Aaron Fairchild | CEO
Aaron has over 25 years in real estate construction, development and lending. He is an experienced fund manager, developer and social entrepreneur. Aaron is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Gabon, Africa where he built schools and homes for teachers, and holds an EMBA from the University of Washington. He was a two-term board member of Washington Environmental Council and is currently serving his second board term with both the Master Builders Association and Enhabit.
Aaron’s parents divorced when he was 5 years old, turning him and his sister into classic latchkey kids of the 1970s. They were raised in a tract-home development in the outer suburbs of Seattle by their single mother who did everything she could to provide and put food on the table. She held second and third jobs — delivering newspapers in the dark morning hours with both kids tucked into the back of her Toyota wagon, and holding make-up parties in the evenings selling Mary Kay. His mother bought clothes in secondhand stores and supplemented the rest with clothes she made on her sewing machine at home. He has closely held memories that today conjure a smile when remembering being made fun of for wearing his “home-made” parachute pants to school. While it was busy and not easy, his mother’s household was full of love, support, and respect.
Flipping to the other side of the coin, Aaron would occasionally spend weekends and weeks in the summer with his father, a successful banking entrepreneur who, in addition to building a successful boutique bank, built a working horse farm in the woods. It was on these visits to the farm that an environmental awareness began to grow in Aaron. Beginning at young age, Aaron had opportunities to take care of large and small animals, play in the woods, and observe the laborious journey of spawning salmon swimming upriver in his father’s creek.
The stark contrast between his single-mother’s struggle to provide for her two children in the overtly male-centric world of 1970s and 80s, and his father’s ease and wealth, imbued in Aaron an enduring sense of disparity and empathy.
Not long after the divorce, Aaron’s mother began relying on the support network of a local Southern Baptist church. During Sunday School and throughout bible studies, Aaron was always intrigued by the stories of adventure and exploration. He read books about the adventures of missionaries in faraway lands and became determined to find his own. So, at age 15, he went on his first foreign adventure, travelling to the Fiji Islands for a summer to build a church dormitory in a rural community on the main island. Determined to continue adventuring, Aaron graduated high school early and went back to the Fiji Islands. After four months of speaking in rural community churches and coordinating a youth camp in the mountains, his Fijian adventure ran its course as Aaron ran out of money. Faced with the reality of needing a job, he came home and leveraged his basic construction experience from prior years in Fiji, and began working in residential construction as a general laborer. Though he didn’t know it, this initial step into residential construction would be carried with him throughout his life’s journey.
After a season of working on a single-family construction site Aaron concluded that adding education to his new-found love for construction would help open additional opportunities. With determination, but not a clear sense of the direction to pursue in his education, he applied to a state college, Washington State University, and was thankful to be accepted. Among the course readings in his first university class, Cultural Anthropology 101, were Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth; he was forever changed. He learned to view divinity and social difference through the lens of culture, social justice, and history. After a year at Washington State, Aaron gained direction and transferred to Western Washington University and began taking classes in Environmental Studies while continuing to pursue his studies in Cultural Anthropology.
During his time at Western, he settled quickly into the environmental crowd, taking his adventures into the great outdoors. Drawn to the natural world through his early experiences playing on his father’s farm, he began backpacking, mountaineering, and rock climbing with newly minted friends. Aaron’s time in college provided a firm substrate of basic understanding of culture and the environment which lead to a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology and enough credits for a minor in Environmental Studies.
Throughout college, Aaron continued building and increasing his construction experience so that after graduation, he was well armed with his hammer and a new awareness of culture and the environment. This combination led him to join the Peace Corps in the mid-1990s. He was sent to Gabon, Central Africa to build schools and homes for teachers with the Programme de Construction et d'équipement Scolaire. His post was in the remote lushness of the Gabonese central african rainforest. While living in rural African villages, far from the western world’s conveniences, Aaron became intimately aware of the lack of opportunity available to the average Gabonese, and the devastating impacts of logging and development on the virgin rainforest and wild habitats. This left an indelible imprint on Aaron, once again impacting the direction of his future.
While, Aaron never pictured himself a banker, and was often critical of the suit-and-tie his father wore, the lack of opportunity and mobility he witnessed in Gabon caused him to consider that perhaps his views of his father and his father’s world deserved exploration. He decided that, rather than continue his travels, he would return home after his service in the Peace Corps to take advantage of the opportunity to learn his father’s business. So, upon arriving back in the United States, he began a career in banking and joined his father’s firm, Pacific Crest Savings Bank.
After several years in the bank, Aaron met his wife, Susan, at a Rainier Chamber of Commerce meeting. At the time, Susan was working as the coordinator for an at-risk-youth mentorship program in Rainier Valley of South Seattle, and she was at the chamber meeting recruiting mentors. Prior to that, she worked in a homeless shelter with the Downtown Emergency Services Center in Seattle. Needless to say, Aaron quickly fell in love, and as they grew together, the focus and influence of Susan’s work began to create a growing feeling of disquiet within Aaron.
After an extended engagement, Aaron and Susan went on a honeymoon journey through Southeast Asia and Indonesia, which only increased Aaron’s mental and emotional discomfort with the idea of banking in the simple pursuit money. Upon their return in 2004, Aaron finally began the work of aligning his career and life to his values. He joined Social Venture Partners, the boards of the Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability, and the Washington Environmental Council. Then, in 2006, he made the difficult decision to leave his father’s bank and focus 100% of his energy, time and limited resource on seeking alignment.
His new journey of alignment eventually led him to John Berdes, the CEO of the CDFI, Shorebank Enterprise (today known as Craft3). It was his relationship with John that began to open his eyes to the possibility of working on the intersection of banking and social and environmental impact. As an early mentor to Aaron, John frequently pointed to the inequity of property ownership in America and challenged him to do something about it. This lead to a formal engagement with Craft3 to help design their residential energy efficiency loan product that eventually supported both Clean Energy Works of Oregon and Community Power Works in Seattle. Aaron’s early work with John still influences his outlook today and helped inform the creation of Green Canopy in 2009.
Aaron’s journey led him to align his life’s experiences and unique skill sets in banking and construction, with his passion to create environmental and social impact. And it was through this journey that Green Canopy was born. Today, with the aid of many like-minded people, Aaron passionately pursues Green Canopy’s work to harness market forces and align them to develop enterprise value necessary to generate ever-scaling environmental and social outcomes.
Aaron and Susan have two children and live only a half mile from his mother. He is a committed dog owner, urban chicken farmer, bee-keeper, father, husband and son. Their family loves to backpack and camp, and run on high mountain trails.
Aaron serves on the Board of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties and Enhabit of Portland, Oregon.
Aaron is a former board member of the Washington Environmental Council, Evergreen Business Capital, Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability and Executive Committee Member for Built Green of King and Snohomish Counties.
Aaron has served on Seattle Mayor Nickles’ green building task force, Seattle Mayor McGinn’s Stakeholder Evaluation and Implementation Committee for the Community Power Works Program, and Seattle Mayor Murry’s HALA task force on financing affordable housing.