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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

one in 8,700

Brighter Planet, Middlebury’s only environmental awareness company, had its beginnings right here at the College on the Hill. Associate Professor of Economics Jon Isham created the company with two of his students who, for a class project, had proposed an idea for an environmental firm.

While most of the other students’ proposals were merely created for a grade, “this one just took off,” said Patti Prairie, CEO of Brighter Planet.

Prairie has been running Brighter Planet since 2006. Before coming to Middlebury, she held senior executive positions at IBM, American Express and BankBoston.

When asked why she decided to work for Brighter Planet, the seasoned entrepreneur said: “I thought it was an adventure! To work with students would be fun, and they didn’t have business experience. My background is helping companies and I happened to live in Vermont.”

As part of her duties as CEO, Prairie assists employees using her entrepreneurial skills, helping them become better businessmen in the process. Currently, Brighter Planet has 12 employees, eight of whom are recent Middlebury graduates. Tucked between the Vermont Book Shop and Vermont Beads and Fibers, the company’s office resembles an attic loft, decorated with quaint artwork and cozy hardwood flooring.

As its warm and welcoming workplace would suggest, Brighter Planet emphasizes a personal approach to environmental awareness. Its social networking-based Web site offers a carbon footprint calculator, conservation tips and project proposals for conservation efforts. The company also offers credit and debit cards with rewards to help build renewable energy products, as well as Web-based campaigns such as the 350 Challenge and video contests.

To Prairie, there is something unique about environmental services not only in the town of Middlebury, but in Vermont as a whole.

“Green is Vermont. It fits with the Vermont brand,” she noted. “[Brighter Planet] just happens to be in Middlebury because of how it was born.”

When reflecting on her favorite aspect of working at Brighter Planet, Prairie notes that she loves the customers she works with. “We have over 100,000 customers.” These customers are serviced through the physical aspects of the company, like its credit and debit cards, as well as through environmental service campaigns and projects.

“We’re always interested in more talent, more people working toward improving the environment,” Prairie said about the organization’s upcoming campaigns and plans. “I feel blessed that Brighter Planet got its start at Middlebury College, in the heart of Vermont with its green history and leadership.”

She added that the company has “a growing team of talented Middlebury grads at its core” and is “nurtured by nationally known environmentalists such as Middlebury College Scholar-in-Residence Bill McKibben.”

The company’s future is indeed looking bright, considering the large community following it has garnered and its impressive efforts thus far in environmentalism.