DECATUR, GA. You recycle, bike to work, and use green cleaning products. But how can you green your gift-giving? ecosource Home and Garden makes it easy by offering “stylish and cool” garden kits, plant containers and dishes–all made with biodegradable materials like rice hulls and coconut fiber.
Founder Chuck Rose and his partner, Chad Callihan, believe that if consumers are offered style, the right price, and convenience, they will choose eco-friendly over traditional products. “Consumers want to do the right thing,” Rose said. “We’re encouraging them to make better choices.”
Judging by the hundreds of retailers across the United States and Canada carrying ecosource products, that intuitive savvy is paying off. Rapid expansion in customer base and product development led the partners to seek working capital financing in 2009. A loan from Cleveland, Georgia-based nonprofit Georgia Green Loans is enabling them to continue their growth trajectory.
In business since 2006, both Rose and Callihan come from corporate backgrounds. Rose worked at Coke in human resources, then owned his own consulting firm. Callihan has sold home furnishings and held a range of designer positions. The move toward sustainability in large corporations inspired them to “try to do something ourselves” to have a positive environmental impact. Callihan’s background in horticulture and design–he first ran a greenhouse at age thirteen–suggested a focus on gardening products.
After identifying the best manufacturer of biodegradable plant-based containers, they launched a line of garden pots made of coconut fiber and rice hulls, coir™ and greenPots™. These are sold mainly through garden centers and are a good alternative to plastic and ceramic, with a life of about five years. According to Rose, the price for their pots can’t compete with the standard, non-recyclable black plastic pots used by nurseries for container sales, so the duo decided to focus on the gift side of home and garden.
The greenPots lent themselves to packaged bulbs, flowers and candles, and since the pot is the packaging, they were a big hit at gift trade shows. A line of rice-hull dishes, grenware™, won a place on Time Magazine’s 2009 The Green Design 100 list. The company received Co-op America’s Green Business Network seal of approval and has been featured on HGTV and in over two dozen consumer magazines.
A new line of garden kits for 2010 is being received enthusiastically. As Rose points out, the recession-spurred interest in home gardening is boosting ecosource sales at a time when many green products are perceived as a luxury. The 2010 gift line includes kits for vegetables, wildflowers, and herbs–even decorative “cat” and “dog” grasses. “We’re making it fun to buy green products,” Rose said.
– Elizabeth Penney