becky at a desk under EarthHero sign

How this Social Start-Up is Changing the Way We Shop

More people are choosing sustainable shopping

Ryan Lewis of EarthHero outside the office

Ryan Lewis of EarthHero outside the Boulder, CO office

*EarthHero is giving WellWallet readers $20 toward their first order.*

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.”  

Sign with 1860 trees planted

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.

Ryan standing in his warehouse

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.

EarthHero selection criteriaRefining 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:

  1. Stay true to your mission. Be really clear who you are and why you’re doing it.
  2. Remember that it takes time and timing.  “I oscillate between patience and persistence – I mess things up when I get this wrong.”
  3. 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.

  4. 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.”
  5. 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.”

Related: How to Work Sustainability Into Your Business Idea

The Vision: 5 Years Out

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:

  1. Sustainable electronics
  2. Eco apparel
  3. Travel backpacks, wallets, phone cases
  4. …and 1K more ideas

Put your money where your heart is. Shop with intention and feel good about how your money moves in the world.

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