eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for September, 2010

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.

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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 »

Are Small Businesses Thriving?

Posted by Luke on September 20, 2010

Eco-Products was named to the Inc. magazine’s list of Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies in America again this year.  Our 3-year growth registered at 1,012% which is up from our growth in the 2009 list of 844%.  However, our ranking dropped from #270 to #297.

That seems odd to me.  Our 2007-2009 growth was 168% more than our 2006-2008 growth yet our ranking dropped.  I’m not complaining because it’s an accomplishment to be on the list at all.  But that either means small businesses and entrepreneurs are thriving in the recession, or ????  I can’t figure it out.

Either way, congrats to all of our employees and a big THANK YOU to our customers, suppliers, and other partners.  This means a lot to us.  Here are some other green businesses on the list as reported by Earth911.com.

Posted in awards, Eco-Products | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Keep It Simple with Signs

Posted by Luke on September 11, 2010

How do people tell the difference between compostable and non-compostable products when they are trying to figure out which bin to throw something in?  They look and feel virtually the same.  If the products aren’t embossed or printed with the word “compostable”  on them, people can’t tell.  And even if “compostable” is embossed, there’s no guarantee that the products meet compostability certification.

For some time now, I’ve been involved in this seemingly never-ending debate about establishing labeling guidelines for compostable products.  Some people have suggested that products should have a green stripe or band.  I haven’t come around on that idea.  Until someone can convince me otherwise, it’s not cost-effective, can’t be done on all product shapes and materials, and will ultimately drive up product costs while simultaneously lowering composting rates (composting programs are more successful when packaging/products are included).  Also, it doesn’t solve the problem of companies falsely claiming that their products are compostable.  That’s where laws help…

The State of California is trying to pass a bill to make it illegal for companies to claim compostability if their products don’t meet ASTM standards.  HALLELUIAH!  We’re finally starting to make some  progress.  Companies will be held accountable for their claims.  No one wants to answer to Arnold.  Actually, I take that back,

Getting back to figuring out what is compostable and what isn’t, I came across a great idea about using 3-D signs to help out consumers.  In his post, Dinesh Thirupuvanam talks about the effectiveness of using simple, visual displays to help improve waste diversion.  One route is to have a poster with pictures of the products that should be composted, but a much more effective route is to create a 3-dimensional sign in which customers see the products in real life and know what bin to put them it.  I’m a visual person, so this is a great solution for me, much better than a normal, flat poster.  What a simple, yet effective solution.

If only these could be produced on a larger scale… Shoot me an email (lvernon at ecoproducts.com) if you think you can produce these signs on a large scale for Eco-Products.  I’d love to be able to give them to our customers.

Posted in compostable, compostable products, composting, greenwashing, logistics, recycling | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Boulder Fire

Posted by Luke on September 8, 2010

There has been a terrible wildfire in Boulder the past couple days.  It started in the foothills just west of town on Monday and has burned over 7,000 acres and nearly 100 buildings since then.  Approximately 3,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.  It’s the largest fire in the county’s history, and there’s a huge cloud of smoke over the town and surrounding areas.  Fortunately, the fire hasn’t come into the city of Boulder, but there are other small communities in the hills that have been demolished.  It’s a sad state.

Times like this make me appreciate my life and realize how fortunate I am.  People have lost their homes, lost their photographs, and lost their pets.  It’s sad that it takes a tragedy or natural disaster to make me realize that no business success or closed sale or customer win can compensate for the truly important things in life.  It puts into perspective just how small and insignificant my daily activities are even though when I’m doing them I feel like I can change the environment, the industry, or at least my life.  Despite that, it is still important that I do those things.  I guess the key is to maintain balance and do those things knowing what’s truly most important.

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” -Gandhi

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Australian Composting Programs – Information Request

Posted by Luke on September 6, 2010

Do you have any info on residential curbside composting programs in Australia?

I met with a gentleman from Australia a couple months ago and he said that curbside composting programs  are available in all of the major cities.  According to him, 85% of the country’s population has access to curbside pickup programs.  I haven’t been able to successfully verify that number, so I’m curious if anyone has additional insight.  Shoot me an email if you do:  lvernon at ecoproducts.com

Posted in composting | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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