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EarthHero: Making sustainable shopping simple

When EarthHero Founder and CEO, Ryan Lewis, realized how much stuff and trash we accumulate and create, he knew he had to do something about it. So he launched EarthHero, an eco-friendly online marketplace. Its mission is to normalize and simplify conscious, sustainable consumption. Best for Colorado spoke with Lewis to learn more about this B Corp certified company.

Best for Colorado: Could you tell me just a little bit about where the idea for EarthHero came from?

Ryan Lewis:  In 2014, I wanted to help make a more direct positive impact on the planet and pursue my passion for sustainability, but I didn’t know exactly what to do. At the time I had recently sold my restaurant supply company in Boulder but was still running it. We had a great team and I loved our customers, but it just wasn’t serving that greater need for impact, so I decided to step away.

In addition to my desire to start a new company for impact, my wife and I always wanted to have an experience living abroad. So, we decided to move to Costa Rica with our kids. In the process of moving to Costa Rica, we basically sold or got rid of everything we owned. That process alone was quite shocking. I have always considered myself a relative minimalist, but I couldn’t believe how much we had accumulated. I started to realize the weight of stuff in my life and vowed to be even more stringent with what I accumulated in the future. Once we arrived, we saw beautiful beaches, mountains and water, but we also saw trash, everywhere.

One afternoon, I was browsing a local bookstore and picked up the book, “The Story of Stuff.”  It detailed exactly how much harm our traditional consumption was having on the planet. It broke down the five stages of consumption: extraction of natural resources, transportation, manufacturing, consumption and disposal. It was a linear, unsustainable process. It hit me like a lightning strike. I began asking a ton of questions and researching whether there was a better way.

BFCO: Is that how you developed your methodology for EarthHero?

RL: Yes, for sure. “The Story of Stuff’s” main point is we have to focus on the right inputs. If you do it right from that first step, then the rest of the steps are easier to accomplish. Once I read that book, I started researching if there were products being made with this in mindset. I was surprised that there were, but this was back in 2015. It was so fragmented and confusing that most people could not comfortably live their lives shopping that way, and so the concept of EarthHero was born.  I realized I could use the same business model I had with my last company and curate the world’s most sustainable products on one common platform. The goal? To make sustainable shopping so easy that everyone does it.

BFCO: I know we’re living through challenging times, so how has COVID-19 impacted your business?

RL: These are challenging times for sure, and there are several perspectives to that question. Our priority was to make sure our team was safe and that we could work well together in this new environment. Fortunately, we’ve all been healthy. The next thing we did was check in with our suppliers. There were some that had to temporarily close, but most were able to remain open. Because we are an e-commerce business, we’ve been able to continue to ship orders daily, and that has led to some accelerated growth. Our challenge has been around growth and culture. We’ve built our team around operational excellence where every detail matters. We are learning how to maintain that as a distributed team as well as onboard new team members and integrate them into our culture.

BFCO: What are you most proud of in your company’s history?

RL: It’s the team. Our team is amazing, and everyone’s really rolling up their sleeves right now and doing what it takes. There’s only nine of us and every single one of them is a team player and is critical to our success.

BFCO: Can you define the specific programs, practices and priorities that fall within your organization’s corporate social responsibility? How has this evolved or changed over time?

RL: Right off the bat when I started EarthHero, we established that we were going to be the best stewards possible. I wanted to ensure that as we grew, more good was baked into the model. We immediately joined three nonprofits and launched with them. We joined 1% for the Planet, which means 1% of our sales go to environmental nonprofits. 40 of our brands are also now members of 1%, which means that when customers buy products from them on EarthHero, they are creating a double positive impact.

Then, we started the B Corps assessment, and we’ve been a certified B Corp since our first year.  We also joined to become a carbon neutral company that offsets all customer shipments through reforestation.

BFCO: What has your experience been being part of the Best for Colorado community?

RL: Last year, we went to the awards ceremony. It was so great to see so many other sustainable Colorado companies doing great things. In addition, part of our businesses is helping other businesses with their sustainable events through sustainable product giveaways, gifts for employees or corporate client gift boxes. Our salesperson met a lot of awesome businesses that we’ve been able to help ever since.

BFCO: What do you envision EarthHero looking like 10 years from now?

RL: We want sustainable shopping to be so easy everyone does it. We imagine a world where products are made sustainably because it just makes sense; because it’s the easier decision financially and is legally mandated through policy change. That’s our long-term vision. We want EarthHero to be the household name for clean shopping. We want it to be the go-to platform for suppliers who are making products with the planet’s best interest in mind. Through our sustainable shop, we want consumers to be able to find what they’re looking for every single time they want or need to buy something.

Best for Colorado is a program of the Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support.

Angel Touch Commercial Cleaning: Expanding a sustainable business

Angel Touch Commercial Cleaning is a local, family-owned business. Its commitment to using environmentally friendly products, supporting the local economy, and giving to different organizations makes them Best for Colorado. We spoke with the co-owners, Natalie and Corey Nove, to learn more about this small business.

Best for Colorado: How is your company adapting during this time?

Natalie Nove: We work primarily with other small businesses, so about 40% of our clients have closed. We’ve definitely been impacted this way, but we were also fortunate to have acquired some disinfectant products that are on the CDC-approved list. We started offering a disinfectant cleaning service right away in mid-March, and we’re getting a lot more inquiries about this as businesses have started reopening. We recently acquired the best eco-friendly, non-toxic and responsible product we could find, which is on the CDC list as an approved agent against COVID-19.  We’re thrilled to begin the partnership with Clean Republic, and we plan on using their disinfectant product for the long term.

Corey Nove: We’ve invested in an electrostatic sprayer machine, which disperses a super fine mist over everything. It can be sprayed on anything you can imagine, even electronics. These were previously utilized primarily in medical spaces, but since COVID-19 the use of these machines in all types of industries has quickly emerged. We’re now using them in office spaces.

BFCO: What has been your experience managing your employees during this time?

CN: We’ve followed all the CDC guidelines. So, if we work with the electrostatic sprayer machine, we use proper personal protective equipment. On our janitorial cleans, we’re using gloves and face masks on every single job. We’ve asked our customers to let us know if they have any outbreaks, so that we can communicate that with our team. Fortunately, we haven’t had anything like that up to this point.

NN: I think our service has also been helping other businesses. They’re able to reassure their employees and customers that everything has been disinfected.

BFCO: How did you first get started?

CN: We purchased the business in 2013, and it’s been around since 1998. When we purchased the business, it was doing 95% construction cleanup. Overtime, we transitioned it over to janitorial work. We also do windows, carpets and now this new kind of disinfectant cleaning. We predominantly do office cleaning and some restaurant cleaning in the evenings. Right now, a lot of restaurants have closed, but we’re not out of business because we still work with enough businesses in other industries. We built our business for longevity. I came from a mortgage banking background, so the market crash of 2008 definitely taught me the importance of diversification.

BFCO: What made you want to go from banking to owning your own business?

CN: We decided that we wanted to build something for ourselves instead of working for a big corporation. We had two small children at the time. I was working 70-hour weeks in the corporate world, so I knew we had to make a move. We started researching a bunch of different business ventures and decided on this cleaning company because it would give us more flexibility and time with our kids.

BFCO: How did sustainability emerged as a priority in your business?

NN: When you have kids, you think about the future that you’re leaving for them. I started thinking about transitioning to a 100% green cleaning company about a year after we had it. We stumbled upon Boulder Clean (which is a B Corp and Best for Colorado company as well) and we’ve been working with them for nearly five years now.

CN: When we first started, we were using all the products the previous owner was using. Boulder Clean products are far more natural than anything we were using before, and they’re local.

BFCO: What made you want to donate to the Denver Rescue Mission and Denver’s Children’s Hospital?

CN: Our children have had procedures done at that hospital, and we’ve seen the amazing work they do. That decision was pretty easy for us seeing the ways they’ve helped our family. As far as the shelters, we have business partners down in that location and I see the amount of people that are out there in the streets. So just seeing that made me want to help in any way I could.

BFCO: What has your experience been like being part of Best for Colorado?

NN: Feeling the support of the local economy has helped a lot. Best for Colorado also gives us ideas about things we can do from a business modeling perspective and different ways we can reduce our environmental footprint.

BFCO: What do you hope your company will look like in the future, and what does success look like for you?

CN: We’ll definitely continue to grow. Most of our business right now is in the Denver metro area, but we’ve started to expand, and it’s been working well. We will continue to diversify our business and continue trying to be on the cutting edge of the green movement.

NN: We’ll also continue to expand upon our support of organizations we think are important and other small businesses we work with. Of course, we’ll continue supporting our employees by ensuring that they have the flexibility, compensation and resources they need.

Best for Colorado is a program of the Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support.