Many companies strive to make the world a better place, but few are able to do so in as many ways as Brattleboro, VT, based supplement maker New Chapter. Since their earliest days, the company’s founders, Paul and Barbi Schulick, have made it a priority to give back to the land and people with whom they work.
When they first began their business in 1982, this commitment took the form of sustainable sourcing. “We sought out ingredients that were planted and harvested using sustainable practices,” Barbi Schulick explains. “We felt strongly that if we were going to develop products that would really help people, we had to start with ingredients that were as natural as possible.”
To find such ingredients, Paul traveled to Costa Rica in 1994, where he met Steven Farrell, an organic farmer who would forever change his life and the life of his company. A firm believer in the value of organic practices, Schulick established Luna Nueva, nestled in the country’s rainforest, an area rich with plant and animal life, and partnered with Farrell to make it one of the few places in the world to grow organic ginger—an essential ingredient in several of Schulick’s formulations. In years to come, Farrell, now farm president, and New Chapter CEO Tom Newmark transformed the place into an “ecological paradise” 200-acre, Demeter-certified Biodynamic ginger and turmeric farm that has grown into a dynamic educational resource center where people go to learn about sustainable agricultural practices.
New Chapter’s efforts to promote and protect the health of the Costa Rican rainforest have not stopped there. The company has also worked with indigenous communities, a Costa Rican ethno-botanist, and students to preserve Semillas Sagradas (meaning Sacred Seeds) Sanctuary. Home to an extensive array of medicinal plants, the Sanctuary is “not just an herb garden,” says Newmark. It is a place inspired by an educational mission to ensure that such medicinal plants, and the cultural wisdom related to their use, continue to exist. As Newmark explains, “It is imperative that we protect sacred seeds today so that we have access to essential herbs and traditional knowledge for years to come.”
This forward-thinking approach also underpins New Chapter’s longstanding involvement in the Monteverde Conservation League U.S., Inc. (MCLUS). Developed in support of the Monteverde Conservation League (MCL) started in 1987 by school children who raised money and established The Children’s Eternal Rainforest (CERF) in Monteverde, Costa Rica, MCLUS strives to “support the conservation and rehabilitation of tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity.” Together, MCLUS and New Chapter have purchased a tract of land adjacent to CERF as a means to both protect the land from deforestation and establish a wildlife corridor for migrating species living in and around the Luna Nueva rainforest. “This is a key initiative for us,” Newmark says. “It helps protect an incredibly rich ecosystem, and it pays an important debt to Mother Earth for the many gifts she gives us through the rainforest.”
In addition to its support for and contributions to Semillas Sagradas and MCLUS, New Chapter has taken an active role in Whole Foods Market’s Whole Planet™ Foundation. Established in October 2005, the Foundation provides grants to microfinance institutions in Latin America, Africa and Asia. These institutions then grant small loans to individuals who are interested in developing their own businesses.
Through its involvement in this process, New Chapter has raised money for micro-credit banks that have issued loans to approximately 7,000 women in Costa Rica and helped to raise them out of poverty. At the same time, New Chapter’s work with the Whole Planet™ Foundation has helped to further promote environmental protection. As Newmark explains, “By providing people with an alternative means to earn a livelihood, we are able to discourage them from selling their land to big developers, who cut down trees and destroy the eco-systems around them.” Plus, he notes, the Foundation’s support motivates communities that might otherwise disintegrate in the face of poverty to remain intact. “By giving people a reason to stay and work, we are able to keep communities together.”
New Chapter has also sought to keep communities together through its donations to victims of terrorist activity and tsunami devastation in Indonesia. Working closely with Vermont midwife Katherine Bramhall, New Chapter has successfully provided over 700 women with prenatal vitamins through the Bumi Sehat clinics established by renowned Bali midwife Robin Lim. The clinics offer prenatal care to offset the skyrocketing maternal mortality rates due to malnutrition in these areas. “It’s especially meaningful to help people by way of our products. We know these donations have made an incredible difference in these women’s lives,” says Barbi Schulick, who adds that her company is committed to giving the midwives and the clinics for which they work “all the Perfect Prenatal they need.”
Closer to home, New Chapter has donated its products to aid New York City homeless and natural disaster victims across the United States, including those affected by Hurricane Katrina. New Chapter has also lent its support to United Plant Savers, an organization dedicated to protecting medicinal plants native to the United States and Canada. Additionally, the company has worked to make its internal, office-based business practices more sustainable by switching to closed loop recycled corrugated cardboard for its shipping boxes, expanding its recycling and composting efforts, creating an organic flower and vegetable garden, and greening its office supplies.
Given its local, national, and international efforts to promote social and environmental well-being, it is clear that New Chapter’s commitment to the health of people and the planet remains exactly the same as it was when its doors opened more than 25 years ago. As Barbi Schulick observes, “That commitment has been, and continues to be, inherent in everything we do.”
Photos courtesy of New Chapter.