eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for the ‘Eco-Products’ Category

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.

Advertisements

Posted in Boulder, brand loyalty, cups, Eco-Products | 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 »

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 »

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 »

Rethink Your Impact Contest

Posted by Luke on August 31, 2010

In a previous post, I announced a contest – “ReTHINK Your Impact” –  in which any business can win an eco makeover.  We’re choosing one lucky company (a coffee shop or restaurant or other foodservice establishment) who will win free products from Eco-Products for an entire year.  That’s a lot of cups!  We’ll also assess all of their operations and suggest eco improvements, essentially giving them free sustainability consulting.  Not bad!

The other part of the contest involves us giving away three different $4,000 sustainability grants for a total of $12,000.  The grants will be applied to a cause or initiative in the selected company’s community to educate people about composting, environmental conservation, recycling, or another sustainability-related activity.

Click here to nominate your favorite coffee shop or restaurant or check it out on Facebook.  And watch this clever video…

Posted in awards, compostable products, cups, Eco-Products, event, sustainability | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Role of “Radical Transparency” in Sustainability

Posted by Luke on August 4, 2010

I’ve written a lot about how everyone defines sustainability differently.  Jeffrey Hollender, the Chief Inspired Protagonist of Seventh Generation, addressed this topic at the World Innovation Forum in June.  “You can’t judge your own level of sustainability or responsibility, you can only be judged by others,” Hollender said.  To demonstrate this, Seventh Generation published a list on their website of everything that was bad about their products.  They felt that being completely transparent was the best way to make improvements over the long run.  They saw this transparency pay off because it caused their customers to ask Seventh Generation’s competitors for their respective lists, of which they didn’t have.

Although at Eco-Products we haven’t yet published a list of what is bad about our products, it’s probably in our near future.  We have attempted to take a similar approach to Seventh Generation in being transparent, and we are investing more than we ever have in understanding the entire environmental impact of our products from cradle to grave.  We acknowledge that we aren’t perfect.  After all, “perfect” sustainability is subjective and is a never-ending journey.  However, we are diligent about lessening our impact and being transparent with our customers along the way.  In fact, we created a new position at our company called a Sustainability Maven to continuously assess how our decisions impact the environment.  And we are investing in many other ways to better communicate our impact to our customers.  The key question that every business person has to ask, “Do customers care and will they put their money behind it?”  Based on my experience in the natural products industry, my response is an absolute “Yes.”

Posted in brand loyalty, Eco-Products, environmental products, footprint, greenwashing, marketing, sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sustainability is a Journey… Part 2

Posted by Luke on June 30, 2010

A month ago I wrote a post on how sustainability is a journey.  The two main points I tried to get across were that (1) everyone defines sustainability differently and (2) sustainability isn’t something that happens overnight.  I am continually reminded of this at Eco-Products.

The challenge I face is that with a name like Eco-Products, people expect us to be the absolute, most sustainable business in the world (oh, and did I mention that everyone defines sustainability differently?).  We definitely want to be the most sustainable company possible, but it will take time.  Sustainability is a journey.

When Eco-Products built our brand of environmental products, like most young companies, we started at a sales level of nil.  We knew what we wanted to do – to green the packaging industry – but there was a long journey in front of us.  We knew we couldn’t change an industry over night.

One of the first steps we had to take in launching our brand was to find factories who were willing to bet on us.  They had to be willing to process new environmental materials on their multi-million dollar pieces of equipment.  We couldn’t tell them how much we’d be ordering because we had no idea.  Forecasting sales of a new product in a new market is nearly impossible.

These complexities narrowed down the field of potential factories very quickly.  We couldn’t find one manufacturer in the U.S. who was willing to bet on us.  The only companies who were willing to take a chance were in other parts of the world.  As we dug into this, we found that a global supply chain had some major benefits.

First, the energy used in some of the places we chose to manufacture was as clean or cleaner than in the U.S.  Second, we learned that the carbon emissions of shipping our products across the ocean was only 11% of the total carbon emissions of the product’s entire life cycle emissions.  Upon learning that, we made the commitment to invest in carbon offsets to completely offset the emissions from the transportation of our products.

Third, manufacturing in the U.S. would only yield a 1.6% improvement to our carbon footprint.  We hired BCS, Inc., an excellent independent environmental consulting firm, to do this analysis.  I was shocked at this number, but the reason it is so low is because we would have to truck products further distances which has more of a carbon impact than shipping containers on a boat that carries thousands of other products.

At the time, we didn’t have the sales volume that justified investing millions of dollars into U.S.-based manufacturing equipment (nor did we have the money), and we had to start somewhere if we wanted to green an entire industry.  Leveraging the technology and manufacturing capabilities overseas also gave us the opportunity to create nearly 50 jobs based in the U.S. at our headquarters doing sales, marketing, accounting, product development, and more.

All along, we have felt that if we could build enough critical mass we would be able to make even more meaningful changes to our carbon footprint when we could later afford to do so.  We essentially had to compromise early on.

George Siemon, the C-I-E-I-O of Organic Valley, talked about this very point in a recent interview.

“My enlightenment was to not try to do everything at once, but to build a broad, solid foundation, and then we would be able to do more of what our mission was, instead of trying to do it all at once, and failing—so we have found the happy medium. Now that we’ve reached maturity, we’ve been able to turn back and do some of the idealistic things we always felt were important.

Compromise is a part of doing business. A simple example would be we’ve hauled milk into North Carolina from Ohio and built up a business. And then we started working with farmers in North Carolina so we could start a local business. You could say it was a compromise to haul milk that far but we had market realities to address.

We’ve now reached the point where we are looking throughout the company for more opportunities to do things and invest more in sustainability.”

Eco-Products seems to be at a similar place to Organic Valley in our company’s evolution.  We have matured to the point that we are on the cusp of being able to make significant changes to our carbon footprint and invest more in sustainability.  We have had to make compromises early on to get us to that point, but we are nearly there.  And there’s no doubt that sustainability will continue to be a journey.

Posted in containers, Eco-Products, foodservice, footprint, GHG, green jobs, management, packaging, shipping, sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Top 11 Things I Love About My Job Right Now

Posted by Luke on June 17, 2010

In no particular order…

11.  We play E-C-O (our version of H-O-R-S-E) on the basketball hoop in the parking lot when we need a break.  When the founder, Steve, started on a winning streak, we banned him from wearing his lucky Michael Jordan jersey.

10.  Who wouldn’t love your job when you get paid to commute?  Eco-Products gives the 26% of the employees who bike, walk, bus, carpool, or drive a hybrid to work in aggregate of over $15,000 every year for using alternative forms of transportation.

9.  Our Marketing & Graphics team completely floored me today with some new product artwork they are working on.  I felt like a kid in a candy shop.  I was so giddy with excitement I actually caught myself drooling.  Not kidding.

8.  I learn something new everyday.  Today I learned that our Customer Care Manager, Mary, is now a beekeeper as of 3 weeks ago.

This isn't Mary, but I thought it was a funny picture. Why is he smiling?

7.  There’s nothing like working with people who make you laugh.  We just hired an incredibly talented, and funny, person to manage national account sales.  He kept me laughing the past couple days when we traveled together to North Carolina.

6.  My 10-month old daughter loves our cups.  It makes her happy that I’m looking out for the planet.

5.  Everyday I have the privilege of learning from one of the greatest CEOs to ever run a company.  That’s not me kissing ass.  That’s the truth.

4.  Friday goodies!  Every Friday a manager brings in breakfast for everyone.  Yummmmmm

3.  We truly have some of the best and the brightest people in the industry.  I’m convinced our sales team is more educated and knowledgeable than any sales team in the country.

2.  For the company’s summer party, we rented a bus and are taking all of our employees and spouses to watch the Colorado Rockies game tonight.

1.  I truly feel like I’m making a difference everyday.

Posted in Eco-Products, management | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

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.

Posted in awards, Eco-Products, event | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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

Posted in celebrity sighting, Eco-Products, event | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: