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1 percent adds up for saving the planet

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 14. 2013 12:59AM

Since its founding a little more than 10 years ago, "1% for the Planet" has helped collect more than $100 million for environmental causes, with a little help from six small New Hampshire businesses.

Established by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, the program started on the West Coast in 2002 with 21 businesses that agreed to contribute 1% of annual sales to sustainability initiatives of their choosing.

Since then, it has grown into a global movement of more than 1,200 member companies in 48 countries, according to the "Give Back to Blue" website.

Businesses that participate in the program get to display the 1% FTP logo on their products, which can work to attract the environmentally conscious consumer. But for the most part, the businesses involved are those that rely on a healthy planet for their business model to prosper.

Members in New Hampshire include a yoga institute, a rustic furniture retailer, a company that offers whitewater rafting and outdoor adventures, and another that manufactures and sells traditional wooden lacrosse shafts.

The 1% for the Planet organization acts as an intermediary and never actually handles any of the money. The businesses donate to the approved charities of their choice, not those chosen by the organization.

"The businesses donate directly to the nonprofit partners," said Barbara Friedsam, director of marketing for the organization. "Members often bring us nonprofits to approve as partners, and what we do is we look at their mission statement and make sure their focus is on environmentalism or sustainability."

The 1% FTP staff also verifies that the organization has tax-exempt status with the IRS. After that, the member businesses need to verify that they have donated at least 1 percent of their total sales or operating revenue to the nonprofit partner each year.

The organization is now located in Wakefield, Vt., where it moved from California in 2005. The expense of running the program is covered by member dues and donations from corporations or individuals, said Friedsam.

Vermont has by far the largest number of 1% FTP businesses on a per capita basis, with 20 participants, ranging from Timbers Restaurant at Sugarbush Resort to Waitsfield Tea Co. Massachusetts has 26 members, with six in Maine, and three in Rhode Island.

The largest New England member in terms of annual sales is the Longefellow Clubs, a Massachusetts-based chain of health clubs.

Among the New Hampshire members is Bryan Russell, owner and operator of the School Yoga Institute in Keene, which offers yoga teacher training courses. He signed up in 2010.

"Personally, it's a thing of mine to try to do things for the planet," he said. "It's not like anything changed in our business. We were just looking to work with more partners, get more exposure and communicate to the world the things we are doing."

The institute offers training at a site in Guatemala, and made a Guatemalan nonprofit one of its recipients, the other recipient is an organization called Trees, Water and People out of Colorado that does charity work in Guatemala.

The Enriched Learning Center in Berlin offers whitewater and outdoor adventures to its students, and chose as its partner, American Whitewater, an organization dedicated to preserving rivers, according to company president Jim Cochran.

Cochran is also involved in another business called, North Country Enterprises, offering outdoor adventures to the general public, to the benefit of the Berlin Area Renewable Energy Initiative. Cochran doesn't have any retail products to brand, but sees many benefits from his involvement in 1% FTP nonetheless.

"Our hope is that outdoor adventure-type people recognize that we are an environmentally conscious company," he said. "We try to promote that and hope that as it begins to grow, and more people identify with 1% for the Planet, that might influence what company they choose for kind of rafting or aerial adventures we offer."

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