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Cacti and Conservation

While some associate prickly pear with a mean margarita, for Noah Swartz, founder of desert-inspired footwear brand Erem (, the cactus is ripe with possibility for a sustainable future. Case in point: A single plant has the potential to sequester 400 pounds of carbon annually—and it can do so in arid environments on just 1–2 gallons of water per day (comparatively, fruit trees consume 25–45 gallons per day). “Trees are amazing at pulling out [the carbon that] currently sits in the atmosphere,” says the entrepreneur and environmentalist. “Except trees don’t grow on the third of the world that is desert.”

That’s why Swartz, through Erem, has committed to planting one million prickly pear in some of the driest areas of Colorado and other Mountain West states. Each year, these super sequesters will remove the equivalent of 40,000 cars’ worth of emissions from the road.

But the eco-friendly efforts of this third-generation bootmaker–his father and grandfather both helmed Timberland–don’t stop there. The values are also infused into his “bio-circular” desert-focused hiking kicks, which are made with full-grain leather, cork insoles, and other natural fibers that return completely to nature. “We think it’s our obligation to positively impact people, place, and planet in everything that we do,” Swartz says. “It’s all aimed at this North Star of using private enterprise to try and positively impact the world.”

I’ll drink to that. 

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