Wisdom is replacing plastic with zero-waste school supplies

October 7, 2020 by  
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“Waste is a design flaw.” That’s a quote from a start-up company in California that believes as guardians of the planet, it’s never too soon to take action nor too thoughtful to consider how our actions affect the environment our children will inherit. Wisdom Supply Company , a women-owned B-Corp based out of San Francisco, consists of two activists who found a way to take action against plastic waste by creating environmentally friendly supplies for the classroom. As students head back to school in whatever form 2020 brings, this duo has released a completely zero-waste solution to the typical pile of plastic and vinyl folders, binders and pencil boxes that are produced, used and tossed across the country each year. How it all began Seeing the amount of debris that cluttered the waste stream as school let out for summer, founder Heather Itzla took action by donating waste-free supplies to her local school. Knowing one school was merely a hatch mark on the long trail of establishments that rely on standard-yet-wasteful products, the self-proclaimed plastic waste activist started a business, “for the sole purpose of stopping the insane amount of plastic and vinyl waste coming out of schools every year.” Related: A guide to going green for the back-to-school season Itzla’s co-founder and fellow environmentalist Nicole Kozlowski was eager to jump on board with the idea after committing to protect “the ocean and wilderness by addressing disposable culture.” Kozlowski was already taking action as an ocean advocate by participating in ocean pollution events, where she continuously crossed paths with Itzla. Seeing their common passion unfold, the pair launched Wisdom with a focus on setting a good example for the very children that will inherit the current plastic pollution crisis without education, action and change around the topic. They hope to show the upcoming generation that there are alternatives to standardized and mass-produced plastic. Sustainable school supplies Plastic has, in fact, been an exponentially growing problem across the planet, with debris making its way into nearly every corner of the environment, including the oceans, where it is ingested by marine life. This is not only unhealthy for the animals but comes full circle in animals we rely on as food, like fish. With this in mind, Wisdom’s mission is to “disrupt what we call the shelf-to-shore pipeline” by eliminating the waste where it begins. The Wisdom Supply Co. products are all conscientiously made, packaged and shipped. Examples include cardboard binders that can be replaced for a few bucks, allowing you to reuse the metal pieces from the inside, an action that merely requires a screwdriver and a few minutes of time. This is more than a product, it’s a mindset, and one example of how a single act can significantly reduce the amount of supply waste. Other products available are plastic-free folders, paper-only planners, colored and unpainted pencils and a yellow highlighter. The company also provides a recyclable aluminum pencil tin set lined with wool that includes a pencil, metal sharpener, highlighter and natural rubber eraser. Some products are still working toward 100% plastic-free , like the Stabilo markers, which act as a regular marker, dry erase marker and watercolor all in one. The down side, as the company points out with its petition to the manufacturer, Staedtler, is a small amount of plastic film on the top of the marker as well as a plastic sharpener that, so far, is the most effective tool for the job. In addition, Wisdom Supply Co. has put together two zero-waste kits for easy shopping. One targets the elementary-age classroom and the other is appropriate through college or even the adult home office. The kits make a great end-of-year teacher’s gift, too. By signing up for the rewards program, your gift purchases will pay you back. For every $25 minimum purchase made using the shared link, you’ll earn $5 toward a future purchase, and you can redeem multiple rewards within the same purchase to earn free items. A certified B-Corp Making wise choices is only part of the reason for the company name, Wisdom Supply Co. The primary inspiration actually came from the animal world, appropriately. In 1951, a wild female Laysan albatross hatched. Five years later, she was tagged for study and released back into the wild. According the the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wisdom is the oldest wild bird ever recorded. Even more astonishing is her consistent hatching of eggs, even at the ripe age of 69. Nearly every species of albatross is listed as threatened, making Wisdom the ideal mascot for a company dedicated to improving animal habitats. Wisdom Supply Co.’s commitment to all things environmental has earned it the coveted B-Corp certification, a designation gained by only around 3,000 companies worldwide. In addition, Itzla and Kozlowski have been acknowledged as a Best For the World honoree in recognition of their environmental performance and sustainable business practices. This places them in the top 10% of all B-Corps globally in the “Environment” category. We put Wisdom Supply Co. to the test The team at Wisdom reached out to offer a zero-waste kit for me to enjoy and review. It’s always easier to write about products I can touch and feel, and these are samples I’m proud to have in my home. There’s no greenwashing here. The tin pencil box is everything it needs to be: solid, durable, sturdy but still easy to open and close. The yellow highlighter/marker is nothing short of impressive. No plastic in sight and sans the cringe-inducing squeak from typical highlighters. I’m ridiculously excited about the metal pencil sharpener, because the electric one I used to have no longer has a cord. It’s a welcome replacement to the box knives I’ve been using as a pencil sharpener. The binder is easy to put together and will be fun to personalize with stickers or markers. Ditto for the recycled and recyclable folders. They are thick enough that you don’t have to worry about tearing with regular use.  The 2021 planner is full-size with adequate space to put multiple appointments on each date. Plus, it includes a calendar in the front for easy reference. It’s made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials, is FSC-certified and is chlorine- and ink-free. While the thoughtful products and packaging are a breath of fresh air, what I love most about this company is the transparency. It is upfront about where product(s) fall short on the 100% plastic-free pledge and educate about companies it does business with. I love that the founders have taken action to solve a problem by implementing a viable, long-term solution. They’ve removed the design flaw. That’s Wisdom. + Wisdom Supply Co. Images via Wisdom and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Wisdom Supply Co. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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Wisdom is replacing plastic with zero-waste school supplies

Chemical footprinting comes of age

July 13, 2020 by  
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Chemical footprinting comes of age Meg Wilcox Mon, 07/13/2020 – 02:00 When the Chemical Footprint Project launched in December 2014, it aspired to become the next carbon footprint or the next widely used tool for measuring company performance on a critical sustainability concern — toxic chemical use in the manufacturing of products.  It’s made steady progress since then, with 31 companies, including Levi Strauss, Walmart and HP Inc., using the Chemical Footprint Project’s annual survey to inventory and report on their hazardous chemical use, as well as their progress towards safer alternatives.  Last month, however, the initiative scored a big win that just might bring it closer to reaching its lofty goal. Nearly 45 percent of TJX Companies’ shareholders voted in favor of a resolution calling on the discount retailer to report on its plans to reduce its chemical footprint (the “chemicals of concern” used to manufacture the products it sells in its stores).   “To get that kind of vote on this ask, that sends a message,” said Cherie Peele, program manager at the Chemical Footprint Project.  Investors, it seems, want more transparency from companies about how they are moving toward safer chemicals, to manage their risks and respond to consumer preferences. Socially responsible investors are further concerned about the environmental justice implications of the science linking hazardous chemical exposure to chronic diseases such as diabetes because communities of color bear the brunt of chemical production. This investor interest just may spur more companies to take up chemical footprinting, and particularly as they see their high-performing peers reap the rewards of consumer trust in their brands. The chemical footprint provides a way to not just say that we care about safer chemicals and green chemistry, but demonstrate it by measuring the process towards safer chemicals. The TJX vote was “a good demonstration that the E in ESG is not just about climate or water, it includes chemicals. It’s something that I hope companies take to heart,” said Boma Brown-West, senior manager of consumer health at EDF+Business.  The strong vote surprised the investors who filed the proposal, Trillium Asset Management LLC and First Affirmative Financial Network , because it was the first time such a resolution had been brought to a vote. Ordinarily, such first-time shareholder resolutions receive single-digit votes. That fact that it got over 40 percent is “an indication that some major institutional money managers voted in favor,” said Holly Testa, director of shareholder engagement at First Affirmative Financial Network. “It’s an indication that there’s widespread investor interest in this issue. It’s a mainstream concern.” “I think it’s going to set a precedent for future work on [chemical footprinting],” said Susan Baker, vice president of Trillium Asset Management. “I have to give credit to the leaders out there that have policies and are really listening to the changes in the marketplace. They’re gaining competitive advantage.” Roger McFadden, president of McFadden and Associates and former senior scientist at Staples for 10 years, said he sees corporate interest in chemical footprinting rising. Whereas in the past, “they were afraid their footprint wouldn’t be all that good,” or they feared they might not stack up well against their direct competitors, now, he says, “I think that’s the exact reason chemical footprinting is catching on. Enough companies are doing it that their competitors are beginning to pay attention to it.”  Brand value and competitive advantage A core advantage for companies participating in the chemical footprint survey “boils down to building trust, protecting your brand,” said McFadden, pointing to recent examples where companies have taken big economic and reputational hits when the health impacts of toxic ingredients in their products came to light — namely, the weed killer Roundup and baby powder.   “The chemical footprint provides a way to not just say that we care about safer chemicals and green chemistry, but demonstrate it by measuring the process towards safer chemicals,” he said.  Trillium filed the shareholder resolution with TJX in part because it saw the discount retailer lagging behind its peers. “There wasn’t evidence that they were taking a proactive approach in keeping abreast of regulatory changes and consumer preferences,” Baker told GreenBiz. “They really need to think about responsible sourcing, and how it impacts customer trust,” she added, pointing to retailers measuring their chemical footprints and moving toward safer alternatives. “Look at Target. They have all these private label brands that are attracting people into their stores. Their customers trust their brands.” TJX did not respond to GreenBiz’s request for comment; however, in its 2020 Proxy Statement it noted, “The company is already taking steps to better understand and appropriately address how the company manages its chemical footprint. … Developing and implementing a comprehensive chemical policy is especially complex in light of the company’s off-price business model,” which involves buying from a vast universe of vendors.  In response, Baker and Testa point to Dollar Tree, which has a similar off-price business model yet nevertheless participated in the 2019 Chemical Footprint Survey and has committed to eliminating 17 hazardous chemicals from products in its stores. COVID-19 spurs environmental justice concerns As evidence mounts that chemical exposure has effects on chronic disease, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease — and that individuals with those health conditions are more vulnerable to the coronavirus — socially responsible investors are wanting more disclosure and action from companies on chemical risks, Testa told GreenBiz. “The connections are becoming clearer…” she said, and “that has staggering economic and societal consequences.”  Research documents that the chemical plants that produce the chemicals used in everyday products are often sited in communities of color, in areas some call sacrifice zones . “If the brands and retailers can start a program of reducing these chemicals, it’s going to go upstream and reduce the impacts of air and water pollution to the most vulnerable in this country,” Baker said. The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia has been linking environmental justice and chemical risk concerns in its work with retailers such as Dollar Tree and oil and gas companies with stores or facilities in communities of color. “We are tying the pandemic, climate change, environmental justice and human rights. They’re very much linked to one another,” said Sister Nora Nash. Even just beginning the process is a leadership role. We’d like to think that anybody who’s participating, we see them in a leadership role. For companies such as Dollar Tree and TJX, it “hits both sides,” Testa added. Much of the companies’ products are made in countries with low standards for protecting workers from chemical exposure, and their consumer bases also have a high representation of lower income and minority communities purchasing their products. Such products may contain chemicals of high concern if the company is not assessing its chemical footprint.  The next carbon footprint? With just 31 companies reporting their chemical footprints, the initiative has a way to go before it becomes as widespread as the carbon footprint. Peele says that “we’re still in the process of socializing” the survey. The Chemical Footprint Project survey is also evolving every year as it works with companies on the challenges of collecting and reporting information that comes from many places within a company.  McFadden agrees that it takes time for a reporting scheme to become mainstream, noting that the carbon footprint had slow uptake initially because companies were unsure about it. And he notes that carbon is just one chemical, whereas chemical footprinting is thousands of chemicals.  Still he sees potential for the chemical footprint to become just as mainstream as the carbon footprint, particularly once companies get over the fear factor of “What am I measuring?” and “What if my grade makes us look bad?” To that Peele responds, “Even just beginning the process is a leadership role. We’d like to think that anybody who’s participating, we see them in a leadership role.” Ultimately, if investors don’t spur more companies to report their chemical footprint, consumers just might do the job.  “The next generation, my kids and grandkids, they’re not going to accept the things … that my generation accepted,” McFadden said. “They’re going to expect much more transparency and disclosure. Companies are going to have to recognize that. If they push back against that, they’re going to push back against their customers.”  Pull Quote The chemical footprint provides a way to not just say that we care about safer chemicals and green chemistry, but demonstrate it by measuring the process towards safer chemicals. Even just beginning the process is a leadership role. We’d like to think that anybody who’s participating, we see them in a leadership role. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Creative Repurposing of Gift Cards, Credit Cards, & Rewards Cards

July 20, 2018 by  
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You’re probably sporting a few of them right now in … The post Creative Repurposing of Gift Cards, Credit Cards, & Rewards Cards appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Searching for Planet-Friendly Fashion?

July 20, 2018 by  
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Food, clothing, and shelter are considered humans’ three basic needs. … The post Searching for Planet-Friendly Fashion? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Searching for Planet-Friendly Fashion?

‘Groupon Rewards’ Hopes to Increase Repeat Business and Understand ROI

September 29, 2011 by  
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Enough has been written about Groupon and its business ideology, with many denouncing the idea as one that hurts small businesses in the long run. The biggest drawback was the complaint that the program does not bring customers back in most cases, creating an un-sustainable marketing plan. The company is trying to change that and is rolling out a new product called Groupon Rewards that tries to give merchants a way to increase customer loyalty. Merchants can sign up starting today and consumers will start seeing the rewards in October. Groupon’s senior vice-president of product, Jeff Holden told TechCrunch , “We think there are three components merchants need to run their business in the new world of local commerce. The first is the daily deal, which Groupon perfected as a customer acquisition product and reached massive scale. The second is Groupon Now, its mobile app that lets local merchants do yield management by offering deals when business is slow. The third now is Groupon Rewards , which is built around customer loyalty and retention.” With Rewards, users who spend some fixed amount at a given merchant are eligible for a “bonus” Groupon deal, which can provide a deeper discount. With a Groupon Reward, a business that offers a regular Groupon deal will be able to follow-up with another reward that gets unlocked after the customer spends a certain amount of money. For instance, after a customer spends $50 or $100 at a store over time, she might get a Groupon Reward of $20 worth of goods for $4. Groupon Rewards   How does Groupon Rewards work? After opting into the program a customer will need to pay with the same credit card which is already on file with Groupon. They can reach the spending goal, which is set by the merchant, over multiple visits. Each time, they will get a notification by email or phone alerting them that they just spent money at a merchant offering a Groupon Reward and how much more they need to spend to unlock it. What are the Advantages and Disadvantages for Vendors & Customers? There is no cost for the program itself, but Groupon says it has not yet determined what the split will be between merchants and Groupon for reward deals. Depending on this split, business have to decide if they want these “loyal” customers. Daily deals does not work for every business. There are some key advantages with an offering like Groupon Now , but obviously, it’s not over the board. Vendors and Groupon can finally track ROI while offering future incentives, something that was sorely missing from current Groupon offerings. As a shopper, you don’t have to worry about a loyalty or membership card  – all this work is done by Groupon. Will small-business owners buy this deal? What do you think?

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‘Groupon Rewards’ Hopes to Increase Repeat Business and Understand ROI

How Paying Your Employees to Volunteer Can Reap You Rewards

November 18, 2010 by  
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When you think about what kinds of things attract great employees to your company, competitive salaries and a generous benefits package are probably the first thing that come to mind. But did you know that a 2006 survey of 1,800 13-to-25-year-olds found that 79 percent want to work for a company that cares about how it affects or contributes to society? ( Wall Street Journal ) Many smart businesses are recognizing their workers’ desire to volunteer , and are even paying them while they take time off to do so

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