Green Business: The New Eco-Entrepreneur E-mail
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 00:00  |  Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry

Island Buffet photo by Neeta LindI am a female CEO. Yes, that's right—I'm not just a vagabond gypsy performing artist living the Bohemian dream. I am also a number-crunching genius female entrepreneur with a successful business enterprise on the side. It has taken me more than a year to open up about the being-the-president-of-my-own-company thing. But you know… I've got a starving-artist reputation to protect.

Of course, I am not alone. In 1997, women held half of foundation CEO positions and according to the Federal Reserve Board, women presently control 51.3% of personal wealth in the United States. This may come as a surprise to most people. I know it surprised me. But now that I know, I have only one thing to say: way to go, girls!

When I opened Happy Mandible in January 2008, I—like many new-business owners, female or male—wanted to offer unparalleled quality and exceptional customer service, and make a lot of money without sacrificing my commitment to the green movement. The way I see it, no amount of profit is worth leaving this world worse off for my having been here. And that, my entrepreneurial friends, is where business trends are headed. You will be more valuable to more people for more of the future if you jump on this eco-entrepreneur ride and pioneer green initiatives in your industry. And you will be even more valuable if you are one of the first.

Happy Mandible shops, assembles and delivers groceries to film and television sets like Fast and Furious 4, Desperate Housewives and Private Practice. My delivery vans run on vegetable-oil fuel. We offset our already low carbon output by donating to reforestation and methane-capture projects through We provide transport for on-set recyclable cardboard, utilize aggressive office waste-reduction techniques and have the coolest employees in the industry, hands down. The boss ain't bad either, they tell me…

Happy Mandible directly assisted FOX's 24 craft-service department in setting up drinking-bottle recycling, which as you can imagine is massive on a television show of that size. Happy Mandible is also responsible for the expert natural-products shopping that puts organic produce, vegan alternatives and health-food options on 24 as well. My company is providing a much-needed service to the film and television industry and showing folks how it can be done green.

Imagine my delight to discover that while Happy Mandible is going waste-free from the grassroots up, 24 is doing it from the tree-branch tips down. This year, production on 24 announced that craft service would no longer be purchasing individual water bottles for set. That means Happy Mandible's employees don't have to purchase any plastic water bottles for set anymore! And that means my employees don't have to transport them for recycling after actors and extras discard them after one sip. Rather, the cast and crew are now filling cups from five-gallon water dispensers. And heck, maybe some of those cups are reusable, depending on the crew member.

I remember in 2006 when I was an actor on the set of the SciFi channel's Who Wants To Be A Superhero. I brought my glass water bottle to set, as I do in everyday life, and had to search for a refill source and keep an eye on that piece of reused gold, else a grip think it trash and remove it (fatally) from the shot. Well, times are catching up with me and my personal green paradise is actualizing every day.

Actors on the 24 set today not only get to bring their own non-leaching water bottles for refilling from reused five-gallon containers, but they also enjoy power generators fueled by blended biodiesel, green power purchased from the L.A. Department of Water and Power for all on-stage production activities, scripts incorporating the issue of global warming when appropriate, PSAs shot by Kiefer Sutherland and key cast members about climate change and much, much more. In fact, beginning with season seven (when Happy Mandible was brought on), 24 became the first television production ever to save enough energy and reduce enough carbon emissions over the course of a season to render its entire season finale carbon neutral.

I write about it here because I believe in the entertainment industry. Mass media changes global consciousness quicker than politicians. Let's face it, we have bigger audiences. And many 24 fans might not know how progressive their favorite television show is unless I give 'em a shout out here. And now that they know another facility has done it successfully, other network studios can more easily do the same.

Please follow the lead of the Environmental Media Association, now in its 20th year, in honoring and celebrating film and television productions that increase environmental awareness. All of us can write about others dong their part. We can shout it out to the community at large and we can support organizations that spread the word. You don't necessarily have to know how to convert your fleet to run on vegetable-oil fuel. We need communicators and town criers to share ideas and connect this movement across the globe, too.

I look forward to more and more productions taking courageous green initiatives, like 24. I look forward to all business owners valuing environment before—not in spite of—profit. I look forward to seeing women's compassionate intelligence permeate the businesses we own. And I look forward to not hiding behind a starving-artist façade any longer, and shouting out loud: I am a She-EO! I am a business owner making a difference—and I matter now more than ever.

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Comments (3)add
Written by Tonya Kay , August 26, 2009
That really means a lot to me. Yea, Hollywood gets the rep of being the commercial media center and rightfully so - we do produce most of that commercial marketing masked as art out here. And because of the "corporation's" obsession with profit, we get a bad rap as being shallow and look oriented. But you are right - in a city as large as Los Angeles, there are all types of folk. There are movers and shakers, there are hippies and yogis, there are entreprenuers and executives, there are immigrants and gypsys. Amongst all those folk making up this city, I think overall, that stereotype of shallowness is fading away. And the stereotype of "willingness to try something new" is coming across more recently. We all are willing to try something new and right now, the mandatory new is green thinking. There is a lot of green minded folk out here. And yes, I don't mind that they look cool while doing it:-)

Oh, bottled water! BBaxter, I personally think about the entire life cycle of the things I touch, and am therefore responsible to, and knowing the entire life cycle of a plastic bottle of water absolutely negates the "clean"ness people think they are buying. In the end, the plastic bottled water is neither healthier nor helpful to solving the water contamination problem. Thanks for thinking outside the box!
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Written by BBaxter , August 14, 2009
Right on! It always amazes me how many people drink bottled water without it even occurring to them what it all ads up to. You bring to my mind the famous quote by Margaret Mead that I love so much: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Thanks for being the good guy (or the good not-guy!).
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Written by MP , August 13, 2009
T: I just want to applaud you for being a powerful change-maker. So many people make decisions based on whether or not their actions look cool. Sometimes it's all about image. You are both cool and wise--an influential example for the image-conscious Hollywoodites.
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