Small Stories – Big Changes


A remarkable cast of characters inhabit the pages of this book. Meet Tim Toben, who developed a high rise with the lowest energy consumption of any building in the southeastern United States, was foreclosed upon, and lost millions in the process. Gary Phillips held the line against real estate developers in Chatham County and was run out of office for his efforts. Elaine Chiosso has been protecting her watershed by fighting on behalf of the Haw River for 28 years.

Unflinchingly honest and compulsively readable, Small Stories, Big Changes provides an intimate look at the personal experience of being a pioneer in the sustainability movement, laying bare the emotional, spiritual and financial impact of a life lived in the service of change. Activist, farmer, publisher, philosopher or entrepreneur; each writer has a unique personal tale to tell.

Small Stories, Big Changes is a book written by ordinary people doing extraordinary things; whose lives have been transformed by their willingness to commit themselves unreservedly to the creation of a better world. Empowering, hopeful and inspiring, this rich tapestry of voices from the vanguard of societal change is a must-read for anyone dreaming of a brighter future and seeking a counterbalance to a canon of work that is laced with doom and gloom.


Agents of Change on the Frontlines of Sustainability

Lyle Estill


“What inspires me is those individuals who are on the ground delivering good work in the name of environmental sustainability. They are the voices in this book."

David Orr


"Lyle Estill, an entrepreneur, a doer, a writer, and bridge builder, has collected stories of the small possibilities that are growing into larger realities, movements, and victories ahead. Few would bet much on any one of them, but together they are parts of a larger pattern of change now sweeping across the world."

Bryan Welch

Mother Earth News

“My assignment, as I see it, is to get excited and stay excited about people who do good in the world- and the good they do”

Anne E. Tazewell

Secret Agent to Change Agent

“I am honored to be able, in some small way, to help usher in a world of more transparency and considered consequences.”

Glen Estill

Sky Generation

“Make no mistake. We are in war with entrenched vested interests to shift the world to a sustainable energy path. And the first casualty of war is the truth.”

Nicola Ross

On Sabbatical

“But of one thing I am sure: inspiration comes through challenge. It happens when you get out of your comfort zone, when you plunk yourself down in territory so uncertain that it causes cold sweat to rise up between your shoulder blades and slither slowly down your back.”

Gary Phillips

All Round Activist

“My life’s work is devoted to the enterprise of connecting an inclusive community into a web of spiritual power strong enough to stand against empire.”

Jessalyn Estill

Good for Sale

“I believed I could harness the power of business to better the world and I was determined to prove it.”

Eric Henry

The Journey

“As far back as I can remember I have tried to be aware of my surroundings and to find ways to improve or minimize my impact to the earth.”

Megan Toben

Pickard’s Mountain Eco Institute

“This work is not about giving all the answers- we don’t have all the answers to give. But we know how to listen for good clues.”

Tim Toben


“What kept us going at each of these challenging junctures was the belief that what we were doing was fundamentally "good." Of the three legs of the triple bottom line stool our shortest was profit.”

Blair Pollock

Doing New Things

“Some environmental psychologists say that those who spend more time in the woods or outdoors in general between ages six and eleven are much more likely to be imbued with a love of nature. I did, and I am."

Rebekah Hren

More Questions than Answers

“I didn't start out on this path because of peak oil or climate change or industrial food, but because of an unsettling certainty that something was not quite right with the way the world goes about its business.”

Elaine Chiosso

She Speaks for the River

“ I loved this life of watching the landscape change through the seasons, and that has fed my efforts to protect it from bulldozers.”

Albert Bates

Finding the Others

“I feel like you can carry emotion to the point where it does some good, but then you can carry it too far. So I try to be rational and logical about this sort of thing.”

Jennifer Radtke

Riding the Demon

“Riding rollercoasters was unknowingly my training ground for running a cutting-edge activist business.”


paperback, 240 pages
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November  2015
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"Lyle Estill tells the amazing story of how a biofuel company became, among other things, a worm ranch, a garlic farm, a housing coop, and a foundation. In short, Industrial Evolution reveals how a vibrant business created a resilient community, able to ride out the credit crunch, Depression 2.0, and whatever else is thrown at the folks at Piedmont Biofuels."
Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer