CAÑON CITY, Colorado-Among Colorado’s many natural blessings is an almost daily dose of high-intensity, high-altitude sunshine-over 300 days per year. The kind that can burn your skin nastily if you stay out more than just a few minutes without protection, but as well, the kind that makes solar panel manufacturers slobber on themselves.
Enter Erin Kimmett, founder and owner of one of America’s largest cloth diaper manufacturing and wholesale companies, Thirsties, Inc. Long an advocate for less-impacting methods of modern living, Kimmett began Thirsties five years ago as a venture to supplement her husband’s teaching income, to find an outlet for her incessant entrepreneurial spirit, and in large part to spread the news of the wonders of cloth diapering, both as a less-expensive means of diapering and as a way to drastically cut down on the environmental consequences of the omnipresent-and in her mind dangerous-disposable diaper.
Fast-forward the five-odd years since its inception, boasting a retailer roster of over 300 stores worldwide, and through all the struggles and hardships that any small business owner witnesses, Erin is still hard at it-the all too common platitude of “being a good steward of the planet” living deeply and with resounding truth in both her life and business ethic:
- 100% domestic manufacturing-check
- Utilizes American-made materials-check
- Purchases carbon credits to offset 100% of manufacturing and transport utilities-check
- Recycling of all used cardboard and paper-check
- 100% recycled cardboard and paper for new shipments-check
The next step is underway: to power the entire warehouse operations with solar electricity. And then some-enough to sell back to the local coal-burning utility! Thirsties is presently installing a behemoth of a solar panel array, with a configuration that at full-capacity will produce enough electricity to cover more than all of the business’ needs-11 clean, sustainable, photovoltaic Kilowatts. This equates to a total CO2 reduction of 200 tons, as if Kimmett herself is planting over 7700 trees.
Skimming past the obstacles that seemingly obstructed her path to the sun-local skepticism and regulatory hurdles, among others-Kimmett has never taken her eyes off of the prize, and is characteristically enthusiastic about steering her alternative-energy mantra to solar production. Especially relevant to Thirsties’ ability to finance the undertaking are the present federal tax credits available to anyone installing a solar energy system, coupled with a special business installation credit, in addition to the local utility’s own solar energy rebate program, bringing a $44,000 system down to a more small-business manageable level of roughly $7,000.
The solar tour de force is only adding fuel to Kimmett’s clean energy fire, complementing an already long laundry list of green practices which dominate Thirsties’ business model. Who knows what’s next?