Michelle Sawyers Harris
Name: Michelle Sawyers Harris
Nickname: Bug Hugger
Title: Founder / Managing Director
Hats: Educator / Environmentalist / Entomologist / Photographer / Marketer
Favorite Bug: Orchid Mantis
Family: 3 Kids and 5 Grandkids
Furkids: 1 Dog and Too Many Bugs to List
Fun Fact: Rides Yamaha Vmax Drag Motorcycle
Green Matter was started in 2010 by the “green” brainchild, Michelle Harris Sawyers aka “Bug Hugger” (a self-coined term). What started as a Facebook page to share information on environmental education would become a full-fledge business a year later.
The idea behind Green Matter has a number of influences. Since a young girl, Michelle has always been an animal and nature lover and spent summers exploring the creek and wooded trails near her home in Toledo, Ohio. In junior high school, she was inspired to pursue a career in the life sciences after dissecting her first frog. She graduated from high school in only three years while taking advanced classes with a focus on college preparatory courses, including chemistry and physics. She went on to graduate from the University of Toledo with a bachelor’s degree in premedical biology with plans to attend medical school. However, Michelle’s career plans took a detour as she raised three boys. While a stay-at-home mom, she took undergraduate classes in advertising design at the Columbus College of Art & Design where she won a couple of scholarships and ended up in a career as a graphic/web designer and marketing professional for private industry, state government and her own marketing firm, Shel-Shok. She also obtained a master’s degree in marketing and communications from Franklin University.
Fast forward about 15 years later…
As Michelle’s three boys approached adulthood, Michelle began rethinking her career and considered going back to her initial goal of becoming a doctor. But before she had the chance to embark on anything new, she found herself working as a marketing consultant for an education outreach company that uses live bugs in their programming. Michelle couldn’t help but become fascinated with the exotic bugs from giant African millipedes to emperor scorpions. She also did something that she’d never image – held a tarantula. The next thing anybody knew, Michelle was taking graduate entomology classes at the University of Florida while she also occasionally helped out the company during festival presentations.
One thing led to another and Michelle became interested in environmental education and the surge of people and organizations jumping on the green bandwagon. To learn more she enrolled in the master’s degree program called Earth Expeditions (a collaboration of Miami University, The Cincinnati Zoo & Biological Gardens and Project Dragonfly) to study environmental education. In 2010, she traveled to Costa Rica and stayed at the LaSelva Biostation and Monteverde Biostation. She also spent a week taking Spanish lessons and living with a Costa Rican family. In 2012, she will be traveling to Belize to continue her studies. Her primary research interest is insect conservation and ways to get people involved in helping research efforts through citizen science.
Having been exposed to entomology and environmental education and with the desire to make an impact for the greater good, she was inspired to share her newfound knowledge with others. Plus, she was excited about getting back to her first love, science, and making a career change.
Thus, Green Matter, Limited was established!