Photos courtesy of Shannon Wentworth

Shoulder to shoulder, cleaning up the Earth

By MARISA MATA, Student Writer

It started with a dare. At 16 years old, Shannon Wentworth (1993, ’97) was dared to go vegetarian, and by 18, her love for the planet had grown so much that she got a tattoo of Earth on her shoulder. Wentworth’s passion for helping the environment and people remained constant as she worked in journalism and marketing, and it led her to co-found Sweet in 2008.

“Leveraging my experience in lesbian travel and LGBT marketing, my business partner and I struck upon the idea to take lesbians on vacation, get them out of their comfort zone and rally them to take one bite size chunk out of a problem in a place we were visiting,” Wentworth said in her TEDx Talk about the creation of Sweet.

Sweet’s first vacation was at a beach in Mexico, where guests were challenged to collect as much trash as they could in 45 minutes. Roughly 100 guests were able to collect 220 bags of trash and pull a sink and big screen TV from out of the ocean.

“If you take somebody to a beach and you clean it up and you see what’s coming out of the ocean, you see why we need to be putting our trash in the appropriate places and reusing as much of it as possible. It is unbelievable what you’ll find,” Wentworth said.

Within two years, Sweet had taken 2,200 people on 13 vacations in six countries. Sweet and its guests raised about half a million dollars, planted 6,000 trees and totaled 3,298 hours of community service.

“Something transformative happens when you stand shoulder to shoulder with another person and focus on uplifting yourself and your world.”

Sweet stopped operations in 2014 after struggling financially, but Wentworth is working to get the company back on its feet. She is also in her second year of law school at the San Joaquin College of Law. She plans to continue creating positive change in the world as a lawyer.

“I’m finding my passion right now…I ultimately want to help craft legislation in the state and in the country. I’m also Native American, my tribe is up here in North Fork where I live, and I want to work for them. We have a lot of child welfare cases up here that need good representation; I’m very interested in tribal justice as well.”

In 2010 Wentworth was named the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association’s Travel Innovator. She has also been named one of Advocate Magazine’s 40 Under 40 and Go Mag’s Women We Love.

“I was raised by a single mom who told me, rather incessantly, that I could be or do anything I put my heart and mind into being or doing. I believed her…I feel driven in my pursuit in anything and everything. When those things happen [receiving recognitions] it’s like another wrung in the ladder has appeared for me to grab. I don’t think ‘yay, now I’m done,’ I think, ‘what can I do next?’”

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