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Bonnie Plants Embarks on Green Marketing Campaign; Backs Up Effort by Switching to Biodegradable Pots

Bonnie Plants, an Alabama-based national plant wholesaler that supplies Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s and many other chains has come up with a significant environmental improvement for the sale of its potted plants.  The company is using biodegradable pots for its plants to significantly reduce waste and eliminate post planting shock for the plants themselves.

Bonnie operates nationally from 33 growing facilities across the country and ships products regionally.

The biodegradable pots are part of the company’s “Bonnie’s Going Greener for You” effort towards providing consumers with environmentally friendly products.  “We’re dedicated to giving our customers earth-friendly products, but products that perform as well as or better than conventional products,” said Dennis Thomas General Manager of Bonnie

The company has two biodegradable pots for its plants; one a peatpot and the other a recycled fiber pot.  The plants are sold directly in the biodegradable pots and the consumer simply removes the bottom of the pot (and works it into the soil) and plants the plant, container and all.  The biodegradable pot will simply decompose and the plant will not suffer the common post planting shock as it adjusts to its new environment.

I think this move quiet significant given the tremendous amount of waste plastic pots produce.  The majority of traditional plastic pots are not recycled even though they could be so this new approach from Bonnie is a major advancement in the gardening world.

The significance of the new pots are magnified when you consider Bonnie supplies plants to nearly every major retailer in the U.S.  When a company with that type of distribution makes an environmental improvement even if its not an original innovation the effects are tremendously positive simply due to the sheer size of their operation.

Bonnie Plants has also added their own recycling facility and worked on improving internal reuse practices as part of the first phase of their Going Greener for You effort.

Is Arc’teryx’s Brand Identity Eroding as Some of its Production Goes to China and Other Countries?

High-end outdoor apparel company Arc’teryx is eroding the strength of its brand by contracting some of its manufacturing overseas and not fully embracing it.

If Arc’teryx is going to source production overseas they need to fully embrace it, just like Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) did. The company needs to tell consumers about their corporate sustainability efforts, conditions in their overseas production facilities and have audits & accountability for their contractors.

Arc’teryx’s customer base are avid outdoor people.  These people as a group tend to value social responsibility highly when making decisions on buying.  When companies don’t provide this information or worse yet offer weak corporate sounding gloss over statements consumers look elsewhere.

Its not good enough any more to tell consumers 25% of the products are made in China and other countries and the remainder is made in Canada.  Eco-consumers want specifics, they as a group do more product research than any other segment of the buying population before making a decision on what to purchase.  Eco-consumers want information so they can make informed decisions.  Be open and up front and consumers will respond and the focus will shift from the country of manufacture back to the quality of the final product.

Arc’teryx Diplomat ST Gore Windstopper® Jacket made from Italian wool.  Made in China
Arc’teryx was founded in 1991 in Vancouver and made all of its gear in Canada.  It was known as a highly respected small brand with impeccable quality.   The company started making climbing harnesses and then began making innovative garments known for their construction and fit.

In 2002 Arc’teryx was bought by Salomon, owned at the time by Adidas.  With the global presence of Salomon and the increasing popularity of Arc’teryx, the company started to out source manufacturing of some of its garments to China and other countries.

This move is not uncommon in the industry, in fact it is more the norm these days.  However as more and more Arc’teryx gear was being made overseas the company continued to develop its image as the small Vancouver-based clothing designer and maker that it once was.

By making this decision the brand that was built on the idea of being small and high quality and producing everything in Canada started to lose the very identity it used to grow in the first place.  The company seemed not to realize this type of move didn’t sit well with its customer base.

Then in 2005 as Salomon’s sales were lagging Adidas sold Salomon and its brands to Helsinki-based Amer Sports Corporation.  As a result Arc’teryx is now a brand under Amer.

I called Arc’teryx to find out how much of their product line is made in China and was told some garments are made their because they simply couldn’t keep up with demand in Vancouver.  The answer wasn’t clear.  The man I spoke with said a lot of their Gore Paclite® garments were made in China.  However I knew it was more than that having seen their Diplomat ST jacket that was made in China and some of their other Polartec items coming from there as well.

A simple Google search yields a wealth of commentary from surprised consumers reacting to the fact their Arc’teryx garment was made in China.  The most common comment is something to the effect of “I thought Arc’teryx made in Canada.”

Arc’teryx was a small brand whose garments are expensive, they catered to a high end niche market of outdoor enthusiasts  who didn’t want to be wearing the North Face jacket everyone else had, and were willing to a pay a price in order to get something better.

Now according to Arc’teryx’s web site, they’re making the “majority” of their products in Vancouver but also have sourced production to China, Vietnam, Taiwan and New Zealand.

A statement from Arc’teryx CEO Tyler Jordan on their parent company web site goes further and says the company currently has contracted manufacturing to eight countries.  Not just the four  they name on their own web site.

Regardless, the company web site is quick to note, “All Arc’teryx products are constructed with the highest quality materials and are individually inspected and tested to the same exacting standards regardless of production origin.”

They are missing the point.  Arc’teryx consumers don’t want a product made in China, Vietnam or Taiwan.  If they wanted that they could get a North Face or any one of a host of other choices in outerwear that have sent production to China.  Arc’teryx was different they were made in Canada by Canadians, but now they are becoming like the rest.

Worst its unclear which of their products are actually made overseas.  The company does not tell you on their web site or catalog.  If you’re going to source production overseas tell consumers up front.  Embrace it.  Don’t let them be surprised when they look at the label of their new garmet to find it was made in China.

Arc’teryx can learn a lot from another Canadian company, Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC).  MEC makes a whole line of high end technical outerwear much of which is made in Canada.  Like Arc’teryx they too source production overseas.  However, unlike Arc’teryx everything they sell through their web site and catalog is clearly labeled with the country where its made.  MEC goes a step further by actually providing information about their overseas production facilities as well as extensive social responsibility data.

Instead of hiding it MEC embraces the fact they have sourced some of their production overseas and consumers are then able to make an informed choice based on their own criteria.

Arc’teryx needs to make some changes to revive its brand identity.  Overseas production is not a positive for Arc’teryx whether it increases sales in the short term or not unless they can embrace it.

Until then I am unclear what the Arc’Teryx brand stands for and I know I am not alone.

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Scotts Miracle-Gro Lawsuit Against Terra Cycle a Big Mistake

Scotts Miracle-Gro made a mistake when it filed a 173 page lawsuit against the small New Jersey organic plant food company, TerraCycle®.

As reported back in April, Scotts Miracle-Gro’s suit alleges among other things false advertising and trade dress infringement.  They claim TerraCycle’s packaging too closely resembles their Miracle-Gro® product packaging.

Scotts has a strong product line – so what is the motivation for going after a small company like TerraCycle?

It appears the lawsuit is really an attempt by Scotts Miracle-Gro to prevent TerraCycle from becoming established in the rapidly growing market for organic non-chemical based fertilizers and plant food, which coincidentally Scotts Miracle-Gro is trying to crack into with its Organic Choice® line of products.

Clearly Scotts is concerned by the fact TerraCycle is carried by Wal-Mart & Home Depot as well as numerous other large retailers and that this will some how impact their business.

They couldn’t be more wrong.  Scotts has an established brand of lawncare products that millions of consumers swear by each year.  They are lawn and garden giants with over fifty percent of the related market share.  Consumers who buy Scotts products are not going to one day stop and switch to a TerraCycle type product.  Its just not going to happen.

Many of these consumers are results based consumers.  All they care about is will my lawn be green or will my plants grow big.  They aren’t thinking about the impact too much fertilizer might have on rivers or streams or whether its good to be eating vegetables grown with synthetic fertilizers.

In the wake of increased federal and state regulation of their products and a growing demand for organic/natural fertilizers by consumers Scotts is striking out at who they can – potential competitors.

The decision to file a lawsuit was a mistake

The problem with this plan is its going to backfire.  By Scotts filing suit against TerraCycle they have legitimized the company as a serious competitor.  TerraCycle overnight went from a small fertilizer company catering to a growing niche market to a company Scotts Miracle-Gro is actually worried about.

Whats worse for Scotts is now the whole country and world knows about it.  When a company like Scotts Miracle-Gro is worried about a company like TerraCycle people notice and ask why.

Scotts Miracle-Gro’s numerous brands are strong.  The company is getting poor legal/marketing/PR advice and the decision to go after TerraCycle was a bad one.

In the end TerraCycle is going to come out stronger with a larger market share.  Inc. reported this month the company’s investors weren’t swayed a bit by the looming Scotts Miracle-Gro lawsuit.

TerraCycle gets it.  Scotts doesn’t.  Strong arm tactics weren’t necessary in this case and by employing them (lawsuit) Scotts will only further alienate itself from the very consumer base they are trying to capture.

Scotts doesn’t get it on this one.  Su Lok a company spokesperson was quoted in the June issue of Inc. as saying their actions against TerraCycle were “common sense, business 101.”   That may be the case in “business” but what they are missing is the fact that consumers in the markets they are trying to get into (organic fertilizers) don’t like “business 101” and strong arm bully tactics.

Generally speaking consumers who buy organic products are often highly concerned with trade practices, are internet savvy, tend to spend more time researching products available to them and have higher education levels.  All of this is common knowledge business 101.  Scotts needs to understand their target consumer base isn’t going to react well to their going after a small organic company like TerraCycle.

One Red Tail Chick Safe Two Killed at Rhode Island Country Club

LONE SURVIVING RED TAIL CHICK DOING WELL AT REHAB FACILITY.  SEE THE PIECE NBC 10 RAN ON THE STORY.

Update on the story we reported on Wednesday regarding the cutting down of a dying pine tree near the 15th tee at the Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington, RI – that had a Red Tail Hawk nest in it with three chicks.

As a result of the club cutting down the tree two of the three chicks were killed.  One was rescued and is doing well at a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Westerly, RI.  The chick somehow survived the fall of the tree and was left under a nearby cedar tree for nearly a day before it was rescued.  The rescue was facilitated by a local birder and not the golf club.

Today in a statement to Providence NBC affiliate WJAR, Rhode Island Country Club president Gary McClane called the incident a “tragic accident.”  He told NBC 10 that the club was taking down some dying trees. He said the groundskeeper knew that there was a nest there but did not think it was active and that he hadn’t seen any hawks in a while.

McLane said it was unintentional and that, “a terrible mistake was made…the last thing we would do is callously take down a nest like that.”

The rescued bird is doing well at a RI rehab facility.  “It’s not an injury, it’s just that he’s too young to be on his own,” said Vivian Maxon, of the Born to Be Wild Nature Center. “So, I don’t know how he ended up with no injuries.

“Our goal, as far as wildlife rehabilitation, is to just raise him to an age where he can fly and get back up into the tree, and then the parents will take over the feedings and will raise them.”

Maxon said they plan on releasing the hawk in about three weeks.

The Rhode Island Country Club is the host of the upcoming CVS Caremark Charity Classic golf tournament.  I attempted to contact tournament director Greg Costello for comment and have not heard back from him.

Immediately upon learning about the incident Tuesday evening and seeing the down tree firsthand, I contacted the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Red Tail Hawks are protected by the Migratory Bird Act .

Scotts Miracle-Gro Sues Terra Cycle

Small Organic Fertilizer company whose products are made from earthworm droppings is being sued by industry giant Scotts

COMPANY PACKAGES ITS PLANT FERTILIZER IN REUSED SODA BOTTLES

BY RIDER THOMPSON

TerraCycle a small New Jersey-based organic plant-food company is being sued by industry giant Scotts Miracle-Gro.

TerraCycle® plant and lawn fertilizers are based on a formula made from earthworm droppings and are packaged and sold in recycled soda bottles collected from all over the country.  The company boasts its entire product is made from waste.

Scotts Miracle-Gro (who we mentioned recently for taking enviro babysteps in its industry) claims TerraCycle’s packaging infringes on the “distinctive and famous trade dress” of Miracle-Gro®.

Scotts claims that TerraCycle’s use of yellow and green in its packaging too closely resembles its star Miracle-Gro® product line.

In addition, the 177 page complaint filed in the US District Court of New Jersey alleges false advertising for claims the company made saying its product is “superior and safer” to that of competitors.

The complaint filed by OMS Investments & The Scotts company also alleges violations of “Trade Dress Dilution, New Jersey Fair Trade Act and Unjust Enrichment”

PACKAGING COMPARISON 

TerraCycle denies Scotts claims and has created a website:  www.suedbyscotts.com to showcase its side of the story.  The website contains a PDF file with photos of over 80 similar fertilizer products that use yellow and green in their packaging.

It appears from looking at the complaint and the numerous other brands currently on the market which use a yellow and green color scheme that the real issue here is Scotts concern over protecting its new Organic Choice (TM) brand of Miracle-Gro products.  The real issue here seems to be competition for market share in a rapidly growing industry – organic plant and lawn fertilizers.

According to a recent Business Week story Scotts sales of its Organic Choice line have increased 200% in the last year.

TerraCycle’s sales have also increased and the company’s products are now available at a growing number of large retailers including Home Depot stores.  The TerraCycle plant food was featured this Sunday in circulars across the country as part of Home Depot’s new Eco Options label that was introduced this week in the US.

This is a fascinating story.

Check out Web X.0 for more coverage of TerraCycle and its branding.

Home Depot Eco Options

Home Depot Introduces Eco Options Label in US Stores Today

 

Home Depot is formally introducing the Eco Options label today in its US stores.  The new label is for products like fluorescent light bulbs that conserve electricity and natural insect killers, that promote energy conservation, sustainable forestry and clean water.  The new label will identify products at Home Depot as environmentally friendly.

The company has identified more than 2500 Eco Option products (many of which are already on store shelves) such as all-natural insect repellents, cellulose insulation, front-load washing machines, organic plant food and vegetables in biodegradable pots, compact fluorescent light bulbs.

The label will make it easier for consumers to make eco-friendly choices related to their home improvement products.  The Eco Options label in the US is an expansion of the program which the company rolled out in Canada.

Read our interview on MoMA’s new treeless paper now used in all their retail packaging & boxes

image © Design & Source Productions Inc
PHOTO:  MoMA’s NEW ECO-FRIENDLY PACKAGING

BY RIDER THOMPSON

Shoppers at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) stores may have noticed something different on their latest visit.  The packaging in all MoMA’s retail shops is now green.  We’re not just talking simple green here either.  Their gift packaging including boxes and all bags is now made from a revolutionary sustainable material called TerraSkin™ made by Design & Source Productions in New York.

TerraSkin™ and its eco-friendly characteristics

TerraSkin™ is made from a combination of large amounts of mineral powder (>75%) with a small quantity (<25%) of non-toxic resin to create an environmentally friendly paper. TerraSkin(TM)  has very similar characteristics to traditional paper with a tensile and tearing strength ratio of 1:1 – 2:1.  It also has many eco-friendly characteristics. First, the production of TerraSkin(TM)  requires no water, so the TerraSkin(TM) paper making process incurs no water pollutants. Second, as TerraSkin(TM)  contains high proportions of inorganic mineral powder, when the end user is done with the TerraSkin(TM)  product, the used paper will degrade when left out in nature for approximately three to nine months back into the mineral powder.  If preferred, used papers can also be incinerated safely as non-toxic resins will not emit smoke or poisonous gas by-products. TerraSkin(TM) can also be easily and cost-effectively recycled in the future.  Furthermore, on the production front, residues of inorganic mineral powder can be either reused or safely returned to nature.  Most importantly, in producing TerraSkin(TM) , there are no trees involved.  The paper is treeless.

Paper has printing benefits as well

With all environmentally friendly advantages the paper also has significant printing flexibility.  Because TerraSkin(TM)  is not a fiber, it does not absorb ink like regular paper, using 20-30% less ink than regular paper. The images stay much more crisp and clean than on regular paper because the ink does not bleed.  TerraSkin(TM)  also does not require any additional coatings or laminations.  The paper is water- resistant and stays strong and durable and it has its own unique texture based on its mineral make up.

MoMA decides to use TerraSkin™ in all Retail Packaging

Julie Parker, the Creative Services Manager for Design & Source Productions was part of the MoMA project team.  “In January of ’06 we approached the Design Department at MoMA and introduced them to TerraSkin as a sustainable option for their retail store gift packaging.  They were extremely receptive – it was something the department had been interested in pursuing for some time,” said Parker.  “We went into development soon after that first visit and the bags and boxes are now being used in all of MoMA’s retail shops,” she continued.

Parker said the design of MoMA’s existing boxes transferred extremely well to TerraSkin™, and in fact, because of the construction of the original boxes, the smooth surface of TerraSkin™ improved the opening and closing of their one-piece box.  She said TerraSkin™ also has a naturally bright, white surface.  MoMA’s old paper boxes had no printing on them except for the MoMA logo, the new TerraSkin boxes retain this look but with an added “pop.”  “We re-engineered two boxes which worked better as an  “envelope” style,” she said.

TerraSkin™ was also used for a Special Exhibition shopping bag – the Exhibition “Eye on Europe” which ran from October 15, 2006 to January 1, 2007.  This bag recently received an award by Graphic Design USA magazine

Merrick Earth Saver Hangers

Clothing hangers made from Corn

UPDATED 10/26/07 – See our story on Merrick Bamboo Hangers discovered this week at Target

Earthsaver hangers are made from 100% corn – yet they look and feel like traditional plastic clothing hangers. Made by Merrick as an environmentally sound alternative to petroleum-based plastic these hangers offer consumers an eco-friendly alternative. The corn for the hangers comes from renewable resources all grown by farmers in the US and is 100% compostable. The hangers are also made in the USA.

The earthsaver hangers are an innovative product one that certainly warrants some attention. There is no question we have endless amounts of corn in the United States, so a product like this that can use some of that corn makes sense. Is it a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastic hangers that exist in the billions in this country? I believe so and I would expect more products like this to appear on the market in the upcoming years.

In a related interesting move, Walmart stores are carrying the earthsaver hangers and offering them for about $3.50 for five of them. The earthsaver hangers differ in appearance from the inexpensive plastic hangers they replace. Their design is rather innovative holding clothes better than the traditional basic plastic hangers. Merrick calls the style a “heavy shirt” design.

Check Rajeev Singh’s blog for some additional commentary on these hangers.  He raises some interesting points, namely that information and publicity related to this product are virtually nonexistent.  This is an interesting observation because its the type of product you’d think a company like Walmart would make an example of to show they are “green.”  There may be a supply issue on these and it is unknown if they are carried by all Walmart stores or being tested in certain stores.   In addition the product’s manufacturer Merrick provides no information on these hangers on their own company website… which is odd.

Muji Recycled Yarn Socks From Japan

Check out these socks made from recycled yarn from Japanese company MUJI. These socks are really neat their colors are wacky and cool and they fit well. I had a pack given to me from the MoMA store in NYC and I wear them regularly – the socks are available @ MoMA or from MUJI stores on or online. MUJI is often described as a “Japanese IKEA” however they carry a wide range of men’s and women’s clothing. The company has many sustainable practices including using recycled cardboard in many of its products, using unbleached cotton and practicing sustainable forestry.