EarthHero: Making sustainable shopping simple
The eco-friendly marketplace is focused on being better for the environment
When EarthHero Founder and CEO, Ryan Lewis, realized how much stuff and trash we accumulate and create, he knew he had to do something about it. So he launched EarthHero, an eco-friendly online marketplace. Its mission is to normalize and simplify conscious, sustainable consumption. Best for Colorado spoke with Lewis to learn more about this B Corp certified company.
Best for Colorado: Could you tell me just a little bit about where the idea for EarthHero came from?
Ryan Lewis: In 2014, I wanted to help make a more direct positive impact on the planet and pursue my passion for sustainability, but I didn’t know exactly what to do. At the time I had recently sold my restaurant supply company in Boulder but was still running it. We had a great team and I loved our customers, but it just wasn’t serving that greater need for impact, so I decided to step away.
In addition to my desire to start a new company for impact, my wife and I always wanted to have an experience living abroad. So, we decided to move to Costa Rica with our kids. In the process of moving to Costa Rica, we basically sold or got rid of everything we owned. That process alone was quite shocking. I have always considered myself a relative minimalist, but I couldn’t believe how much we had accumulated. I started to realize the weight of stuff in my life and vowed to be even more stringent with what I accumulated in the future. Once we arrived, we saw beautiful beaches, mountains and water, but we also saw trash, everywhere.
One afternoon, I was browsing a local bookstore and picked up the book, “The Story of Stuff.” It detailed exactly how much harm our traditional consumption was having on the planet. It broke down the five stages of consumption: extraction of natural resources, transportation, manufacturing, consumption and disposal. It was a linear, unsustainable process. It hit me like a lightning strike. I began asking a ton of questions and researching whether there was a better way.
BFCO: Is that how you developed your methodology for EarthHero?
RL: Yes, for sure. “The Story of Stuff’s” main point is we have to focus on the right inputs. If you do it right from that first step, then the rest of the steps are easier to accomplish. Once I read that book, I started researching if there were products being made with this in mindset. I was surprised that there were, but this was back in 2015. It was so fragmented and confusing that most people could not comfortably live their lives shopping that way, and so the concept of EarthHero was born. I realized I could use the same business model I had with my last company and curate the world’s most sustainable products on one common platform. The goal? To make sustainable shopping so easy that everyone does it.
BFCO: I know we’re living through challenging times, so how has COVID-19 impacted your business?
RL: These are challenging times for sure, and there are several perspectives to that question. Our priority was to make sure our team was safe and that we could work well together in this new environment. Fortunately, we’ve all been healthy. The next thing we did was check in with our suppliers. There were some that had to temporarily close, but most were able to remain open. Because we are an e-commerce business, we’ve been able to continue to ship orders daily, and that has led to some accelerated growth. Our challenge has been around growth and culture. We’ve built our team around operational excellence where every detail matters. We are learning how to maintain that as a distributed team as well as onboard new team members and integrate them into our culture.
BFCO: What are you most proud of in your company’s history?
RL: It’s the team. Our team is amazing, and everyone’s really rolling up their sleeves right now and doing what it takes. There’s only nine of us and every single one of them is a team player and is critical to our success.
BFCO: Can you define the specific programs, practices and priorities that fall within your organization’s corporate social responsibility? How has this evolved or changed over time?
RL: Right off the bat when I started EarthHero, we established that we were going to be the best stewards possible. I wanted to ensure that as we grew, more good was baked into the model. We immediately joined three nonprofits and launched with them. We joined 1% for the Planet, which means 1% of our sales go to environmental nonprofits. 40 of our brands are also now members of 1%, which means that when customers buy products from them on EarthHero, they are creating a double positive impact.
Then, we started the B Corps assessment, and we’ve been a certified B Corp since our first year. We also joined carbonfund.org to become a carbon neutral company that offsets all customer shipments through reforestation.
BFCO: What has your experience been being part of the Best for Colorado community?
RL: Last year, we went to the awards ceremony. It was so great to see so many other sustainable Colorado companies doing great things. In addition, part of our businesses is helping other businesses with their sustainable events through sustainable product giveaways, gifts for employees or corporate client gift boxes. Our salesperson met a lot of awesome businesses that we’ve been able to help ever since.
BFCO: What do you envision EarthHero looking like 10 years from now?
RL: We want sustainable shopping to be so easy everyone does it. We imagine a world where products are made sustainably because it just makes sense; because it’s the easier decision financially and is legally mandated through policy change. That’s our long-term vision. We want EarthHero to be the household name for clean shopping. We want it to be the go-to platform for suppliers who are making products with the planet’s best interest in mind. Through our sustainable shop, we want consumers to be able to find what they’re looking for every single time they want or need to buy something.
Best for Colorado is a program of the Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support.