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Panel: Green Futures

This panel will feature leading pioneers who are building innovative solutions to complex challenges in sustainability. They will share their leadership journeys, highlighting the nuances and lessons learned from building startups that focus on sustainability and address overconsumption, and discussing the impact of these initiatives on environmental conservation.

Moderator – Judy Ledlee, Ph.D., Executive Director of Duke Design Climate

Judy Ledlee, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Design Climate and is passionate about cleantech innovation and commercialization. Judy developed her passion for cleantech innovation during her doctoral studies at Duke University where she researched emerging water treatment technologies. From her work, she co-founded a startup for hydraulic fracturing wastewater recycling. After graduating, she continued her cleantech career in the water industry working for Evoqua (now Dupont and Xylem), Black & Veatch, and ZwitterCo. Throughout her career, she’s continued working on entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial activities and is excited to be back at Duke and creating opportunities for new generations of students to develop innovations for addressing climate challenges.

Paula Alexander, MBA ’98, Sr. Director, Sustainability, The Clorox Company

Paula Alexander is Sr. Director, Sustainability, at The Clorox Company. She has served on the Burt’s Bees Leadership Team since 2012 and led the Commercial Team of the Sustainability Center from 2020-2023. Serving as President of The Burt’s Bees Foundation, she drives the foundation mission to protect biodiversity and reconnect people to nature. Paula has served in leadership roles in Brand Development, Marketing and Human Insights. She was selected for the 2022 Institute for Real Growth IRG100 and was named a Marie Claire Beauty Changemaker. She is also an Advisory Board member for the Duke Center for Energy, Development & the Global Environment and Sustainable Brands. A frequent guest speaker on sustainability in the consumer goods industry, culture and brand marketing, Paula enjoys presentations on college campuses most because the students always ask tough questions and the learning is mutual.

Rachael Classi, MBA ’14, CEO & Co-founder, Tiny Earth Toys

A passionate environmentalist and mother of two, Rachael Classi is the founder and CEO of Tiny Earth Toys, an educational toy rental startup on a mission to declutter playrooms and eliminate plastic toy waste. Since founding in 2020, Tiny Earth Toys has grown to include thousands of families across the United States as families seek to reduce their environmental impact. Prior to founding Tiny Earth Toys, Rachael spent over a decade in product management building the women’s bicycle line for Specialized Bicycle Co. and leading strategy for Teamworks sports operations software.   

Rachael received her MBA from Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business with concentrations in social entrepreneurship and corporate finance. She and her husband Peter live in Durham, NC with their two daughters, Donna and Lucia, and can usually be found hiking in Duke Forest, riding bikes with their girls or having a 90s-themed dance party in their living room. 

Rachel Lichte MBA ’14, MEM ’14, Head of Product Strategy & Brand, Orbillion Bio, CEO & Co-founder, The Clarity Project

Rachel Lichte has focused on building sustainable brands, businesses and products for more than 15 years and can remember before the word “sustainable” became the ubiquitous but generally confusing term it now is. Her focus on solving problems in sustainable business has led her to work in different industries (diamonds! tech! food!) in a range of different venues (non-profit! for-profit! consulting!). She co-founded and led a B-corp certified social enterprise, Clarity Project, creating the first fair trade diamond mine and producing responsibly sourced diamond jewelry; and she’s now at a VC backed cultivated meat start-up making real meat from animal cells, rather than whole animals. Rachel earned her MBA and Master of Environmental Management degrees from Duke University.