eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

From Boulder to Aruba

Posted by Luke on November 5, 2010

My friends just had their honeymoon in Aruba and drank out of Eco-Products’ GreenStripe® hot cups every morning.  This picture was too idyllic not to post.

When you see our products out and about or when you’re traveling, please snap a picture and shoot me an email.  I love hearing about it no matter where you are.  Aruba is a tough one to top though.

Posted in Boulder, brand loyalty, cups, Eco-Products | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Should We Be Proud of a 28% Recycling Rate?

Posted by Luke on November 1, 2010

The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) just released their report of 2009 PET bottle recycling.  The report proclaims that the U.S. recycling rate for PET bottles has reached an all-time high of 28%.  In the days following the release of the report, there seems to be excitement in the industry about this so-called accomplishment.  Is this really something we should be proud of?

By being happy about only recycling 28% of water bottles, we are saying we are okay with throwing away the other 72%.  As a society, that’s pathetic.  Let’s see how this stat looks if we use other examples…

  • I’m proud that I ate 28% of my food and threw the other 72% into the garbage
  • I’m proud that I opened the windows 28% of the time and used the air conditioner the other 72%
  • I’m proud that I threw away 28% of the garbage I took camping with me and dispersed the other 72% as litter

Suddenly, 28% doesn’t look so good.

This isn’t meant to be a slam on recyclers.  Other than a few of the big players in the trash industry, most recyclers are low-profit businesses, so I can’t totally blame them for not helping to drive this number higher.  They make money from selling reclaimed materials, so I know they’d like to capture more recyclables.  The root issue falls on the shoulders of other parties, and here are some of the reasons:

  1. Consumers aren’t educated about how and what to recycle. I understand how it can be hard to figure out if odd-shaped containers are recyclable, but doesn’t everyone know that PET bottles (water bottles, soda bottles, etc.) are recyclable?
  2. Consumers don’t have access to recycling. Curbside programs are pretty ubiquitous.  Public-area recycling is shockingly still problematic.  It should be against the law to have a trash can without a recycle bin next to it (maybe when I run for President).
  3. Manufacturers aren’t demanding enough reclaimed materials from recyclers. The economics simply aren’t good enough to cause manufacturers to tip from using virgin resources to recycled.  It’s unfortunate.
  4. Legislation isn’t supportive enough. Tipping fees at landfills are cheaper in most states than recycling fees.  Until the government mandates higher tipping fees on landfills, waste haulers will never be incentivized to recycle vs landfill.  The UK has done it right by making this change through a tax.

Sure, 28% is better than last year and the year before, but let’s not be complacent.  There’s a long way to go.

Posted in bottles, Landiflls, litter, manufacturing, plastics, recycled products, recycling, RPET, trash | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Eco Entrepreneur of the Week

Posted by Luke on October 27, 2010

Here’s a hell of an invention… imagine having a small machine in your garage next to your garbage can that converts plastic to gasoline.  That’s right, instead of throwing all those plastic candy wrappers, bags, and odd-shaped containers into your trash can, put them into this contraption and watch it make fuel for your car.

The Blest Machine, made in Japan, costs approximately $9,500 and is only sold in Japan right now.  If this thing really works and they can prove the concept effectively, you’ve got to imagine that we’ll start seeing some of these machines being used by recyclers and even home owners in the coming decade.  Put me on the waiting list.


R

R

PRUEBA

Posted in entrepreneur, innovation, plastics, recycling, trash | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Following This Week’s Theme of Videos…

Posted by Luke on October 22, 2010

I hate to say it, but I think these two videos put my Industry Parody video to shame.  What is it about a bunch of white dudes trying to rap about milk and acting hard that I find so funny?

And one more…

 

Posted in marketing, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

An Industry Parody…

Posted by Luke on October 19, 2010

With videos seeming to be the theme with my posts this week, here’s one I made that mocks a typical sales rep in my industry when they call on a customer.  It’s my debut as a director.  Enjoy!

Posted in biodegradable, imitators, marketing, Video | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Do you really need oil in your paper cup?

Posted by Luke on October 15, 2010

Here’s a great little video that our talented creative team produced.  Most people don’t realize that the majority of paper cups are lined with plastic made from oil.

Posted in compostable products, corn, cups, environmental products, hot cups, innovation, plastics, renewable resources, Video, World Art Cups | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Steve Savage of Eco-Products Named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’

Posted by Luke on October 11, 2010

I attended an award ceremony on October 7th that recognized Steve Savage, the Founder and Chairman of Eco-Products, as the Entrepreneur of the Year by the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.  With Boulder being the Best Town for Startups, according to BusinessWeek, and a top place for entrepreneurs, according to Fast Company, and owning numerous other titles for being an entrepreneurial haven (see my previous post: Boulder’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem), claiming the title of Entrepreneur of the Year is a huge freaking deal.  It’s like being named the best sushi chef in Japan, or the top skier in Vail, or the the smartest guy at Harvard Cornell (my school spirit shines on).

Starting companies is no random act for Steve.  He also founded Ellie’s Eco Home Store, a natural products retail store in Boulder, and his latest venture is called National Eco Wholesale, a national wholesaler of retail products.  Steve also isn’t a newcomer to winning awards.  Here are some of the others he’s won in the past 2-3 years:

  • 40 Under 40 by the Natural Foods Merchandiser
  • Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist from Ernst & Young
  • Boulder County Business Report’s Eco-Hero Award
  • Champion of the Environment Award by Thorne Ecological Institute

And I know he’s just getting started.

Congratulations Steve.  It’s well-deserved.

Posted in awards, Boulder, Eco-Products, startup | Leave a Comment »

Letting Perception Get Ahead of Reality

Posted by Luke on October 6, 2010

I don’t deny that BP undoubtedly failed to take the proper precautions with their deep-water drilling activities.  But I also believe that BP’s downfall was exponentially worse due to their exceptional marketing efforts.  Beyond Petroleum. It was one of the most successful green rebranding campaigns in recent history.  A company that derived over 99% of their revenue from petroleum changed their brand to represent that they derive revenue from nothing but renewable sources.  They completely and utterly mislead consumers into thinking they were better than petroleum.

I admit it.  I was fooled.  Their advertisements of how they invested in renewable energy…  their contributions to social causes…  their green logo…  it seemed legit.  I didn’t do any research, but they were definitely saying the right things.  The problem, though, was that they let the perception of their brand get too far ahead of reality.  They were advertising nothing but green, but they were doing everything but green.

I’ve increasingly witnessed companies in my industry deploying similar tactics.  More than 99% of the products some of our competitors produce (by volume) are made from petroleum.  They are made from the oil that is derived from deep-water rigs.  And even while the nation watched oil gush into the Gulf, those companies continued green washing customers by touting their single green product line.  In fact, some even stepped up their green marketing during that time.  Most people prayed that the oil would stop gushing while these companies kept sucking oil from our earth’s core.

There’s one company in particular that has crossed the line in my mind.  I’ll refrain from stating the company’s name at this point (maybe in a future post I’ll take off my gloves).  This company recently launched a line of green products after 5 years of watching from the sidelines.  However, even while they launched these products, they still promoted their polystyrene foam products as being a great environmental choice.  They are talking out of both sides of their mouth.  They say two completely contradictory statements hoping that they’ll appeal to customers in some way, shape or form.

“We believe polystyrene foam has an excellent carbon footprint compared to PLA.  Buy foam if you want to be green.”

“We just launched a line of sustainable products made from PLA.  They meet the evolving needs of green customers and are less harmful on the environment.  Choose us when you want green”

I kid you not.  That is basically what that company is saying.  It’s shocking, really.  This reminds me of BP because they are letting perception get ahead of reality. They are promoting themselves as greener than they actually are. That won’t last forever though.

My advice to this, anonymous company:  Get 3rd party data that supports your claims.  Consumers aren’t going to allow themselves to be green washed forever.  We”ll let it happen once or twice, but we’ll get smart after that.  There’s a new wave of green coming.  And that wave involves a deeper understanding of what green actually is and making sure companies back up their claims.  Get ready for Green 2.0.  I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

 



Posted in brand loyalty, BS, environmental products, foodservice, greenwashing, management, marketing, Pactiv | 1 Comment »

An O.G., and I’m Not Referring to Snoop Dogg

Posted by Luke on September 28, 2010

As a rebellious kid, I listened to explicit hip-hop despite my parents’ wishes.  For those who can relate, you’ll remember the term “O.G.”  I can’t say that I ever actually wanted to be an O.G. (Original Gangster), but that was what young punks like me thought was cool.  Well, now I can claim association with an O.G., but this time I’m not referring to Snoop Dogg’s posse.  I’m referring to Original Greenies.

When Eco-Products was founded in 1990, we were the first business-to-business distributor in the nation solely of environmental products.  And we were also the first company in our industry to sell nothing but green products.  Friday is Eco-Products’ 20th anniversary. Relative to the packaging industry as a whole, we haven’t been around as long as some.  But relative to the green movement, Eco-Products was one of the originals.  That is a hell of an accomplishment.  I think all of this qualifies us as being an O.G.  We have been green-blooded from the start.  We were green before green was a commonly used term.

What’s exciting about this to me is that we’ve strengthened our commitment to sustainability even more as time has passed.  We’ve invested in carbon offsets, pushed the boundaries of what is the norm for materials used in packaging products, paid employees to carpool or ride bikes, and invested heavily in our overall corporate sustainability.  During the recent economic downturn when our industry was in decline, we hired a full time employee as our “Sustainability Maven” to do nothing but measure and improve our sustainability practices.  We could have hired a sales person instead to drive more sales, or we could have not hired anyone at all and just pocketed the money.  But that’s not what our mission is.  We believed that if we did even more to be sustainable it would pay dividends to our triple bottom line – people, planet and profits – in the long run.

When I write blog posts, there’s a fine line I find myself walking between bragging about all of the cool things that Eco-Products is doing and trying not to make this a nothing-but-Eco-Products blog.  The only way readers will get value from this blog is if it talks about broader sustainability topics.  However, right now, I’m bragging about my company.  I’m proud of Eco-Products.  We are committed to our mission, and it’s exciting to be part of a company that truly is driving change in such a massive industry.  You can read more about the history of how Steve Savage and his father Kent started the company in their garage here…

I’ll leave you with Ice T’s song “Original Gangster” from 1991… oh, I remember when I used to own that album.

Posted in awards, Eco-Products, environmental products, green products, manufacturing, sustainability | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sustainability In Flight, Literally

Posted by Luke on September 22, 2010

The concept of sustainability has evolved drastically over the past several years.  At first, only the eco pioneers embraced sustainability initiatives.  They felt it was the right thing to do.  Then, consumers started asking companies to be more environmental.  In response, corporations began implementing surface-level sustainability initiatives without any real roots.  This evolved into companies realizing that robust sustainability programs can actually save energy which means lower costs.  All the while, consumers have continued demanding companies to go green, but now they really mean it.  Companies need to do more than implement just surface-level green tactics.

This evolution has led many companies to launch green product lines.  It has also spurred the launch of entire companies that make nothing but green products.  Now in nearly every industry, consumers can find at least one company that is completely and totally dedicated to sustainability, a company that doesn’t offer conventional products.  Method offers nothing but non-toxic cleaners.  Credo Mobile has built a mobile phone service based on the triple bottom line.  The Green Garage only offers environmental car repair services.  New Leaf Paper only makes high recycled content paper.  Eco-Products only makes environmental packaging.  And the list goes on… except for one industry.

The one major industry that has still not yet demonstrated that they embrace sustainability in the least bit is the airline industry.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when a flight attendant walks down the aisle to gather the trash at the end of the flight and everything goes into one bag.  The cans, the plastic bottles, the newspapers and the garbage all gets sent to a landfill.  I start twitching when I see it happen.

Airplanes are like national forest land.  You have to pack out what you pack in if you want to recycle.

In 2005, 86% of the U.S. population had access to curbside recycling programs.  That means that all of those flight attendants who throw recyclables in the trash probably recycle at home, or at least have access to recycling. However, collectively, they have failed to find a way to recycle in-flight waste even though most airports now recycle in the terminals.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  Isn’t it illegal to throw plastic bottles into the trash in some states like North Carolina and others?  How do airlines get away with it?

Sadly, recycling is the easiest way to be green, but it still doesn’t occur.  Time Magazine had a great article on in-flight recycling with some pretty astounding stats:

  • The average amount of waste generated per passenger per flight is 1.3 lbs
  • 58 Boeing 747′s could be built each year from the aluminum cans discarded by U.S. airlines

And recycling is just the tip of the iceberg.  With as much fuel as the industry burns, wouldn’t you think that they’d work harder to find more environmental and cost-effective alternatives like biofuels?  Yet, it hasn’t happened.  The only group working on biofuels to my knowledge is Alaska Airlines and they already have the most fuel efficient fleet.  Way to go Alaska!

In most industries you have companies trying to green wash consumers to win them over.  Not in the airline industry.  You don’t even find airlines trying to green wash consumers.  Does that mean that they just don’t care at all?  It doesn’t appear they are taking any steps to become more sustainable.  Southwest is the only airline I’ve seen with a clearly stated sustainability program.  Good job LUV.

The entrepreneur in me is wondering if this presents an opportunity.  Consumers have demonstrated that they’ll pay more for products that are sustainable.  Would they pay more for an airline that demonstrates sustainability?  Would you fly a certain airline more if their sustainability values were in line with yours?  Better yet, if there was an airline dedicated to nothing but green – call it the Seventh Generation of the airline industry – would you pay more to fly with them?

I guess until that hypothetical green airline is launched, all we have to work with is this solar plane.  I bet they recycle.

Posted in brand loyalty, greenwashing, management, recycling, sustainability | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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