Derek Sabori, Director of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility for Volcom, chats with “Green is Good” from sunny San Diego. Volcom, a California casual clothing brand, has been experimenting with sustainable materials and conservation techniques to move its brand forward in the greenest way possible. Volcom is not only creating eco-friendly clothing, but it has also become a green leader in its community. The company is organizing its second denim jean drive, aiming to collect 10,000 pairs of jeans to give to the homeless. Beyond that, Volcom regularly holds beach clean-ups and has a long-term zero-waste goal that it is working toward. “The idea is to be more efficient, make sure we’re minimizing the amount of waste going into the waste stream and making sure our business is running as efficient as possible,” Sabori says of the company’s lofty zero-waste goal. With the sustainability buzz within the company, the goal will certainly be a reality soon.
John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by the Marketing Masters. The Marketing Masters is a boutique marketing agency offering website development and digital marketing services to small and medium businesses across America. For more information on how they can help you grow your business online, please visit the marketingmasters.com.
John: Hi, this is John Shegerian. I never could have imagined when we started the Green Is Good radio show back in 2006 that it would grow into a big podcast called the Green is Good podcast, and now, we’ve evolved that podcast to the Impact podcast, which is more inclusive and more diverse than ever before. We did look back recently at some of our timeless Green Is Good interviews and decided to share some of them with you now. So, enjoy one of our great Green Is Good episodes from our archives. Next week, I’ll be back with a fresh and new episode of the Impact podcast. Thanks again for listening. I’m grateful to all of you. This is John Shegerian.
Presenter: Welcome to Green is Good. Raising awareness of each individual’s impact on the environment and helping to create a more beautiful and sustainable world. Now, here’s John Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International, and Mike Brady.
John: Welcome to Green Is Good, and Mike, it’s so great to see you again here in studio.
Mike Brady: Here we are. We’ve got another hour, and I wish we had more time to entertain, inform and empower our listeners about what we can do collectively in individuals to make the world a greener place.
John: Well, it’s so nice to see you Mike today. You greeted me at the front door here at Clear Channel studios in Fresno, California. You had a big smile on your face and extra spring on your step, and that just sets the total great mood for what we… We’re going to have just an amazing show today.
Mike: All right, what do we got for part 1?
John: Well, the part 1, we have Jennie Nigrosh calling in from Los Angeles, California, and she and her husband, Rick, have created The Green Garmento, which are garment bags, so we can get rid of using plastic bags, dry cleaners and in hotels and stuff like that. She’s going to show us, Mike, how really one small idea that fills a major void, how they could change the world and how we could all become part of the solution and change the world. I think our listeners have to come on back and hear Jennie Nigrosh on Green Is Good.
Presenter: If a little green is good, more is even better. Now, back to Green Is Good with John Shegerian and Mike Brady.
John: Welcome back to Green Is Good. We’re so excited today to have Jennie Nigrosh on from The Green Garmento. Jennie, your bio, it will take me all of our whole twenty-two minutes to read. I’m going to talk a little bit about it, but first, I want to just say Mike and I want to give you a big warm welcome to Green Is Good.
Jennie Nigrosh: Thank you. Thank you for having me, you guys.
John: Now, Jennie, your bio, I mean, there’s so many things in your bio and your business that I love. First of all, you have, you grew up with recycling in your DNA and blood. Why don’t you talk a little bit about that?
Jennie: I did. It’s funny, I call myself sort of eco adjacent. I just started since childhood without even really thinking about it. My dad owned a cardboard recycling factory in New Hampshire.
Jennie: We lived in Massachusetts and we’d have to recycle all of our newspapers so that he could bring them to the pulper at his plant every Monday. He would send the kids out. I had 3 brothers and 3 sisters, and at any given time, there’s at least five of us at home when the others weren’t in jail. I’m just kidding. I’m not really kidding. He would send us out to the neighbor’s house and make us gather their newspapers, and we would just recycle from a very early age. I think people probably thought we were freaks, but it stayed with us and it just resonated that not to be so wasteful about things. There’s a place to put things, and not everything that ends up in the garbage stays there. So, that’s how I learned. My dad, actually, he always drove a diesel car which was really out of the ordinary because he wanted to promote alternative energy. He even actually invested in a company that said they could turn cow poop into oil. So, you win some, you lose some, I guess.
John: Well, Jennie, you and your husband, Rick, have created this wonderful brand, The Green Garmento. For our listeners out there that have their iPads open or their laptops or they’re in front of their computer at home listening to the show right now, it’s an amazing website. You can order these bags from the website. Mike, you’ve got it up in front of you, thegreengarmento.com.
Mike: I sure do, John, and really, if there’s anything, any questions that you have, they will be answered. This is a really good site. Jennie, kudos to your webmaster. It’s probably you. You or Rick or in tandem, but it’s very easy to navigate. Just one thing that you need to know, if you run a dry cleaning business, there’s a special section just for you, okay? There’s one for consumers but also for dry cleaners, and I’m sure we’ll be talking about some of the money that you can save by doing the green thing running a dry cleaning business, but you really do need to check the site. Again, it’s thegreengarmento.com.
John: Jennie, we were talking a little bit off air. This issue is so close to my personal heart and that I grew up working for Saul Jacobson at [inaudible] cleaners. He gave me my first job, and my job was sweeping the floors and bagging the clothing. As we all grew up and realized how bad those bags truly are for the environment. We love what you are doing and we have the product here. Thanks to your graciousness in our studio. For all our listeners out there, this product, this Green Garmento bag rocks. So, thank you very much for the gifts.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about… I have your wonderful little fold-out brochure here. It is so well done.
Jennie: Thank you.
John: Why don’t we talk about the 4 functions of the Green Garmento? Start right at square one.
Jennie: Okay. Well, the bag, it’s simple, but it has a lot of really cool utilities. The reason why it has 4 functions is we wanted to make it really easy for the consumer to use but also for dry cleaners so that it would be easy for them to implement into their system. When the person takes the bag home, they can hang it upside down. There’s a little loop at the bottom, so it becomes a hanging hamper. We have a lot of people. They’re still[?] at city dwellers. They don’t have room for hampers and stuff, so you can hang it right over a hook on the door. Then you put your dry cleaning in that end when it’s ready to go to the cleaner. It also works as a standard hamper. You can put the bag over a hamper frame. You use the drawstring at the bottom and you pull it tight. So, it’s a nice, secure bag over a hamper frame. You put your dry cleaning in, you take the bag out or take it off the hook when you’re ready to go to the cleaner, you pull the drawstring. Then it has a full length strap on the back that’s got like triple reinforcements, and you can carry the bag like a duffel bag, looks like a yoga bag. They’re pretty stylish looking. My dream is to see them on every street in America someday. People toting these lovely bags.
John: They will be.
Jennie: Thank you. Then when you bring them to the dry cleaner, you leave your clothes in the bag and you just ask that your clothes be returned naked, meaning without any plastic. Then the bag, when it’s turned right side up, it magically morphs into a garment bag. So, you’ve got this great big garment bag with 5 and a quarter inch gussets on each side and a little window for your ID ticket and a full side zipper. We’ve really made it so the dry cleaners can have 2 ways to bag your clothes and really nice solid hanger holes. They don’t have to use the twist ties and the shoulder covers. Everything just goes right in that bag protected and secure, and you’re ready to go home.
John: This is just amazing. Like I said, I love this bag. I’m going to be getting more. I’m going to be giving them out at our company. This is just so functional, and it feels a tremendous void. There’s no reason for us to be using the historical legacy plastic bags that we all grew up with. This is the future.
Jennie: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that.
John: Dry cleaners now, are they welcoming this? I didn’t make up this word, but I loved it when I was reading the New York Times about you a couple of weeks back, I love this word. This bag with the 4 functions is truly greenvenient.
Jennie: One of our dry cleaners made that up actually.
John: I saw that.
Jennie: Yeah, that’s the dry cleaner that we use, and I think that’s an awesome word, too. We were nervous in the beginning, to be honest. We really didn’t know how it was going to be received because dry cleaners, first of all, is they’re multi-generational. They’re often third generation [inaudible]. Stores and businesses, they have a way and a system of doing things, and this is all new to them. So, we were tentative at first, and that’s why we launched the bag specifically to the dry cleaning industry. This was not a consumer-driven bag to begin with because we knew there was a fair amount of education that would go along both on our end to learn the dry cleaning business and for the dry cleaners to learn this is an alternative for them.
John: When you and Rick started, pounding the streets, we have so many ecopreneurs and entrepreneurs and budding entrepreneurs that listen to the show, how did that original knocking on the door and cold calling go? What took you over the top? What was your convincing proposition?
Jennie: What a great question. Do you know what’s funny? We’ve not made one cold call in two years. We launched it to the industry at a dry-cleaning convention. We brought our prototype. First, we did focus groups and we would bring prototypes around with fabric options and all this kind of stuff. Then we learned from dry cleaners what they thought. Then when we had what we thought was a really good finished product but not perfect, we called it a prototype, we launched it at a dry cleaning convention. It was awesome. We thought it would be the lone people in the corner. Two Jews and a bunch of bags is really how it looked like, but actually, they were super cool and we we got quite an education from them. Then immediately, we were like, “Okay, you need to do this with the zipper. You need to do this with the fabric. Let’s do this. Can you put my name here?”
Jennie: “How can we do this?”
John: How cool.
Jennie: It was so awesome. Really, some of them would bring us to other dry cleaners and say, “Check out what they’re doing. This is going to change the face of what we’re doing.” That was our aha moment, I think, when we really realized in this show that this was something they’ve been waiting for. Other companies had tried to launch like in the early 90s, someone tried to do it. I think that you have to learn from your customer what the needs are in order to make it really a viable product.
John: That is so well said. They helped you evolve the product.
Jennie: Oh, they’re helping me today. Yeah, they’re helping us. In fact, we have a new product that we’re going to be launching soon. My husband, we just got the prototype in the mail today, and he marched right down to our dry cleaner and said, “Tell us what to do. What do you think?” This is what we have. There’s no way we could do this. We could never fly blind.
John: Well, I got news for you. I marched the bag today with my dry cleaning, which is a daily event, over to my local dry cleaner here in Fresno. They said, “If this is what you want, this is what you get.”
John: It was so well received. I know for all our listeners out there, all who buy this, your dry cleaner, as Jennie just proved and I just proved this morning myself, will embrace it. I should have started with this though. You’re providing a tremendous solution, Jennie. You and Rick have created this wonderful company. Again, for our listeners out there, thegreengarmento.com is where you can buy these bags. Let’s talk a little bit, without getting too dire here, the problem. Why should people be eliminating the use of dry cleaning plastic, and what are the negative effects of all this plastic just looming out there in the world?
Jennie: Well, we all know that plastic can be detrimental. It clogs landfills and waterways. It kills marine and wildlife. This is something that we’ve been battling with because of the grocery tote that we’ve been learning about for a long time. So, we did some numbers on our own. We did some estimations using government eco-calculators and averaging plastic bag, dry cleaning bag usages. An average order of a dry cleaning bag is 8 pieces[?].
Jennie: We did some calculations. Actually, I’m going to say Rick did. I’m actually asleep at the wheel when it comes to numbers, but it’s about 300 million pounds of plastic just in the United States are dumped into landfills and that go into waterways and stuff.
John: That is so ridiculous.
Jennie: You don’t really have to be a genius to understand that this is bad because I’m the one that’s not the genius. I was like, “Oh, that’s not a good number. I think we can change that.” That really is the impetus of how this all really came about.
John: Yeah, but I mean, obviously and I’ve seen this in my own life with my wife, and obviously, you and Rick are a great balance. He’s got one part of your company covered and you’ve got another, and that’s great. You need both to make a successful business.
Jennie: Right, and I’m prettier, which is…
John: Well, I have the picture here and it looks like-
Mike: And more modest.
Jennie: It’s only because my door is closed, if he’s not on the phone.
John: “Who’s calling? Oh, you don’t even want to talk to these people. Don’t worry. I got this one, honey.”
Jennie: Yeah, I got it.
John: Okay, let’s go back. Now, the industry, the core industry, the dry cleaning industry has embraced and helped you evolve this wonderful product. What are the other industries now that you… Give us a little visibility and what other industries are you looking at where you can take this great idea and great product.
Jennie: Well, we were at a hotel trade show. We do a lot of stuff with hospitality and we met actually a gentleman from a large- he’s a distributor for the advertising Specialty Group. He’s actually a supplier and so he supplies to all the different distributors. We were talking about branded bags and we do a lot of branded bags with logos and we’ll do special bags and custom bags. It’s called Peerless Umbrella. They are a huge supplier of ours and they’ve done bags for Mercedes-Benz and HTC and I think Blackberry. They’ve just done a lot with branded people trying to send a green message that also don’t want to just give another tchotchke like another useless, whatever item that you don’t need, or this one actually does good. That’s a really cool industry for us. Then like I said, hospitality, you can find us in various- Four Seasons, Hyatt, Fairmont State[?]. They use them for two things, employee services because as you know, most employees, you have to do your dry cleaning and especially in the hospitality industry where it’s very buttoned up and you got to get dressed every day. The employees use the reusable bags so they can eliminate plastic internally and then they use them as an in-room amenity like a gift for the guest. If the guest wants to use the bag, well, if they need to do dry cleaning, great, they get to use it. If they want to take them home, then they either will get them for free or pay for them. It helps the hotels carry on their green messaging far beyond the hotel room. Again, they’re giving their client that they can actually use something like their guests can take them out on the plane, or it’s a travel bag. It’s a cool gift from the hotels as well. Then because we’re in Los Angeles, we do a lot of things in the entertainment industry. A lot of costume shops and stuff and wardrobe and stylists are starting to work with us. We’ve done some bags for like The Daily Show of Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. We’ve done Ugly Betty, like some really fun productions that want to really green their productions because there’s so many wardrobe and all that stuff that they have the plastic. So, this is just another way for them to help green the production.
John: Well, in fact, it’s so funny you said that. Last week, we had on our show Gina Edner who’s the head of Westin Hotels.
Jennie: Oh, cool.
John: The head of sustainability. We will now pop her a little email and tell her that you were just recently a guest and share with her your story. She was wonderful. She really, really loves what she’s doing in Starwood and Westin are way ahead on this with regards to the hotel chain. That’s such a great, great other opportunity. That is just an amazing opportunity.
Jennie: Thank you.
John: I had my green bag in my hand this morning. Mike has his blue one right here now while we’re doing the show. He’s been playing-
Mike: I’ve been playing with it. It’s fun.
Jennie: That doesn’t sound right.
John: I’ll tell you what, though. I’ll tell you what, really, Jennie, it is more fun to play with than plastic.
Jennie: That is true.
John: It really is.
Jennie: And it’s safer, so you aren’t going to suffocate in that bag.
John: Exactamundo. It feels really nice in our hands. If you don’t mind me asking, what is this made out of, and what was the thought process into what you made the bags out of?
Jennie: Well, that’s a great question. The bags are made out of nonwoven polypropylene, which is a mouthful. It’s the same fabric that you find in the reusable tote bags like from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. It’s that kind of fabric. Ours is thicker, so it feels a little bit, maybe more substantial and it’s a cool fabric, actually. It’s made from… It’s eco-friendly in so much that it is totally recyclable. People might say well, it’s not green because it’s still not a real natural fiber, but that’s a great question because it’s made from the byproduct of oil. Once oil is already refined, they have this stuff that would be garbage, basically, that I think years ago, we actually talked to some people at Dow Chemical to tell us how they created this fabric. They took the byproduct of oil and they turned it into a resin which then turns into a pellet so you can colorize them. Then it becomes the [inaudible] material. So, it would be hypocritical of me to say, “Be fantastic, don’t use plastic.” That’s why our tagline is be fantastic, use less plastic.
Mike: Less plastic. Right.
Jennie: Because truly, it is sort of a plastic itself, but it’s reusable so that you’re eliminating all the single use.
John: As a business venture, obviously, your vision’s amazing, Jennie, and you and Rick truly can change the world together with this product. As a business venture, though, and a sustainable business venture, Mike and I always talk about people, the planet and the prophets, and there’s no shame in talking about that. So, without giving away numbers or anything, what are the goals as a business venture, a sustainable business venture that you and Rick have made for The Green Garmento?
Jennie: Our goals are constantly evolving. In the beginning, our goals were like, “Let’s just get people to like us. Let’s see if they dig the bag and we’ll sell a few.” It literally started, we had some bags in our garage and our distribution center was our dining room table. We’ve now moved into our third warehouse and we have distribution in different parts of the country as well. We now work with dry cleaning distributors all over the country, and you can find us in probably over 400 dry cleaners and in the United States and then we’re in probably eleven different countries right now.
John: Eleven different countries. It’s amazing.
Jennie: We’re not conquering these countries in any way, but we have distributors and presence in those countries. Yeah.
John: Well, Jennie, good news, people like you.
Jennie: I hope so. Thanks.
John: Given that when we talked about you growing up with your dad’s recycling business and this is truly in your DNA, as you and Rick living in Los Angeles metropolitan area and you though spread your wings, now, have created an international company, do you guys see yourselves as greenies?
Jennie: I never really did. At the end of the day, we’re business people, I think, and we’re great marketers. If I could cut myself on the back there a little bit. I certainly don’t know. I still don’t really know how to compost stuff and I haven’t gone there yet, if I have to admit to that, but I think that what we’re doing… I think everybody has their own way of being a greenie. Like I said before, I’m more like eco adjacent. I’m very cognizant of what I do in my own personal life and what I can do to have a lower carbon footprint. If people ask me advice, I’m certainly going to give it to them, but I don’t… The last thing we want to be is watchdogs. I think that’s one thing that’s really helped us with dry cleaners, is they have enough people breathing down their neck. We just want to help them in our own little way, eliminate plastic, be a little more green on there. So, in that way, I guess we’re greenies but not in the big scope of things.
Mike: Well, I was just reading your Blogmento, which is the… You are a marketer through and through, but you make the case that dry cleaners really have so many multiple benefits. Using The Green Garmento bags, not the least of which is increasing customer loyalty.
Jennie: Yeah. When we first started, there are articles in all the trades that were in for all the dry cleaning industry, and one of the biggest issues that they have is to create and improve customer loyalty. These bags, they have their name on it. First of all, the name of the dry cleaner. It’s something that’s going to keep bringing you back to that dry cleaner.
Jennie: Also, the fact that it’s just a nice service to give to your customers and let them know that I can’t afford the $200,000 to switch to an all wet cleaning company. Those are very expensive things for dry cleaners to switch to, but here’s what they can do in the meantime, and they still want your business. One thing that we’re really adamant about, we get calls and emails all day long. My dry cleaner, they aren’t offering these bags, and I don’t know if they’re going to do it yet. Should I go to another cleaner because people buy them from us? I said, “No, the last thing we want to do is take this away from your neighborhood cleaner. Just ask them to use the bags, and if they have questions on how to implement it, have them call us.” We have a mentor program where we have other dry cleaners that will teach the dry cleaners that don’t know how to do it. We have Korean speaking. We’ve got Spanish speaking. We really try to make it so that no one’s losing customers and they’re actually gaining customers.
John: Perfect. Everybody wins then.
Jennie: That’s what we’re hoping.
John: Hey, listen, Jennie, unfortunately, we’re down to the last 2 minutes or so. Two things I want to talk about. I want our listeners again to go to your great website, thegreengarmento.com, but on that website is a free bag offer. Can you explain a little bit about how that works? Then also tell us, any final thoughts as an ecopreneur and as a very successful one and one that’s about to scale their business across the world? Leave some pearls of wisdom for our listeners behind.
Jennie: In 2 minutes?
Jennie: Oh, I’ve never said anything in 2 minutes. Okay. Our free bag offer is anybody who they click on the offer, if they email us the name of their dry cleaner who doesn’t participate in the program now, send us their contact information and we will send you back a coupon code to get a free bag.
Jennie: We do ask that you pay for shipping, but we’re happy to give you that coupon code. We also have a like page on Facebook now and Twitter. If you follow us, there are coupon codes for free bags there as well.
John: That is just awesome. So, give us a little bit of pearls of wisdom that you and Rick have picked up along the way and your final vision on where this is going to go.
Jennie: Well, I am not big on pitching just our business. I’m more about, I would like everyone to understand our mission. If you’re not ready to spend $10 on a bag, which is understandable, at least ask your dry cleaner to cut down on the plastic and get your clothes naked. Then when you’re ready to spend the $10, we’re here for you. It’s really just we all can do our part whether it’s growing our business or just doing something to make the earth a little bit better. We can all work together and do that.
John: Well, Jennie, you’re just amazing. Mike and I are just sitting here and have enjoyed every second of this as I’m sure our listeners have also. For our listeners, again, to buy Jennie and Rick’s great bags, go to thegreengarmento.com. Right there, you can buy their bags and use them. It’s very reasonably priced, and your tagline is just amazing, be fantastic, use less plastic. We should all learn from that. Again, Jennie, we’re going to have you back one day to talk about where things have gone since today. You are just really an amazing ecopreneur, a wonderful visionary and truly living proof that green is good.
Jennie: Thank you. I really appreciate it.
Presenter: If a little green is good, more is even better. Now, back to Green Is Good with John Shegerian and Mike Brady.
John: Welcome back to Green Is Good. All I could say about the first half of our show today, Mike, is wow.
Mike: I just can’t wait to go home and do laundry and then take a bunch of dry cleaning in with this new Green Garmento bag. That’s very cool.
John: You got your Green Garmento bag now. Mike and I have to tell you, again, all our listeners, go on their website. This bag rocks. It’s so reasonably priced. I brought it in this morning. My dry cleaner said they welcomed it there, thegreengarmento.com. You can buy your bag and you could start becoming part of the solution, and that’s what this whole show is about.
Mike: Yeah, we’re solution-based. I mean, let’s face it. There’s enough doom and gloom. There are some scary stuff to look at, but that can either paralyze you, or you can start looking at what can you do. Rather than eat the entire elephant, can you grab a fork and take one bite. Everybody taking one bite, there’s a lot less elephant.
John: Speaking of elephant or the second half of our show, again, is just going to rock. It’s our Southern California edition. Jennie was in LA and Derek Sabori who’s a director of sustainability over at Volcom’s over in San Diego today at a conference, but he’s so generous enough to take his time and join join us today. Mike, here’s a guy that not only talks an amazing talk but he walks the walk as does his great brand, Volcom. I just want all our listeners to come on back and hear Derek Sabori at Green Is Good.
Presenter: If a little green is good, more is even better. Now, back to Green Is Good with John Shegerian and Mike Brady.
John: Welcome back to Green Is Good. We’re so excited today to have on the second half of our show Derek Sabori, who’s Volcom’s director of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Derek is in San Diego today. He’s on business and he’s taken time out of his amazing busy schedule to join us at Green Is Good. Welcome. Mike and I welcome you to Green Is Good today, Derek.
Derek Sabori: Thank you, John. Thanks, Mike. Thanks for having me. I’m super excited to be with you guys.
John: Hey, you’re one of the real green rock stars out there in the business world, and we’re just thankful and honored to have you on today and your great company, which our listeners can go look at the website, volcom.com. Tell us a little bit in your role as a director of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Derek, for our listeners out there, is one of those great people who have worked his way up from answering the phones there to this big position. People always ask us, “How can I become the next Derek?” Hey, there’s no substitute for hard work, and he’s earned it in fourteen years. Derek, what do you do there now that you’re in this very important and influential role? What does that mean over there at Volcom?
Derek: Well, it means a few things. We’ve been building a program for the last few years, and it contains a few different initiatives that we started. One is our v.co-logical series of product, which is our product line that is aimed at being more sustainable, less impactful, more eco-friendly. If I can put that in quotes.
Derek: There’s that part of the line and that’s where we use organic cottons and recycled polyesters, try[?] some hemps[?]. It’s an area where we can kind of test things out to try to push the rest of our line into that direction. The idea is that that’s a little capsule. It’s an idea place where we can nurture things, test things, find reliable processes and materials and roll them out to the rest of the line. We’ve also got our give back series, which is a part of the line where we will donate proceeds back to different nonprofit organizations. We’re working with TACA, which is Talk About Curing Autism, the Boys and Girls Club. We’ve got a few other things lined up in the upcoming seasons. We have a program which we call a new future program, which is really getting the employees and our workforce to consider and challenge themselves with what they want the new future to look like. What does it look like to them? How do we get there? What choices can we make today that are going to lead us in that direction? It’s kind of wrapping all those things together, making it one big department. For our v.co-logical series, we’re also a 1% for the planet member. That means 1% of those sales goes through that organization, but we were able to donate a nice pull of money at the end of the year to different environmental causes that we’ve teamed up with and we’ve partnered up with. This whole program allows us to give back to the community and the environment and make sure that our company and our people are excited to be there and that they’re feeling good about what we’re doing at the end of the day.
John: You guys know we talk a good talk obviously, but this is really part of Volcom’s DNA. You walk a great walk. There’s so many things that you just hit upon that most companies would really aspire to get involved with in terms of sustainability. You guys have already launched and are doing these different initiatives.
Derek: Yeah. We are, and there’s something we’ve been working on them for a while. There’s still a lot of work to do, and that’s definitely one thing we haven’t done yet. We haven’t really staked our flag in the ground and said, “Hey, there we go. We’re done.” I think you and I, we both know that this is a journey that has no finish line. There is no end to this.
John: That’s right.
Derek: It’s something that we’re always pursuing. We’re continuing to get better. We’re educating ourselves constantly and challenging ourselves, and it’s always a part of the conversation. We’re definitely far from perfect, but I feel really proud of the strides we’ve made. I think just the fact that I’ve been nominated to this position as a dedicated position for how long I’ve been there and what I know and especially in our industry, I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve been able to do this. I’m proud to tell people what my position there at the company is.
John: I mean, just amazing. I love that. Mike, I love what he just said. It’s not only a process, but there is no finish line.
Mike: That’s exactly… As you’re mentioning that, while I’m reading a part of the blog on the volcom.com site and its sustainability in the supply chain, and it’s amazing. There are no coincidences, but just as you’re saying that, I’m reading the quote of the day. There is no finish line in the game of sustainability.
John: Love that. That’s great. Seriously, we’re going to use that. That’s great. That is awesome. Tell us a little bit about, when great people like you take over these positions, there are 2 challenges that Mike and I keep hearing about. A is the challenge, how do you have buy-in from the top, and B, how do you then communicate that message and get buy-in from your employees? Can you explain a little bit about that process on both sides? How does that work?
Derek: Yeah, definitely. I’m glad you touched on that because I actually have a name for that. I’ve coined a phrase for that. It’s called the grilled cheese effect. The grilled cheese effect is that…
John: That is great.
Derek: …it takes from both places. It’s got to come down from the top. There’s got to be support there, and you’ve got to instill that excitement and that support from the bottom up, from the people as well. I mean, it takes both of those sides of that toast to get grilled for that cheese in the middle to really melt. It’s kind of corny, but I really think it’s true. You’re not going to have that good sandwich until both sides are really hot on this topic and really pursuing it. I think we’re fortunate there. It comes from the top. We’ve got a good vision at the top and we’ve got a lot of people that are always willing to help and support. Even though this department consists of one, we’ve got our v.co-logical society which is a group of employees that are on the poles[?] ready to help. I think between those two, it is a tough road to bridge that gap sometimes. As long as you stay positive, get people rallied[?] and keep people excited, let them know that there’s something there and that we’re working towards a greater good, I think everybody buys in pretty quickly.
John: Okay. So, a great vision without implementation is a bunch of nothing. How do you take that great vision that you have obviously and all the wonderful initiatives and get both the top people and also your wonderful employees? How do you do that? Do you have access to everybody, or do you have to work through different channels at the company? Or how does that line of communicators[?] because other big leaders that Mike and I have had on the show, one of the biggest challenges they constantly tell us is messaging and getting the clear message and then getting the buy-in. It’s like a two-step. How does that work at your company?
Derek: Well, I think it’s persistence, and it starts at grassroots. I mean, if it doesn’t come, if there’s not one single person at the very top that’s saying, “Hey, this is a company initiative,” it’s going to take some grassroots work, and that’s really what we did. We had people that were passionate about this that were influenced by other leaders in sustainability. We did not stop. We did not give up. Once we started talking this talk, we were committed. We started from the ground up, we were doing newsletters and we were doing small events. A lot of times, it just took maybe me going out to a small little trade show and representing the brand and almost getting approval but not necessarily getting complete… I don’t know. I didn’t have the whole cut, the mass marketing behind me. Before I knew it, I would show up and I would come back and report, “Hey, I was just at a little green expo with the line. Hey, I just went and did a little talk at the community college on sustainability. Hey, I’ve done this.” Petty soon, the momentum starts to build. I started sending out newsletters. I started getting people involved and asking them if they could come to different events or come to these talks or hear certain things. Then people started to expect these newsletters, and you almost couldn’t help ignore it. Even my boss, the president of the company, he just realized, and we just said, “Hey, there’s something here. There’s a good buzz within the company. This is something that we need to pursue and continue charging with.”
John: Which brings me to the next point. Of course, we’ve given your great website out, volcom.com, but also talk a little bit about the adjunct website, volcom.comnewfuture. How does that tie into communication, internal communications and external communications at the company?
Derek: Well, it’s a new, I guess, theory. That’s a phrase we’ve used for a long time. What we did is we just adopted that as a philosophy, as an umbrella for all these things that we’re doing, whether it’s our give back program, whether it’s our v.co-logical series, whether what’s going on with 1%, the different partner organizations that we’re working with, or just a place where people can get information on maybe what’s going on in the sustainability community, what kind of things that we’re doing. It’s meant now to be a central place where people can go to learn about how we see the new future developing. It’s a relatively new blog, but we’re starting to put things up there every day. That’s becoming our main communication portal to really get our message out and just share the journey with anybody who’s willing to follow along.
John: Speaking of the journey, it’s one thing to have a great vision and have buy-in and actually be doing all these things. As you go external and obviously, you’re in the business of commerce, you’re in the business of manufacturing and then selling your great products, how was your sustainability initiatives received by your retailers? The people who have to now promote and sell your great products over at Volcom? How does that work?
Derek: You know what? We get a lot of good feedback, and I think people are definitely open to it. There’s little movements going on, and we’ve actually seen some of our key retailers in the area really start to push that, their stores in that direction. Some such as a shop called Hobie[?], they’re creating, they’re dedicating stores to a completely kind of a green store, where they’re just focusing on caring brands who are offering these v.co-logical type products. They see that there’s a need for it. It’s something that they’re believing in and they’re trying to pass on to their customers. They’re definitely excited about it. Is our end customer always asking for it? I think the verdict’s still out on that. I think they’re conscious and aware of it. I also think that it’s a responsibility that we have as a manufacturer and a brand and I think our retailers are starting to see that as well. The more that we can push this out there and support it, I think the more momentum it’s going to gain.
John: Well, you’re using your great and important platform, your commerce platform as also a form of sustainability education to your consumers.
Derek: Absolutely. I think we have such a powerful voice with young kids, young adults, and it feels really good to be able to launch big programs and tell them, “Hey, this is a really great brand that I know you guys love, but guess what, we’re doing something really good for the community and the environment.” We’ve got a program right now called Give Jeans A Chance where a kid can go into any of their local surfer skate shop. I think we’ve got over 400 participating shops. They can donate a pair of jeans in there. We’re doing a Jean drive. Our goal is to raise 10,000 pairs of jeans for the National Coalition for the Homeless and distribute those jeans out. It’s our second year doing it, but distribute those out to local shelters and homeless folks who can really use those jeans.
John: Wow. That is so nice.
Derek: To be able to align our brand with something like that, we’re now not only a kid is identifying with a brand that’s cool because we’ve got great athletes and a great program, but it’s cool now to let them know. It’s like, “Hey, it’s cool to also give back and do something right in your community.”
John: It’s so nice. You’re so right, Derek. Mike and I have been now doing this show now close to eighteen months. We get to interview so many thought leaders and visionaries like you that represent not only what you believe in but also what your great brand believes in. What we’re seeing is exactly what you just said. People are tired in this country of being lectured to, “Hey, don’t do this or don’t do that.” Everyone wants to know how they could become part of the solution, and just that, what you just said, that whole Jean give back and recycling of those jeans and showing how the circle closes is such a tangible act, where people then can feel part of the solution.
Derek: Yep. I agree.
John: It’s wonderful. Talk a little bit more also about other events that you do. I know part of your initiatives include beach cleanups and other recycling and bulk water. Talk a little bit about more public events that are part of your business marketing strategy. How does that interrelate with your brand and also your sustainability initiatives?
Derek: Well, we’ve got a few different programs. Like I said, this is the second year doing the Give Jeans A Chance program.
Derek: We did the same with our boardshorts. We did the Recycle Your Boardshorts program where we also collected boardshorts during the summer and gave those to different organizations in need. We did a film project last year which was called LEAF, which is called Leaders of Environmental Action Films, where we challenged high school students in our area to submit 30 or 60 second short films based on any environmental topic that they wanted. We got some amazing work back from these kids. We do free contests for the kids. We do surf skate and snowboard contests all throughout the country and even internationally. These are free contests where the kids can come and have fun and compete. Then we hold a grand prize contest at the middle of the year each year. We do beach cleanups. We get the team involved and we try to keep everybody educated and up on what’s going on. We’ve got a big coastal community cleanup down here in Newport Beach. It’s coming up in September that we’re a big part of. So, we’re always trying to wherever we can just stay in the loop and get people committed to giving back and being involved.
John: What’s Volcom’s zero-waste aspirations? Explain what that really means for your company and what you’re trying to do with that.
Derek: Well, that one’s an aspiration for sure because I know that’s a tough one, but that’s definitely on my agenda. The idea of zero waste, I think, is twofold because one, I was at a sustainability conference once and it made such good sense that somebody said, “Hey, everything that you throw away in business is something that you’ve paid for. There’s no reason anything should be [inaudible] in that trash can. If there is, you better go look in there and find out exactly what you’re throwing away and understand it because that’s money that you spent.” At the same time, waste is bad for the environment, too. We’re tapping into resources that are not being utilized, that are not creating value for us. The idea of becoming a zero-waste company somewhat of the long term here is to be more efficient. Make sure we’re not… Make sure we’re minimizing the amount of waste that’s going into the landfills, into the waste stream and if it can’t be recycled, then it’s a matter of making sure that our business is running as efficiently as possible to maximize our expenses.
John: Besides volcom.comnewfuture and also Facebook, how can people continue to have a dialogue and be involved by watching how you’re evolving your sustainability initiatives? How do you have a give and take with your customer base and potential customer base? How does that look like in a modern world of social media, Derek?
Derek: You know what, I think trying to stay involved and being out there. Lucky enough, I get asked to sit on different panels and be part of… We might have a trade organizational green boot camp. I’ve been able to sit on different panels for that and tell people about the journey that we’ve been on. I’ll go to schools and wherever I can, I’m always… For example, being here, just being somewhere where I can share my passion for this and my excitement and get people really aspiring to, “Hey, you know what, if Derek can do it, I really want to do it in our company, too.” I think this is something that we can run with. So, wherever I get the opportunity or the chance or someone asked me to, I’ll be there and I’ll talk to tell our story and show our product and get involved. I get to go to schools, too. I go to schools, and it’s a great way to reach out to people.
John: That’s a perfect segue into our next topic. Mike and I know. We’ve read all about you. We’ve talked to you off air before. We read all about your wonderful company. This isn’t just a paycheck for you. This has really become a passion and part of your DNA. You’ve now recently authored Lu And The Earth Bug Crew Zap The Energy Spikes. A book!
Derek: That’s right.
John: This is just an eco action, adventure book. Tell us a little bit about what made you do this and explain the thought process of how you came up with the idea, why you did it and how is it going?
Derek: Well, it’s a fun book, and I really needed… When I had kids, as my kids were… We read constantly, and I was always looking for a way to portray this idea of sustainability to a 5-year-old. I was finding[?] that the books that talked about it seriously were a little too text bookish and the ones that were talking about it lightly were a little too maybe silly. Also, I wanted something that could identify with my own life and my own lifestyle. I thought I had a niche where I could reach out to kids and parents and get them and challenge them to talk about some of these ideas of the simple ones, reducing, reusing, recycling. The characters are the Earth bugs and they’re set of characters who surf, they skate, they’re in a rock band. We say it’s never been so cool to be so good because they’re doing all things fun. They’re outdoors. They eat organically. Each of them has a specialty. One studies biofuels and renewable energy. Another ones’ focus is on saving and protecting the outdoors. Together, their job is to battle the Un-Greens. They battle the litterbugs, the water hogs, the oil slicks, the energy spikes, and it’s just a fun way for kids to personify these things that we’re always talking about. That’s how the book came about from us picking up trash one day on a walk.
Derek: We knew that we’re battling these litterbugs. We just said, “Man, hey, if we’re going to battle litterbugs, who can we be? Hey, let’s be the Earth bugs.” It just sort of stems from there.
John: When did you write the book?
Derek: It came out last year, last January, so it’s been out for a year and a half now.
Derek: It was sort of a family endeavor, and we’ve had a good response to it. I take it to school and I do assemblies for the kids, and the kids go nuts on it because I put[?] it up on the big projector and I make it a lesson. I don’t just read the book. Each of these, we stop and talk about. “Hey, what is solar energy? Where else can you get energy from? What does it mean to recycle? Here’s a reusable bag. Which is better, this crumpled up plastic bag or this reusable bag? How about my reusable water bottle?” I get them all excited and hyped up on the idea of living a more sustainable lifestyle.
Mike: Derek, I’m on the Lu and the Earth Bug Crew site right now. If you’re following along at home listening to this show on your iPad or your PC, go ahead and check out earthbugcrew.com, and it is really something. If you’ve got kids that are listening with you right now, they’re going to want to explore this website. It is very attractive, very easy to navigate. Kids are going to love it. I think parents will get it right away.
Derek: That’s my hope. It really is meant to… I guess it’s funny because I get great testimonials from parents. I get 2 testimonials. The first one is, “Oh my gosh, thank you, my kids are turning off lights like crazy and they’re calling us out for everything. This is so great.” About a week or two later, parents call back and say, “Okay, actually, now, my kids have taken it to the extreme and they won’t back off.” It’s funny.
John: You first get the love letters and then they become a little tougher after that.
Derek: That’s right.
John: Where can our listeners buy the book? I mean, where is it available? That’s important. We want our listeners to buy this book and share it with their children.
Derek: It’s available on Amazon. It’s available there on my website too at earthbugcrew.com. You can click right there, and it’s a secure website. You just go and you can buy it right there. We’ll ship it out. We’re a mom-and-pop shop. We do all the order fulfillment and we’re in a few scattered stores here throughout Southern California as well. One of the local surf shops, Surfside Sports in Costa Mesa, they were an early one to support it. They’ve got it in their store. So, a couple little specialty stores here and there that Hobie store carries it, but mostly, the easiest way is going to be online through either Amazon or the earthbugcrew.com website.
John: Got you. So, let’s go back to Volcom again as we’re down to the last 2 minutes or so, Derek. You’re just amazing. Why don’t you share with us and our listeners, what should they be on the lookout for as they go and shop and school’s back in? What can they be doing to help support your CSR initiatives and the whole sustainability movement that’s ongoing right now?
Derek: Well, the big one, which I’ll just have to say again because it’s in the stores right now, is that Give Jeans A Chance campaign.
Derek: They go into the stores. They’re going to see these big recycled boxes. They’ve got all the art and the message on there. On our website, we’ve got great videos with all of our sponsored athletes promoting it, but almost[?] any store that carries Volcom, they’re going to go in there, they can see that. They can also look for our give back logo, which is we’ve got a big program right now in Hawaii supporting the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii. We’ve got more product coming out every few months here with the give back logo. Look for that give back logo. Look for our v.co-logical logo because it’s a product that’s really made with the idea of being a more sustainable company in mind. Those dollars go straight back to the 1% for the planet program where we’re giving back to different environmental organizations throughout the country.
John: Wow. For all listeners out there, again, the websites, volcom.com, or you can also go to their other website with a backslash and new future behind it. You can also find them on Facebook and you can also, of course, buy Derek’s wonderful book Lu and the Earth Bug Crew ZAP the Energy Spikes on amazon.com and on his wonderful website, earthbugcrew.com. Derek Sabori, you’re not only informational, you’re tremendously inspiring and you are truly living proof that green is good.
Derek: Thank you, John. Thanks so much. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. It’s been great to talk to you, guys. Thanks to you too, Mike.
Presenter: This program will be available for downloading in a couple of days from our station’s website. Keyword podcast. Thanks for listening and join us again next week at the same for another edition of Green Is Good.
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