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Patagonia, Inc. - Overall Excellence

The Connection Magazine - Community Leadership

Nirvana Candles - Pioneer Award

EcoGoods - Innovative Retailer

Santa Cruz Live Oak Grange #503 - Revitalization

The Video Project - Overall Excellence  

Merit Academy - Innovation Award


Patagonia, Inc.

Overall Excellence

Contact:            Christian Fine

Address:           415 River Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060   

Phone:             831-423-1776

Product:            Designer and distributor of outdoor clothing

Website:           www.patagonia.com  


The Patagonia Santa Cruz retail store was opened in 1995, staffed by 8 empoyees (fulltime equivalent).  Based in Ventura, California, Patagonia, Inc. is a $160 million company founded on core values of quality, integrity, innovation and environmental protection.  One of the few companies in the world to look forward with a 100 year plan, Patagonia focuses on producing durable, flexible, and long lasting outdoor clothing

Holding vendors to stringent sustainable quality criteria, Patagonia inspects the factories that make their products in the US and overseas to ensure that they are upholding sustainable quality practices.

Economic Viability

A significant portion of their profit goes back into the greater community and into investments in their employees.  Patagonia donates 1% of company sales or 10% of pre-tax profits, whichever greater, to the protection and restoration of the natural environment. 

Patagonia has an Environmental Internship Program in which employees select a project with a non-profit environmental group, receiving paid leave of up to two months.  Two of such projects have been the "Ward Valley Project" and the "Water quality sampling database for surf riders."

Social Equity

Patagonia Santa Cruz demonstrates socially responsibility internally within the management structure.

Every employee at Patagonia has a say in how their company is run.  Their corporate office travels throughout the US and Asia promoting employee involvement.  Employees participate in local community and environmental service events. 

In 1998 they participated in "Farm without Harm," "Coastal Watershed Council", and "Santa Cruz Committee for the Homeless" to which they donated a combined amount of over $2,500.

In 1999 they contributed $3,000 to the "Homeless Garden Project" of Santa Cruz. Proud of their efforts, they have posters all over the walls that show their past community fundraising.

Environmental Stewardship

In addition to their employee internship program and the significant financial contributions they make to environmental groups, Patagonia’s store is built, powered, and operated in an environmentally sustainable way. 

The store uses natural lighting to a great extent.  The front features large windows and skylights.  The interior is spacious and open, providing a comfortable and natural environment. Most lighting fixtures are energy efficient.

The building’s interior construction uses recycled fir in all of their fixtures, doorways, and window frames; gridcore for shelves, recycled content steel in brackets, recycled sheet rock, Sisal carpet which is made of natural fiber, double pained glass in all windows, non-VOC paint, elastometric coating on the roof for thermal efficiency, and MR 16 low voltage spotlights on track lighting.

Patagonia was the first company to commit to using green power (100% wind energy) in all their California facilities.

All glass, cans, plastic and paper generated at the store are recycled.  Patagonia uses only recycled paper and promotes double-sided copying.  Restrooms are equipped with ultra-low flow toilets.

Synchilla® fleece clothing line is manufactured from post-consumer recycled plastic; all cotton clothing is made from organic cotton.


The Connection Magazine

Community Leadership Award


Contact:            Thom Coby and Pattie, co-publishers

Address:           317 A Cedar Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Phone:              (831) 459-0522; Fax:  (831) 459-8820

Email:               tcoby@theconnect.com              Website:  www.theconnect.com

Product/Service:  Healthy Living and Conscious Lifestyles Publication  


The Connection Magazine is a monthly publication, distributed to the public at no cost.  It is intended to serve as a community forum to inspire readers to learn, enjoy and improve their lives.  It contains listings of local alternative businesses & professionals, articles and ads of interest for living healthy lives in harmony with the environment, book, movie and music reviews, and community event listings.

Economic Viability

In business since 1993, growing steadily every year, Connection Magazine now distributes more than 50,000 papers within four counties in the San Francisco Bay Area (Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties).  Recently, a central Florida version of the paper was launched.  The founder’s vision is to have a Connection Magazine in every community in the world.

Social Equity

The Connection Magazine integrates the interests of the community with the overall business.  The company views itself as a forum: a way for people and businesses to connect.  Employees proactively gather information about the community through person-to-person contact during city functions and mixers, through letters-to-the-editor, suggestions from readers, reader surveys, at health fairs and festivals, and personal contacts with businesses and citizens. The company then incorporates this feedback in their day-to-day business.  For example, new columns have been initiated based on reader suggestions, which inspired the Sustainable Community Calendar and Understanding Gay Lifestyles.  Also, the publication enables local merchants and businesses to get the word out about their valuable products and services. 

The Connection Magazine’s editorial policy brings together community resources, events, opportunities, and people through continuous feedback and improvement.  The staff responds to issues of social significance and proactively obtains and publishes information to improve the health, prosperity, and quality of life for all citizens.

Connection Magazine demonstrates its commitment to the greater community through sponsorship of cultural events, theater, music festivals, health fairs, and museum events.  This sense of community is extended to the employees of the Connection, who enjoy the freedom to take initiative at work, and flexible work schedules.  The employees feel respected and valued, both for their work and as individuals. 

Environmental Stewardship

Connection Magazine has a rigorous recycling program, that includes using recycled paper (for copies, notes and orders), recycled paper towels, recycled file folders, recycled facial tissue, and recycled toilet paper, recycling plastic juice containers from drinks, any plastic, glass, cardboard and paper. The company has a water conservation policy and uses only environmentally friendly cleaning products.  The Connection Magazine’s environmental policy extends beyond its offices:  The publication is printed on recycled paper and uses soybean inks, and is mostly distributed by bicycle (Pedaler’s Express).  The themes of each magazine, often has an environmental focus, such as: “The Oceans”, “Forests,” “Sustainability”, and others.

There are also ongoing columns with an environmental focus such as Building Green, The Healthy Planets and Sustainable Community Calendars.

The SQA wishes to acknowledge the founder’s vision and staff’s commitment to “community leadership” for these past six years of outstanding, socially responsible alternative media.


Nirvana Candles

Pioneer Award

Contact:            Grace Gamboa & Christopher Balthasar

Address:           PO Box 1826, Freedom, CA 95019

Phone:              831-724-3943

E-mail:              balto@nirvanacandles.com          Website:  www.nirvanacandles.com

Product:            Manufactures beautiful, decorative candles from food grade paraffin wax  


Nirvana Candles is a young business that manufactures beautiful decorative candles from food grade paraffin wax.  Their mission statement reveals a story beyond wicks and wax:

To fill the world with beauty and positive imagery, to promote important philanthropic organizations and enlightened business practices, to create a fun and loving work environment where people are fully supported in their personal growth and teamwork, and to deepen our connection with nature and spirit.

Started by a Corralitos couple in their kitchen in mid-1998, Nirvana Candles has quickly developed a successful business based on this purpose and sustainable quality practices.

Economic Viability

In their first 18 months, Nirvana annual sales has risen from zero to more than $300,000, now with about a dozen employees, producing more than 5,000 candles per month.  Already they have incorporated numerous factory and business process improvements, helping their business quickly shift from surviving to thriving. 

Their expanding customer base includes chains like Nordstrom’s (being tested), Whole Foods markets, Pier One imports, and the Discovery Channel stores, as well as two national mail order catalogs.

Social Equity

Nirvana Candles internal structure reflects a clear focus on community sustainability and social equity.  Nirvana recognizes exemplary employee contributions through gain-sharing and cash bonus incentives.

They work in conjunction with the Watsonville Job Training program that provides training, counseling and placement for people with work experience. One of their employees had never had a steady job before, and has become head of production line, receiving a bonus for her growth and fine work. 

Nirvana strives to create a “flattened” (non-hierarchical) team environment where employee input is considered a vital link to process improvement and business success.  For example, much of the equipment purchased and the manufacturing methods are a result of co-workers' suggestions.

The company has bilingual staff, broadening their applicant pool to a larger portion of the community.  Employees are encouraged to be self-motivated and enjoy job variety through cross-training and rotating assignments.

Environmental Stewardship

Nirvana buys biodegradable cornstarch-based packing “peanuts,” as opposed to Styrofoam, and reuses boxes and packing materials when available from other local companies.

Unlike most other candle manufacturers, Nirvana reuses all of their waste wax, melting it into attractive “second market” candles. The company is pioneering a Burn ‘n’ Return™ program to recover partially burned candles, providing an incentive for consumers to “close the loop.”  They also recycle office and break-room waste, and have taught ecological principles and practices to many of their employees who were unfamiliar with the purpose of such practices.

Nirvana’s business plan calls for generously giving a percentage of their profits to educational and environmental charities.

The SQA “Pioneer Award” recognizes Nirvana Candles’ excellent start in building a company based on principles of Sustainable Quality.


Eco Goods

Innovative Retailer

Contact:            Elaine & Roger Berke (founders), Katherine Duvernois (at site visit)

Address:           1130 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, Ca.  95060

Phone:              831-429-5758, 831-429-5756 fax

Website:           www.ecogoods.com

Product:            Retailer of environmentally friendly products



Eco Goods has been in business since 1992 and has 2 full time employees and 3 part time employees, offering organic, recycled, and non-toxic products at affordable prices.  Their Santa Cruz store features Earth-friendly products such as organic and hemp clothes, bedding, mattresses, towels, body care products, shoes, nontoxic paints and cleaning supplies, gifts, jewelry, books, paper products, pet and garden supplies and more.   In short, alternative products for “people, pets, and the planet.”

Eco Goods is in a growth stage, building consumer awareness of their location and business philosophy.  Their motto is to help consumers realize that “we vote with our dollars every time we make a purchase."

Social Responsibility

One of the challenges and contributions of this business is that the average consumer is largely unfamiliar with “environmentally friendly” products, so the staff plays an important role in answering questions and explaining the advantages of the distinctive product line.

Eco Goods collaborates with four local vendors, discussing the environmental impact of raw materials, the social impact of specific labor practices and manufacturing processes.  This serves to educate and inform Eco Goods staff and the vendors as well, bridging the communication gap between producers and consumers in an expanding dialogue about responsibility and sustainability.

Eco Goods, like most of the companies whose products they carry, gives money or merchandise to organizations working toward environmental and social justice.

Environmental Stewardship

The store is truly environmentally friendly with natural and full spectrum lighting.  Their construction is designed with recycled wood in all of their fixtures; also, a non-formaldehyde particle board (Medite) is used.  One of the founders, Roger Berke, remodeled the interior of the store and was instrumental in building nine EcoHomes in nearby Live Oak. 

Economic Viability

Eco Goods continues to be instrumental in developing the market for environmentally friendly products through consumer education, purchases that strengthen emerging markets (such as for organically grown cotton) and for new, little-known alternative products. Their focus is on items that are sustainably grown, harvested, assembled, distributed and disposed.

EcoGoods management often receives emails and letters from people who, after visiting the store and returning to their own country or town, realize that they have no access to these types of exemplary products.  Coop America’s Green Pages lists Eco Goods, and in 1996 they were praised as "the general store that every town should have."

To the owners, Eco Goods is a “labor of love,” a long-term process of allowing consumers to become educated while simultaneously developing the market for products they believe in.

Eco Goods has donated to many local causes, such as Ecology Action, Bike to Work, Gray Bears and the Second Harvest Food Bank. EcoGoods contributes a certain amount of money every month to product donations (gift certificates) to sponsor events in the community and has guidelines for how they distribute the money.


Santa Cruz Live Oak Grange #503

Revitalization Award

Contact:          Daniel Feldman

Address:          1900 17th Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Phone:             (831) 423-6235

Email:              dfeldman@cruzio.com

Website:          www.greengrange.org

Service:           Support for family farms and sustainable agriculture education


The Santa Cruz Live Oak Grange acts as an environmentally sustainable agricultural and education center, and has recently undergone a revolution of its leadership that has significantly revitalized its success in fulfilling its mission. 

Economic Viability

Membership of the Grange has increased from 34 to 130 in one year.  In a short time, the Grange has also converted an unused piece of land into a thriving and economically viable organization that now uses organic farming practices.  The property and building that house the Grange is paid for, which allows the leadership to focus attention on community initiatives instead of fundraising. 

The group stays financially sound by accepting many unique donations from individuals and organizations (for example, New Leaf Markets has given 5% of a day’s proceeds to the Grange), limiting gas use, changing to long lasting lights in their music hall, and recycling.

Social Equity

Some of the founding principles of the Grange include: accessibility to all, integration of native plants, sustainability education through workshops, hands-on training, and connections with other groups with similar goals.  Workshops are often provided at little or no cost to the public.

The Grange plays a leadership role with the national/international Grange organization to include the interests of small farmers and sustainable organizations of this type. 

A pilot program was developed demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement and social responsiveness, whereby wheelchair bound kids and adults will be able to plant and harvest plants/vegetables/seeds in raised beds high enough for easy access.  Many volunteers come to the Grange to grow seeds, food and flowers that are then redistributed to the members, friends, and neighbors. 

Environmental Stewardship

SCLO Grange is the only subordinate Grange in the nation dedicated to organic farming and sustainable agriculture.  Their philosophical ideals about sustainability are manifest in many different aspects of the Grange, including the manner in which they collect greywater from neighbors’ rainwater runoff, which would otherwise run to the ocean.  Captured in a trench along one side of the property, this rainwater helps sustain corn and many other plants.


The Video Project

Overall Excellence Award


Contact:          Ian and Terry Thiermann

Address:          200 Estates Drive, Ben Lomond, CA 95005

Phone:             831-336-0160; Fax:  831-336-2168

E-mail:             videoproject@videoproject.org

Website:          www.videoproject.org

Product or Service:  Educational Media For a Safe and Sustainable World



The Video Project was founded in 1983 by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Vivienne Verdon-Roe (Women: For America, For the World) and Oscar nominee Ian Thiermann (In the Nuclear Shadow). In 1999, The Video Project celebrates 16 years as the nation's non-profit source of educational programs for a safe and sustainable world. Over 600 programs celebrate the natural world, examine threats to our environment, and offer positive solutions.

Economic Viability

The Video Project carries programs for all ages, including Oscar and Emmy award-winners
from over 270 independent filmmakers worldwide.  They distribute over ten thousand programs every year to a diverse and growing network that includes thousands of schools, colleges, community groups, public libraries, churches, businesses, government agencies and individuals.

Some of the newest videos (such as Against the Grain and Food for Thought) delve into the complex issues in biotechnology and food.

Social Equity

“Building Sustainability,” about Sweden's The Natural Step, offers solutions for business to move towards sustainable practices.

Of special note is the Video Project's Teaching the Next Generation campaign.  They have made a special effort to reach young people. With foundation and donor support, over 6,000 videos have been donated to over 2,000 schools, primarily in disadvantaged and culturally diverse communities.

At the end of 1999, The Video Project was focused on how to lessen any negative impacts of the Y2K issue (the so-called “Millennium Bug”), as they spent much time in discussions with community and national leaders on how to help.

Environmental Stewardship

Demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship and resource conservation, the Video Project installed an impressive array of solar panels at their offices – you can actually see their PG&E power meter running backwards! 

An organic vegetable garden and "worm garden" allows them to recycle almost all of the food scraps. Water collection barrels located around the outside of their offices capture and re-distribute water run-off, pumped to irrigate the garden.

Videos are shipped in recycle and re-used boxes.  Office paper is printed on both sides before it is shredded and used yet again as packing material. 

Co-founder, Ian Thiermann, is also very interested in saving energy and money for other organizations.  A few years back Mr. Thiermann showed the Santa Cruz School district how they could get better lighting and save $150,000 per year, which led them to replace their lights and start saving money.

Through their videos and materials they review, produce and ship The Video Project is making a difference globally.

Merit Academy

Innovation Award


Contact:          Nicole D'Arcy

Title:                Hydrogen Fuel Cell Project Manager

Address:          2392 No. Rodeo Gulch Road, Soquel, CA 95073

Phone:             831-462-5655; Fax:     831-462-0506

Website:          meritworld.com                       E-mail:   nd@meritworld.com

Service:           Education



Merit Academy is a unique private school founded by Susan Tatsui-D'Arcy in 1994 for academically accelerated students. The school emphasizes critical thinking and a global perspective. Middle-school students start and run their own class business to learn real-life skills. Students share all the business responsibilities.

Economic Viability & Social Equity

Two previous businesses have been a Rock & Roll Review that was invited to perform at the White House, and a videography business. Students interviewed elders about their life stories and videotaped people's possessions for a visual record in case of loss. The high school students participate in an internship program in a variety of professional and technical fields to provide hands-on experience.

Two high school students, Nicole D'Arcy and Joanne Arguello, are currently at work on an ambitious internship focused on hydrogen fuel cell technology. After a debate session last year about U.S. involvement in the Middle East, the students decided to find an alternative, clean energy source that would end U.S. dependence on foreign energy resources.  After much research, they chose hydrogen as the preferred energy source.

Merit Academy subcontracted a research facility to design a hydrogen fuel cell and the Merit eighth graders built the system that powers an electric ice cream maker. Students plan to take their fuel cell across the United States to China, Japan, and Mexico, to demonstrate how hydrogen fuel can become the primary energy source for the foreseeable future.

In their own community, the students have shared their technology with local public and private schools, colleges, universities, science museums, and conventions. They made a presentation for The Renewable Energy Caucus in Washington D.C. and have done interviews for television, newspapers, and radio.

The students were on the cover of Solar Today magazine and have been featured in Popular Mechanics. Nicole and Joanne are currently fund-raising the $140,000 necessary for their tour of five U.S. cities and three countries. They hope that their public outreach and original research will lead to a wide acceptance of hydrogen fuel cell technology in the future.

Community service projects in previous years took the students to Mexico where they help set up donated IBM computers for a public school classroom. 

Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship is at the heart of their programs. They've created an innovative paperless math and reading program using reusable transparencies for their assignments. Students bring their lunches in reusable containers, compost their garbage and take turns recycling any paper that they must use.

Merit Academy is a great example of a private school putting into practice sustainable quality. There is no doubt these young people will be proactive environmental leaders in their generation.

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Last modified: Jan. 22, 2006