Being a consumer puts you in a position of power. Each purchase you make throughout the day is, in effect, a vote for what you deem the best. When voting with your dollar, you are supporting a business, whether good or bad. A conscientious consumer thinks about the social and environmental aspects of any product or service before they choose to use it.?A wise consumer supports businesses that are doing more than just making a profit. This takes a bit more thought than pulling into Walmart or a few clicks on Amazon, but it’s well worth your time. Here are 6 reasons why you should support local business.
A local business owner is more likely to remember you and the products or services you purchase on a regular basis. This means that you get more personalized service. He or she is also more likely to have direct contact with all employees and a thorough knowledge of all products. Should any problems arise, you won’t have to stay on hold on some 800 number waiting for a faceless name to listen to your concerns.
2 – Increased Employment
Local and small businesses employ over 50% of the private sector workforce. Since the end of the Recession, small businesses are responsible 66% of all net jobs created. Local and small businesses are also more likely to hire locally increasing the employment base in your community. Keeping workers local decreases commutes and the environmental hazards that go with them.
3 – Improved Local Economy
Local businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to national chains or franchises. This is referred to as the “multiplier effect.” An average of 48% of the revenue from local businesses is recirculated into the local economy compared to only 14% from national chains.? Put simply, local businesses are more likely to purchase from other local businesses and use other local services. When you shop locally, you are actually investing in your community.
4 – Better, Healthier Products?
A marketplace of small businesses breeds competition. You are more likely to be able to acquire better quality products and services at local businesses. Local businesses have an element of transparency that faceless corporations don’t which holds them accountable to the quality of their products or services. In addition, purchasing from local farmers gives you access to healthier foods without the mass chemical spraying and preservatives required of corporate chains that have to mass produce and transport their produce over a long range.?Buying fresh, local and traceable foods is not only being a responsible consumer, but a healthy one.
5 – Property Value and Quality of Life
Local businesses give your community character. The uniqueness of a variety of local businesses is far superior to the bland monotony of ubiquitous national chains littering a cityscape. Because the businesses in your community make up a large part of its character, they also play a large part in both quality of life and property values. By supporting your community’s unique character rather than giving your money to national chains, you help to preserve its value.
6 – Socially and Environmentally Conscious Businesses
Local businesses are far more likely to be socially and environmentally conscious than big corps, especially when it comes to food. To begin with, local businesses reduce the carbon miles required from transport and may use local information to choose between suppliers. Local clothing stores are far less likely to purchase from mass fast fashion overseas suppliers. Due to consumer demand, small farm-to-table restaurants, regional banks, and small businesses are turning greener every day. In addition, because local businesses are invested in their community, they tend to take responsibility for their actions beyond simply bringing in revenue.
There are always knock-on effects to every product or service that you buy. Those effects begin with where you spend your dollar and what you spend your dollar on. While it may not seem evident on the surface, if you take a peak under the lid, you’ll understand both the direct and indirect impacts that each of your purchases has. Knowing where a product comes from is crucial to shopping sustainably. If there is a local option, choose it. Shop in season and don?t buy fruit that has more flyer miles than you do. Ask local shops where they buy their supplies from when it is not obvious.
When you buy products that are produced locally and sold by local businesses, there is a positive effect on the local economy. By contrast, when you buy food and clothing that is shipped in from thousands of miles away by a national retail chain, more often than not it is produced by workers who are exploited in a factory that has no environmental policy, and sold by a corporation that is not acting in a sustainable manner. This not only has a negative effect on local economies, but also on the world at large. Every purchase counts. Every purchase has an impact, whether we like or not. As the world is simply a collection of individuals, it’s up to each individual to make sure that their dollar 1) does no harm, 2) makes their community, and the world, a better place.
Ryan Lewis is just getting started.Last we spoke with the CEO of EarthHero, they had just launched their eco-friendly marketplace in time for the holidays.
Since then, they have expanded to over 60 brands and 1,000 products and expanded their community to over 20,000 members.
The Boulder start-up is now ready to bring their highly curated list of sustainable brands to a larger audience.?Much of their growth is due to their expanded presence online. ?The biggest change: they?ve gotten to know their customers a lot better.
?Much of our initial outreach focused on HOW we?re helping solve the sustainability problem by curating high quality, eco-friendly products.
However, we?ve realized our mission faces several challenges, and by people who care and want change. ?Which brands to trust? Which products create real impact, and what does that mean? Or, where to even start!? They are also expanding to Instagram and Pinterest. ?We want to hang out where our customers are hanging out.”
What problems is EarthHero solving?
Helping People and Planet
?People care. There is a growing population of people that care about the problems we are causing the planet. From ocean pollution, to greenhouse emissions, to natural resource depletion and animal rights, the list is endless.? ?
EarthHero gives back to charity in various ways. They are a proud member of 1% for the Planet.
One thing everyone can agree on: ?we collectively create a lot of trash and it just doesn?t feel right. There?s a better way. And small changes are easy to implement. We?ll get there. As a community, we?re accelerating the impact of living more sustainably.? ?
EarthHero?s specialty is in promoting brands that use sustainable materials, treat their employees well, and give back to their communities. They want to make conscious shopping easy for everyone.
Addressing Shopper Fatigue
Lewis believes there?s also good amount of shopper fatigue. Shopping has become commoditized. There are thousands of choices, no relationship between the consumer and what they are buying, no connection to the impact of that purchase.
All of this ?adds to the hollow and chaotic feeling of having all of this stuff in our lives. On the other hand, shopping mindfully leads to good relationships with the things in your life. And that just feels better?, says Lewis.
What we don’t know about the stuff we buy
Ryan Lewis knows there are challenges. For example, most people don’t realize that the apparel industry is the second most polluting industry, after oil and gas. Even in Boulder, much of what is consumed and thrown away is out of sight, out of mind. Every time we accept individually wrapped samples, or buy that 10th pair of shoes, we don?t think about the manufacturing process and the impact it has on the environment.
CEO Ryan Lewis at the EarthHero warehouse.
?It?s hard for people to know about the ways in which all the stuff is created in our lives and the impact to Mother Nature.
But this message is buried by the overwhelming marketing of big brands telling us we need to buy more and upgrade everything. I love talking about a different way. We can do better.?
So how does the team at EarthHero plan to do this? One way is to give people lifestyle roadmaps and guides to more conscious and mindful ways of thinking. And start small. For example, start with one-time use items. Step 1: take the items in your life that you use one time and then throw away. Can you replace them with something else? None of us need to buy more plastic water bottles. And if you wrap your sandwich in aluminum foil, there are products that are re-usable and compostable.
Customers trust EarthHero’s vetting process
EarthHero?s customers trust the curation of good brands. Every time the EarthHero team onboards a new vendor, customers are raising their hand to support these brands. This is because customers know and appreciate EarthHero?s vetting process. ?Our community trusts us to make great decisions as we look for the best possible products available. We love product launches and our customers do too?, says Lewis. EarthHero has a proprietary and stringent process for determining which brands to allow into their marketplace. ?There are Planet, People and Give Back requirements for all vendors.
Refining the selection process has taken a lot of conversations. ?It?s getting more and more detailed. We listen to every piece of customer feedback?, says Lewis. For example, people don?t like the plastic that?s included in the apparel that is shipped. Some of that plastic is made from recycled plastic, but EarthHero is pushing their vendors to move to zero plastic. A nice side effect of their selection process: vendors are starting to lean on EarthHero for their expertise in packaging practices. While they can?t yet offer products that are 100% sustainable, their goal is to accelerate the movement to help us get there as quickly as possible.
Launching a sustainable business? Keep this in mind.
More and more start-ups are looking to work sustainability into their business practices. Here are Lewis? top suggestions for up-and-coming social entrepreneurs:
Stay true to your mission. Be really clear who you are and why you?re doing it.
Remember that it takes time and timing. ??I oscillate between patience and persistence ? I mess things up when I get this wrong.?
Be open to, but careful with advice. People will influence, challenge and support what you?re doing.?Listen, and apply if it helps you move your mission forward.?
Listen to your customers. ?When you have an idea and you build the thing, as soon as you put it out there, you?ll get feedback. Be open to that feedback. Be ready to adjust.?
Don?t pivot for the sake of pivoting. Really get to know the customers you?re trying to serve and the problem you?re trying to solve. If there?s a different method for accomplishing that goal without doing an overhaul, figure it out.
?We didn?t get all of these things exactly right and we?re still figuring it out. But every day we are learning.?
In five years, Lewis and his team at EarthHero want to help accelerate the movement so it becomes normal.?
?Every time someone swipes or inserts their credit card, we want them to ask themselves: what?s the impact of my purchase? Am I investing in companies doing good, or not?
We want to help people make these conscious decisions the path of least resistance, the easiest way to shop,?as we shift to a more mindful consumer culture.
People don?t compromise on a mass scale, nor should they be expected to, so we aim to create an exceptional experience.”
Why sustainable shopping fits your budget
Would you like to purchase sustainable products but feel it is out of your price range? According to Lewis,??When you become more mindful about the things you buy, you buy less.?
In other words, do we really need all of those pairs of jeans? Or would a couple of high quality pairs from a sustainably sourced manufacturer be better? Sounds like a sensible approach to us!
Plus, over time, you will end up spending less when you purchase reusable products. Think about the cost (to your wallet and the planet) of all those plastic water bottles and sandwich bags. If you replaced these with multi-use products, you’ll save money?and our planet.?
Special offer for WellWallet readers
EarthHero is giving WellWallet readers$20 toward their first order. Check out their unique gifts under $50. Here are a few ideas for great products that support our planet:
Travel backpacks, wallets, phone cases
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Put your money where your heart is. Shop with intention and feel good about how your money moves in the world.
They sell plastic.? Yet they are one of the most beloved companies in America. ?The Container Store started out as a single store in Dallas with only $35,000 in capital. Kip Tindell worked tirelessly to build his investment into the big name retail chain it is today. Fast forward to 2017. Today, The Container Store brings in $795 million in revenue, spent 18 years on the Fortune 100 Best Companies list, and offers fantastic wages for staff that feel “valued and respected”. It is safe to say that he has succeeded.
But how was all of this possible? To find out, we spoke to Kip Tindell himself.
Kip is a believer in?“1 Equals 3”, or more specifically, one great person is equivalent to three good people.
By creating an environment where employees are well-trained and treated as humans rather than assets, productivity and profits soar. It all starts with the training. While the average retailer provides 8 hours of employee training, The Container Store provides 273 formal training hours.
He goes on to explain, “I’m not an advocate of paying mediocre people well. I’m a big advocate of paying great people well, and if you pay somebody who’s getting three times the productivity twice as much, everybody wins.”
Employers win because they pay two salaries for the work of three people. Employees win by getting much higher pay than the industry average. Consumers win because they are being helped by capable, motivated and well-trained staff. The Container Store recognizes the benefits of investing in their people and offering incentives in the right places.
In fact, a well-trained staff forms the basis for Kip?s next key to success: ?Man in the desert?. ?Imagine you are stranded in a desert, about to collapse from heat exhaustion. ?Suddenly, you see a man in an oasis. ?What should this man offer you in your time of need? ?This question can be directly linked to how retail staff can make or break a business. ?Many people would be content with water and shade. ?But businesses cannot thrive with customers who are merely ?content?. ?Instead, the man could offer you a sports drink to help replenish electrolytes, or a satellite phone to tell your loved ones that you are alive. ?It is when a salesperson exceeds expectations that people become lifelong customers.
Kip knows that if someone comes in with a poorly organized closet and walks out with a few shelves, chances are the closet will still be poorly organized. ?On the other hand, if the salesperson takes the time to truly understand and solve the problem, the customer will feel proud of their purchase and will share their experience with others. In other words, every happy customer is working for you as free advertisement. ?In fact, it is better than an ad because people trust their friends and family a lot more than a stranger on tv, the web, or a billboard.
Kip?s third and final key to success: ?Communication is Leadership?. ?Kip believes that everything can be solved with proper communication, so he communicates everything to almost all of his employees at all times. ?It seems obvious, but it is very easy to overlook how often you are keeping someone informed. ?The amount of information necessary and relevant also has to be balanced, so that the person isn?t overwhelmed with things irrelevant to their jobs.
In his words,
?Nothing makes you feel more part of something than when you know everything?s communicated to you. If everything?s not communicated to you, you feel excluded. ?You don?t really feel a part of it.? ?
Lack of communication can be easily misinterpreted as a lack of compassion. ?When managing teams of people, it is essential to keep everyone feeling appreciated since this is when we do our best work. People don?t mind putting in extra effort when they feel successful and part of a larger purpose.
The three keys to success all share a common theme: treat everyone as you would treat yourself. ?
There is a reason that ?the golden rule? is repeated over and over to every kindergardener, and it?s not because Charlie won?t share the Legos. ?It?s because humans are instinctively social creatures. ?There are benefits to treating your employees as people and going the extra mile for your customers. Kip Tindell has figured this out and made these conscious business concepts essential ingredients of The Container Store culture and brand.
Check out more great interviews and videos from leaders in conscious capitalism, in the new feature film?Prosperity
I grew up in the land of yerba mate. In Argentina, the herbal drink yerba mate was served everywhere you went. The indigenous people of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay enjoyed yerba mate long before the Spanish arrived. Over the years, mate became the drink of choice for many in South America.
Mate is the first thing people offer you when you visit. “Un matecito?” Family mornings start with mate. University students depend on it for long nights of study. Artists and musicians love their yerba mate muse. Conversation and insight are born around mate.
Mate brings the outdoors, the sierras and the forest, inside. And a circle around a fire, a Spanish guitar, or a philosophical discussion, can bring out yerba’s best flavors.
The caffeine-like substance in mate, or mateina, is a pleasure at any hour, especially when it is served traditional style: in a single gourd and with a “bombilla”, or metal straw. The gourd is passed around and shared with good company. Mate is a cultural drink, a form of giving and a receiving.
I have friends in Argentina that keep a hot water thermos in the car, always ready to brew. On my last visit, my childhood friend and I prepared to hike on a gorgeous autumn day. She packed a gourd, a bombilla, yerba, and hot water. This is truly a drink to enjoy at any time of day or night.
The benefits of yerba mate
YERBA, or Iles paraguarensis, is the name of the green, aromatic herb used to make mate. The drink evolved from jungle plant, to indigenous medicine, to South American tradition, and finally to the fashionable drink we know today.
Yerba is also a veritable powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This is an herb that leaves green tea in the dust. Yerba has higher polyphenol and antioxidant content. And it possesses multitude of health benefits. ?
Can this simple beverage help save our planet?
One company is out to prove just that. Guayaki has built a model that places sustainability at the core of their business practices.
Harvard graduate Chris Mann and four of his pals stepped out of the traditional corporate path and created a new, ecologically sound company. They brought yerba harvesting back to the forest. Their mate is grown organically, like it was at the beginning, in the shade and under the canopy, for potency, clarity, vitality and well being. Guayaki Yerba is also a provider of local jobs that do not disturb the forest. Native people, yerba?s original tenders and consumers, are paid a living wage to plant and harvest the herb.
What drove their unique business model? Chris Mann said,
“It was while at Harvard that I realized, everything I was interested in is outside the system. …When asking professors what about environmental degradation, what about native people?s compensation, the answer always was: that’s outside the economical model, those are externalities.”
Guayaki was started in 1996 by two university buddies, Alex Pryor from Buenos Aires and David Karr from California. They were soon joined by Chris Mann, Steven Karr and Michael Newton. United by their love of mate and holistic living, they imagined a company that valued sustainable practices and respect for indigenous workers. Twenty-one years later, they?ve secured 60% of the Yerba mate market in the US. ?
This company, started with seventeen credit cards and a small loan, is now flourishing. They new goal: to protect and restore 200,000 acres of Atlantic rain forest and create 1,000 living wage jobs by 2020.
Guayaki is succeeding not despite their sustainable practices, but because of them.
Guayaki and other companies like them will continue to thrive because of our support. They are one of the many enterprises opening the doors to the economy of the future. They are sustainable, democratic, inclusive, and profitable. They represent the new economy.
Chris and his team recognize that business can be used as a force for good in the world. We can make changes by voting with our dollars and supporting companies Guayaki that care about all of their stakeholders (employees, suppliers, the planet and shareholders).
Your money makes a difference. The companies you decide to support will be the companies that flourish.
We need to create the motive and define the goals we want to see in the world. This isn?t a matter of benevolence or generosity. It is a as a matter of survival. Let?s live the change we want to see, so that we can protect our beautiful planet to future generations.
Check out more great interviews and videos from leaders in conscious capitalism, in the new feature film?Prosperity
“What I did was start investing in what I love and what I believed in?
Paulette Cole is CEO and creative director of the trendsetting Manhattan furnishing store ABC Home. But she?s more than an entrepreneur, she?s also a visionary. Her company lives and breathes the mission statement of using beauty, art, and wellness as powerful tools. Her aim is to heal the planet by transforming shopping into responsible retail.
Beyond furnishings and decor, ABC Home stores offer an oasis of all things bed, bath, baby, and beauty & wellness. ABC is also home one of the hottest NYC restaurants, offering an array of ?fine dining experiences. ?Her business model teaches consumers about the art of making their homes both a refuge and a creative, sacred space. To Paulette, shopping responsibly is a form connectivity: it brings together people, purpose, and planet. She?s the ultimate pioneer in eco-chic.
How did one woman build an empire inspired by eco-friendly shopping and indigenous design in a world that revolves around the bottom line?
?This is a story of beauty, wellness, wisdom, and love?
It all began in the 1980?s when Paulette set out to expand her family?s carpet business from an upscale design store into a mission driven business. ?From its inception, ABC Home followed the belief that every product sold should resonate with the heart. During the early days Paulette said, ?I didn?t really have a template to follow, so I trusted my intuition.?
In 2003, ABC Home made the decision to sustainably source all of their furniture and introduced the concept of ?Good Wood?? products made from trees that have been harvested from responsibly managed forests. Later, that idea would manifest into the Goodwood Plant a Tree project. For each Goodwood furniture purchase, a tree is planted through the Climate Poverty Reduction Program, an effort led by Professor Wangari Maathai?s Green Belt Movement. ?
By 2004, ABC Home was entirely dedicated to selling sustainable products like reclaimed salvaged goods, organic upholstery, fabrics, and vintage and antique pieces.
Beyond selling goods, Paulette wanted the company to do good. ?The goal was to keep world?s wellbeing in mind with every decision the company made. That meant only sourcing from businesses that were chemical-free, used wildcrafting, and were in alignment with organic principles. They went so far as to drop all chemical cleansers from the store and use only recycled paper, soy based ink, and biodegradable packaging (all while saving money along the way.)
Ultimately, these strategies resulted in a business that today educates, heals, and inspires consumers. Not only has ABC Home created a community and sanctuary for beautiful products brimming with integrity, but it has curated a living theater for art and wellness. As often as possible, Paulette wants the store to be a source of ?connectivity to a healthier place of wellness and prosperity.?
?I don?t think the world needs ABC to be another Billion dollar brand?
Like many large businesses, ABC Home was urged to ?grow big?. Paulette was not swayed by the prospects of scaling. She remained steadfast to the original business strategy and protected the uniqueness of the brand. Her tenacity defines her strength as a woman and CEO. ?The brand she built was not solely driven by the bottom line.
Today, sustainable stores face many challenges. ?More than ever, Paulette sees capital wanting to invest in vision, but also demanding a ?sure thing? that will bring competitive returns. ?Remaining dedicated to the brand?s mission while making profits is a delicate balance and not for the faint of heart. ?Building a business with ethics in mind means looking beyond profit and towards environmental and social responsibility. ?Paulette advises entrepreneurs, ?you?ll have to be willing to invest in the sustainability of that mission even if sales are swaying.?
?It?s the butterfly effect?
With ABC Home, Paulette wanted to give people the opportunity to connect with sources that they didn?t know were available. ?For instance, women seeking a pink sari at her store wouldn?t have to worry, ?whether that pink dye was low impact color or vegetable dyed, or whether the women who were weaving it are weaving it under fair trade circumstances.? ?Curating positive change in commerce starts with aligning your own vision and values with your daily choices. ?The food we put in our mouths, the clothes we wear, and the products we apply impact not only our own personal health, but the health our planet and communities, too. ?
Entrepreneurs, business owners, and people everywhere can begin the journey of building a healthier economy for the planet. Creating both a strong business and fruitful life hold the same principles: it?s all about combined efforts. Paulette sees an opportunity to redefine the concept of design and integrate it into a brand that helps people and planet. ?She urges consumers everywhere to step up and align their beliefs with what they purchase. ?If we do this consistently, it changes the way the world does business. Paulette already sees a Green Industrial Revolution in the works as more people opt for sustainable shopping and business. ?This process is a group effort though, one where the consumer?s voice is only heard when amplified by many. ?
How do we accomplish this task and what is her advice to accelerate conscious capitalism? According to her,
?Speak loudly even if your voice shakes…The consumer has to demand more.?
In the end, Paulette Cole transformed a mere family owned business into a revered sustainable shopping empire, one that millions of people admire. ?Her work is a living masterpiece and clearly defines a new era of design. ABC Home is the ultimate shift in paradigm and a business that continues to inspire truth seekers and entrepreneurs everywhere to voice their desires and vote with their dollars.
Check out more great interviews and videos from leaders in conscious capitalism, in the new feature film?Prosperity