The A List: Environmental Entrepreneur


A List BNatalie Kelly, founder of My Green Birmingham, brings green living to the Steel City.

Written by Lindsey Lowe Osborne

Photography by Beau Gustafson

 

Natalie Kelly wants to be—and is—a catalyst. “Sustainability is about a more sensible, healthful, efficient, and conscious way of living. I haven’t found anyone who disagrees with a way of life that will extend our resources and create a healthier existence for individuals and communities,” she says. “Most people, especially in Alabama, just need to be connected to the ideas and opportunities to make better decisions that will lead to it. My passion has become serving as that catalyst.”

That’s why Kelly founded My Green Birmingham. In 2009, she found herself frustrated with the lack of green living resources in Birmingham. My Green Birmingham was her answer; instead of being frustrated, she decided to simply create what she needed. “I couldn’t find any information online, so what started as a small attempt to capture my journey to a more eco-conscious life resulted in a website,” she explains. “I found there were some really great efforts and organizations in Birmingham to encourage green living, and I thought if I was looking for them, other people in the city were as well.” My Green Birmingham, found at mygreenbirmingham.com, is a hub for those looking to engage in a more sustainable life. The website compiles all kinds of information that move you toward that end, from which hotels and restaurants are the greenest to how to recycle to local news regarding green living.

Before My Green Birmingham and Sustain, the environmental strategy and media agency Kelly launched late last year (sustainforward.com), she says she spent some time searching for her way. “Like most entrepreneurs, my career path darted here and there until I found my calling,” she says. “I was a nonprofit fundraiser, I worked in the health insurance industry, road construction, and I even worked as a defensive driving teacher on the weekends at one time to earn extra money. I think I’ve done it all, and I’m glad to be where I am now.” Sustainability is something Kelly’s always been interested in, but she says several trips to other parts of the world cemented her desire to live in a way that was respectful of our resources. “World travel, particularly a trip to Africa several years ago, opened my eyes even more to the importance of conserving and being responsible with natural resources,” she says. “There’s probably not a week that goes by when I don’t talk about some memory or experience from one of my trips to Uganda. It’s where I got the inspiration for what my company is today, and it’s always been a place where I find humility and purpose. I’ve figured a lot of things out standing in the bush of Africa.”

In addition to My Green Birmingham, Kelly also founded My Green Montgomery and promises more to come. “It’s terrifying and incredibly fulfilling at the same time,” she says of owning and expanding her own businesses. “We’re doing good work that’s also making a positive impact in communities and [on] individual lives, and that comes with very rich rewards.”

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