A greener path

From student to sustainability guru, young eco-warrior is making a mark in Chico

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In the decade since she came to Chico from New Hampshire to attend Chico State, Brionne “Bri” Saseen has already accomplished quite a lot in the local community.

Before moving into her current post (on April 17) as the sustainability and outreach coordinator for the Chico Natural Foods Cooperative, the engaging Saseen worked for more than two years as environmental coordinator for Lundberg Family Farms in nearby Richvale. Before that, she worked at Chico State’s Associated Students (A.S.) Recycling as office manager, and served as zero-waste coordinator for the university. She was also program director for the A.S. E-ARC (the Environmental Action & Resource Center) as well as one of two founding students “to envision the Sustainability Resource Center for Butte College,” as she put it during a recent interview.

She is also currently employed as a consultant for a local environmentally focused start-up, True Stream Waste Consulting (truestreamconsulting.com), and serves on the board of the Sustainable Food Trade Association, a national nonprofit organization focused on the implementation of sustainable business practices.

Quite the environmental-activist résumé for a 28-year-old.

Saseen—who earned a self-styled interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree from Chico State in human rights and environmental advocacy—was keen to share details of her new duties in her position at Chico Natural Foods, a job she stepped into after the co-op’s previous sustainability and outreach coordinator, Hannah Hepner, left the post to start a farm in the nearby mountain town of Quincy.

“I am very excited about the new purchasing guidelines that we are implementing right now,” Saseen said. “Hannah basically built the foundation, and I get to put it into action.”

The co-op’s new purchasing guidelines “put a formal methodology to how we evaluate products,” she explained. “For each department in the store—wellness, kitchen, produce, grocery, bulk, specialty—there are ‘best practices.’” Thus, all products ordered are rated according to what amounts to a scorecard that takes into account such things as whether it is organic, where it was sourced, what its ingredients are, packaging, care of animals involved (if applicable), and manufacturing/distribution methods.

For instance, an item such as Revive kombucha (a fermented tea drink) ranks high, according to the store’s new guidelines, Saseen pointed out, as it is, among other things, produced in returnable, refillable bottles in not-too-distant Sonoma County and delivered in vehicles that run on biodiesel. On the other hand, a product that is, say, not organic can still pass muster if it’s produced by a cooperative and it meets a specific dietary need, such as being gluten-free.

Saseen and the store’s department managers are also currently “in the process of going through all of our [on-shelf] inventory to determine what meets our [new] criteria, and will highlight sustainable products [in the store], as we do in the newsletter,” said Saseen. “We want to know so we can provide the most health[ful], sustainable products for our community.”

She is also actively at work helping the co-op reach its goal of zero waste. “They’re doing a great job already,” Saseen said, pointing to the recycling and compost bins in front of the store, as well as the produce trimmings that are given away for animal feed. “We do regular waste audits that we involve all our employees in, so they understand our goals.

“Chico is a wonderful community—a very proactive community in terms of sustainability,” Saseen noted. She named some of her favorite Chico businesses, organizations and events that offer sustainable products and eco-friendly experiences, as well as opportunities for involvement that should especially be of interest to college students: ChicoBag, Klean Kanteen, Lundberg Family Farms, “the co-op, of course,” Bootleg and Three Sixty Ecotique second-hand clothing shops, the university’s Institute for Sustainable Development (which offers internships) and This Way to Sustainability Conference (“Students can get involved early on in the actual planning of the conference”), the Chico Bicycle Music Festival and the Butte Environmental Council, which she stressed is always in need of volunteers—“They do wonderful things,” she said.

MORE INFO:oin the local sustainability movement:

Butte Environmental Council (BEC)


Institute for Sustainable Development

Student Services Center 464, Chico State



E-ARC, the Environmental Action and Resource Center

BMU 301, Chico State



A.S. Recycling

417 Cherry St., Chico State



A.S. Sustainability

BMU 301, Chico State