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Eco-Hero Michelle Mauthe Harvey: senior project manager of retail for the Environmental Defense Fund.

When the world's largest retailer jumps on the sustainability bandwagon,

other corporate giants will follow.

"The ripple effects are just enormous," said Michelle Mauthe Harvey, co-leader and senior project manager of retail at the Environmental Defense Fund office in Bentonville. Since 2007, she's been in charge of advising Walmart on sustainable initiatives while balancing its business needs.

Her main focuses are product chemicals, sustainable food and agriculture, as well as environmental health issues and alternative energy. For those, she has co-chaired the development of a screening tool for chemicals that Walmart sells--like household cleaners and insecticides. This tool examines alternatives that can be used in the place of toxic chemicals.

It's this work that will not only help consumers leave less of an environmental footprint, but will help foster an appreciation for the retailer and sustainability, in general. "[It's rewarding] every time we can change a product on the shelf for the better," Harvey said. "We believe that the customer shouldn't be the one trying to figure out what they should do. It's the responsibility of the people who make the product and shelve it."

At the end of the day, Walmart has great potential to effect environmental change in the retail world because of its size, Harvey said. And it's this opportunity to help others think about the consequences of their actions that really ignites her passion for helping the world's third-largest company adopt environmentally friendly practices.

Of course there's a reason why Harvey was entrusted to help Walmart go green--she's been an active force in the green field since the 1980s. With a bachelor's in forestry and a master's in business administration from Duke University, her work experience in sustainability ranges from running a consulting business in sustainable forestry and agriculture (where she helped developed a new state plan to sustain agriculture in Maryland) to working for the Society of American Foresters and the National Environmental Education Foundation. Harvey's also a board member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and served on the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Environmental Health advisory council.

No matter where, she's always pushing for a greener, healthier life for future generations.

By Lauren James

Photo by Dero Sanford
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Author:James, Lauren
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 18, 2013
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