Chuck Lacy, 54
Rotokawa Cattle Company
A former president of Ben & Jerry's, Chuck Lacy helped drive the ice cream maker's 1,000 percent growth during his tenure there in the late '80s and early '90s. For the past decade Lacy has been on another mission: to transform the beef. In 2001, Lacy and partner Ridge Shinn began selling bull semen, fertilized embryos, and breeding stock to farmers specializing in grass-fed beef. They airlifted 100 grass-fed cattle from New Zealand for their breeding operation, called Rotokawa Cattle Company, and a processing and distribution company, Hardwick Beef. "We're trying to re-create a food system that has been decimated by large-scale agriculture." Read the full story.
Lynn Jurich, 31, and Edward Fenster
Most people recognize the benefits of solar energy, but the necessary rooftop panels can cost as much as $25,000. Lynn Jurich and Edward Fenster, her co-founder, realized many consumers weren't willing to bet they would remain in their homes long enough to recoup such a large investment through lower energy bills. So the two recast the clean-tech challenge as a financing challenge. SunRun installs solar panels on residences at nominal or no cost. Homeowners sign 20-year contracts to buy power at a fixed price, around 15 percent less than their current electric bills. The company, founded in 2007, is growing at 300 percent a year and has 6,000 customers in seven states. Read the full story.
Dave Melton, 57
Life is tough on the Navajo Indian reservation. Nearly 18,000 homes on the reservation, which straddles Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, lack electricity. Dave Melton, CEO of Sacred Power, is on a mission to change that. Sacred Power has equipped 400 Navajo homes with solar and wind-powered generators, effectively bringing thousands of residents from the 19th century into the 21st. Sacred Power, which has revenue of about $6 million, has won several USDA contracts and recently submitted a bid on another. "The Navajo people continue to suffer," Melton, a member of the Laguna tribe, says. "So we’re going back to the well. We hope there is some more water." Read the full story.
Ben Berkowitz, 31
New Haven, Connecticut
When Ben Berkowitz spotted some graffiti in his neighborhood, his civic pride kicked in. He sought to notify the proper local agency to resolve the issue, but there wasn’t a system in place to do so. At about that time, in the fall of 2007, a friend of his, Miles Lasater, came across a British website, FixMyStreet, on which residents could report problems such as potholes and broken streetlights to regional councils. That goal served as the impetus for SeeClickFix. The site allows users to post location-specific issues from anywhere in the world and vote on the ones they would like to see addressed. Read the full story.
Amy Norquist, 47
New York City
Amy Norquist was a rising star of the environmental nonprofit world, having toiled at half a dozen nonprofits, each with the word earth in its name, and having become, in 2003, deputy director at the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries in New York. Then, in 2007, she tried to install a green roof on her home in Shelter Island, New York. "This is just hellish,"she thought. "Other people shouldn't have to go through this." And now they don’t. Norquist left Beacon, woodshedded for six months, and emerged with a plan for Greensulate, now a $1.2 million company that has insulated 100,000 square feet of rooftop with gorgeous meadows of lavender, native grasses, and sedum. The effort has eliminated 3,300 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere. Read the full story.
Horst Rechelbacher, 69
Horst Rechelbacher launched the hair care company Aveda in 1978 and, over the next 19 years, turned the industry on its ear. Suddenly, everyone was talking organics. Having sold to Estée Lauder for $300 million in 1997, Rechelbacher is getting back into beauty with a dramatic expansion of his little nutraceuticals company, Intelligent Nutrients. His products are organic to the point that any of them can be ingested. The founder grows some ingredients on his 100-acre Wisconsin farm. Rechelbacher is betting that farm, in some sense, on the venture. "I am self-financed, because I want to design my destiny," he says. "I don't need to kiss ass or pay interest." Read the full story.