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Friday, June 14, 2024

Best of Arizona Awards 2023

Welcome to our special feature on Green Living magazine’s 2023 Best of Arizona Awards, a
prestigious event that spotlights the exemplary efforts of individuals and companies making
strides in the realm of eco-conscious living in Arizona.

This annual accolade salutes those who have seamlessly incorporated sustainable practices
into their craft. From innovative businesses that are redefining norms to passionate individuals leading the charge towards a greener tomorrow, we’re diving into what makes these people, products, and services stand out with their contributions to a more sustainable Arizona.

Whether you’re an ardent environmentalist, a curious reader, or just someone looking for
inspiration to make more sustainable choices, this feature promises to be a treasure trove
of information and inspiration. Join us as we celebrate sustainability, innovation, and the
unwavering spirit of Arizona’s eco-conscious community.

BEST VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT: Dos Pink

In 2022, Brittany and Shayna Lawber decided to redefine the world of dining by making plant-based cuisine accessible and irresistible. They did so by opening Dos Pink (formerly Dos Pink Tacos), offering a new perspective on Mexican cuisine. Popular dishes include the Crunchwrap, the Not Your Avo Taco, the Cheezy Gordita Crunchie, and the house-made churro doughnuts.

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Dos Pink’s signature tacos.

“At the heart of Dos Pink’s philosophy lies the belief that plant-based food should never be underestimated,” Brittany says. “All of our tacos are served on our famous, freshly prepared tortilla shells, which are distinctively colored pink through the use of beets. Dos Pink is a gastronomic playground where creativity knows no bounds. With a 100% plant based menu, it brilliantly reimagines, reinvents, and revitalizes a new type of Mexican cuisine. Every dish is a testament to the incredible power of plants to transform the culinary landscape and, in turn, change the world.”

Sustainability efforts include sourcing local ingredients, using eco-friendly takeout packaging (no plastics), and using recycled materials. “We live by a simple yet transformative mantra: ‘Doing More for the Planet by Using Less,’” Brittany says. “It’s a testament to our unwavering commitment to pave the way for a sustainable future, free from the burden of plastic pollution.” www.dospink.com

BEST SUSTAINABLY MINDED RESTAURANT: Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.

Created in 2013 by Jon Buford and Pat Ware, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. has become known for fun, experimental beers born from the wilderness (think pale ales made with spruce tips foraged from the Mogollon Rim). Some of the brewery’s most popular beers include Don’t F*** It Up (a light, crushable blonde ale) and La Ciudad (a hazy IPA). The company now has three locations, and it will open a new restaurant and brewery in Phoenix’s Miracle Mile neighborhood next year.

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Arizona Wilderness Brewery at its downtown location.

While the conservation-driven company practices many sustainability efforts, its most impactful is through its use of Sinagua Malt (based in Arizona’s Verde Valley). Sinagua works with local farmers to shift from traditional summer crops like corn and alfalfa to barley, thereby diverting less water from the Verde River and leaving more water for people and wildlife. Through its use of Sinagua Malt, every pint of Wilderness beer offsets more than 50 gallons of water for Arizona’s waterways. In 2022, the company saved 38.4 million gallons of water, sent 204,800 pounds of grain to local farms, kept 148,520 pounds of trash out of landfills, recycled 33,000 pairs of nitrile gloves, turned 3,096 water bottles into hiking shirts, and donated more than $20,000 to organizations making a difference. www.azwbeer.com

BEST ORGANIC ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE: Wild Tonic

Wild Tonic began with an artist and her passion for innovation and creativity. Painter Holly Skaggs worked with beeswax for many years until she discovered the art of fermentation. When her love of painting with beeswax transformed into working with honey (yet another labor of love created by bees), Skaggs found herself fascinated with a rare ferment known as Jun. She began brewing with this living culture, and after several years of experimentation, in 2015 Wild Tonic Sparkling Jun was born. In 2019, the company released Wild Tonic Hard Jun. Produced by an all-natural secondary fermentation process, the alcohol content is brought up to 5.6% ABV using sustainably sourced, fresh ingredients to create a bright and delicate flavor. Each serving contains 1 billion+ probiotics at the time of production and has zero gluten, added sulfites or artificial flavorings.

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Featured here: Strawberry Blood Orange from Wild Tonic.

However, beyond being a delicious and gut-healthy drink, Wild Tonic is dedicated to bee conservation, sustainability and making the world a better place. “We compost our teas, herbs, flowers and fruit,” Skaggs says. “Cardboard, paper products, cans, metal and plastic are recycled. Systems are used to reduce water consumption. The Wild Tonic signature blue bottles are reusable and recyclable, and all sample cups used for demos and events are compostable.” www.wildtonic.com

BEST SMOOTHIE OR JUICE JOINT: Local Juicery

In 2014, Summer Sanders started doing small pop-ups in Sedona and pressing juice with a classic Norwalk cold-press machine. As she shared her passion for cleansing and plant-based food with the Sedona community, her pop-ups sold out within minutes. Meanwhile, she dreamed of opening a small plant-inspired cafe for years. After giving birth to her first child, she felt the confidence — with the support of her husband, Mike — to follow the calling. “I wanted to create a place that would bring together families and friends, even if they all ate in different ways,” Sanders says.

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Local Juicery features smoothies, juices and salads.

Customers return to Local Juicery (now with an additional location in Flagstaff) for the raw, cold-pressed juice; the superfood-infused smoothies; and the high vibrational foods made from quality organic ingredients. Popular offerings include the Works Waffle, the Pure Passion Cold Pressed Juice, the Humble Warrior Smoothie, and the organic salads, bowls, hot tonics, and wellness products.

On the sustainability front, Local Juicery uses only compostable and recyclable to-go products and provides kitchen waste daily to a local farmer for composting. The company also uses 99.9% organic products and was awarded the Environmental Stewardship award by Keep Sedona Beautiful. www.localjuicery.com

FAVORITE FARMERS MARKET OR NATURAL GROCER: Uptown Phoenix Farmers Market

Uptown Phoenix Farmers Market, a dedicated gathering space for nearly 200 local Arizona producers, is currently open on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The food-based market is dedicated to inspiring and educating home cooks through Arizona local produce, handmade foods, and handcrafted goods. Vendors include Absolutely Delightful Honey, Arizona Bread Co., Fond du Lac Farms, ITAL-American Specialties, Moon River Beef & Eggs, No Harm No Cow, and many more.

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Uptown Farmers Market

A small crew operates the market year-round in the heart of Phoenix, which allows customers to have frequent face-to-face connections with Arizona producers. Additionally, the group that runs the market has personally met and directly corresponded with every local grower, farmer, baker, creator, and producer featured at the market.

Uptown Phoenix Farmers Market also operates an online marketplace, offering refrigerated home delivery every Saturday. As such, every item is harvested, baked, or produced only a day or two before arriving at customers’ homes. The market credits North Phoenix Baptist Church for being a supportive community partner. www.uptownmarketaz.com

BEST ALTERNATIVE WELLNESS COACH OR PRACTITIONER: Sam Harper

Sound healer and conscious leadership coach Sam Harper began her journey into sound in 2018, following a transformative sound bath experience at an International Yoga Day event. A therapist at the time, Harper enjoyed helping others and realized that sound would be the modality to allow her to reach others on a deeper level.

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Sound healer and conscious leadership coach Sam Harper.

Her sessions are a 60-minute, deeply meditative journey that begin with a guided connection to breath, followed by a symphony of frequencies and tones that reverberate from several crystal quartz and Tibetan sound bowls that surround her on the floor. The vibrations work to induce a Theta wave state in the receiver, allowing them to receive the many benefits of sound healing, which include relaxation, increased circulation, movement of energy blocks, and even rewiring of neural pathways for somatic trauma healing. “You may feel very heavy or light as a feather. The frequency of the bowls brings you back into order within yourself,” says Harper. “The amazing thing is that your experience is different every time depending on your energy in that moment.”

Those wishing to work with Harper can join her group sound bath sessions on Mondays and Thursdays at The Portal in Scottsdale, or inquire about her six-month RISE spiritual mentorship at www.samanthaharper.com.

BEST GREEN WELLNESS OR SELF-CARE BRAND: Arizona Soapbar

Since 2015, family-owned Arizona Soapbar has been crafting eco-conscious soap and body care products that are safe for the whole family. The company’s products are free from fragrances and dyes, using only natural clays and botanicals for color. Meanwhile, Arizona Soapbar’s essential oils are independently tested in a local lab for purity, and the company sources its ingredients as close to home as possible.

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Arizona Soapbar features handcrafted soap.

The studio is located on a small family farm in Gilbert, where some of the ingredients used in the products are grown. There are even milk-based bar soaps available seasonally, made with milk from the farm.

Arizona Soapbar’s all-time best-selling product is the menthol eucalyptus shower steamer. Loaded with real menthol and eucalyptus essential oil, the shower steamers are perfect for anyone with sinus and allergy trouble, a cold or even migraines. The company also offers bar soaps, sugar scrubs, lotions, lip balms, facial masks, hydrating oils and more. Be sure to check out the unscented body lotion, the tea tree charcoal sugar scrub and the rose clay facial mask. The company also offers a seasonal soap subscription (when available). www.azsoapbar.com

BEST ECO-CONSCIOUS OR ZERO-WASTE STORE: Desert Refillery

Husband and wife team Kyle Walters and Tiffany Skoyen started Desert Refillery after the pandemic in 2021, born from a desire to shop at a zero-waste refill store. “As we were stuck at home, we came face-to-face with how much trash we produced, and we knew we had to find a better way,” Skoyen says. “We started at a mobile shop and at farmers markets. As our community grew and joined the mission of saying ‘no’ to single-use plastic, we grew bolder and decided it was time to open our first brick-and-mortar location.”

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Desert Refinery is a good zero-waste option.

Today, Desert Refillery has more than 100 refillable products and sources more than 50% of those products locally. Popular products include liquid laundry detergent, eco-friendly dish soap, and a skincare line from Flagstaff. “We source quality eco-friendly and family-friendly products, and we choose close to home as often as we can,” Skoyen says. “Another key element is that the products are closed-looped, meaning we get the products in bulk and can return the containers to be sanitized and used again. If every household in the Phoenix Metro area refilled their dish soap only, that would keep nine million bottles from the landfill annually.” www.desertrefillery.com

BEST CLOTHING CONSIGNMENT BOUTIQUE: Buffalo Exchange

Started in 1974 in a 450-square-foot space in Tucson, Ariz., Buffalo Exchange is the brainchild of Kerstin Block. Her love of thrift store shopping prompted her to develop a business model where consumers could find well-loved, second-hand treasures in a more organized and curated fashion. Clothing would be sourced directly from the public, purchased from sellers who could earn either cash or trade for their items. The company became a leader in sustainable style, helping to cut down on clothing that goes to waste in landfills.

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Buffalo Exchange features gently used clothing. Photo courtesy of Yelp.

Initially, Block and her husband, Spencer, filled the store with items from her closet. Over the next five years, the couple opened an additional store in Tucson and one in Tempe, and throughout the 90s, opened 19 more locations across California, the Southwest, and the Northwest. Buffalo Exchange has continued to grow and evolve, offering contemporary clothing that keeps pace with trends and has also become known for its vintage finds.

Today, Buffalo Exchange remains a leader in sustainable style and is owned and operated by Kerstin and her daughter, Rebecca. The company estimates that more than 5.5 million pieces of clothing are given a second life through their stores each year. www.buffaloexchange.com

BEST NATURAL PET STORE: Pet Food Depot

Pet Food Depot, a multi-generational, family-owned and -operated pet supplies and feed chain, opened in 1990 as a single store. Since then, it has grown to three locations covering the Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley areas.

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Pet Food Depot

In addition to offering high-quality products, the staff is incredibly knowledgeable about pet nutrition, especially natural food. “We carry the best pet supply options for your pet, including raw nutrition, both frozen and freeze-dried,” says Addie Schuhle, buyer for the company. “We also sell a vast selection of unique toys, vaccines, grooming supplies, natural dog treats, and trendy fashion. We are also crazy about chickens. We feed all animals from A to Z.”

Popular products include Nutrisource, Fromm, Victor, Champion Pet Foods, and Stella and Chewy’s, plus Charlee Bear Treats, Tuesday’s Natural Dog Company, and Naturvet.

As for green living, Pet Food Depot recycles boxes and uses smaller ones for baby chicks and other animals to go home with their new families. The company also uses reusable cloths for cleaning and only buys refillable products. “We are also part of the Terra Cycle program with dog food companies, where customers can return the empty bags to be recycled,” Schuhle says. www.pfdepot.com

BEST PRODUCT TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH AT HOME: Exceptional Water Systems

Exceptional Water Systems, co-owned by Michael and Allie Geyer, are committed to providing water that is above and beyond industry standards in terms of quality. As such, the company helps design, build, and engineer filtration and chemical feed systems that use natural elements to provide the highest quality water imaginable. In order to do so, the team at EWS researches water down to the quantum physics level to provide systems that utilize water before it becomes captive to hostile environments. The company’s number-one priority is to understand and educate its customers on water quality.

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Exceptional Water Systems

Among its popular residential products, the Genesis Series tubs use oxygen-rich nanobubbles to provide similar therapeutic benefits as that of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Each Genesis Series tub is equipped with its own heater or chiller, ensuring that the water is always at the perfect temperature, while a skimmer keeps the water’s surface pristine. Meanwhile, Aqua Fuzion injects millions of ultra-fine oxygenated bubbles into a pool or spa to increase the oxidation and disinfection of the water.

By using natural elements to balance small to large bodies of water, EWS greatly reduces or eliminates chemical byproducts from pool and spa systems that are backwashed into sewer systems, fields, streams, lakes, forests, and streets. exwsystems.com

BEST SOLAR COMPANY: FOR Energy

When Sean McGraw and his father, Brian, founded FOR Energy (previously Affordable Energy Solutions) in 2010, it was to make a brighter future for the community. They started offering energy audits and installing solar panels. As it turns out, the community responded, and the company has been helping Arizona residents maximize the energy-efficiency of their homes ever since. FOR Energy has even grown to help residents in 17 other states, thereby continuing to increase its energy-saving footprint.

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FOR Energy

Today, McGraw runs the company with his partner, Tyler Nay, who also serves as vice president of solar sales. “Our company is a sustainability company,” McGraw says. “We are a holistic home energy company that helps the community to lower their bills, increase their efficiency, and live more sustainably. We offer complimentary home energy check ups. We also help consumers understand the efficiency rebates available to them through the local utility, and federal and state government.”

Popular products and services include solar panel installation, energy-efficient window replacement, home battery banks (to store solar energy), duct sealing, and insulation installation. The company also installs home charging stations for electric vehicles. www.forenergy.com

BEST SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE DESIGN: WERK | Urban Design

WERK | Urban Design is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that specializes in sustainable place-making through planning for all user groups. As such, the firm provides creative, efficient, and highly personalized professional services in the art and practice of urban design, planning, and landscape architecture.

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WERK | Urban Design

The firm’s knowledge of native plants and natural systems ensures that each design is appropriate for its location. Through this experience, the firm continually demonstrates to clients the benefits of green infrastructure. Additionally, many of the firm’s projects involve extensive public participation, including collaborations with community and neighborhood groups and public presentations. WERK | Urban Design boasts a diverse portfolio covering federal, municipal, and private development, shepherding projects through design phases in order to reach an environmentally responsible product.

Furthermore, WERK | Urban Design has been at the forefront of green infrastructure techniques and outreach and is part of one of the largest Green Stormwater Infrastructure/Low Impact Development projects in Arizona through the Flood Control District of Maricopa County’s Durango Campus Retrofit. The firm also pushes the boundaries of graphic and modeling innovation to bring projects to life prior to construction, thereby ensuring design team quality control and community buy-in. www.werkurbandesign.com

BEST SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR DESIGNER: Sesshu Design Associates

Tanya Shively not only founded Sesshu Design Associates in 2005, but she also is the creator of WELL Designed Homes. As such, she promotes healthy and sustainable design practices to help bring much needed change to the construction and design industries. Her WELL Designed Homes are sustainable, and they encourage clients to live well through aesthetic appeal and functionality. Her designs enhance well-being, all while being rooted in
eco-conscious design, luxury, and livability. Her mission is to source beautifully crafted pieces that are not only gorgeous but that also support good health.

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Sesshu Design

At Sesshu Design Associates, every project is uniquely designed to suit each homeowner’s taste and preferences. Shively believes that surroundings are reflections of those who inhabit the space, and that those surroundings also have the ability to support who the inhabitants want to become. Just as importantly, she believes that style and luxury can and should be environmentally responsible.

Services include providing furnishings and decor (including proposal of new items, storage, delivery, and installation) for new construction projects and individual rooms or areas. And because Shively believes that success comes with the responsibility to give back, Sesshu Design Associates supports the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Earthjustice, and the National Park Foundation. www.sesshudesign.com

BEST ECO-FRIENDLY ENTERTAINMENT EVENT: Sedona Yoga Festival

With its first event held in February 2013, the Sedona Yoga festival hosts an annual roster of presenters from all over the world. SYF has grown to be an internationally recognized destination event, known as a consciousness evolution conference that draws thousands annually to immerse themselves in deep study and celebration in Sedona, Ariz. — long considered a haven of spiritual energy and metaphysical mystery due to its several energy vortices.

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Sedona Yoga Festival

Event producer Heather Sanders has not only committed to growing this spiritual community of gatherers, she also works closely with vendors and attendees to manage composting and recycling for landfill diversion and to minimize the waste created in preparation for the event. “SYF has led the way in sustainability efforts, diversity, and programming. We source our merchandise locally in Arizona and avoid packaging. We partner with organizations that are giving back to the environment and the community and highlight nonprofits for our attendees to donate to or volunteer with [that] focus on sustainability and environmental issues.” Sanders also notes that Zero Waste efforts will be in full swing for the 2024 event.

She adds, “We believe that having a practice of yoga aids in awakening the realization of our interconnectedness to everyone and everything, and naturally enlivens care for the natural world.” www.sedonayogafestival.com

BEST SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTS: The Ranch Mine

In 2009, Cavin Costello received his Masters degree in architecture and drove cross country to Phoenix, inspired by the complexities and opportunities to be had in the rapidly urbanizing Southwest. He had not yet been a full day in Phoenix when he met Claire, a Phoenix native looking to make the most of her recent move back home. The two bonded over their ideals of the built environment, how to improve upon it, and its ability to influence people and communities. With this enthusiasm, the duo started The Ranch Mine.

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The Ranch Mine

The now husband-and-wife team developed the first-ever Phoenix Green Construction Code project, designing for visionary real estate developers and creating inspired homes for pioneering homeowners. The Ranch Mine is now a six-time national award-winning global architecture firm.

The Costellos believe that a sustainable home should connect residents with the natural world. “Our mission is to design homes that connect you with nature, provoke curiosity and exploration, and embolden you to do more of what you love,” Claire says. “Our design inspiration comes from people and place, climate and culture. Beyond connecting with nature, we focus on energy and water efficiency and material selection.” www.theranchmine.com

BEST ELECTRIC TRANSPORTATION BRAND: Lectric Bikes

Founded by childhood friends Levi Conlow and Robby Deziel, Lectric Bikes was founded when Conlow’s dad was in the market for a quality electric bike but couldn’t afford the hefty price tag. With degrees in business entrepreneurship and mechanical engineering, Conlow and Deziel set out to revolutionize the electric bike industry. After perfecting an initial prototype, the pair released the Lectric XP, which became a hit with consumers due to its foldability, comfort, and – perhaps most importantly — affordability.

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Lectric Bikes

Lectric’s  products have become popular best-sellers in the U.S., including the XP 3.0 eBike, the XP Trike (electric or not), and the XPedition cargo eBike. The company sells more eBikes than any other company and sells more than most e-vehicle brands. They’re only  second to two Tesla models, the company said.

“We wanted the higher speed of the XPremium to provide our riders with comfort and safety when traveling alongside traffic, and further encourage people to make the easy switch from a car to an eBike for short to medium distances,” says Conlow.

The company strives to “Lectrify the world” by giving back to various communities at home and abroad. It has worked with St. Mary’s Food Bank, St. Vincent de Paul, and Touch of Hope Haiti. Lectric has also helped to provide internet access and solar power to a remote island community in Colombia, clothing to a Hopi tribe in Arizona, and shoes to an impoverished community in Africa. www.lectricebikes.com

BEST GETAWAY IN AN EV: Sedona

Just 117 miles north of the Valley, Sedona’s beautiful red rocks beckon to Phoenicians, inviting us to explore the town’s pristine landscapes, mesmerizing metaphysical mysteries, vibrant art scene, and world-class accommodations. In under two hours, Phoenicians can indulge their desire to be a world away from the fervor of freeway traffic and city life — safe among the slower, peaceful pace of the Sedona Verde Valley. Those looking to charge up their EV on the way to Sedona can stop in Cordes Lakes to power up, though most leaving from the Valley should be able to go the distance.

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Cathedral Rock under a starry sky in Sedona.

More than three million people visit Sedona annually, and tourism can take a toll on the natural environment. Whether traversing one of the town’s many trails or relaxing creekside with a glass of local wine, it’s important to do our part to keep Sedona sustainable for decades to come. When exploring the natural environment, remember to pack out your trash, stay on the trails, and honor the natural silence of the environment around you. www.visitsedona.com

BEST SUSTAINABLE HOME BUILDER: Blue Sky Homes

When Nick Blue started Blue Sky Homes in 2009, he was mostly doing renovation projects. As the market stabilized, and he was able to take on additions and new construction jobs, Blue began to consider the effect that his construction projects had on the environment.

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Blue Sky Homes

“This really came to light when my wife, Adralyn, and I had our daughter in 2013,” he says. “As typical health-conscious, first-time parents, we found ourselves researching the materials used in the things she put in her mouth. That prompted me to start thinking in terms of how the construction materials we used in our homes would impact our clients’ health.” Since then, Blue has been on a mission to eliminate the use of volatile organic compounds in his projects, changing out various cabinet materials, paints, and glues used for wood floors. He also aims for Indoor airPLUS certifications in his new builds, adding outdoor intake valves, and higher SEER ratings on HVAC units.

“We also voluntarily have all of our homes audited by third party firms to confirm the execution of our sustainable vision,” Blue says. “At the end of the day, a Blue Sky Home is on average 50% more efficient than a standard new build.” blueskybuilt.com

BEST RESORT HEALTH & WELLNESS PROGRAM: L’Auberge de Sedona

Visitors to Sedona seeking respite, retreat, and even personal and spiritual growth need look no further than L’Auberge de Sedona. Guests of the resort can indulge in a host of activities designed to feed the spirit and nurture the soul, including curated art experiences, stargazing, yoga, breathwork, sound healing, Qigong, and metaphysically immersive classes taught by local experts.

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Courtesy L’Auberge

A menu of holistic, private experiences at L’Auberge allows guests to further maximize the magic of the location, with the ability to receive instruction and healing among the forest landscape. These nourishing experiences include soul medicine healing sessions, an intention setting masterclass, Human Design reading, vibrational therapy sound healing, and more.

The resort’s L’Apothecary Spa offers a “Paths of Possibility” program, in which guests may choose one of five “paths” designed to help them heal, transform, revive, reconnect, or surround (retreat), each ultimately culminating in a renewed sense of balance and enlightenment. L’Apothecary also offers traditional treatments like massages and facials using organic products. www.lauberge.com

BEST GREEN REALTOR: Tammy Bosse

Tammy Bosse of Boss Properties not only provides professional and attentive service to help her clients achieve their residential real estate goals, but she also is extremely knowledgeable about green building, energy efficiency, high performance and home health considerations, construction quality assessments, and due diligence. Bosse believes that clients should receive the professional and focused attention they deserve, and she delivers on that promise. Specialized areas of expertise include working with residential buyers and sellers, as well as investors, with a focus in the Phoenix (particularly the Arcadia Area), Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, East Valley, and Tempe areas. Additionally, Bosse and her team can help clients power their homes with solar energy.

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Boss Properties

Her credentials and memberships include solar broker and independent solar energy consultant; NAR Green certified; EcoBroker certified; Certified Sustainable Building Advisor certified; City of Scottsdale Environmental Advisory Commission; Arizona Green Chamber of Commerce; U.S. Green Building Council Arizona Chapter; USGBC Residential Green Building Committee; GREEN Resource Council; SAAR Sustainability Committee; and many more. www.bossproperties.com

BEST GREEN LEADER: Mayor Kate Gallego

Mayor Kate Gallego is the two-time winner of Green Living’s “Best Green Leader” category. A long-time champion of environmental awareness, Gallego says that growing up with asthma is what first sparked her interest in environmental issues and is the reason that she is focused on air-quality issues in the Valley. “While Maricopa County has achieved significant success in pollution reduction over the last many decades, air quality challenges remain a serious threat. Though our desert environment is naturally dusty and there is pollution coming from outside our county, there is a lot we can do to clean our air.”

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Mayor Kate Gallego

As a “transit mayor” who has fought for the expansion of public transportation options, she’s excited for the significant light rail expansions set to open in the next two years. “Beyond the benefits of reduced congestion and cleaner air to breathe, transit-oriented development is denser and creates more shade, which in turn fosters healthier mobility options like walking and biking.”

For Gallego, working towards a sustainable future isn’t about politics — it’s personal. “For our desert city, energy and water management are at the forefront. I’m lucky that our voters have time and again demanded change and investments in these areas, even approving a mandate to make Phoenix the most sustainable desert city in the world. As a mom to a six-year-old, this vision is personal to me. I want to do my part to create a city where my son, and all children, can live and thrive for generations to come.” www.phoenix.gov/mayor

BEST ROAD TRIP DESTINATION: San Diego

With 70 miles of sunny coastline, unbeatable weather, a vibrant culinary scene, and activities aplenty that appeal to all ages — San Diego has it all. Annually, America’s Finest City welcomes over 28 million visitors to its various hotels, restaurants, retail stores, businesses, and beaches — nearly two million of which are from Arizona — and brings in over $13 billion from tourism. As Arizonans, we can’t get enough of San Diego, and for good reason. Want one more reason we can feel good about supporting our sister city to the west? Sustainability.

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San Diego

Long recognized as one of the greenest cities in the country, in 2005, San Diego was the first major U.S. city to pass a climate action plan. The city’s “Our Climate, Our Future” campaign summarizes a comprehensive approach to climate action that aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions citywide by 2035. Among numerous initiatives outlined in the plan, integration of renewable microgrids will allow buildings to operate during power outages and reduce stress on the electric grid. Access to safe routes for walking and biking is also taken into account in the plan, as is conservation of the city’s more than 150 urban canyons. Impressively, a Coastal Resilience Master Plan was announced in 2023 to identify nature-based solutions to improve resilience to rising sea levels while also benefiting wildlife, habitat, and natural coastal resources. www.sandiego.org

BEST ICONIC OUTDOOR LOCALE: The Grand Canyon

Consistently voted one of the top attractions in the U.S., the Grand Canyon is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground — home to 16 marked hiking trails, guided Jeep and off-road tours, horseback riding, biking, helicopter tours, rafting, and even skydiving. Birding is also a favored activity at the canyon. In addition to being named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Grand Canyon is also designated as a Globally Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. The canyon has recorded 379 species of birds, 48 of which have been protected through this designation. Culturally, the Grand Canyon is a colossal and iconic landscape that serves as a living record for some of history’s most important time periods.

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Courtesy Grand Canyon National Park

Not surprisingly, the Grand Canyon is one of Earth’s few natural landmarks that is visible from space, covering 277 miles from Northern Arizona to the California border. Although the expanse averages 10 miles wide, at certain places, the massive chasm carved by the Colorado River spans up to 15 miles wide. The river’s depth reaches a mile below the surface, cutting through rock formed two billion years ago. www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

BEST SUSTAINABILITY CURRICULUM: Arizona State University

In 2006, Arizona State University launched the nation’s first School of Sustainability, which is leading the way with various programs and curricula to help students re-envision the future of a planet at risk. The school’s Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs integrate real-world challenges into areas of study – focusing on the three guiding principles of people, planet, and profit – and challenge students to collaborate on practical solutions to local, regional, and global problems while following these principles.

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Photo by Kevin Dooley

Undergraduate students involved in ASU’s Sustainability Undergraduate Research Experience are provided with research opportunities to help build career skills and enhance
competitiveness for jobs and graduate school. Barrett Honors College students seeking a degree in sustainability have the opportunity to enroll in Global Development Agenda and Beyond — taught by former United Nations Ambassador Amanda Ellis — where the curriculum includes a deep dive into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the final project works to shape the post-2030 global development agenda.
https://schoolofsustainability.asu.edu

BEST SUSTAINABLY MINDED NON-PROFIT: Desert Botanical Garden

Started in 1939 by a small group of Phoenix-area residents with a passion for conserving the alluring desert landscape, the Desert Botanical Garden has become a living museum for visitors and residents alike to enjoy and learn about more than 4,000 species of plants.

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Desert Botanical Garden

DBG’s research and conservation staff collaborates with multiple conservation organizations and academic research groups across nine countries and four continents. Their collaborative efforts have led to the discoveries of new plant species, in addition to identifying emerging threats to desert health and sustainability around the world. The Garden recently broke ground on phase two of the Hazel Hare Center for Plant Science, which aims to position DBG as the most sophisticated center in the Southwest for cactus and agave horticulture, conservation, and research. This initiative may be more important than many understand, as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identified cactus as one of the most threatened groups of living organisms
in 2015. The $17 million-project is expected to be completed in 2025.

In addition to its daily operating hours, DBG also hosts a wide variety of exhibitions and educational photography, cooking, gardening, conservation, and wellness workshops. www.dbg.org

BEST COMPANY DOING GOOD FOR THE PLANET (UNDER 200 EMPLOYEES): Atlasta Catering

Owned by Kristine and Steve Short, Phoenix’s Atlasta Catering is a proven leader in sustainable hospitality and food service management. The company has been focused on sustainability since 2008 and achieved zero-landfill status in 2015. As one might imagine, this is no small feat for a catering company — it means that their facilities and all of their events are 100% zero-landfill as part of the company’s ongoing mission. To achieve this, the company implements tactics like local sourcing, proper waste elimination, pre-cycling, and recycling into their daily endeavors. “We employ a full-time sustainability director,” says COO and Chief Culinary Officer Steve Short. “There is always ‘more’ when talking about sustainable practices — more effort, more ways to improve, there is no finish line — and that is the best part about it, the constant pursuit.”

best
Atlasta Catering

The company’s long-term relationship with Waste Not has allowed the company to divert the equivalent of 600,000 meals to those in need, keeping leftover food from events out of the landfill. Additionally, the company provides two local farms with food excess that can’t be donated for human meals, in addition to food waste scraped from plates that becomes feed for their not-for-slaughter animals. This month, Kristine Short will serve as a panelist at the Leading Caterers Association Executive Summit in Seattle to discuss Atlasta’s approach to sustainability. www.atlastacatering.com

BEST COMPANY DOING GOOD FOR THE PLANET (OVER 200 EMPLOYEES): Footprint

Since its inception in 2014, Footprint has been on a mission to develop the process technologies and materials needed to create a healthier planet. The first step? Eliminating single-use plastics. Partnering with Fortune 100 companies and their respective industries, Footprint has cultivated a diverse team of scientists, engineers, and tooling and manufacturing experts from various industries with a passion for sustainability. “We
innovate, design, manufacture, and deliver breakthrough sustainable packaging materials, helping our customers and their consumers get out of plastic,” says Footprint VP of Communications Robert Dekker.

best
Footprint

According to him, Footprint’s materials science experts work around the clock to continually innovate, design, and manufacture plant-based packaging solutions to reduce CO2 and keep harmful chemicals found in plastics out of our bodies, waterways, and landfills for a healthier future. Footprint’s product offerings include high- quality, sustainable alternatives to plastic and polystyrene foam for produce, frozen products, ready-to-eat products, supermarket trays, and shelf-stable cups, in addition to straws, cups, and lids. Footprint is also the official sustainability partner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. www.footprintus.com

RUNNERS UP

Best Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurant: ChocolaTree Organic Eatery
Best Sustainably Minded Restaurant: Tryst Café
Best Organic Alcoholic Beverage From Arizona: Puro Tequila
Best Smoothie or Juice Joint: Nekter Juice Bar
Best Farmer’s Market or Natural Grocer: Sprouts Farmers Market
Best Product To Improve Your Health At Home: Wild Tonic Jun Kombucha
Best Green Wellness Or Self-Care Brand: Peak Scents
Best Eco-Conscious Or Zero Waste Store: Cero
Best Natural Pet Store: Ok Feed & Supply
Best Sustainable Interior Designer: Shannon Harris | Fuse Living
Best Sustainable Architect: Clint Miller
Best Sustainable Home Builder: Vali Homes
Best Green Realtor: Jan Green | HomeSmart
Best Sustainable Landscape Design: Dig Studio
Best Solar Company: Powur
Best Electric Transportation Brand: Tesla
Best Sustainably Minded Nonprofit: Friends Of The Verde River
Best Sustainability Curriculum: Orme School
Best Clothing Consignment Boutique: My Sister’s Closet / Well Suited
Best Iconic Arizona Outdoor Locale: Oak Creek Canyon
Best Arizona Getaway In An EV: Flagstaff
Best Road Trip Destination: Rocky Point
Best Alternative Wellness Practitioner Or Coach: Mel Finnerty |The Vibrancy Code
Best Resort Health & Wellness Program: Mii amo
Best Eco-Friendly Entertainment Event: McDowell Mountain Music Festival
Best Company Doing Good For The Planet (Small/Medium): Sedona Water Works
Best Company Doing Good For The Planet (Large): GoodLeap
Best Green Leader: Marc Campbell | ASU Department of University Sustainability Practices

Read more Good articles by Green Living.

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