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Interview with Carolyn Allen

Green is a way of life...and a commitment to a body of work for Carolyn Allen, founder of California Green Solutions.

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California ecomap of ecosystems and natural resouces habitat Green business comes naturally to Carolyn Allen, founder of California Green Solutions. She grew up surrounded by small business, and her brothers and sisters, husband and many of her nephews and nieces are small business people. Even her son pitches in to help the family business!

What’s your background? How did you get interested in green business?

I grew up on an organic farm which was a productivity hub. We build things, grew things, recycled stuff…and lived largely off our land. Some products and services were for our family and various small business operations brought in some income. My father was a old world homebuilder and carpenter, balanced with organic, “common sense” potato and grape farming for income. My mother was a very creative farm woman – she raised organic chickens, milk cows and a huge garden for year round food for our family. We all planted, hoed, picked and put up food.

When I married Cliff, my husband of 38+ years, I thought I was leaving the small farm and small business world for the big city – but after a stint in radio and corporate marketing jobs, we both gravitated back to small business ownership. Together we have pooled our marketing strategy and communications skills in our shared commitment to the role of productivity in a healthy community. We now live in Los Angeles, and I'm finding that it is just one neighborhood next to another...the same sustainable community issues exist here that existed in northwest Arkansas....or Oklahoma...or Kansas... or North Carolina.

Cliff's company is Coravue, Inc. that publishes a community website to "bring people together at meetings and events." He's as committed to community communications and networking as I am to natural community sustainability. We make a pretty good team!

I've learned about business sustainability from several of my jobs over the decades -- I worked for a water filtration company, a hospital, EPA environmental remediation contractors, and editor of a backyard nature trade journal. I pursued a humanities education because I was determined to know WHY we do the things we do. This juxtaposition of technical, business and humanities has given me a different perspective than many people -- and the sustainable business trend facing us now is the perfect environment for this generalist's approach. I've hit my groove!

What is your vision for California Green Solutions?

My vision for greening California communities is about building one successful project after another with small and medium size businesses who want to find sustainable solutions. Not just information. Not just strategies. But connecting people who want to do the right thing with the actual resources and processes that make it possible to reduce emissions, reduce water consumption, and make better working conditions for themselves and their coworkers. And leave a greener footprint on their neighborhoods so their families are healthier.

Carolyn Allen, founder California Green Solutions Nature is the deepest truth in my life and work. I’ve learned so much from natural systems. How watersheds work. How seeds turn into plants and then into harvest. How soil is a living environment. Nature is my “book of life.” And I’m driven to help protect and nurture our human impact and dependence on nature. Nature rocks!

With that passion for nature as my core value, I’m bringing people and ideas together that are organic – that build skills and knowledge together for a sustainable community. We’ve put together more than a thousand pages of quality stories about business solutions. We reach out and connect people to these incredible stories and resources. And we’re building a consultants network that is mobilizing some of the brightest minds in our state to work together with businesses to green our workplaces. Just like natural habitat is a diverse community of species, our consultants and business clients are diverse parts of our community ecosystem. We complement one another and make our strategies more robust, more balanced, more integrated like the natural system we live in. That’s my vision….integrated natural solutions.

What do you mean when you say you’re a green business?

Green relates to natural resources. It goes beyond energy and fuel-efficiency. It's about living in harmony with earth's systems. There are many elements to a sustainable community – education, healthcare, government, entertainment – modern society is very robust. California Green Solutions concentrates on life's survival structure – air, water, plants, weather, food, etc. Our ecosystem is our shared lifeboat.

There are as many definitions of “green business’ as there are species … that that’s millions! But every business has a functional role in a sustainable society – and one function is to minimize one’s waste and to maximize healthful contribution to life and survival. We believe green is a continuum. No one is totally green. We have moments of being more green than others… some processes are better balanced than others. It is a constant struggle to live within our ecological means. Green is an attitude … about everything. It’s stewardship, conservation, frugality and survival. It’s not about greed or glamour or wealth – we live on a very thin skin on the surface of this planet and our survival individually and as a species … and all life together, depends on our working WITH nature, not against it.

So a green business is one that constantly moderates growth with recycling, and produces only enough for survival in the competitive natural world. It has to do with local responsibility. With zero waste. With quality outcomes such as health and connectedness. With seasonality. With respect.

What does it take to take a company green?

I’ll counter that with “What does it take to survive?” Everyone is a little bit green. To green a company is like growing a seed. You inherit your genetic DNA. Then you find fertile soil in which to sprout. And when nurture your DNA into a sprout, half of your effort is in full view and half is hidden in rich soil from which you draw the materials for growth. You meet challenges such as hard times and prunings … and you have a driving force to survive and to interact with your customers and your team. That’s the green process.

The practicalities are simpler. You DESIRE a healthy, sustainable role in your community. You WORK smart to grow your business with RESPECT for all life and the natural ecosystem in which you reside. And you REST at night, grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and rain and seasons of life.

Every business is different. We have gathered lots of ideas, data and ideas...but we've also found that every company faces a different set of circumstances. We help companies customize their green strategy. Every green strategy is different. Where you start depends on what you can do – what you need most. What we, as adult workers in our community have in common is the need to be productive to put food on the table and to be good stewards of our precious resources.

And we also have in common the need to rest and play a bit! What’s survival without some healthy joy? That’s green, too!

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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