The green movement—something that was once considered a fad has evolved into a global priority, not to mention a multi-billion-dollar business. And women, including many mothers, are leading the charge. These women are green entrepreneurs, corporate innovators and environmental crusaders. So how did we choose workingmother.com’s Most Powerful “Green” Moms? First, the women on this list are all green-living pioneers—whether they are making strides in the non-profit world, transforming a major corporation with eco-friendly initiatives or starting their own green-minded companies—they are all striving to make the world a better place for the next generations. They also all have at least one child at home who is under 18 years old. The women on this list are all from the U.S., with the exception of Kim Graham-Nye, the co-founder and president of the eco-friendly gDiapers, who was born in Canada but started her business in the U.S.
Inside corporate America women are making big strides to green big business. A love of automobiles must run in Deborah Mielewski’s family—her father was a welder in the assembly line at the Dodge main plant. Now Mielewski is tasked with coming up with green solutions for Ford, where she has worked for over 23 years. She has innovated soy-based seats for cars, found ways to restore tarnished scraps and learned to infuse heavy plastics with lighter wheat straw fibers. Talking about greening the automobile business Mielewski says, “Initially, no one believed it could be done. I love to tackle things that don’t seem doable at first.”
These Most Powerful Moms aren’t just reforming big companies, they are becoming environmentally friendly entrepreneurs. It’s estimated that 49 million diapers are thrown away each day in the U.S. That’s millions of tons of non-biodegradable waste that ends up in landfills each year. Kim Graham-Nye, as she was about to give birth to her first son, was looking for a solution. Knowing there must be other parents who felt the same way, Graham-Nye and her husband founded gDiapers. The gDiaper has no plastic layer, uses no inks or dyes, and can decompose in 50 to 150 days (the typical disposable diaper is estimated to breakdown in up to 500 years). This diaper diva has in no way had a linear career path. She has done everything from teaching in Japan, working in an orphanage in Mexico and doing event planning in Australia. The eco-friendly diaper business though has proved to be a great niche. “We’re expecting huge growth in the next few years,” Graham-Nye says. “We’re redefining what cloth is in today’s modern market. The mainstream sees cloth as this fringe, hippie mama, tree-hugging product. We have the opportunity to re-educate consumers.”
There are also many working mothers in the non-profit sphere that are intent on bringing about environmental reforms and motivating grassroots efforts. Laurie David has founded the Stop Global Warming Virtual March, which has over one million supporters petitioning the government on global warming issues. She’s also a trustee for the Natural Resources Defense Council and was a producer on Al Gore’s global warming treatise, An Inconvenient Truth. Kathleen Rogers, the president of the Earth Day Network, works on mobilizing the globe for Earth Day each year (which over one billion people will celebrate on April 22, 2010 for it’s 40th year). Another focus is to “green” the nation’s schools and work on clean water initiatives.
Lessons that can be taken from these green living working moms are simple—making small changes to your daily routine like buying the right diapers, asking the right questions about the products you buy and the companies you do business with and making the decision to be an active supporter of the environment—can have a big impact.