eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Posts Tagged ‘Eco-Products’

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 »

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 »

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 »

My New Favorite Mechanic

Posted by Luke on June 3, 2010

It’s hard to find a good mechanic.  I’m happy to say I don’t have to worry about that anymore.  Eco-Products recently began offering a new employee perk involving a green car mechanic.  We bring Green Garage, a Boulder-based startup that does nothing but green car repair, to our offices once a quarter and reimburse employees $10 for any oil change and $20 for any other service.  Green Garage also offers all of our employees a discount if we get a certain number of employees to participate.  They have a mobile garage they bring with them to our building.  And as part of their normal service, they will pickup customers’ cars and drop them back off to your home or office.  That’s impressive!

Green Garage's Mobile Garage at the Eco-Products Building

What really excites me about their services is that, in addition to being better for the environment, they are also better for cars.  For example, their $69.95 oil change lasts for 10,000 miles, increases fuel efficiency, includes API approved Biodegradable oil which lasts for 24,000 miles, and includes a 53 point inspection and Energy Intervention.  A few of their 60 eco-friendly services are listed below.

If you don’t live in Boulder, sit tight.  Green Garage is expanding rapidly.  They are planning to be a nationwide company in the not too distant future.

High‐performance Dual Stage Oil Filter

Think ’super strainer’ that filters down to 3 microns instead of ‘chunky’ conventional filters at 30 microns. That’s 10 times more maximum purity through a two part, parallel filtration system. Increases your fuel economy up to 5%, lasts twice as long as normal filters and can decrease oil use by 70%.

oilMotor Oil

We offer two Green Garage approved earth and wallet friendly oil options: choose a re‐refined oil or one made from biodegradable animal by-products. Both are API approved and last up to 24,000 miles when matched with our dual stage oil filter. C’mon, step up and do your part to reduce waste and our dependence on foreign oil.

nitrogenNitrogen Tire Fill

Blow up your tires and in as little as one week they can become under‐ inflated, sapping fuel economy as much as 3%. So why not blow them up right and fill your tires with nitrogen. Nitrogen’s molecules are much bigger than plain air so it slows leakage, is less variable in changing temperatures and extends tire life by producing less tire‐deteriorating water vapor than air.

Posted in Boulder, sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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

Posted in green jobs | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

How Do I Find New Employees?

Posted by Luke on May 3, 2010

I’m periodically asked this question by job seekers.  Fortunately, Eco-Products has very low turnover so the only time we’re typically looking for new employees is when we open a new position.

When we have an opening, I have a number of avenues I go down and interestingly enough, none of them involve big job boards.  We’ve tried those in the past and it never drew the quality of the candidates we were looking for.  Craigslist worked for us at one point, but we’ve found more success through the following channels:

  • Internal Hires – There’s nothing like promoting someone who is already passionate about the company and our products
  • External Referrals – I often lean on my industry and/or local network by asking my personal contacts if they know of any qualified candidates.  This brings in pretty high quality people.  I’m also always open to people when they email me looking for candidates.  I can usually send a couple good people their way.
  • LinkedIn Searches This is my go-to when the above methods don’t draw enough candidates.  I have two approaches with LinkedIn.   The first is running specific searches for people based on job titles, industry, location, and companies they’ve worked for.  I have had a lot of success running searches for people who have worked at competitors or have worked in our industry and reaching out to those people directly.  It can be flattering when someone contacts you, so those people are typically interested in talking with me about the opportunity.
  • LinkedIn Groups – I have also posted jobs on certain industry LinkedIn Group pages.  This yields higher quality candidates than a job board, but it typically doesn’t draw quite as many people.  If you’re looking for a job and not on LinkedIn, sign up.  Here’s a great article why.  If you’re a manager and not a member of LinkedIn, I also recommend signing up to find future hires.
  • Networking – I frequently get emails from people wanting to network.  I’m always open to getting connected, but my schedule doesn’t always allow sitting down to get to know one other.  However, if you come to me through someone I know, it helps me recall your info when I hear of something.  I save most of the resumes I receive.
  • Internal Referrals – Our employees get a bonus if they refer someone who is hired.
  • Past candidates – As mentioned above, I save most of the resumes I receive.  If you aren’t hired for a job on the first go around, it doesn’t mean you won’t be hired by us in the future.  Our needs change.  Also, when I hear about openings from friends in other companies, I have no problem forwarding your resume over.
  • CU’s Leeds School of Business – Whether it be interns or graduates, CU has very qualified people.  A great example is an MBA student we hired as an intern last summer and then we convinced him to finish his final year of the program in the evening so he could stay on as a full-time employee.
  • Headhunter – Although these can be expensive, good ones can quickly figure out exactly the type of candidate you’re looking for and bring you great people.

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