I’m so excited to announce that my very first column came out in the summer issue of Stationery Trends Magazine. I was honored when the editor, Sarah Schwartz, approached me to write an ongoing green column: The Green Room. (Of course I managed to work my dog Martin into my head shot photo. Sarah, an animal lover herself, was nice enough to oblige.) Stationery Trends is an attractive new trade magazine that prides itself as a great resource for greeting cards, gifts, and all things stationery!
I wanted my first article to talk about how easy it is to start thinking green. It’s too overwhelming to think about transforming your entire retail space into a green store over night, but you can each take small steps in the right direction starting today!
Read entire article below
The Green Room
Be an Eco-Conscious Store Owner – Starting Now!
By Sue Rostvold
In a post-“Inconvenient Truth” world, everyone wants to be more eco-conscious. Retailers across the country are searching high and low for more sustainable products to green up their inventory in order to provide their customers with earth-friendly choices. Most positive changes don’t happen overnight; more often they happen incrementally over time. Although your store may not be totally green by tomorrow, you can be eco-conscious starting today!
Being a eco-conscious buyer and business owner is easy. It has nothing to do with whether or not your wear a tie-dye shirt, drink kombucha tea or meditate. It will cost you nothing but a little time and some extra thought. It’s just a matter of knowing your vendors’ products and policies, as well as taking note of your own store practices.
How many customers walk in with a can of soda or plastic bottle of water? Do you have a recycling bin for cans and bottles in your store? That is a simple thing you can do that let’s your customers know you care about the environment.
Start with a simple checklist
So, what do you need to ask your vendors? They are probably some of the same questions your customers are already asking you. How often do you hear, “My friend is really into the environment, do you have gifts that were made from recycled materials?” or “I’m looking for something local” from your customers? People feel good supporting their local economy, and vacationers love to pick up local gifts for their friends and family, and it’s an added bonus if the item is eco-friendly too!
It’s up to each store owner to develop their own set of criteria for how they screen and make their final purchasing decisions. Decide what’s important to you, then educate yourself and your customers will benefit in the process. People love to be the first to tell their friends about a new green find or local item no one else knows about.
Below is a checklist that can be used as a starting point to rate your vendors. It is really just an expanded version of the basics we all know, the three R’s: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
1). Vendor is local, made in the U.S. or fair trade.
2). Vendor products are made with non-toxic or less toxic materials.
3). Vendor products are made from recycled materials.
4). Vendor products are recyclable or reusable.
5). Vendor products are produced using renewable energy or carbon offset.
6). Vendor products are minimally packaged and/or packaging is recyclable or compostable.
7). Vendor has a waste reduction/recycling policy.
8). Vendor supports non-profit efforts by donating time, money or products to charitable organizations.
9). Vendor pays a living wage, runs a union shop, provides health care, child care benefits, etc.
10). Vendor is certified by Co-op America, Fair Trade Federation, or another viable monitoring group.
The good news is there are already hundreds of vendors available that can answer yes to most of the questions listed above. You’ll find many of these companies are members of Coop America or the Fair Trade Federation.
Denise Hamler, Director of Co-op America’s Green Business Network says, “Today we are seeing amazing growth – three companies a day are joining and by the end of the year nearly 5,000 green businesses will be touting the Co-op America Seal of Approval, an important mark in this growing sea of green. By using this seal customers know that these businesses have passed the Co-op America screening and approval process and are a true green company, truly authentic!
Even more good news is that studies have shown that green product consumption is on the rise. Last year at the Sustainable Green Brands conference in New Orleans, findings from one survey reported that consumers expect to double their spending on green products and services in 2008, totaling an estimated $500 billion annually or $43 billion per month,
The research also found that 90% of Americans agree that there are important green issues and problems, and 82% believe it is important for companies to implement environmentally friendly practices.
The survey was conducted by Landor Associates; Penn, Schoen & Berland (PSB) Associates; and Cohn & Wolfe.
Green, Greener, Greenest
It’s important to remember that there are degrees of green and sustainability. Just because a product is made outside the U.S. doesn’t make it bad, but it’s important to be aware of how it was made and by whom.
Do you really know what was involved in the production? What were the working conditions for the employees? Were they paid a fair wage? What is happening in the environment in the surrounding area as a result of making this product?
The green movement is raising the eco-consciousness of the whole world and not a moment too soon. People are finally realizing that the true cost of goods purchased and sold is much more than the dollars and cents they pay at the cash register.
Sue Rostvold lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband Allan, and her swimming dachshund Martin, along with any number of foster dachshunds from Central Texas Dachshund Rescue. In addition to a 20-year career in the pre-press and printing industry, Sue is the passionate founder of Verysupercool, which incidentally was the only company exhibiting at the 2006 National Stationery Show featuring greeting cards printed on 100 percent post-consumer waste paper!