Several of my Christian and/or Lutheran friends have made comments about the focus of my new business, as in, “why would you want to launch a ‘green’ store? Are you turning into some crazy liberal environmentalist?”
The answer, shortly, is no.
Below are the things I do care about. They happen to fall under the “save the earth” portion of our language.
1. I care about air quality. Knoxville, Tennessee is one of the worst places to live in terms of air quality. The combination of humidity and pollution in the valley makes it difficult to breathe some summer mornings. We are also one of the migraine capitals of the U.S., which I think is related to the above plus the severe amounts of pollen in the air. (We’re also one of the allergy capitals of the U.S.)
My bottom line about air quality: if there’s a way to prevent pollutants from coming in and/or identify them, why not do it? The GreenGuard certified line of furniture is often used in hospitals and schools, where people have the most fragile immune systems. When my prior company was under construction, all that gas and off-gassing from new carpet and new cubicles and new paint made me sick, literally sick. I like the idea of selling products that won’t make people sick. That’s pretty straightforward.
2. I care about harmful chemicals in cleaning products. Some of that stuff can shred your skin and lungs, and frankly, most of the commercial cleaning stuff smells absolutely horrible. In this area as in others, I’m of the opinion that if God provided us something in nature (in this case fragrant oils and natural extracts and solutions with antimicrobial and disinfectant properties) then we should take advantage of His good gifts and not reject them for a Tower of Babel-like jug of commercial chemicals.
My bottom line about natural cleaning supplies: Tons of commercial cleaning professionals develop asthma and skin issues from the chemicals they use in their work. (There are numerous studies to back this up but this is my personal blog so I’m not going to bother to find them right now.) If there’s a version that won’t make people sick, why not use it? At home we clean almost exclusively with vinegar because nearly everything else triggers a migraine for me. The bonus is that Jonathan can get to work with the spray bottle and rag, which he loves.
3. I care about saving energy, water, and money. This one is a no-brainer; I mean, who doesn’t want to cut soaring expenses? I’ll agree with some of you that when companies post bogus signs like “Use our electric hand dryers and save the environment” they’re ridiculous. Save a tree, ruin a mountain and/or become more dependent on foreign oil? Right. But the general idea of trimming expenses appeals to my German thrifty self. As Dave Ramsey always says, if you get your finances under control you can afford to be generous to and for others. That applies to business as well. Savings can go into research and development to improve the business itself, or into providing employees with better benefits or better equipment.
My bottom line about energy and water savings: It’s just smart business practice, although of course numbers and the lifetime value of products need to be crunched first. But the more you can trim fixed expenses that don’t add value, the more cash flow you have to create value elsewhere. At home, it’s the same concept. If I can cut our energy bill by $100 every month, what could I do with that $1,200? Give extra to the church, support Issues, Etc., put away savings for the kids’ college, pay for violin lessons for Kate…the list goes on and on.
4. I care about God’s creation. This is the one I think Christians get mixed up on. There is a happy medium between throwing trash out the window in defiance of the crazy liberals, and becoming a crazy liberal because you recycle. I guess we’re fairly “crunchy” as these things go; we compost (LOVE; so good for the garden and free), recycle (I really like the fact that all the waste we produce can be reused in some way), eat a flexitarian diet, and try not to microwave plastic.
But that doesn’t mean we’d rather hug a tree than our kids or that we’re confused about the order of creation like PETA is. It just means that we’re aware that God has created this amazing and brilliant biological system that we’re a part of and can use to our benefit–for practical things like composting the vegetable garden and for beautiful things like not littering when we’re on a hike and for healthful things like not eating a big hunk’o'meat every meal. We recognize that our bodies are temples and we should take care of them, and to me that includes not polluting our house with chemicals and driving us all out with the fumes. And we lament our disposable, materialistic society in which nothing is made to last, everything is cheap, and the economy is increasingly based in China. I read Laura Ingalls Wilder with Kate and–while I don’t want to go back to that time–I wish our kids had a better idea of what it’s like to live without so much stuff.
To recap, the business I’m launching has a tagline: “Building Healthy Business.” That really encompasses what I’m trying to do, and it doesn’t imply anything about worshipping Mother Earth or “namaste” or any of that other junk. There might be products and language in my store that lean a bit in that direction with buzzwords like “eco-friendly” and “sustainable,” but that’s just part of SEO and driving traffic with realistic terms that people actually use in their Google searches. Because in addition to being crunchy, I”m practical like that.