eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for May, 2010

3rd Fastest Growing Company in Boulder County

Posted by Luke on May 28, 2010

Thanks to all of the loyal customers and dedicated employees of Eco-Products, last night we were named the 3rd fastest growing company in Boulder County.  Our 3-year growth rate was 388% growth.  We’ve now been in the top 15 every year for the past 5 years.  Here’s the history:

  • 2010 – #3
  • 2009 – #1
  • 2008 – #6
  • 2007 – #13
  • 2006 – #6

I truly feel privileged to be part of such a dynamic and exciting company.  Thanks again to our loyal followers and supporters as well as our talented employees.  This wouldn’t be possible without you.  You make me want to continue to work my ass off every single day.

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Sustainability is a Journey

Posted by Luke on May 26, 2010

Sustainability initiatives often draw a certain degree of skepticism.  When a company tries to be sustainable, there is often a line of skeptics challenging its claims and pushing them to be even more green.  It’s consumers’ jobs to push companies to challenge themselves and to do the right thing.  Sustainability wouldn’t happen if we weren’t asking companies to change their environmental impact.  In doing this, though, it’s important to acknowledge a couple key points about sustainability:

  1. Sustainability is a journey
  2. Everyone defines sustainability differently

I often come across people who expect companies to be sustainable overnight.  It just doesn’t happen like that.  If you know how to become sustainable overnight, email me.  We should talk.  From my experience, sustainability requires a change in behaviors and a change in resource allocation.  It’s often a culture shift.  It takes time.  And most companies are resource constrained.  So if a company has developed a solid vision for sustainability and has a plan to execute that vision, it deserves some breathing room to begin down the path.

Another key piece to this is that there are so many different definitions of sustainability.  Everybody has their own definition – within a company or outside of a company.  What is sustainable to one customer might be completely different to another.  This means that companies end up making some customers happy and some not.  In my mind, it all comes back to the need for defining sustainability within your company’s boundaries.  Customers need to know how you view sustainability and what your plan is.  Their expectations need to be brought in line with yours.  Sustainability is a journey.  And a very long journey at that.  Here is an excerpt from an interesting article that elaborates more on this topic:

Perhaps the biggest change will come with the realization that we can never be fully “sustainable” – that sustainability is a never ending journey, a learning process to explore what it means to be fully human in an interconnected world.

Sustainability, from this perspective, is systemic.  It begins when we are able to understand our place in a web of economic, social, cultural and ecological systems – relationships that have always been there but that we have ignored in our single minded focus for profit and economic growth.  It encourages diversity as a key condition for a viable system, and embraces the responsibility to live in ways that allow others to live as well.  Sustainability involves waking up and assuming our personal and collective power as leaders to shape our present and our future. It signals the time to stop the consumerism machine that has dictated what we should have or desire. It is a call to start listening to ourselves, to engage in deep conversations to understand and honor what brings meaning and joy to our lives, and to pay attention to the way we affect and are affected in everything we do.

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Another “Celebrity” Sighting with Eco-Products

Posted by Luke on May 24, 2010

There’s debate with some of my colleagues over whether or not the title “Celebrity” is legitimate with this sighting.  I think it is.  Most women probably agree with me.  Most men, probably not.

Do you recall the last season of ABC’s The Bachelorette when Jillian Harris chose Ed?  Well, apparently Jillian is an interior designer for restaurants.  She stopped by the Eco-Products booth at the National Restaurant Association tradeshow in Chicago on Saturday.  She’s definitely the same perky and smiling girl that she is on TV although TV makes her look a lot taller.

Jillian, The Bachelorette, and I at the Eco-Products booth

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Free Product for a Year or a $4,000 Grant for Your Community

Posted by Luke on May 19, 2010

Eco-Products just announced a really incredible contest – Rethink Your Impact contest.  We are giving away free product to a business for an entire year and three $4,000 grants to a businesses’ local community.  Restaurants, coffee shops, and other businesses can self-nominate or they can have their customers nominate them.  Imagine winning free product for a year or winning the opportunity to give a $4,000 grant to a meaningful cause in your local community.  Pretty impactful.

Free Product for a Year

We want to give a restaurant, coffee shop, or other business a green makeover.  If you’ve been considering going green, but aren’t sure where to start or if you can afford it, we’ll give you the resources.  The will be challenged to show why their business is deserving of the makeover which includes a full line of Eco-Products made from renewable and recycled resources.  Well provide educational materials, including signage and training for staff to exhibit that show how simple choices, such as which cups you use, really add up.  We’ll also help you setup a composting and recycling program.

$4,000 Grant for Your Community

For businesses currently using Eco-Products, win a triple-shot of grants designed to spread your positive impact throughout your community. Over the course of a year, you’ll work with Eco-Products to plan three grant programs (valued at $4000.00 each) that will improve access to or educate your community about sustainable and eco-friendly choices. We’ll be looking for initiatives like supporting a composting program for your town’s Farmer’s Market, helping fund a recycling program for a school, promoting a clean-up of your local downtown park, or setting up a community garden. Eco-Products will work with you to create the best program for the most positive impact in your local area.

For more information, visit the Rethink Your Impact web page.

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Eco-Products is Hiring

Posted by Luke on May 18, 2010

Eco-Products is looking for a talented Sales Coordinator to provide customer care to our distribution customers.  Essentially, the position manages a region of 10-14 states to provide inside sales and customer support in the form of handling distributor inquiries, processing orders, communicating with customers, and supporting the region’s sales team.  If interested, email your resume to employment AT ecoproducts.com or visit http://www.ecoproducts.com/va-cms/careers.html.

Summary of the Position

The objective of a Sales Coordinator is to be involved in all facets of customer service and sales for the re-distribution aspect of the Division.  This person will directly support the Regional and Territory Sales Reps as well the National Account Manager of the Division.  This person will perform all customer service activities for distribution sales, including processing orders, ensuring the orders are fulfilled properly, providing as-needed inside sales support to customers, and helping out with other customer service and sales support activities as requested.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities

  • Provides customer service to distribution customers
  • Processes distribution sales orders, invoices and credit/price deviations
  • Coordinates logistics with the Logistics Coordinators and communicates logistics with customers
  • Manages Custom print products for Direct/Distributor Sales
  • Supports Regional, Territory Sales Reps and the National Account Managers with as-needed functions
  • Supports Buyers, Reps and Brokers with inside sales support
  • Maintains and communicates order status
  • Communicates Product specs, new product information, discontinued items
  • Manages pricing deviations for distributors
  • Review and process bill back documents for national accounts.
  • First line for Screening Potential new distributors/large end users
  • Respond and Qualify potential new distributors as well as assist end users with inquiries and finding distributor partners in their area
  • Perform other duties as appropriate

Qualifications

  • 2+ years of sales experience in a customer service or inside sales position
  • Extremely detail-oriented with strong time management and prioritization skills
  • Proven record of success working as a team to achieve goals
  • Supports, demonstrates and promotes the philosophy and company mission of Eco-Products
  • Desired Education Level:  BS/BA degree preferred

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Boulder’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Posted by Luke on May 15, 2010

For all of the stereotypes that exist about Boulder (see “25 Miles Surrounded by Reality”), it’s a great place to locate a company.  It’s commonly referred to as the mecca of both the natural products and smart grid industries.  It has also quickly become a haven for tech startups.

I recently heard about an award the city won from Business Week magazine.  Boulder was named the “Best Town for Startups.”  Way to go Boulder.  There are some groups in town that deserve recognition for making this happen.

Of those groups are a couple of progressive VCs such as Greenmont Capital Partners and The Foundry Group who are investing in building an entrepreneurial community.  Clearly it’s paying off.  They are doing things such as developing entrepreneurial activities at CU, hosting events to connect entrepreneurs with VCs, and creating programs such as TechStars and Startup Weekend.  The Foundry Group was recently featured on the cover of the business section of the New York Times for their work in developing Boulder into a startup hub.

Another group that has played an instrumental role in developing the entrepreneurial community here is the Boulder Innovation Center.  They do a lot of work with tech transfer startups from CU.  To all of these groups and the numerous others who have built Boulder’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, thank you.  It’s incredible to be a part of and to live in a community like this.  I can’t imagine Eco-Products being located anywhere else.

I’ll close this post with a few other awards Boulder has won which speaks to what a great place it is to work and live.  You can tell I like it here.

  • #2 Healthiest Town in the U.S. by Men’s Health (2010)
  • #1 Strongest U.S. Housing Market by Business Week (2009)
  • #1 City to Raise an Outdoor Kid by Backpacker Magazine (2009)
  • #1 Town to Live Well by Forbes (2009)
  • #1 Most Educated City in America by Forbes (2008)
  • #5 Best Green Places to Live by Country Home Magazine (2008)

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You Can Copy Products, But You Can’t Copy What a Company Stands For

Posted by Luke on May 11, 2010

Eco-Products’ largest competitor, the largest company in our industry, just launched a line of products that look exactly like ours.  I don’t think I could have ripped off our design more closely if I tried.  It’s shocking, honestly.  It’s weird they didn’t get a little more creative.

On one hand, I can’t help but ask our lawyer a few questions.  On the other hand, I’m flattered that a $3.5 billion Fortune 500 company would copy a small, Boulder company so precisely… or at least try to.

You see, green is all we’ve ever done.  Eco-Products has been around for 20 years as the first business-to-business distributor solely of environmental products.  We have one of the largest solar systems in Colorado.  We have nearly eliminated all waste from our office building.  We offset the emissions from the transportation of our products.  We give our employees $1,200 every year if they ride their bike, bus, carpool, or drive a hybrid to work.  We constantly challenge ourselves to be more sustainable.

We don’t do these things because we have to.  We do them because we think it’s the right thing to do.  Regulators aren’t asking us to be more green.  Sustainability is in our DNA.  It’s who we are.  It’s what we believe.  It’s all we know.  That can’t be copied.

Eco-Products is so much more than just our products.  We are an industry change agent.  We are a belief system for our customers.  We are giving voice to more corporate responsibility.  We are greening an industry that’s sole purpose is to create waste, to create landfills.  We are trying to reduce waste.  Sounds counter-intuitive, right?

Eco-Products 12 oz World Art Hot Cup

Imitation cup (picture distorted the color; all cup sizes match exactly except for the lines on the globe)

99.9% of the competitor’s revenue I referred to above comes from products that have no place to be disposed of but in landfills.  Their business is built on waste.  Doing anything differently would jeopardize their core business.  Sustainability isn’t part of their DNA. In fact, they were ranked in the bottom 20th percentile of the Fortune 500 for “green performance” according to Newsweek.  They were ranked below all but 4 of the 31 oil and gas companies.

They have sat on the sidelines for years watching Eco-Products and others build a market for green products and now they want a piece of the action.  They could have entered the game long ago.  But they didn’t.  It wasn’t in their values.  Now they want a green story to tell Wall Street.

How will Eco-Products react?  We’ll continue doing what we’re doing.  We’ll continue being a change agent for the positive.  We’ll raise the bar for sustainability.  We’ll out innovate them.  We’ll develop even better performing, more environmental products faster.  And we’ll let our customers’ loyalty speak for itself.  Our competitor can throw money at our distributors to get them to switch to their products.  The restaurants, coffee shops, universities, and other customers who currently buy Eco-Products will continue demanding our brand.  They want something more than just our products.  They want something bigger to believe in.  They want to be part of something positive.  That’s why we do what we do.

Posted in brand loyalty, Eco-Products, greenwashing, hot cups, imitators, Landiflls, packaging, sustainability, World Art Cups | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Boat Made Out of Bottles

Posted by Luke on May 9, 2010

Most people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  It’s estimated to be twice the size the state of Texas comprised mainly of plastic litter.   Scientists estimate that 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals die every year from ingesting or getting entangled with plastic.

Not as many people have heard about what a group called The Plastiki is doing to bring attention to the problem of marine litter as well as to recycling.  A group of people got together and built a boat out of 12,000 plastic bottles to sail from San Francisco to Sydney.  Right now they are halfway through their journey near the Line Islands in the middle of the Pacific.  Their website has a really cool feature to track their every move.

What I like about the group’s approach is that they recognize plastics have both upsides and downsides.  They acknowledge that plastic has a place in the world.  However, they want to bring attention to importance of recycling plastic and the need to make products (like boats) out of recycled materials.  One of the people behind the sea vessel, David de Rothschild, said, “Plastic is an amazing material and it is still misunderstood. I’m trying to get people to think about plastic as part of the solution.”

Less than 25% of the plastic bottles used in the U.S. end up being recycled.  That’s the crux of the problem.  Manufacturers have the capability to and are willing to make products out of recycled plastics.  One of the biggest obstacles is accessing high quality reclaimed materials.  With a dismal national recycling rate and increasing contamination in the recycling process, it’s difficult to make products from recycled materials.

Another challenge is that the recycling infrastructure is currently only setup to primarily recycle #1 and #2 bottles.  All other containers (those big plastic containers that lettuce comes in, yogurt containers, and much more) are largely not recycled in the majority of recycling facilities even if people put them in the blue bin.  The technology is not widespread enough to recycle those products into a  quality stream of recovered materials.  There isn’t enough market demand for them either.  That’s why it’s important to “buy recycled.”  It builds demand for recycled materials which encourages further recycling.

In the coming year, I’ll be working with some industry groups on understanding how we can solve this problem.  Eco-Products has also launched a new product line of cups and containers made from up to 100% recycled bottles which further promotes the importance of buying recycled.

Posted in bottles, containers, cups, Eco-Products, plastics, recycled products, recycling | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Great Addition to Any Cafeteria

Posted by Luke on May 7, 2010

If you’ve ever been to any of Google’s offices, you know they take an unconventional approach to culture.  I say “unconventional,” but I sometimes wonder why it isn’t more conventional to create a work environment in this manner.  It’s remarkable what they do.  You’ve probably heard about their unlimited free food in the cafeterias, the shuttle service for commuters, the endless white board walls where people doodle ideas, the dry-cleaning services, and the on-site fitness centers.  There is another thing they do…

Checkout this video of Google’s cafeteria in London.  They brought in some of the best human and flute beat boxers.  That’s right, I said “flute” beat boxers.  I should bring them to Eco-Products.

Posted in compostable products | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Compost Awareness Week

Posted by Luke on May 5, 2010

The first couple weeks in May are full of holidays:

  • Cinco de Mayo
  • National Teacher Appreciation Week
  • Mother’s Day
  • May Day
  • Space Day
  • National Pet Week
  • National Bar-B-Que Month
  • National Asparagus Month (I guess vegetarians need a month to go along side of National BBQ Month?)
  • National Egg Month (Not sure how this fits in with the above two.  Tough competition for eggs.)
  • A bunch of others that most people don’t know or care about

and… Compost Awareness Week.

If you’ve been considering composting at home, now’s a great time to start.  It doesn’t have to be difficult and the compost you create will be rich with nutrients for your garden.  Here’s an informative website that walks you through the steps to setting up home composting.

Also, if you’re considering having a picnic in the month of May to celebrate one of the lesser-known holidays, this article has some suggestions on how to have an eco-friendly picnic which, oddly enough, includes using Eco-Products.

Here’s one last little factoid to encourage composting… approximately 25% of the waste sent to landfills is organic waste that could be composted.  Another 30+% is recyclable.  Imagine cutting down on landfill use by over 50% through those two simple activities.

Alright, I’ll get off my composting soapbox.

Posted in composting, event, Landiflls | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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