Archive for April, 2008

Last night my sister and I returned from a wonderful weekend in Chicago, courtesy of S & S, which is one of our biggest vendors. It was our first time visiting their facility in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and holy cow, what a warehouse they’ve got. S & S has over 1400 different products, and distributes over 120 manufacturers’ lines. This year they’ve rolled out quite the array of sustainable apparel options, which makes it a lot easier and more cost efficient for us to buy and sell those items (compared to us sourcing them directly from 25 or so different vendors… of course, we still end up going direct for a lot of it, because certain companies make organic in certain styles or colors that our customers prefer).

During their Open House, we met with several reps from the manufacturers and learned more about their lines. I saw some samples of Anvil’s new recycled cotton line that I’m very excited about. They have a great color palette, and because of their distribution channels, the shirts will be competitively priced. We had actually just ordered some recycled cotton tees from a company out of Utah, but aren’t so happy with them after they completely lost our paperwork on an order and didn’t ship out our shirts until the day we were supposed to have them printed for our customer! Argh! (Sorry MVOR!) Hopefully we’ll have a better experience with Anvil.

I also met a rep from Edun’s line of organic cotton tees, completely grown and sewn in Africa. Edun is a clothing line started by Bono and his wife, and their goal with it is to provide employment opportunities and economic growth for several communities in Africa. Great cause. (Too bad the tees only come in natural, white, or black though)

After checking out all the clothing samples, we watched a fashion show of what’s new in 08, ate a scrumptious buffet dinner, and went on a tour of their operations. I will say one thing that I’d really like S & S to improve on though: there’s no recycling in their facility! I was also shocked to see the same was true for the Sofitel Water Tower Hotel, where they put us up for the weekend. It was super fancy, and really fun to stay in such a posh place for a weekend, but I was quite dismayed that 1) they didn’t have one of those little signs in the bathroom about cutting down on water waste by not washing our towels and sheets every day 2) NO recycling. I know Mayor Daly wants to make Chicago the greenest city in the country. I noticed the recycling containers all over town and in the airport.. now get them in hotels and businesses!

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I was pretty excited on April 17th and not just because Earth Day was just around the corner.

We decided to move forward with an initiative called Lean, Clean, & Green, and will be working closely with the good folks at Missouri Enterprise to reduce waste, reduce energy usage, and source the greenest supplies for our company. Lean manufacturing has long been a sought after method of manufacturers wanting to streamline their operations to not only reduce waste of materials, but also reduce wasted TIME. Consultants get paid big bucks to help manufacturing businesses “lean” their operations, with the idea that the money will be returned to the company tenfold (or more) in the savings it will see in a short period of time.

We have decided to work with Missouri Enterprise on this program for several reasons:

1. Missouri Enterprise is actually a not-for-profit consulting firm (which is somewhat misleading, because they’re really all about profit, but in a way that’s good for everyone involved). This means that they offer services at a much lower cost than traditional consulting firms, and that means that a small family business like ours can actually work with them.
2. We love their mission: to help Missouri businesses succeed! ’nuff said.
3. They have a stake in seeing us succeed: they’re compensated based on the effectiveness of the program they enlist us in.
4. This program is about much more than just streamlining our operation. It will give us our initial diagnosis and plan of action for greening our company.
5. We’ve been chosen to receive some grant assistance to cover the cost of the program, making it affordable for us AND allowing us to be a pilot project of the program in Missouri. Yeah, basically we’re the guinea pig.

Missouri Enterprise logo

Check out more on Missouri Enterprise on their website.

Check out more on their Lean, Clean, and Green program here.

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On Sunday, April 20th, 2008, St. Louis came out to frolick in the beautiful Forest Park to celebrate Earth Day at its annual festival put on by St. Louis Earth Day. I personally had not been to the festival since I was about 15 because I’m always out of town, so I was excited to see what the event had become. (I still remember doing my first 5K road race with Betsy Farmer at that Earth Day when we were 15.)

It’s gotten sooooooo big! Of course, we are in the year of “Don’t even think about publishing a magazine, sending out an e-newsletter, or spending big bucks on an ad campaign without making GREEN one of the foremost article titles”… As a long-time greenie, it’s great news that the day when eco is on the tip of everyone’s tongues has finally come, but of course some of it is very irritating at the same time (for example I just came across a website advertising polos made from organic American-grown corn… while there ARE shirts made from an innovative fabric made from corn!, the corn is NOT organic. Argh. more on that later)

So back to the festival. Our booth was definitely multi-tasking on that day. We had a section for tees that specifically benefit The Fiji Organic Project and Trailnet; we had the old “Wooden Nickels” box from Wild Oats (salvaged from the dump when Whole Foods took over!) for people’s spare change for donations, and we had our gorgeous new line of EarthDance Tees! We even showcased jewelry from Scarlett Garnet, made by our good friend /St. Louis jewelry designer Katie Miller.

EarthDance Tees is a new not-for-profit division of Sportsprint. All proceeds from EarthDance Tees benefit a new project that helps folks bring out the culture in agri[culture]. EarthDance grows local Food, Art, Relationships, and Music. Come FARM with us! We’re setting our sights on buying a 14 acre organic farm in Ferguson, Missouri, to ensure that it remains a working organic farm and to use it as a site for environmental education, youth leadership building and skill sharing, and a cultural center for the community.

We ended up selling 44 t-shirts at the festival, and have already sold 7 more since! Besides having steady sales for the day, we were happy to meet so many festival goers and friends at our booth! (It was also a treat to see my 2nd grade teacher, whom I hadn’t seen in years! Mrs. Einig was always one of my favorites 😉 Looking forward to many more outdoor festivals as the weather warms… C’mon sun – do your thang!

[The date for our first photo shoot is pending, but stay posted for photos of our beautiful designs!]

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