15 Things We Learned Through EcoEnclose (And Life) in 2016
Political winds might change; but individuals, small teams and businesses can and will remain climate change leaders. Of course, policy and the public sphere at the local, national and global level are al critical to change of any kind. But policy will be subject to the whims of changing electorate priorities and my influence feels very small. Rather than getting discouraged, we can funnel our energy to what we can control – our own households, our eco-conscious businesses, and how we motivate everyone in our circle of influence to do the same.
We can all maximize our impact by educating and influencing customers. Offering amazing, thoughtful, responsibly made product is an incredible accomplishment. But it’s just the first step. To go further, we can all sell our story and passion to customers, and invest in educating them about our products, our mission and the environment – and flat out ask them to choose quality and durability over cheap, disposable goods.
Pictures and videos really do go further than words: A few months ago, Sonya took it on herself to create a video reminding our team why EcoEnclose exists. Her video took us through powerful photos, images and statistics – stark reflections of how humans are trashing the world, not thinking about our footprint and why minimizing the waste we create is absolutely critical. We’re all ecogeeks, but sometimes even we get complacent. The video changed that – and I think we all doubled down, trying to find new ways to improve the carbon footprint of our actions. Any time I feel myself getting lazy, re-watching that video does the trick. Here is a public version for anyone needing a dose of inspiration!
There is no perfect roadmap to making the most “eco” decisions: Yes, there are some black and whites to sustainability – like buy less stuff and throw less out. But for many decisions, there is no silver bullet answer. For example, paper is not always better than plastic. Plastic is typically lighter and less energy intensive to make and ship. However, many people do not properly recycle their plastic so it ends up landfill bound, while cardboard is readily recycled. So you might choose paper? Or if you choose plastic, you might consider sending instructions to customers on how to properly dispose of the shipping material. These are complex decisions, but thinking through them makes us more aware of our footprint. We at EcoEnclose are getting more thoughtful about these tradeoffs every day, so if we can help you make a decision about what shipping solutions are best for you and the planet, please reach out!
Shipping can be creative, beautiful and fun! Shipping might make you think – boring brown box, place your item in, tape shut and go to your nearest post office. But our customers have incredible aesthetics, and are dedicated to sending #happymail – celebrating their customers and showcasing their unique and personalized touch. We’ve had a chance to work on and be inspired by some of the most beautiful box and mailer designs we could have imagined, and have seen our customers pull together ecofriendly packages that are so delightful, you might think the unboxing experience is a gift in itself! Check out our feed to get inspired by what the EcoEnclose community is doing.
Shipping is also an investment, not just a cost. We have seen the impact of good and bad shipping experiences in our own operations- like the positive response we get to our personalized notes and holiday cardboard cutouts and the negative response we receive on damaged shipments (something we work hard to control, but oftentimes cannot). People take notice how products are packaged and shipped – for better or worse – and it influences whether they shop from you again.
There are countless ways eco businesses can support each other and strengthen the movement. Many of us are small to medium businesses with a commitment to a cleaner and stronger environment. Finding ways to support each other – by giving advice, sharing resources, working as activists together, promoting each other’s eco-friendly products – will move us all closer to our goals. Working collectively can also help us be a bigger force for change, in a world where mainstream businesses and their penchant for profit maximization at all costs seems to rule. At Eco, one of our favorite ways to build and support our community is to help promote you (our customers), purchase from you, and encourage others to spend their dollars with you. Check out our Pinterest board to see a thousand eco conscious companies we work with: www.pinterest.com/ecoenclose.
It is not “customer service”, it is why we are in business: At business school, I read case study after study on companies like Nordstrom or Southwest Airlines or Zappos who sought to make customer service a key differentiator for them, and others (cable companies come to mind) who don’t care much at all. What I learned this year is that for us, serving you well is not a “business strategy.” It is the core of why we exist. Our mission is to make it easy for businesses to ship their products sustainably. If we do it well, businesses adhere to their green values, we can reduce landfill bound waste, and EcoEnclose can succeed. We have yet to come across a situation when a business has reached out with a question, concern or idea that we did not attempt to work through with them.
Pallet wood is tough to work with: We receive a lot of pallets here at EcoEnclose! What I love about pallets is that they are usually upcycled – wood scraps turned into a pretty useful item. But…then what? I’m not going to lie, I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit checking out beautiful DIY blogs chock full of ideas and pictures of how to reuse the stacks of pallets we had accumulated in our warehouse. We had grand plans. After making a desk, a work table and a taping station with them – we were excited but exhausted, finding out that pallet wood is TOUGH to work with! Hopefully there are more fun reuses in our future, but my respect for those creative DIY pallet upcyclers is now through the roof!
Moving warehouses reminds us that while planning is important, on the fly problem solving can never be avoided: We moved to a new, much larger warehouse this year. Our moving plans were impeccable. Floor plans indicated – to the inch – where racking and machines should go. Days were scheduled to the minute. So yes, we naively thought it was going to be smooth sailing. [Cue evil laugh] We were wrong, from the very beginning – starting with the movers showing up at the wrong time, with the wrong truck and the wrong equipment. In the end we “rolled with it” (not without more than a few expletives and sleepless nights) but what did we gained? A stronger and even more cohesive team, new ability to problem solve on the fly, immense gratitude to our families who helped in countless ways that month, and duh, a much bigger and better warehouse.
It is easier for us to hire people with our values and train them, than to hire trained people and coach them on our values: We are a team of passionate (and quirky) individuals. We are, or at least try to be, generous and collaborative and go out of our way to help each other and our customers. We try to be adventurous and creative in our work, exploring new designs and testing new ideas for how we can make sustainable packaging better, cooler and more stylish. We talked to some incredible applicants as we were filling positions and were tempted to hire people who already had the skill set we needed but who we felt might not fully share our values. In the end, because we all pushed each other during the hiring process, candidates who embodied our values won out. Yes, the onboarding process was harder, longer and more resource intensive for us, but EcoEnclose has never been a better place to work!
Running a business and a household together takes…patience, communication, and a glass of wine after the kids go to bed: We co-own EcoEnclose and run a household with two little boys 20 months apart. And this seems to be a pretty common situation in the world of small business and entrepreneurship. Many of you know – it is tough making strategy and business decisions during the day, splitting chores at night, and being energized and loving parents at all times. We don’t do it perfectly and I know we can learn much more from fellow business owners and couples – but this year we both got a little bit more patient with each other, a lot better at communicating, and spent many evenings eagerly awaiting the post-bedtime glass of wine time to be “be just a couple” for a few minutes.
It’s true, kids love boxes more than toys: Parents out there know that how easy it is to be inundated with plastic toys that are unusable after a month. It is depressing! Our newest obsession? Turning scrap cardboard from the warehouse into forts, coloring canvases, tunnels, cars and obstacle courses. It breeds creativity (from the kids and the parents!), provides way more hours of fun than we ever expect, is not laden with toxic inks and dyes, and can be composted or recycled when they have reached the end of their life. Have a cool cardboard toy idea? Send it to us!
Good old fashioned books are where it’s at: This year I felt more inundated with and stressed by digital content than ever, getting pulled in every direction and easily distracted by every new viewpoint pushed on me. What actually made me learn the most and get me inspired? Good old fashioned books. I read some new ones and reread some favorites this year. Three that stood out and have inspired my work and personal life in new ways? Let My People Go Surfing, The Soil Will Save Us, and Cradle to Cradle.
There is no better time than right now – before the holiday and new year’s celebrations! – to develop our plan for 2017! We need to do this while we’re energized and in the zone, so we can truly unwind [read: the slopes are calling our name…] before 2017 is officially on us.