Sustainability Leadership Lectures
Pathways to Sustainable Careers
Ava DeMarco, currently president of Littlearth Productions, Inc., attended Carnegie-Mellon University, where she graduated first in her design class and received a BA in Graphic Design.
She worked at graphic design firms in the New York state and Pittsburgh, eventually starting the design firm of A to Z Communications, Inc., with two other partners in 1987. She has won several design awards, and a poster she designed for IBM is in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress.
Ava and her partner (now husband), Robert Brandegee, started Little Earth Productions in the basement of their house in 1992. Ava left A to Z in 1994 to focus full-time on Littlearth.
The company’s initial products were hand-made recycled accessories including purses made from license plates, and belts made with bottle caps and seatbelt buckles.
Now, the 20-year old company’s main focus is creating innovative, fun licensed fashion accessories for sports teams including the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and more than 60 universities. Littlearth has customers all over the world, from small local boutiques to large national customers such as Amazon.com, Dick’s Sporting Goods and JC Penney. The company currently employs 40 people at their headquarters on Pittsburgh’s South Side. As the company has grown, Ava’s focus has switched from design to operations and finance.
Ava also attended the Katz school of Business entrepreneurship executive education program in 1998, and currently serves on the advisory board of the Pitt’s IEE, (Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence.)
Ava and her husband have 2 daughters, ages 11 and 13.
Andrew Butcher, Chief Executive Officer and Founding Principal of GTECH (Growth Through Energy + Community Health) Strategies. Andrew is an accomplished social entrepreneur with expertise in the fields of community development, renewable energy, social innovation and environmental justice.
Andrew holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Management from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from American University in Washington DC. He participated in the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs in St. Louis, and holds certificates from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the National Outdoor Leadership Schools (NOLS).
A Colorado native, and the youngest of 5 older sisters, Andrew is a committed practitioner of creative social and environmental responsibility. He has installed solar panels in South America, deconstructed buildings in Colorado, and farmed Brownfields in Pittsburgh. Since co-founding GTECH in 2007, Andrew has been featured on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, presented at the Brookings Institute, The National Vacant Properties Conference, The Imagining Solutions Conference and has been honored at the White House as an emerging leader in the field of social innovation. In 2008, Andrew was awarded a prestigious, international Echoing Green Fellowship for social entrepreneurs with business partner Chris Koch.
He sits on the Boards of GTECH, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, and Manchester Bidwell’s Green Tech Advisory Board. He lives in Pittsburgh, near a park with his wife Julie and dog Jasper-Bacon. His favorite words are gumption & grit and he enjoys sandwiches outside.
Lalit Chordia, Ph.D.
Dr. Chordia is the founder and CEO of Thar Technologies, a global leader in green, high pressure processing technologies called supercritical fluid technology for the pharmaceutical, food, chemical and energy industries. After earning his BS in chemical engineering from IIT Madras, Dr. Chordia left India for Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University’s PhD program in chemical engineering. Dr. Chordia co-founded his first company, Suprex Corp., while he was a student at CMU. He left Suprex to found Thar and expand the scope and scale of supercritical fluid technology.
Through his technological and commercial leadership, Dr. Chordia has taken Thar from one employee to a global leader in its field. This transformation has led to the creation of several entities and spin-offs, including: 1) Thar Instruments, a manufacturer of precision analytical instruments for the pharmaceutical industry that was recently sold to the Waters Corporation, a S&P 500 company and world leader in scientific instrumentation; 2) Thar Pharmaceuticals, a drug development company focusing on transforming IV-to-oral medicines; 3) Thar Process, a provider of green food and chemical processing solutions; 4) Thar Energy, a developer of alternative, green energy technology; and 5) Thar Geothermal, a provider of natural, high-efficiency heating and cooling technologies.
Beyond his own businesses and to remain loyal to his community commitment, Dr. Chordia serves on several boards, including Seton Hill University and World Affairs Council, and serves on the Allegheny County Green Action Team and as an appointee of the US Secretary of Commerce on the District Export Council. He is also a co-founder of the US-India forum, which promotes business and political cooperation between the USA and India and an Adjunct Research Scientist at the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Chordia resides in Pittsburgh with his wife, Supriya, and three children, Eshan, Priyansh and Shivang.