Learn MoreAbout Us
We are Verve, Inc., manufacturers of Glee Gum.
Verve is an independent, certified woman-owned business, dedicated to linking world communities and creating environmentally and socially responsible products and activities.
In 1992, the concept for Verve was born when we visited an economically depressed, chicle-producing community in Northern Guatemala. Up until then, we had never really thought about how chewing gum was made— or what gave it chewy texture. We learned that the tree sap chicle had been the basis for the entire chewing gum industry until synthetic resins became the norm. Our goal was to purchase chicle and support chicle-harvesting, since it is a sustainable practice that benefits both rainforest conservation and the local economy in forest regions. With this goal in mind, Verve was born, and with it our first product, the Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit.
Folks liked the results of the Gum Kit so much that we decided to make it into a brand of gum—Glee Gum! Two more DIY Candy Kits and multiple flavors of Glee Gum later, Verve remains dedicating to providing a sustainable source of income for chicle-producing communities. At the same time, we’re committed to offering fun, educational, and environmentally friendly products. Our pioneering Candy Kits have captivated the imaginations of thousands of children while helping them to learn more about the world around them. They are often used in classrooms where students are studying rainforest ecology, the history of food production, the chemistry of cooking, and the interconnections in our global community. And, we’re proud to say that our Glee Gum is chewed throughout North America and beyond!
Verve's commitment to environmental and social justice is twofold. First, we closely monitor the environmental and social impact of our own business practices. And second, we create products and curriculums that help children think about environmental and social issues in innovative, interesting, and developmentally appropriate ways. Our finished products are designed to help people think about where goods come from, how raw materials and natural resources can be used responsibly, and how communities around the world depend upon one another to help build a healthier future.
Verve uses recycled, cardboard packaging on its products because it is 100% biodegradable. Verve is also a dedicated member of Green America. And, since 2008, Verve has partnered with Trees for the Future to plant trees in Central America. Trees for the Future is an agroforestry resource center that introduces sustainable land management programs throughout the world, primarily through tree planting initiatives. Since chicle-harvesting can only protect the sapodilla trees which produce it, this program helps to expand other forests and create more opportunities for environmental sustainability. To plant a tree, click here.
Additionally, we proudly support the following organizations:
Cloud Forest School, locally known as the Centro de Educacion
Creativa, is a bilingual school located in the tropical cloud forest of
Monteverde, Costa Rica. Founded in 1991 to increase educational opportunities
for a growing population of school-age children in the area, this independent
school offers creative, experiential instruction to over 200 students with an
emphasis on integrating environmental education into all aspects of the school.
The school’s mission is "to encourage a new generation of ecologically aware,
bilingual individuals with the skills and motivation to make environmentally
and socially conscious decisions on a local, national and global
- The Forest Foundation promotes sustainable livelihoods through environmental education and “green” business development. The Forest Foundation's mission is "to assist artisans, producer groups and other entrepreneurs living in and around areas of high biodiversity."
What’s Chicle Got to Do with Sustainability?
We at Verve, Inc. believe that consumers can make a big difference in determining the fate of the earth. We hope that everyone takes an active interest in learning where their products come from and how they get to other parts of the world. We cannot exploit the earth’s natural resources indefinitely without facing disastrous consequences. An alternative is sustainable development— economic practices that create a balance between ecology and economics, providing jobs and expanding regional development in a way that sustains the environment. This is a vision that can be supported by conscientious consumers and by the thoughtful sourcing of products. Sustainable economic systems are committed to ensuring that the products being harvested will continue to exist in the future.
For example, sustainable logging projects call for specific trees to be cut down according to a long-term plan, while engaging simultaneously in reforestation projects. Sustainable economics in forestry also focus on generating markets for non-timber forest products, such as medicinal plants, oils, nuts, waxes, and resins, like chicle.
Chicle, the sap that is used in the gum base of Glee Gum, comes from the Sapodilla (ironwood) tree. Sapodilla trees grow in the forests of southeastern Mexico. Chicle is important in the forestry economy there, second only to lumber. The Mexican states of Campeche and Quintana Roo produce an average of 300 tons of chicle a year, enough to help support over 2,700 farming families (campesinos). The skilled farm laborers who harvest the chicle are called chicleros. Because there is a market for chicle, and because the sustainable harvest of it provides an economically viable way to make a living, chicleros have good reason to invest in the maintenance of the forest.
In the past (and in some places even today), chicleros had to take out loans to support themselves and their families throughout the harvesting season. Loans were typically granted by middleman contractors, known colloquially as “coyotes.” The contractors would later buy the raw chicle from the chicleros and then sell it to big companies capable of processing the chicle into gum base (a marketable commodity). These loans created a system of dependency, obliging a chiclero to work until the contractor determined that his loan had been repaid. But with chicleros mainly working to pay back loans, they rarely made enough money to cover their other expenses. Harvesting chicle was similar to indentured servitude.
Dissatisfied Mexican chicleros eventually rallied into regional cooperatives. In 1994, the cooperatives came together to create the Pilot Chicle Plan (PPC, or Plan Piloto Chiclero) –- a financial and organizational system intended to grant chicle-growing communities autonomy. This in turn led to the formation of the Natural Chicle Producer’s Union, designed to represent the interests of the chicleros and to increase sales of natural chicle. The Union’s main goal is to enter the global market and sell chicle directly to gum producers in Europe and Asia. By getting chicleros a fair price for raw chicle and increasing the demand for chicle internationally, the Union eliminates the need for middlemen. The cooperatives in turn receive higher prices for their product, and have a greater incentive to protect the forest that sustains them.
Communities living and working in the forest are often the best equipped to protect it. Sometimes conservation projects focus so much on protecting the land that they can be detrimental to the people who depend on the forest for their livelihoods and basic survival. On the other hand, commercial extraction projects that focus solely on removing forest resources may ensure temporary income for forest-dwellers, but they also endanger the present and future stability of the forest. That’s why the National Chicle Producer’s Union, taking environmental, human, and economic factors into account, tries to empower chicleros to become stewards of the forest.
The problem is whether there is a sufficient market for sustainably harvested products. Without a market for chicle, the chicleros can’t earn a living. Enter Glee Gum! By using natural chicle in our gum base, we’re increasing the natural chicle market, securing valuable employment for chicleros, and supporting sustainable practices in the rainforest. Of course, we can buy chicle and make gum all day long, but we can only chew so much of it ourselves. We need a market for our product too! That’s where YOU and other responsible consumers come in. By purchasing Glee Gum, you too are supporting chicle-growing communities, and, in turn, providing incentive for the continued protection of the rainforest. And that is something we feel Gleeful about. Thank you!
Rooting For The Rainforest!
Picture yourself walking through a lush green forest. The heat is intense; sweat beads up on your skin and trickles down your back. Moisture is everywhere— dripping off the leaves, forming pools on the forest floor, and creating a mist in the air. The ground is soft and spongy, covered with decaying leaves and branches. The silence is occasionally broken by the buzz of an insect or the trill of a bird— none of the howls and grunts you’d expect from a Tarzan movie!
This verdant and serene place is the rainforest, and its quiet is deceptive— it teems with a greater diversity of life than anywhere else on the planet. Biologists estimate that just one hectare (about 2.5 acres) of the rainforest along the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, for example, contains around 250,000 species! These include rare animals like the jaguar, tapir, iguana and scarlet macaw.
There are two kinds of rainforests. Temperate rainforests can be found in cool, moist places such as along the northern Pacific coast of the United States and some parts of Chile, Japan and the United Kingdom. They usually contain ten to twenty different species of trees, and plants like mosses and ferns. Tropical rainforests, on the other hand, can contain hundreds of different kinds of trees and plants. You can find tropical rainforests near the equator. Over half of all tropical rainforests are in Latin America; one third of the world’s tropical rainforests are found in Brazil. Other tropical rainforests are located in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and West Africa.
The largest remaining tropical forest on the continent of North America lies in the six million acre Peten region of northern Guatemala and southern Mexico. Next to the Amazon, the Peten is the largest tropical rainforest in the Americas. Sapodilla trees are found in the forests of the Peten. These trees produce a sticky sap called chicle, the original substance from which all chewing gum was once made— and the basis for the chewy texture of Glee Gum!
The ecological stability of the Peten is severely threatened by increased development in the region. Outsiders are attracted by the natural beauty and by the potential for commercial exploitation of the natural resources there. But the increased population and infrastructure are contributing to serious regional deforestation. Although rainforest soil is rich and productive, it is not good farmland. That’s because in the rainforest, the good topsoil only extends downward about 12 inches. After that, the ground becomes impermeable clay.
The Maya, indigenous people who for centuries have lived in and depended upon the forest for sustenance, developed successful adaptive techniques for growing food. Unfortunately, their traditional way of life is being abandoned, replaced instead by the destructive techniques of monoculture and cattle raising.
To illustrate the difference between rainforest soil and farmland, consider this: when you look at a crop growing on good farmland, the crop is only a small fraction of the biomass in the system. Far more biomass lies buried in the soil down to a depth of several feet. In contrast, when you look at the trees in a rainforest, you are looking directly at most of the biomass. It is all up in the air, and very little is in the soil.
Only the top few inches of rainforest soil is fertile. When the forest is clear-cut or burned to plant food crops, the remaining soil can only function for a season or two before it is depleted. Once the rainforest is cleared off, the soil is exposed to the direct sun; the sun destroys the bacteria and fungi, leaving just the meager nutrients in the top few inches of soil in which very little can grow. The heavy rains will wash away the remaining topsoil if there are no roots to hold it in place. The land is left practically unusable, barren where it was once teeming with life.
In addition to the conversion of rainforest to cropland, increased tourism and the extraction of natural resources (such as timber) have led to major construction and infrastructure projects which continuously threaten the natural ecological balance needed for such rich biodiversity. Where there was once undisturbed forest, there are now roads with cars and trucks. They not only pollute, but also represent a serious disturbance to the traditional lifestyles of the Maya and the entire ecosystem.
The loss of the rainforest affects all of us around the world. We often don’t realize just how dependent we are on plants for supporting our lifestyle— particularly those plants that grow exclusively in the rainforest. Products such as rubber, oils, fruits, nuts, and chocolate are all harvested commercially from the great biodiversity found in tropical rainforests. Many commercial medicines are made from rainforest plants. The wood and pulp of trees cleared from the rainforest are used for lumber, as well as to make furniture, homes, and paper. Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface; now, less than 50 years later, they cover only 6%. Over 150 acres are lost every minute of every day. Experts estimate that every day we also lose 130 species of plants, animals and insects (including species we may not even be aware of!), as they become extinct due to the destruction of rainforest land and habitats.
Our global ecosystem is fragile, and the destruction caused by our machinery, infrastructure, and careless stewardship have created serious ecological problems worldwide. Glee Gum alone is not going to prevent the massive destruction in the rainforest, but there are lots of other companies and organizations dedicated to sustainable product development. There are many ways of making small changes in our lives that, in the long run, can help to alter the helter-skelter course we are on now. Below are links to other websites about rainforest conservation, sustainable development, and other sustainable products. By living thoughtful, responsible lives, we can make a difference. And on that note, we’re going to climb off our soapbox and pop a piece of Glee Gum.
Other Ways To Help Protect The Rainforest