Text by Catharine Livingston
“Downsizing” and “cutbacks” may be the mots du jour, but one nonprofit is growing faster than a shoot of bamboo: 1% For the Planet. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s that pet project of outdoor gurus Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) and Craig Mathews (owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, longtime pal of Tom Brokaw's). They founded the organization in 2002 as a way to pump more dollars into environmental protection; and the way it works is simple. A company (Teton Gravity Research, Sony) agrees to donate one percent of its sales to the Vermont-based group, which then distributes the funds to NGOs in need, from Michigan’s Anglers of the Au Sable to the Canadian Wildlife Federation. To date, 1% FTP has raised over $30 million, and its membership has ballooned from 21 businesses to 1,100.
Last month, I had the good fortune of meeting up with the 1% crew when they came through New York City to celebrate their 1,000-member milestone. It was fascinating enough to sit in a room with the godfathers of adventure and wax green, but most interesting was when the conversation turned to greenbacks. The economy may be in the toilet, but 1%’s never been better. In fact, 2008 marked its biggest year yet. I walked away from our little roundtable feeling inspired and perplexed—had I heard right? To find out, I gave 1% FTP’s CEO Terry Kellogg a call.