While the economic crash of late has been tough on business and American families alike, I have enjoyed seeing the reemergence of our economy that has readopted old ways of doing business through local product sourcing, increased social responsibility and environmental standards, and the re-purposing of old products. I like the sense of community and pride in our local neighborhoods it has created. Most of all, I like the shift that is beginning from green being a conscience decision that consumers and businesses make to a part of our everyday life, that takes little to no extra thought or action.
Etsy is a good example of the economic shift that I am referring to. The online marketplace did not specifically set out to appeal to eco-conscience consumers solely, but they are a great representation of the new green economy. Last month alone $65 million in goods were sold on the site. Etsy makes it easy to find and buy from local artisans in your area. Many of the sellers use upcycled, recycled or re-purposed materials and are small enough that you can place specific orders for colors, materials, and customization. Many sellers include handwritten thank you notes and messages with each order and you can feel good knowing that your purchase price is going straight to the artisans themselves.
Etsy has merely tweaked the Ebay model to appeal to art and craft lovers. Neither company is specifically an eco-company, but both operate on inherently green principles. Which is not only the new way of doing business (or a historic way with a technological twist), but a boost for the green economy that allows traditional, non-green centered companies to participate in the green economy without changing business models.
This concept is nothing new, and with the exception of recent technology, has been going on for thousands of years. How is small and local good for the environment and the economy though? The environmental benefits start with the obvious, such as the use of existing materials and lower transportation costs. However, there are green elements and money savings in the reduced packaging of items, storefront space is not needed and the the artisans are mostly working from their homes (thus not on the road commuting).
What can larger companies take away from this? Think small. Consumers these days want to know who they are buying from, meaning who is getting their money. Align your values with the social and environmental movement, source products locally, and be a part of your community. While everyone can’t solely do business online, companies can reduce the amount of space they take up, literally. Big box retailers, such as Office Depot, Best Buy and Walmart are lowering their square footage, saving money on overhead costs and operations while reducing the environmental footprint. The consumer benefit is that it makes the shopping experience quicker, more convenient, and offers better customer service.
As the age of online marketplaces and and “small” box stores descends upon us, let’s walk our neighborhoods and not the countless aisles of some big box store, buy local, and restart our economy in a more environmentally friendly manner where business can still flourish without detrimental effects to society and the environment.