Purely Elizabeth: Good Food, Healthy Planet

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A granola company leads the way in the path to global sustainability

In 2009, Elizabeth Stein, fresh out of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, was designing her own line of handbags. She took pride in her work, but this was a job, not a passion. What she really wanted to do was start a natural foods company.

By Stein’s own account, she didn’t have a clue how to accomplish that. But she took a shot at selling muffins she had made from a concoction of admittedly strange ingredients—chia seeds, almond flour, coconut sugar—at a local triathlon expo. The muffins sold out, orders flowed in and within hours—hours!—the company she had no idea how to start was live. She called it Purely Elizabeth.

Based in Boulder, CO, Purely Elizabeth today ranks among the world’s top-selling natural granola companies, with a product line that also includes yogurts, cake mixes, fruit juices and other comestibles, all vegan and GMO-free. More important, from its founding, the company has worked closely with and supported local farmers practicing regenerative agriculture all over the world. Like Ben & Jerry’s, Dr. Bronner’s, Sunrise Bank and other companies profiled in Carpenter Group’s Brand Acts of Kindness series, Purely Elizabeth’s commitment to living its brand has earned it B Corporation certification.

As Stein defines it, regenerative farming is based on the idea “that agriculture should both avoid bad practices and actively pursue holistic methods to replenish the earth.” These methods serve to enrich the land, restoring broken ecosystem cycles and increasing resilience against the ravages of climate change.

Regenerative farming isn’t easy, and not all farmers are successful at it; on their own, many struggle to stay afloat. In locations as far afield as northern Montana, Indonesia and the Canadian plains, Purely Elizabeth partners with local nonprofits and co-ops that support small-holding farmers transitioning to regenerative—and profitable—growing models.

In Sri Lanka, Purely Elizabeth has been an active supporter of Serendipol, a manufacturing and export company formed in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that took obliterated thousands of coastal farms. “Serendipol was born out of a relief project that helped to rebuild the livelihoods of those devasted by the tsunami,” says Stein, who sources Serendipol’s coconut-based products used in the manufacture of Purely Elizabeth granolas.

Closer to home, the company has joined forces with Mad Agriculture, a Colorado nonprofit in a three-year initiative aimed at helping farmers transition to and thrive in regenerative organic agriculture. “Mad Ag works from head to heart, financing to markets, and soil to shelf to meet farmers where they’re at on their regenerative journeys,” Stein says. “Their four core branches ensure that farmers have the financial, strategic, connective and creative resources they need to thrive.”

One of the first steps in the Mad Ag project will be to measure—and gain further insight into—how farming oats regeneratively impacts the health of soil. “We want to know more than just who our farmers are,” says Stein. “What matters most is how their farming practices impact our food and planet.”