[quote style=”boxed”]Live in California sooner. The entrepreneurial spirit is contagious, particularly in and around San Francisco.[/quote]
Bridgett Luther comes to the Institute with a long history of involvement in environmental protection and efforts to protect natural resources for future generations.
Most recently, she spent five years as Director of the California Department of Conservation, overseeing a budget of $1.4 billion and 700 employees in 14 offices around California. As Director, she was responsible for a wide variety of programs, including the California beverage container recycling program. California recycles more than 42 billion beverage containers a year, the worlds largest such program.
Ms. Luther also oversaw several other programs including Land Resource Protection, which protects California’s rich agricultural land and tracks changing land-use patters; the California Geological Survey, which studies and maps earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes; and the Bureau of Mine Reclamation, which cleans up mines left over from California’s Gold Rush days, along with ensuring the safety of new mines.
She moved to California from Charlotte, North Carolina, where she helped create a recycling education program. She also led a $220 million bond campaign to acquire land to protect the region’s water quality, and organized campaigns to create neighborhood parks and ball fields. She helped found the Carolinas office of The Trust for Public Land, one of the nation’s largest national land preservation organizations.
What are you working on right now?
Leading the team that is scaling up the Cradle to Cradle certification program at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.
Where did the idea for the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2CPII) come from?
On a fishing trip with our co-founders, William McDonough and Michael Braungart.
How do you make money?
Our non-profit makes money in two ways – generous donors who can see our solution as one cure for the ills of the planet and two, companies who pay a fee to get the certification or organizations or people who want to get trained to work with companies. Non-profits can make money, and many do, one requirement is that we use our profits for a public benefit, not to hand out to shareholders.
What does your typical day look like?
Walk to work and take calls from Europe on the way with the time change it works beautifully. A quick team check-in, review work plans for the week, who needs help and then the bulk of the day communicating with stakeholders – Board members, certified companies, training organizations, other non-profits.
How do you bring ideas to life?
This idea has taken three years from filing the organization papers to launching the public version – now we’re in scale-up. Trying to stay focused on our core mission is difficult when there are so many opportunities to pursue that touch indirectly on what we are trying to achieve.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Transparency is a huge motivator for getting more materials invented. As companies start to learn what’s in their products they’ll learn that some ingredients are harmful to people and planet and they’ll start asking for new innovative materials. The Materials Revolution is upon us.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job was when two organizations merged and they both tried to stay at the organization. For awhile I had two bosses. I learned a ship can’t sail smoothly with two captains.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Live in California sooner. The entrepreneurial spirit is contagious, particularly in and around San Francisco.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Manage expectations with investors about the timeline. Now that we’re on the upswing but in the early going everyone is so excited about the new BIG idea and it’s hard when they don’t see many early results.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Being too nice and I don’t think I can change but at least I’m aware of my shortcoming and so I try to surround myself with people who are better at mainly letting talent go when it’s not a fit.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Someone please figure out how to create an open source database for healthy materials and chemicals. There are a lot of databases out there but they aren’t open and this requires everyone to hazard assessments on the same chemicals over and over. Once everyone has the data we can begin the fun process of creating safe, healthy materials. Dr. Warner says that 67% of what we need – materials that don’t harm people or planet haven’t been invented yet! There’s a wonderful business opportunity for all kinds of people.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I wish we would stop talking about sustainability and start making the world better, implementing Cradle to Cradle thinking and getting started on certification for products could have a tremendous impact.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I graduated from high school in Mexico City.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things – it will change the way you look at our “stuff” and how we can leave a positive footprint.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
William McDonough: He’s on the cutting edge of design from the molecule to the region
Christopher Gavigan: I love what he’s doing with Honest Company
Gil Friend: he’s been on the cutting edge of sustainability and I love to know what he’s doing next.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
On the way to work this morning. My husband has an amazing, dry sense of humor that cracks me up.
Who is your hero, and why?
My dad, Ron Luther. Before he passed away he told me how happy he was that his inventions had made people’s lives better. He never got very rich but he had a rich life and did what he loved and had 114 patents to his credit.
Can non-profits be entrepreneurial?
I love the idea of social enterprise; inventing ideas, products and movements that can make the world better.
Are you happy?
I’m so happy. I work with an amazing team of people who are committed to seeing the world filled with products that can make the world better, having our stuff leave a positive footprint. I’m thrilled that two such cutting edge pioneers trusted me to help scale their work.
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