Rivanna Featured in 2005 National Green Pages™
by Andrew Korfhage
November 1, 2004
Source: National Green Pages™
Green Marketplace Tales: Rivanna Natural Designs
Member: 4 Years
As a young college student studying English in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Crystal Mario volunteered with refugee resettlement and taught English as a second language. As an adult, Mario went on to build a successful 15-year career as a software industry executive before deciding around the end of the last century that she was ready for a change.
“I felt that I had been traveling non-stop for software companies for 15 years and had the good fortune to be able to retire from that,” say Mario, recalling the decision that led her back to her roots in refugee work. “What I really wanted to do was provide employment for refugees. So I went to a local agency and asked, “What’s the best kind of company for refugees? What would be the best work?”
The agency (in Mario’s new hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia) recommended assembly or light manufacturing, so Mario started brainstorming what types of products she wanted to make. Well-acquainted with corporate awards and gift-giving from her years in the software industry, Mario decided to pursue the awards market in the most sustainable way possible. She resolved that all of her wooden plaques, desk sets, clocks, and other awards would be made from wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (which ensures that the wood was harvested sustainably), and that her glass awards would be 100 percent post-consumer recycled. Then she started looking into voluntary workplace sustainability programs (such as the EPA’s WasteWise program, which encourages businesses to track and reduce their waste). Finally, she was ready to hire.
Mario’s first employee, Admir Hasanovic, relocated to the US from Bosnia with his wife and daughter after their home was destroyed in the Bosnian civil war. Coming to Rivanna with a background in manufacturing, Hasanovic began his woodworking job in January of 2002. He completed the purchase of his first house in the US in June of 2004.
In addition to providing a sustainable living for refugees, Mario says her employees fit naturally into the eco-friendly environment she fosters at work. Mario and her staff waste very few materials, offset their energy use through a “green tags” program, and recycle everything they can.
“When you work with people who are used to having very little, they value everything and don’t throw anything away,” says Mario. “And that’s exactly what we do at Rivanna.”