HomeSocial Impact Heroes Helping Our PlanetHow Sam Pardue and Indow have helped to block over 50,000 tons...

How Sam Pardue and Indow have helped to block over 50,000 tons of carbon emissions

Almost all investments we have made in becoming more sustainable have saved us money. We have invested in making our production facility highly energy efficient which more than pays for the slight premium for purchasing carbon free energy. We have developed a culture of efficiency which applies to both the energy we consume and the processes we use to manufacture and deliver precisely fitting window inserts.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Pardue.

Sam Pardue is a serial entrepreneur who left the Intel mother ship to form start-up ventures in Portland, Oregon. Upon graduating from Carnegie Mellon’s MBA program in 1998, Sam first worked at Intel Corporation as a marketing manager. He then co-founded Lensbaby, a Portland-based manufacturer of special effects SLR camera lenses.

Moved by his alarm about climate change, in August 2010 Sam stepped down from Lensbaby to found Indow, a company that manufactures and markets Pardue’s patented, award-winning window inserts which press inside window frames to create comfort, quiet, and energy savings.

In 2014 Indow won Environmental Leader’s Product of the Year and Door & Window Magazine’s Green Product Award. In 2015 Indow was recognized by Portland Business Journal as the Small Business Manufacturer of the Year.

In March 2020 Sam worked with the team at Indow to found Clean Practice, which helps companies reopen more safely and with better team morale during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clean Practice offers practical leadership, communication, and disease mitigation plans with the goals of 0 workplace COVID-19 transmissions and 100% team member participation.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky during a time of rapid social change. I rode the bus to newly desegregated public schools. Kentucky was and remains a deeply conservative state but we had local hometown heroes like Muhammad Ali showing us different ways to stand up to oppression and advocate for social justice. My father was a journalist working for the local newspaper and my mother was a nurse caring for high-risk children. We frequently spoke about the challenging issues of the day around the dinner table, which I credit for my continuing interest in progressive values.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

I started Indow ( envisioning it would become a for-profit carbon mitigation enterprise. We sell window inserts that press inside window frames with no mounting bracket to block drafts 100%, reduce outside noise up to 70%, and reduce the energy lost through the windows by up to 70%. Our products have blocked over 50,000 tons of carbon emissions so far and the number is rapidly increasing. We have a triple bottom line vision of growing a healthy company while helping our community and the environment.

Our commitment to the community has inspired us to start Clean Practice, which is a system for organizations to reopen with greater safety and higher morale. We are sharing for free COVID-19 response plans and webinars via the Clean Practice website. Many of the techniques are based on Lean manufacturing, but the system is designed for organizations of all types. As an outgrowth of Clean Practice, we have developed a new line of products designed to reduce disease transmission vectors. The most innovative is a series of Hands Free Door Adapters.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I grew up with a love of nature. I was lucky my parents took me backpacking and gave me many opportunities to enjoy the natural world. My interest in climate change started about 25 years ago when I carpooled up to Los Alamos National Lab with phds in climate science and energy policy. I had recently gotten a Master’s of International Affairs and so we talked about all the different levels of this challenging issue: science, policy, and politics. Since then I have become ever more alarmed as everything we talked about during those car rides is taking place but faster and worse. There’s an urgent need for more aggressive actions by individuals, companies, and governments.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I never considered myself an inventor until I actually did it. But I’ve also learned the moment of invention is the most pleasurable part. Bringing an idea into the world is like bearing the child, giving birth, and raising the baby. My advice to other inventors is to work to bring your idea into the world as fast as possible so reality can start giving you useful feedback. With Indow window inserts the initial prototypes were easy. The long labor began when we started creating a custom IT system which would allow us to laser measure and precision manufacture each window insert to be the exact shape of the inside of its window frame, even though 95% of all window frames are significantly out of square.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

First, understand your strengths and weaknesses and the deeply-held goals you hope to manifest through your new enterprise. You will need a team of people who compliment you by magnifying your strengths and supporting your limitations. Early in the process define your mission, vision, and values and use these principles to help you attract like-minded people and chart your path. Your mission, vision, and values are the stars in your nighttime sky which will help you navigate as you get clarity on your product <> market fit.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

When we launched Indow I was very worried it would be impossible to make a successful company. While our window inserts have a very simple design we learned through the prototyping process 95% of all window frames are significantly out of square. This matters because our window inserts are also subject to thermal contraction and expansion and air pressure. If we did not have a very precise fit then on a cold, windy day the ill-fitting window inserts wood shrink as they cooled and then get pushed out of the window because the exterior windows are so leaky. On top of these challenges add measurement error, transcription error, component dimensional variances, and manufacturing tolerances. I learned through this that even something that appears to be impossible can be made to work through a long chain of good decisions and hard work, with each positive step you take slowly increasing the odds of success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

In retrospect, I find it really funny that we always came in second place for every major investment competition Indow entered. Some of the companies which won have soared, others have flopped. I don’t hold it against the judges who voted against Indow, because I realize in retrospect so much of success boils down to perseverance and how you and your team respond to the unique challenges you will face. It’s so hard to predict which enterprises will make it through to success but you can be certain that all of them have a deep core of perseverance.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Participating in a CEO networking group called Starve Ups has been so helpful as I have navigated the inevitable ups and downs of being a startup CEO. Starve Ups is a peer group of other startup CEOs. There’s nothing like getting advice from someone who is also in the trenches fighting their good fight.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The solution to climate change could be fairly straightforward: the United States needs to 1) impose very meaningful carbon pricing; 2) impose an import duty on any manufactured goods from a country without an equivalent carbon price; 3) share the revenues with US citizens through reduced income taxes and transition programs for those displaced by the carbon pricing policy. In order to access our markets, other countries around the world will follow our leadership.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Almost all investments we have made in becoming more sustainable have saved us money. We have invested in making our production facility highly energy efficient which more than pays for the slight premium for purchasing carbon free energy. We have developed a culture of efficiency which applies to both the energy we consume and the processes we use to manufacture and deliver precisely fitting window inserts.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Share early and often. Some people keep their great idea secret because they’re afraid it will be stolen. But your idea can only grow when it is informed by the wisdom of many other people.
  2. Fail early. An idea that is only in your imagination is an unborn child. Only when you give your idea form can it then start to evolve in response to its encounter with reality. The process of change does not mean that your first conception was a failure. It’s just the point of departure for the process of learning.
  3. Embrace a growth mindset from the beginning. Never accept that you are good at certain things and bad at others. You can grow in both areas of strength and weakness if you know that every action and every day provides opportunities for you to learn and hone your craft.
  4. Commit to your culture. It may feel really strange, at first, thinking about creating an organizational culture, but it’s really important to attract and retain a team and keep everybody motivated towards accomplishing your mission. Your mission should be at the very core of your brand and should radiate through everything you do.
  5. Share your positive, powerful vision. Your ability to lead will be enhanced by an almost Shaman-like ability to share your vision of the future so that your team can help you manifest it.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

As the evidence of climate change becomes incontrovertible, and as the deadly consequences become ever more apparent, your life can have great meaning by applying yourself to bringing solutions to this crisis into the world. Positive engagement may be the only path for me to remain sane. We cannot give into despair because I know for certain that what may seem impossible now can become possible if we keep taking the right actions. Human ingenuity is so great. Let’s see what can happen if we put our minds and hearts to it!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It always seems impossible until it’s done. — Nelson Mandela. When we started Indow it seemed impossible that we would be able to deliver high-quality products when each window insert we made was unique geometry yet had to fit precisely. We have faced challenge after challenge and at this moment the future still seems incredibly daunting. Our path is destined to always be highly improbable until finally we reach our goals.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to have lunch with Elon Musk. I admire his extraordinarily ambitious vision and his ability to make things that seem truly impossible happen. We need great ambition in the service of sustainability and he is a trailblazer in this regard.

How can our readers follow you online?

Please connect with me at I look forward to staying in touch!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your audience!