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Local business leaders talk climate change

MIDDLEBURY — Three Addison County business leaders will discuss how their companies are adapting so they can survive and thrive during the era of climate change at a panel on Monday, March 9, in Middlebury. The panel, “Doing Business in a Changing Climate,” is organized by the Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County (CEAC, ceacac.org), and is co-sponsored by: Addison County Chamber of Commerce, Addison County Economic Development Corporation, Acorn Energy Co-Op, Bees Wrap, Danforth Pewter and  Elmer Farm.
The panel and business networking event, which is free and open to the public, will be from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Danforth Pewter, 52 Seymour St., Middlebury. Moderating will be Amy Sheldon, a natural resource planner and one of Middlebury’s two representatives in the Vermont House of Representatives.
 “The role of our local business leaders will be crucial if Addison County is to successfully adapt to the changing climate and have a sustainable local economy,” said Steve Maier, board president of the CEAC. “While several other local groups are working on climate change, CEAC is playing the vital role of communicating about and coordinating with all of those groups and the local business community. This panel is part of our outreach to economic leaders, and we hope many of them will attend to provide their own input.”
 “Many Vermont business leaders now recognize that addressing climate change can be part of a sound business strategy,” said Spencer Putnam, a CEAC board member and former director of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.
CEAC promotes a healthy local economy through deep carbon reduction in Addison County, Recent activities have included neighborhood energy audits, installation of free EV chargers in cooperation with Green Mountain Power; testimony to the state Public Utilities Commission; participation in planning for local renewable energy; and research into climate innovations in Europe that could be adapted to Vermont.
Panelists for Monday’s event include:
•  Bram Kleppner: As CEO of Danforth, Bram has turned around a loss-making business and led the company to eight straight years of growth and profitability. Danforth has expanded its network of retail stores and has enjoyed dramatic growth online. Bram successfully acquired and integrated three companies into Danforth, instituted company-wide profit-sharing and partially paid maternity leave, and added an employee seat to the Board of Directors. He converted the company’s electricity to 100% solar power, and has committed to moving to zero fossil fuel use. Previously, Bram spent 10 years at Ben & Jerry’s, where he co-led their first campaign against global warming and led the creation of their first non-GMO ice cream.
•  Sarah Kaeck: Kaeck founded Bee’s Wrap in 2012. Searching for an alternative to disposable plastics in her own kitchen, she developed an all-natural, reusable food wrap designed to replace plastic wrap. Originally from Pennsylvania, Sarah eventually settled in Vermont, where she has raised her family and grew her business. In the eight years since founding Bee’s Wrap, Kaeck has grown the business to 40 employees, and Bee’s Wrap is sold widely both nationally and internationally.
•  Spencer Blackwell: Blackwell is co-owner of Elmer Farm, a conserved 90-acre farm located in East Middlebury. The farm grows eight acres of mixed vegetables, grains, and flowers. Annually, the farm is Inspected and certified by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF). This reassures farm members that the crops are grown responsibly and safely without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Like so many of the old farmsteads in Addison County, the Elmer Farm has a long heritage of providing food for its community. The farm belonged to the Elmer family since
the early 1800’s. The receding glaciers bestowed the farm with a wonderful mix of fertile soils, almost thirty acres of sandy loam, excellent for growing vegetables and grains.

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