Within days of bringing my son home from the hospital I was reading to him. At six months old we'd be in City Park, a few blocks from our Denver home, reading Harry Potter aloud. Reading to him became one of my favorite pastimes, whether it was books I remembered from my childhood like The Berenstain Bears and Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter or books that were new to us both.
Moreover, as a teacher interested in sustainability, I was always on the lookout for environmentally themed books. Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax was a go to (even if it was more nuanced than I wanted), but that seemed to be about it. So, in the fall of 2019 I decided to give it a try myself. The first attempt was unremarkable. It involved a family, which was important, but had little else that felt right. In the early days of the COVID pandemic, the four founding members of Make Something Better brainstormed project ideas. Out of the discussion arose a clear winner: a children’s book. From there, Gracie and the rest of her family grew.
The summer of 2020 proved fruitful for creating adventures that Gracie and her little brother Matteo could undertake. Having a young girl at the center of the stories just felt right. In the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, it also felt important for Gracie to be a person of color. In part, she is whatever people want her to be, but she is smart, curious, and hardworking. The themes of inquisitiveness, exploration, and learning in her adventures is universal. I can only hope that enjoying and protecting our precious planet becomes universal as well.
The Founding of Make Something Better
In the fall of 1997, in the basement of a dorm in Atlanta, Eric and Justin struck up what would become a friendship built on shared ideals and a willingness to push each other. Both had an environmental ethos, which was apparent in ways big, small, and sometimes weird. After realizing saving energy and saving money went hand in hand, one night during their penny-pinching senior year they turned off the lights and sat in their apartment in darkness.
Fast forward a few years and 2nd Green Revolution, a blog focused on sustainability, launched on January 25, 2009. Over five years and 2,000 posts, Eric and Justin wrote about sustainability in its many forms. Justin eventually met John Basalla through a work event. John joined Eric and Justin as an investor, which allowed them to develop a small team and take on consulting work. After a rewarding and educational first turn at moonlighting, 2nd Green Revolution was dissolved in 2014, but the seeds for eco-minded business collaboration were firmly planted.
Justin later connected with Arthur Calzontzi. With Eric and John, the like-minded quartet formed Make Something Better in 2019 with an admittedly vague mission to “make the world a better place.” They set out with a blog and eventually created a children’s book series. Today they are hard at work on the Gracie Greene Adventure Series and brainstorming their next project.
Eric has been in education for 20 years and has consulted with schools to integrate sustainability into their programs, and has served as Director of Sustainability at a public secondary school in Los Angeles. He currently teaches at Manzanita, a one-of-a-kind college preparatory school in a wilderness setting that promotes a deep connection to nature. One of Eric’s educational passions is getting students out of the classroom and into the world around them. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology and Human Biology from Emory University in Atlanta, an M.A. in teaching from New York University, and a PhD in Education and Human Development from the University of Colorado, Denver. His dissertation focused on using the local environment and facilities as teaching tools.
In his spare time, Eric enjoys hiking, cooking, reading with his 11-year-old son, and chasing his 8-year-old son.
Arthur has been working in law for over a decade. He worked as an investigator for a small law firm in Northern California before going to law school and then as a corporate attorney in New York City. He currently serves as in-house counsel for a diversified investment and trading company in New York City.
Arthur holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. in History from Harvard College.
In his spare time, Arthur enjoys baking, gardening, and spending time with his wife and two young daughters.
John is a CPA working as the Chief Risk Officer at a credit union in the Bay Area. Prior work experience includes a large international, non-profit health care provider working primarily in Africa and several financial institutions.
He enjoys the outdoors and since moving to California has taken advantage of the close proximity to many of our most well-known national parks by visiting Zion, Bryce Canyon and Joshua Tree to name a few.
In his free time John is an avid runner having participated in over a dozen marathons.
Justin manages corporate strategy and insurance for a multinational trading and investment company in the New York area. Fluent in Japanese, he has spent 5 years in Japan, once as an English teacher in Myogi-machi, Gunma-ken and later reincarnated as a salaryman in Tokyo.
He holds B.A.s in English and Economics from Emory University and a Masters in International Trade Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Justin enjoys writing, exercising, fiddling around the house, and spending time with his wife, daughter, and son.