These days, everybody is talking about living greener, reducing environmental impacts and combating climate change. Now, a local company is making it easy for retailers to go green, too. Plan-It Hardware is California's leading distributor of green products to hardware, home improvement and other retailers.
According to Plan It, "the home improvement business hasn't changed much in the last 100 years. It's still about providing the products and advice people need to maintain and improve their homes. (We should know - our roots go back to 1849!) But we all lead different lives today. Our idea of "home" has evolved to embrace our community, the local ecosystem and the entire planet. And we're growing more concerned about the impact we have on all three."
Plan It's "Green It Yourself" program for retailers has received a lot of attention in California since their launch last year, including a number of proud supporters. Not only does Plan It provide eco-friendly products for sale, their program also provides support and tips on ways for an entire store itself to conduct business in a more sustainable manner:
"We offer the most complete and rigorously evaluated catalog of the best and 'greenest' products available anywhere. We include in-store signage, shelf talkers, end-cap displays and more to help your customers find exactly what they need. And we offer lots of support for you with field product experts, education and training, value-added marketing services, resets and merchandising, and more."
Recently, I had a conversation with Jay Tompt, Plan-It Hardware's Vice President of Green Business Development, to learn more about this unique endeavor and why it is so important.
Victoria Everman: When did the idea of developing the Green It Yourself (GIY) program come about? Was there any initial resistance to the project?
Jay Tompt: The chairman of the company had been wanting to do something green for awhile, but the company had not been able to muster the internal resources to make it happen. I came on board a year and half ago to develop a green business strategy. We decided that as a distributor already serving mainstream hardware and home improvement retailers, we would do well (and good!) by developing a program that would be easy for the retailer to adopt. We created a solid “green screening” process and began putting the pieces together -- products, branding, signage, training materials, etc. Among other people in the company there was some early skepticism, but as we progressed, and as the growing media coverage was making clearer that green business was no fad but an important trend, the skepticism began to melt away.
VE: I personally first heard about GIY at the San Francisco Green Festival in November 2006; has being part of the event helped to spread the program even more?
JT: We launched the program at the Green Festival and at the time had two pilot stores, Cliff’s Variety in San Francisco, and Bolfings Elmwood Hardware in Berkeley. Since then we’ve established Green it Yourself member retailers throughout California – we currently have 24 stores who have signed onto the program and are either already set up, or are in the process of being set up.
VE: According to the Plan It website, the GIY program is not only for hardware stores, but also governments and institutions. Are there any Northern California bodies that you have been helping to green?
JT: We’re just in the beginning stages on this effort and are working with a couple of pilots as we build our institutional catalog.
VE: Do you hope to expand the GIY program nationwide? How would you make that happen?
JT: Every small company has big dreams, so yes, we do hope to expand. Right now we’re focused on establishing a good, solid service to retailers in California.
VE: What are some of the best-selling green hardware items?
JT: We’ve got a host of really cool products that most hardware stores have no trouble selling. I’ll give you three good examples. We have SoyGuard, a soy-based water sealer which is generating a lot of excitement since most sealers contain very toxic chemicals. Drainbo, a microbial drain treatment that puts several strains of beneficial microbes into the pipes, constantly excreting enzymes to keep them clear of food, oil and grease build up. One of our most popular cleaning products is Begley’s Best, plant-derived cleaning products from the actor, Ed Begley Jr. The Begley’s Best All Purpose Cleaner carries the C2C certification. We’ve got hundreds more products, from zero-VOC paints to tankless water heaters to organic garden supplies, too.
VE: Does GIY have any upcoming promotional events where Bay Area customers could get more info about the program?
JT: Yes, we’re going to be at the Whole Earth Festival in Davis, May 11-13; Lightning in a Bottle in Santa Barbara, May 11-13; Alt Build in Santa Monica, May 18-19; the Marin Home Show in San Raphael, June 2; and the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa, June 8-10.