers—agribusiness is wrongly deemed “efficient.”This story line, nicely told in Michael Pollan’s excellent book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, began with the advent of synthetic fertilizer, first developed in the United States using ammonium nitrate left over from the production of explosives in World War II. Synthetic fertilizer combines vast quantities of nitrogen with a fossil fuel, usually natural gas. It makes it possible to grow genetically identical plants on hundreds of thousands of acres, year after year, apparently without concern for wearing out the soil.That’s the seemingly good news. Absent the need to rotate crops or leave a field fallow to replenish depleted nutrients, farmers are free to practice monoculture. Genetically modified hybrid corn, a voracious consumer of nitrogen, is now produced on a huge scale. The corn farm operates like a factory, transforming vast quantities of fossil-fuel energy into food energy.There’s a catch: The fertility that comes in bags and tankers depends on petroleum energy stored up aeons ago from the remains of dead plants and animals. It is nonrenewable, in contrast to the ongoing natural process that breeds soil-borne microorganisms, which feed on the roots of a rotating crop of legumes such as soybeans and make nutrition available to plants. In other words, monoculture is not sustainable. It’s the opposite of nature’s self- supporting systems. It’s a stranger to the soil it uses. Instead of enriching the land, monoculture just rents it for a season and then checks out, like motelguests in the morning, leaving the room a mess for the maid to clean up.Fossil fuels are needed to make the synthetic fertilizer, of course, and more fuel is spent to power the equipment that plants, harvests, and carries the corn and other crops to market. But something else happens when agribusiness upsets the balance of nature with scientific meddling. It turns out that feeding plants with synthetic nitrogen, which leaves them deficient in certain micronutrients, in turn makes them more vulnerable to pests. The factory farmer caught up in this counterintuitive approach reacts by dousing his crop and the soil beneath it with chemical herbicides and pesticides, wasting still more fossil fuel in the process.Intuitively, a farmer might be expected to protect his sources of fresh, clean water and conserve topsoil. But with no need to plant cover crops to restore nitrogen and nutrients, the industrial grower leaves the ground bare after the harvest. This reductive behavior allows wind and rain to erode his topsoil, and the silt runoff clogs local streams and rivers.Worse yet, in the pursuit of illusory efficiency, factory farms tend to overuse both fertilizers and pesticides to ensure a big crop. Some of the excess leaches into the water table and contaminates the groundwater, while some evaporates and creates more acid rain. Whatever is left flows into streams and rivers, polluting drinking water and contributing to huge algae blooms when it reaches the sea. The algae use up all the oxygen in the water, creating hypoxias, or huge dead zones in our oceans where no marine life can exist. One of the world’s largest hypoxias is in the Gulf of Mexico, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Ranging between six and seven thousand square miles in area, it is already larger than Rhode Island and growing rapidly. All told, 146 major hypoxias dot the world’s oceans, and all are growing.Who pays the price for all this contamination, this destruction of the Earth’s equity upon which all of us ultimately depend? Not the fertilizer maker or the factory farm per se. It is paid by fishermen and oystermen and scallopers, who can no longer make a living from our contaminated waters. By taxpayers who must bankroll municipal facilities to produce potable water. By people who become ill from drinking tainted water, lose work time, and perhaps incur medical costs. By lumberjacks whose livelihoods arethreatened by acid rain–related damage in our forests. In the long run all of us, especially our children, pay a terrible toll for this unnatural approach to “efficiency.”The root cause of all this seems to be that we humans consider our versions of efficiency superior to nature’s. This illusion has damaging effects. If you look at farming as a strictly economic enterprise, you virtually guarantee an addiction to oil-based fertilizers and pesticides. Those chemicals inevitably abuse the natural resources on which farming depends. The conventional way of thinking literally turns big farms into excavations— Earth destruction pits—as opposed to verdant cultivation sites that are in harmony with nature’s rhythms and systems. The real costs of industrial farming, then, are horrendous, far greater than the ledger entries. Echoing the paradoxical Vietnam-era rationale that we had to destroy a village in order to save it, Big Agribusiness assumes, in effect, that we have to destroy the Earth in order to farm it.Just as monoculture and factory farming reduce complex biological relationships to easy tricks for soil chemists, so, too, modern industries shrink complex economics to whatever it takes to achieve quick profits at minimum cost. In the name of efficiency, future consequences become irrelevant. Immediate gratification rules. If a job can be done more cheaply elsewhere, it is outsourced; if a supplier can be made to swallow an extra dime of cost, he gets squeezed; if the law allows the emission of X tons of pollutants, factory smokestacks spew out every legal ounce.The consequences can no longer be ignored. We humans are so careless about our impact on nature that we endanger ourselves, to say nothing of other species. Our own behavior increases the severity of global warming and the resultant droughts, famines, floods, forest fires, and Katrina-scale storms. Millions appear blind to the irony that man, the “rational” animal, keeps trashing the only planet we will ever have.Business has a special obligation—and opportunity. Given our past depredations in pursuit of profit, companies should now declare war on ecological idiocy. What could be more in our own strategic interest? What could be more genuinely profitable than using business power and know-how to literally save the world?Most of this case for action was only a hunch that day in 1982 when Kraft’s Land Pavilion handed me a mission. I knew that I yearned to help foster a business transformation. But the world is full of hapless prophets. If I wanted to become effective rather than eccentric, I had to somehow create a truly sustainable business that actually made money—and the more, the better.I began as a small acorn, unlikely to become a mighty oak anytime soon. Realizing that New Alchemy was no business academy, I returned home to New Hampshire and joined Samuel Kaymen, my friend and fellow idealist, in launching what then seemed a pretty quixotic enterprise—Stonyfield Farm, a tiny venture in yogurt production.Some twenty-five years later, Stonyfield is the world’s largest organic- yogurt maker, and I am its CE-Yo. Better yet, our U.S. yogurt sales surpassed those of Kraft’s Breyers brand nearly a decade ago. Stonyfield has grown by more than 27 percent a year for the past eighteen straight years, compared with 5 to 7 percent for the yogurt industry as a whole. In 2006, our sales topped $260 million; in 2007, we were on track to exceed $300 million. It’s largely due to our focus on sustainability—the art of replacing myopic efficiency with sensible methods that boost profits while benefiting nature rather than destroying it.High on Stonyfield’s agenda is our top priority—real wealth. As a business, we’ve pledged to do anything feasible to help reduce environmental costs and rebalance the planet’s natural systems, from the land to the atmosphere.In practical terms, we look to nature in striving to make our business as sustainable as possible. Natural examples abound. Consider how a tree builds and supports its own ecosystem. It sprouts leaves that make shade and conserve the water needed for growth. It fertilizes itself by dropping its leaves to the ground, where they decompose into soil that, in turn, nurtures microorganisms needed for the tree’s balanced and healthy growth. Certain tree species support epiphytes, such as mosses and bromeliads, that produce nitrogen, another fertilizer for the tree’s ecosystem. Many trees also secrete acids that help to break down the soil, thus keeping it friable and absorbent so that life-sustaining moisture can reach the tree’s roots. Trees reproducethemselves by sending out seeds, and when stands of trees develop, a windbreak is created, which affords protection to other organisms in the ecosystem. All in all, a tree is an elegant, self-cultivating system devised by nature with no waste.In essence, the whole Stonyfield story thus far is the learning curve that my co-conspirators and I went through in building a business that defied conventional wisdom. What have I learned? Let’s start with the bottom line. It’s just this: Sustainability thrives when you open your mind to doing things most businesspeople would consider plain nutty. Examples:We pay some of our organic suppliers as much as twice the going rate for conventionally grown materials. We do hardly any advertising, and we use our packaging to promote other organizations. We actually push for more government oversight and regulation of our industry. We give our customers and investors detailed reports on how much pollution and waste we generate—even when those figures are rising.Our approach is almost diametrically opposed to the ancient business recipe for success: Buy cheap, sell dear. We’re willing to spend top dollar to produce the product—and to build the business—that will make us most proud. That’s not typical.Consider the soft-drink industry. The people who make Coke and Pepsi have solidified their empires mostly by always working to reduce the cost of their ingredients. Since 1984, the