After moving back to Maine from away several years ago, Gwen Hall landed a job as an embroiderer for a local promotions company, rather than in her chosen field of Environmental Studies. Graduating from embroidery to promotional product sales, Gwen spent the next seven years learning about the industry. During this time, Gwen also noticed that green promotional products were entering the scene, which got her thinking about ways that she could combine her most recent work experience with her background in Environmental Education. As Gwen tells it, “I saw this as a unique opportunity that I could really relate to and the idea of of my own eco-responsible promotional products company started to form.” What began as an idea then blossomed into the Logo Owl company, which Gwen created a little over a year ago.
The name “Logo Owl,” Gwen says, developed as a result of her work as an Environmental Educator with non-releasable wild animals. “The owls I took care of were such incredible creatures and that experience had a lasting effect on me,” she says, “I wanted the name of my business to be representative of the two things I was trying to integrate.” Logo Owl offers embroidery, art, screen printing, digital printing, and heat pressing services, in addition to a wide selection of promotional products. Additionally, Gwen offers marketing ideas and solutions to her clients as well as educates them about the benefits of green products. She says, “It seems that the green movement has virtually exploded in the promotional products industry. Suppliers are (motivated) to offer more and more green items. It’s really exciting to see it happening-finally!”
In addition to offering promotional products that are produced with green and recycled materials, many of the products on the Logo Owl website are meant to encourage people to make greener lifestyle choices in general. For example, reusable sports bottles, lunch bags, grocery and tote bags, and refillable pens all serve an environmentally-responsible purpose. When a company gives out one of these products to market themselves or to reward employees, it not only makes them look good, but the environmental savings keeps going after people receive them, as they are reused over and over.
Among some of the other green promotional products that Logo Owl offers are: wind-up and solar flashlights, water-powered calculators and biodegradable and compostable office products. There are even journals that are produced out of a lesser-known renewable resource…elephant waste! Logo Owl also offers products that are printed with soy and water-based paints or are digitally printed to reduce the need for chemical processing.
When asked if her clients usually choose the eco-friendly choices that she offers, Gwen responded that some clients hesitate if this means that they will need to spend extra money. The good news, as Gwen reports it, is that her suppliers’ prices continue to go down. As more cost-effective products become available, more and more clients see the benefit of going the greener route. Gwen also points out to her clients that the public responds very positively to socially and environmentally responsible companies. According to Gwen, “One thing is clear. If you are going to spend the extra money to buy green, let everyone know about it! It can make a big difference in how your company is perceived.”
In addition to selling greener products, Gwen tries to conduct her own business in an environmentally responsible manner as well. When possible, she uses local suppliers and is looking for new ways to partner with other Maine businesses. She also tries to be as paperless as she can, emailing presentations to clients and offering an online, rather than printed product catalog. Logo Owl is operated out of Gwen’s home office, and she makes a point to keep her heat turned low, even during the colder months. What else does Gwen want people to know about her business? Gwen says, “I have a 100% satisfaction guarantee and use green products as much as possible.” She also wants to point out that although some of the eco-friendly choices she offers may cost a little more, the long-term benefits to the environment are priceless.
I got the great opportunity to do an interview with the creator of Canada’s EcoMist household cleaning products Ted Fagan. Ted Fagan is a passionate environmentalist that used the power of natural products to create a line of extremely safe and effective household cleaners. It was an honor to do an interview with Ted and I hope you enjoy.
Where did the name Eco Mist Solutions come from?
The name Eco Mist Solutions was decided on after researching thousands of other names. All the ingredients are ecologically safe, ere go “Eco” and the word “Mist” was used because our primary focus was for industry to use them from a spray bottle. We felt the “Solutions” also worked on several different levels – both as a cleaning “solution” and an environmental/health “solution”. It actually was my wife that came up with the name Eco Mist Solutions and our tagline “Clean With Nature”. She reminds me everyday!
What is your educational background in and was it difficult to come up with the various cleaner formulations?
My educational background is not based in chemistry. I studied Colloidal chemistry long after leaving the school system. Colloidal chemistry helped me to create products that worked without harm. It took years of research, determination and passion to develop cleaning solutions that could be used in all industries. I had no experience in the cleaning industry so I spent two years listening and working with professional cleaners. Based on my experiences, I mixed and matched combinations of agricultural ingredients in Colloidal solutions to formulate Eco Mist Solutions products. Challenging is an understatement.
What are some of the main reasons for choosing Colloidal Science for Eco Mist Solutions products and where did you first find out about this technique for making cleaners?
I decided on the science of colloidal chemistry as opposed to enzyme-based science because enzymes have a tendency to mutate. Meaning they begin efficient and end up becoming non-efficient. Colloidal-based products always work the same because they don’t depend on living organisms to do the work.
Eco Mist has such a wide variety of cleaners, but out of all of them, do you happen to have a favourite cleaner and why?
While I’m very proud of all of our products, I think our Degreaser is my favorite product because it is widely used in all industries, and ours has such amazing degreasing properties. I receive lots of compliments from people who have tried it.
Do you plan on expanding to retails store beyond Canada?
We’re involved in retail negotiations in many countries.
I read an article about how you drank your own product to show just how natural the ingredients were in it. That’s pretty amazing that you were able to drink a household cleaner. How did it taste?
I’ve drank, shaved, washed and brushed my teeth with Eco Mist products. Trust me the degreaser doesn’t taste that great.
Was there a reason behind choosing Home Depot as the prime retailer for your products?
I chose Home Depot first because they “got it”. They understood what I was trying to achieve. They tested thousands of other so-called green products. Their Canadian President is a true environmentalist who cares about the environment and her customers. She doesn’t just speak “green,” she acts on it. For me, Home Depot was and is the perfect partner.
Do you feel that Eco Mist Solutions has had a major impact? Are there any inspiring stories that consumers have sent to you about your products making a positive impact on their lives?
Our company is still too new to have had any major impact but we’re up and coming. After launching in Home Depot, I’ve had hundreds of great emails from consumers thanking me who have tried our products and were very pleased – and sometimes amazed – with them. I’ve attached a recent testimonial.
Where did you draw your environmental views from that helped you create Eco Mist Solutions products?
I’ve always wanted to make a positive difference in this world. It’s upsetting to me to hear environmentalists and governments speak about recycling, energy, emissions and everything else we can do to reduce our environmental impact when there is millions and millions of toxic wastes entering our waterways each day from cleaning products being used in our homes and work place. In addition, the toxins and chemical residues pose serious problems to our short and long-term health. For me, addressing these types of issues this was a good starting place to make a difference.
What are some things that you do in your daily life (on top of using Eco Mist Solutions) to live a more sustainable lifestyle?
In my home I use low energy light bulbs. I turn them off when they’re not needed. We compost, recycle and reuse. I now drive a Hybrid vehicle and try and just reduce the amount of consumerism in general. Most of my days are spent researching and developing new cleaning solutions or travelling to meet owners or buyers interested in what we have to offer.
Do you have any children and were they are source of creating safe and natural products like you have?
I have three children and they are very proud of what I’m doing. My agenda is to create a healthier environment for all humans, animals and the planet.
Do you have any additional comments to share with my readers?
In summary I’m passionate about what I do and I’m proud of what I’ve created for the world.
I got the great opportunity to do an interview with the creator of Canada’s Otterbottle Inc. Shannon Andrukow. She is a full-time mother and entrepreneur and it truly was a real honor to do this interview with her.
Otterbottle Inc. Questions
What is the most influential thing that inspired you to first produce the Otterbottle?
My kids. It is amazing how ultra health conscious and environmentally aware you become when you have children. I thought i was already there, but the kids took it one step further.
What differentiates the Otterbottle from other competitors like Klean Kanteen?
I wanted to fuse style with health and practicality. Otterbottle offers cool designs which allow people to personalize the bottles. The designs are unique.
Where did the name Otterbottle come from?
Otterbottle is very environmentally focused. our mission is to conserve the planet’s water. An otter is an animal that lives in water, which we want to preserve and it rhymes with water, so it is not easily forgotten.
Did you come up with all of the designs and if so do any have a special meaning?
My designer is one of my closest friends, so yes, every design has great meaning. I trust her and her talent implicitly. Most of the ideas come from friends and family and then she magically translates the concepts into incredible designs that appeal to everyone.
Currently Otterbottle is only sold in Canada. Do you have any plants to expand sales to other countries including America?
Yes, but we would likely explore counrties in Europe first…
I see that you use high grade 18/8 stainless steel to produce each Otterbottle. Are they made from recycled materials and if not has the idea come up?
Using recycled steel is a great idea and it is something we are currently exploring with the manufacturer.
What were some of the main reasons for choosing the David Suzuki Foundation to provide a portion of your proceeds to?
I remember watching Dr. Suzuki on the nature of things as a child. I consider him the founder of the environmental movement in Canada and i have complete respect for him. if you ask a Canadian to name a person who makes them think of the environment, i would guess 9 out of 10 people would say “David Suzuki.” I am just as honored that the DSF would permit me to work with them – we share their goals and values.
Many people have become concerned about purchasing products made in China. Was there a reason you chose to have them made in China?
In 2007, 47% of the world’s steel came from china. as such the economics for sourcing steel and producing the bottles there is better than anywhere else. To our knowledge there are no stainless steel water bottles being produced in Canada. in all of our research all stainless steel bottles are being manufactured in china (including Klean Kanteen and Sigg stainless steel). As such, the manufacturing process in Asia is far more advanced than anywhere else in the world. This aligns with our objective to provide the consumer with a cost-effective, high quality, durable, and reusable product. Our bottles are metal tested in Canada for quality assurance purposes and we are very specific on our expectations for ethical practice and fair treatment to employees. our companies’ mission has a global perspective as opposed to a domestic focus. Our company promotes a plastic-free world for your health and your environment. In saying this, we are referring to the world, not one country. Reducing plastic and increasing environmental awareness is everyone’s responsibility.
What are some of the things that you do in your daily life that help you live a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle?
I have always been very conscious of the 3 r’s and in order – reducing (less consumerism), re-using (bottles, bags, mugs, etc) and recycling. I am a major proponent of educating others where i can in addition to making eco-friendly behavior just a way of life, which i have done for decades.
As a full-time mother, was it difficult ( and is it still difficult ) to have a good work-life balance?
Almost impossible. I work very late nights, very early mornings, spend the days with my kids. now that the business is up and running well, the objective is to delegate, delegate, delegate!
I just want to say thank you for taking your time to answer these questions. It has been a pleasure to be writing an article about your great company. Not only is Otterbottle Inc. trying to make a difference by producing reusable stainless steel water bottles, but you are also giving back to your community. Is there anything further you would like to tell my readers?
Thank you kindly for all of your support. Initiatives like yours and mine are what is going to make a difference on this planet.