Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

Wendy Gordon Rockefeller ’79

Wendy Gordon Rockefeller ’79 helped found an online publication, The Green Guide. (Dan Westergren/ National Geographic Society)

April 18, 2007:

PROFILE - Wendy Gordon Rockefeller ’79
Working for a greener earth

The Hudson River was the spark that turned Wendy Gordon Rockefeller ’79 into an environmentalist and entrepreneur.

Growing up along the Hudson, in Englewood, N.J., and Ulster Park, N.Y., Rockefeller knew that by the early 1970s, PCBs and sewage had all but killed most of the river. Only a few oases, where fish could live and people could swim, survived. One of those was Ulster Park.

As she swam in the river each summer, Rockefeller recognized how atypical her experience was. That awareness followed her to Princeton, where she majored in geology and wrote her thesis on groundwater contamination. After earning a master’s in public health at Harvard, she went to work for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as part of a team of lawyers and scientists working to strengthen clean-water laws.

In 1988, while she was on maternity leave, the NRDC was working on a study about the health risks to children from chemicals used in producing and growing common fruits and vegetables. Also that year, medical waste washed up along the Atlantic coast. Disturbed by the environmental hazards greeting her new baby, she returned to work determined to organize “an upset parent population.” To do that, Rockefeller and NRDC supporter Meryl Streep, the actress, founded Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet, which, in 1994, began to publish The Green Guide (www.thegreenguide. com), an online newsletter devoted to making “green living more mainstream.”

The Green Guide never has been able to keep its finances in the black. But help came earlier this year when the National Geographic Society bought the online publication. Rockefeller will continue working with The Green Guide as general manager, but will step down as president and publisher. With National Geographic on board, Rockefeller hopes The Green Guide will truly become “the go-to information source for the eco-conscious consumer.” P

By Marianne Eismann ’79

Marianne Eismann ’79 lives in Westlake Village, Calif.