Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “More people would recycle if municipalities made it easier to do so”

With Heather Ripley

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More people would recycle if municipalities made it easier to do so, and if they provided receptacles for residents to use. While there have been reports that recyclable materials are ending up in landfills, recycling can work if city and town governments make a concerted effort to educate the public and make it easy for residents to recycle.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Orange Orchard CEO Heather Ripley, who has been a writer, marketing manager, public relations director and now, the owner and CEO of Ripley PR and Orange Orchard, a newly added division of Ripley PR. she started Ripley PR without any clients or employees in 2013, and it is now a nationally-known, fast-growing business. Orange Orchard was launched earlier this year, after a lifestyle change that included going vegan and making a conscious effort to reduce her personal and professional carbon footprint.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to one day be my own boss. And, my love of animals started when I was very young, so combining my entrepreneurial spirit and love of animals and our planet seemed to come very naturally to me.

Being the CEO and founder of Orange Orchard, a PR agency division representing businesses that are animal-friendly, environmentally conscious and trying to make a difference, is a dream come true. But the road to get here has had some twists and turns. I worked in PR and marketing for large businesses and a couple PR and advertising agencies. After managing many successful PR campaigns for a variety of companies I realized I had a knack for getting media attention, and as a result, increasing awareness and business for clients.

The idea of creating my agency was always present in my mind and in 2013, I carefully (and with a healthy amount of fear) launched my business with zero clients. Ripley PR is now a nationally-known PR agency with a growing team and global client list. But I always knew I wanted to help animals in some way, whether with a dedicated nonprofit foundation or through another avenue.

In May 2017, my husband and I decided to go vegan, after months of slowly changing our diets for various reasons. But we were also becoming aware of the way animals were being treated through the growth of factory farming and the potential impacts eating animals has on our planet. After reading articles and books on the subject, and watching as many documentaries as we could, including Forks over Knives, What the Health and then Earthlings, we were in shock — and we became determined to change what we were doing. We also delved into websites from top experts in the medical and climate change fields, and finally, we came to a greater understanding of the sad facts surrounding factory farming and the environment.

It was alarming, and we both had the same thought. We can do something about this beyond changing the way we eat and what we buy. We have the drive and the know-how to make a difference by aligning with like-minded businesses and organizations, so why not do it? In 2018 we launched Orange Orchard, a PR agency division dedicated to animal-friendly, plant-based and environmentally-conscious businesses and foundations. We hope that our experience in PR and building awareness for organizations and causes, along with our compassion and drive, will help businesses and other entrepreneurs change the world.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

Our tagline at Orange Orchard is “From Word to World Change,” signifying our commitment to use our expertise with the written word to help eco-friendly, environmentally conscious, vegan businesses, and animal-welfare organizations working toward changing the world (or simply changing their effect on the world).

Our goal is to not only to promote clients’ earth- and animal-conscious messages and initiatives, but to spread the word about the practices involved in factory farming, what happens to the animals we eat, and how taking care of the animals and the planet is not only possible, but a responsibility. Driving these businesses’ messages to the forefront of the natural, clean, green movement will attract, educate and engage new consumers.

Part of the problem earth- and animal-friendly businesses have had in the past is that being green, clean and natural often costs more at the register. But consumers who are educated about how they’re voting with their dollar every day are more likely to spend a little more to reduce their impact on the planet. We have seen people jump on the reusable grocery bag movement, even though the reusable bags cost money up front. And consumers pay more for everything from electric cars to bamboo kitchen utensils that are biodegradable. Education is key to solving the problem of getting consumers to accept and adopt planet-friendly businesses, consumer goods and foods. Through Orange Orchard we aim to do that.

Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?

Orange Orchard was developed as a PR agency division dedicated to helping like-minded businesses by providing experienced, professional communication services. Because we launched this year, we are working with new clients and will have case studies and success stories in the near future. In the meantime, we are vocal about taking care of our shared planet and post about the causes we care deeply about on our social media channels, through our website and through our blog. As a division of Ripley PR, Orange Orchard benefits from the presence and reputation we already have in place with clients, vendor partners and other businesses and their consumers.

In the works are several initiatives with worldwide collaborations that will be announced in early 2019, bringing more awareness to global climate change and how each individual can make a difference.

Under the Ripley PR umbrella, we have years of expertise in construction, franchising, manufacturing and technology, helping businesses create and use low-impact materials. We want to work with more LEED certified and green construction builders, plant-based and environmental franchise brands, and green tech companies and manufacturers who are working to replace plastic with biodegradable materials.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that? This might give insight to founders who face a similar situation.

My experience launching Orange Orchard was very different than launching Ripley PR, in 2013. In starting Ripley PR, it was much more difficult because I had no clients and no employees other than myself, so it was a huge challenge getting everything initially off the ground. When Orange Orchard launched, I already had an amazing team in place and a location and a business plan that worked.

Looking back, I’d have to say the biggest hurdle was name recognition. If no one knows you exist, how will they know to call you? It’s a dilemma every new business has to deal with. For me, because I had years of experience in PR and marketing and in the industries we serve, I knew how to get media attention and coverage for my new businesses, and people were familiar with my work. Having existing contacts in print and TV also helps. So, I would advise businesses starting out not to skimp on the public relations and social media budgets at first. Once you have a presence, and customers, you can research what worked best and do more of it!

Many people want to start a company to tackle environmental issues, but they face challenges when it comes to raising enough money to actually make it happen. Can you share how were you able to raise the funding necessary to start your organization? Do you have any advice?

While my businesses are self-funded, I have spent years working with clients raising capital or funding. The best way I have found is getting exposure for these clients through consistent and proactive earned media. Many of our clients are trying to raise capital for expansion, going public or for acquisitions. Ongoing positive publicity is a great way to get attention in general, but when investors see our clients in the news or in business newspapers and publications — it not only shows a business’ credibility, but helps with the perception that the business could be a worthwhile investment.

Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.

Entrepreneurs have tremendous drive and aptitude, and they’re natural leaders and change agents. They have the ability to inspire everyone around them and bring about change more quickly than trying to go through the red tape of effecting change through state or federal agencies. My favorite example of this is the TV show, “Shark Tank.” Here you have a show just about entrepreneurs and many of them are eco-friendly or animal-friendly start-ups. The businesses that make it on this show are the entrepreneurs who do their homework, have a great idea, and who are passionate. Entrepreneurs are often at the front lines of bringing about change.

What are some practical things that both people and governments can do help you address the climate change and global warming problem?

Everyone can buy several inexpensive reusable grocery bags to reduce the amount of plastic grocery bags in landfills and in the ocean. Using utensils and dishes that can be washed rather than plastic or Styrofoam that never go away is another thing anyone can do. Single-use plastic water bottles can be replaced with aluminum or glass water bottles that can be washed and refilled. All these are easy and simple things consumers can do without much cost or effort.

More people would recycle if municipalities made it easier to do so, and if they provided receptacles for residents to use. While there have been reports that recyclable materials are ending up in landfills, recycling can work if city and town governments make a concerted effort to educate the public and make it easy for residents to recycle.

It’s known that factory farming contributes to global climate change, and as factory farming grows in popularity (especially in developing countries), forests and woodlands are being destroyed to provide massive grazing lands for cattle. This creates loss of habitat for other animals, changes the ecosystems in sensitive environments and produces massive runoff in addition to the methane and nitrous oxide emissions produced by the cattle. Governments globally can create legislation to limit or eliminate factory farms and make it more difficult to clear-cut forests and woodlands.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would not be where I am today without my husband and business partner, Bill Mattern. My entrepreneurial spirit can sometimes be on high gear, and I can have a hard time shutting it off or even slowing down. Bill is the one person who can take the myriad ideas and distill them for me, and his business insight and vision are unequalled. He is always supportive and makes my job easier. In fact, he is the one who implements the best ideas within the agency.

On a personal level, going vegan was a little difficult at first because it requires more thought when preparing meals in advance. There are experiments, and trying different ways of storage and cooking can be time-consuming. Bill was right there with me, and if there is anything I can recommend, it’s having a partner who is as invested as you are in whatever your business or personal goals are.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

You’re going to feel alone sometimes. When you see something so clearly and no one else sees it right away, it can be a lonely feeling. Being an entrepreneur can definitely be a solitary endeavor at times. But even though I have had people doubt me or make me feel I was chasing rainbows, I always keep the fire I had initially and don’t let anyone extinguish my dreams. Staying true to myself helped me achieve my goals.

Not everyone is going to like you or agree with all the decisions you make, and that’s ok. I use that as fuel. And along with the doubters, you will encounter people who just don’t get you or like you. Once I stopped trying to please everyone, it became easier to pursue my goals. Starting and running a business is hard enough even with strong support, but the most important thing to remember is to do what feels right to you.

You’re going to have to make some really, really tough decisions. Some of the toughest decisions I have had to make involve employees. I always try to hire people who share my passions and visions for the business, but what seems great on paper doesn’t always work out in real life. I have learned that sometimes parting ways is the best solution for everyone. It is always difficult, but hanging on could be worse for our team, for our clients, and for our company.

There are days you will want to quit. Keep going! I had many days and weeks where I was hanging on by the very tips of my fingernails. Should I just stop trying and give up? Should I go back to working for someone else? Believe in yourself and vow to give your very best, because the bad times will pass.

Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs! If you are doing something that not many others are doing, it can make you wonder if you are making the right decisions. Being part of some kind of entrepreneur group is so important. I’m in our local Entrepreneurs’ Organization chapter and experience sharing with my entrepreneur friends is priceless. Chances are they have been through exactly what you are going through. Some navigated through it easily and some made mistakes. We learn from each other. Surrounding yourself with like-minded, motivated and ambitious people will help you feel that you are among your tribe. It will make you happy you followed your own path. It’s essentially the old Napoleon Hill wisdom of the “master mind” group.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the world, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I truly believe one way we can each make a huge difference in not only the world, but in our health and compassion, would be to invite every human to go without eating animals or animal products one day a week, or start with just one meal a week.

In addition to creating deplorable conditions animals are subjected to on factory farms, according to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, factory farms contribute to climate change, accounting for an “estimated 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, including 9 percent of the carbon dioxide, nearly 40 percent of the methane (a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide), and 65 percent of the nitrous oxide (300 times more potent as carbon dioxide).”

If we committed to eating just one meal a day that was meat- or animal-product-free, we could save 194,667 gallons of water and 772 pounds of carbon emissions annually. By eating three plant-based meals a day, we could save 584,001 gallons of water and 2,315 pounds of carbon emissions annually. Doing this, we may be able to halt or even reverse the ecological devastation that we are in for in the next 20–30 years.

It’s not that hard to start small and see what happens.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?


Twitter: @HeatherRipley

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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