Have you heard the complaint that living in a sustainable way simply costs too much money? Well, there are a few people out there who would beg to differ. Since I began my own journey into the world of environmental responsibility, I’ve met some great people who not only think we can save money and the earth at the same time, they actually make their living helping others to do just that.
In my next couple of posts, I’d like to introduce a few of these people. Part 1 is about Doug Farquhar, who began the company Renovos, a consulting firm that helps companies find ways to reduce their waste. I met Doug several months ago, when he contacted me about his project, Rejavanate, reusable tote bags made from recycled coffee sacks, which I wrote about back in September. If you haven’t seen that post, check it out. It’s a great story.
I ran into Doug again at the SF Green Festival where he was exhibiting for his second company, BuyGreen.com.
2015 Update: Sadly, Doug sold Buygreen to another company this year. The rest of the article, describing his products and green standards, does not apply to the new Buygreen company.
Here’s how Doug got into this business, in his own words:
I always have had an interest in the green and eco-friendly space. A friend of mine had started working with his father doing consulting for companies in respect to reducing their waste. This was really the genesis for Renovos. I was tired of working in the corporate world and thought that there was an opportunity to do good and make money too. I firmly believe that if the green movement is to be successful, those two things can not be mutually exclusive. So I thought I would put my money where my mouth is and launched both companies – at different times.
As I was spending more time looking at different things around waste and eco strategies, I noticed that there were a lot of really great green products. However, they were located all over the place…. Also, I was struggling with exactly why products were green. I would read the descriptions and in many instances they were not very different from the product descriptions you would get on Target.com, Macy.com or Amazon.com. Yes when I looked at the products, they felt green and there was some intuitive understanding, but no objective measure.
So BuyGreen.com developed its Green Standards system in order to rate products based on the environmental impact throughout their life cycle. The green standards consider four key areas: 1). Source Material, 2). Manufacturing, 3). Usage, and 4). Disposal. Each product considered for sale on BuyGreen.com is given a numeric score in each of these four areas, and these scores are posted on the product’s info page. But also, in addition to a simple scoring system, each product comes with a downloadable Green Standards PDF-format detail sheet which gives much more information about the product’s impact from cradle to grave.
I asked Doug about the packaging that BuyGreen uses to ship its products out, and he kindly forwarded me the logo they stamp on all their boxes, saying “…we have never bought a new box or any packing material.” Right on!
So I also asked him about the plastic content of particular products on the site. There are, for example, natural cleaning and body products in plastic bottles, just as there are on all the other green products sites. But there are also quite a few products that are plastic-free.
I was particularly interested in the Twist loofah kitchen sponges, which I haven’t seen in any stores around here. Doug says the loofah sponge and the naked sponge are wrapped only in paper with zero plastic. But there are quite a few other plastic-free products on the site if you look. He says that their biggest seller overall are the BioBags because there are so many “people who want to use something other than plastic bags.”
So that’s Doug’s story. Tomorrow, I’ll write about a woman who is greening events and businesses in San Francisco, and who joined me at the muddy Jepson Prairie compost facility a few weeks ago and wrote all about the tour. These are the people who are making a living by making a difference.
And as a postscript, I’d just like to offer some compassion for the 20,000 Chinese employees who lost their jobs this past month when China’s largest plastic bag manufacturer went out of business as a result of the bag ban. It’s easy to feel smug about “the bad guys” going out of business. But in this world, there really are no bad guys. There are just people doing the best they can. Let’s hope that these particular people will be able to find healthy jobs in businesses that are good for the environment. Let’s hope that green businesses and green jobs will increase as awareness grows worldwide.