When less is more

When she's not promoting sustainable businesses and healthy lifestyles, or working to reduce waste, Melissa Schweisguth likes to find time for shopping. But even then, her trips to the store are different than most.

"I hardly buy anything new besides food, household products and running shoes," Schweisguth said. "What I do buy new I buy in bulk using my own containers."

The Ashland resident takes sustainability to a whole new level. She runs her own corporate social responsibility marketing business, called Full Circle Impact. She is also director of membership development and education for the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association, a Eugene-based network of local, organic food co-operatives.

"I've cared about living things as long as I can remember," she said. "I guess this drives me to try and reduce my negative impact."

From using excess dishwater on her potted plants to receiving online billing statements, Schweisguth lives a principled life with an eye for environmental responsibility.

Her efforts were recognized in the Sept. 21 issue of Time Magazine, which listed her as one of 25 Responsibility Pioneers working to change the world. The Time article compiled records of sustainability service from individuals, groups and businesses from across the globe, and settled on a short list — one that included Schweisguth.

Though she called the experience "a little surreal," Schweisguth's credentials make her a worthy candidate.

For nearly a decade she has worked in numerous capacities to help food companies go organic. In 2007, she partnered with The Hershey Company, makers of Hershey's chocolate, to increase the company's presence on the organic market.

The partnership took her close to home. Schweisguth was raised on a farmstead in Pennsylvania, where she learned by example from her parents the value of living off of a homegrown diet.

"They were really as self-reliant as they could be," she said of her parents, "but they never explained what they were doing or why, so I didn't know what it was about until later." She built the foundation for her business model on lessons she had learned from her grandmother, who took to farming as a sole means of weathering Depression-era poverty.

"For her it wasn't about encouraging a lifestyle. It was about survival." Schweisguth has followed her grandmother's lead, starting Full Circle Impact not to promote one lifestyle over another, but to teach survival techniques in a world facing new environmental challenges.

"It's important to respect and champion each other no matter where we're at and learn from each other," she said.

In 2006, she stepped up her efforts to cut back. For the next year, she confined the amount of garbage she created to the size of a medium coffee can. Her venture was a successful one — so successful that, two years later, the coffee can still wasn't full.

The secret to Schweisguth's success, she said, lies not just in what she does, but in what she doesn't do.

"It's just common sense and basic morals, not wasting or taking more than we need," she said. "And it's not that difficult to do here. You really don't give up anything significant, and you gain a lot by saving money and time, and eating more healthy."

Schweisguth's social responsibility business is online, at Fullcircleimpact.com. She says she is thankful to live in Ashland, which offers services like Ashland Sanitary & Recycling and the recycling center — services she says make living sustainably a snap.

"So many people, businesses and organizations in Ashland work for societal change and deserve recognition," Schweisguth said. "There are so many ways to make a difference. We all have to start somewhere and we all have a long way to go."

Share This Story