EARTHWISE: A Green Store
For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”
There is a learning curve when it comes to introducing a new product much less a new lifestyle into the public domain. When the innovative idea is the ‘first’, the success depends upon the mass marketing and outreach of the products to the consumer. These were the lessons learned from TRAIL BLAZING a new paradigm.
In 1987, the family was out driving in the car when the children began to complain about the clear-cutting of the forest. “Where will Bambi live?” the little ones cried. With that, research ensued to find products, alternatives, reduce consumption, reuse products and reclaim the forests. Thus Earthwise: A Green Store, an environmentally friendly wholesale/retail store was born in 1989 (later changed to Eartheart) on the downtown mall in Charlottesville as well as a non-profit foundation Eartheart, Inc.. At the time, the only recycled products that existed were office paper. It took time, energy and money to convince distributors and companies to create, mass produce and/or import products like recycled toilet paper, paper towels and other eco-friendly products as there was no market for these products, resistance was high. The only course would be as a specialty or novelty store. After extensive research, many of these ‘specialty’ products in the store were foreign to general markets and establishments but especially to the general public. Selling recycled bins to a town that did not have a curb side or roadside recycling program, was ludicrous. Although the logic of recycling was obvious, lifestyle transformation was next to impossible.
The greater difficulty in being the ‘new idea on the block’ was that most people had no concept of what recycled and environmentally friendly products might be. As in any new endeavor, education of the public is the key element. The internet was not the phenomena it is today. Lectures in schools, article publication, mailings, free demonstrations were all a part of the process. Spending twenty minutes explaining the ‘processing’ of recycling a product, post consumer waste and more importantly that ‘recycled toilet paper’ was not what you think, was not beneficial in turning a profit. Living in a community that did not have a curb recycling program or recycling of any kind was an additional roadblock. And so, the dye was cast to not only operate a retail/wholesale store, manage a family, promote and market a new way of life, but also start a recycling program to maximize market presence.
This little store attracted national attention when it appeared in In Business Magazine (after writing my own article) and gained notoriety when linked with Bed and Body Works, which incorporated at the same time. From there, a few national media outlets took note of its uniqueness: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS to name a few. Calls came from around the world for training individuals in ‘start-up’ stores. And then, the big bad corporations saw green- money that is. When the big chains buying in bulk like Whole Foods, Kmart and Walmart started selling eco products at much lower prices then the little store, much like most small enterprises in competition with the big corporations, the small business saw its demise.
Earthwise: A Greenstore PBS; ABC
Albemarle Magazine: Environmental Entrepreneurship April-May 1991 (scanned)
Consumer Guide to Planet Earth 1991 (scanned)
Green Store; Charlottesville Observer 1991 (scanned)
For Earth’s Sake Calendar Centerfold 1992 (3 pages) (scanned)
Franchise Opportunities Grow With Times; In Business Magazine January 1991 (2 pages) (scanned)
Franchise Reaction; In Business Magazine November-December 1991 (scanned)
City Store Featured on National TV; Rural Virginian; December 1992 (scanned)
Recycled Products Plant The Seed for Growing Business: Daily Progress; September 1991 (2 pages) (scanned)
Salute To Family Businesses: Earthwise; Daily Progress June 1991 (scanned)
Urges Patronage of ‘Earth Friendly’ Business; March 1991 (scanned)
Economic Activism; University of Virginia; 1998 (scanned)