Monday, May 12, 2008

Brad Hole from The Sustainable Group

What better way to start the week (and end our office discussion) than an informative interview with Brad Hole, one of the founders of The Sustainable Group, a company based in Seattle that manufactures innovative recycled office products. Many thanks to Brad for taking some time out of his schedule to talk with us.

How did the Sustainable Group start as a company? Was it initially for environmental good?

Yes, both my business partner and I are very environmentally conscious in our daily lives. We live in the beautiful, Pacific Northwest where it's tough to not be aware of the natural beauty around us. We wanted to dabble in something new. We had both started a couple of technologies companies but wanted to build a company that made great products but ones that could be easily recycled or reused at the end of their life cycle. The REBINDER was our flagship product. Taking the same concept of a traditional vinyl binder but making it a little more sexy. Coming from a tech business that received several vinyl binders per year, we felt the guilt of throwing the old ones away to replace the new ones. We thought, what if we could make the ring metals removable so that you could recycle your old cover. The REBINDER was a different concept but really sent a message to consumers using vinyl/plastic binders that take for ever to break down in a landfill. The REBINDER covers are made of recycled corrugated cardboard or chipboard that can be recycled in any home curbside recycling. We sell replacement covers that can be used with the existing ring metals and assembly.

What are some of the practices your office has adopted to operate more sustainably? Does it cost much more to go green?
Well, it involved more research starting the business like trying to source all our materials locally. We found that corrugated cardboard coming from the east coast had more recycled content in it than corrugated found on the west coast. It made more sense to purchase corrugated cardboard locally than ship it clear across the country. Plus, the recycled content comes from recycled paper in Washington and Oregon. We also wanted to use locally sourced labor which can be more expensive than, say, having products made overseas. We teamed up with a local nonprofit for the assembly of our products. This Seattle based group provides jobs and educational programs for disabled and physically challenged individuals in our area. Using local suppliers and labor supports our economy which was also important to us.

What do you generally recommend to a small company planning to make the switch to a more green way of running things?
I think the best advice is to start small. There's a term floating around now that I just heard of called "eco-anxiety". People tend to get overwhelmed that they are doing enough. You can't expect to change everything overnight. Every little bit helps, whether it's recycling in your office, using CFL bulbs for lighting and turning your computer off at night. And here's a shameless plug... buy recycled office supplies. :) Switching over to 100% post-consumer recycled paper can make a big difference. Using environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, 100% PCR toilet paper, and the list goes on.

What is the general time frame it takes to make a ReBinder from drawing board to warehouse floor?
It's actually quite fast. We run roughly 20-30 thousand covers per size on press which takes about a day to run. They are shipped about a half mile down the road where our assembly team inserts the rings, screws and T-nuts. It takes less than a minute to assemble a REBINDER and about the same to disassemble it.

What are some new materials or projects your company is looking to roll out in the coming year?
We just rolled out a 1.5" REBINDER with a solid, rigid chipboard cover. We are also going to be selling PLA (corn plastic) trade show badge-holders. Trade show badge-holders have been a big request from our customers that have been using our products at conferences around the country.

What does "sustainability" mean to you?
To me, sustainability means being conscious of the impact you're making around you. Whether that's in your business or personal life. For every action, there's a reaction. There's a great book I read several years ago by Paul Hawken called "The Ecology of Commerce" that really shaped my views on running a company and even the way I live my life outside the office.

1 comment:

belle.me09 said...

It's a refreshing thought that you want an environmentally conscious business. I've been reading on different business strategies and I read this article recently: