Interview With A Baltimore Green Business Owner
“Green” business are popping up all over the place. It seems there are just as many questions popping up surrounding this close-knit community. Many people don’t know what this “green” thing is all about. For many, it is one of those topics they hear people talking about around the office and they pretend to be involved in the conversation. Anastasia MacDonald, a managing partner of Nest, took the time out of her busy schedule to shed some light on the “green” business community and answer some of those questions. Nest is a “green” business in Clarksville that specializes in gifts, home decor and women’s clothing. All of its products must meet strict guidelines before they will be put on the shelves and sold.
What is the most difficult part of running a “green” business?
A big challenge is discerning whether you have a teachable moment in front of you or need to let things slide by. When someone comments that a sweater is more expensive than they expected, do you simply smile and not reply, or are they open to hearing about why organic cotton is a better choice and how the folks who actually knitted that sweater were paid a living wage? We try not to preach, and at the same time there’s a lot of subtle education that is always happening.
What is the best part of running a “green” business?
Believing that in some small way we’re making a difference. I spent many years in the non-profit/education side of the “green” world, and while it’s an important piece of the whole, it can sometimes feel very heady, very intangible and not entirely related to everyday life. At Nest, we’re offering concrete ways to “green up” an ordinary suburban life, and that’s satisfying. It’s also great to become woven into the meaningful cloth of our community, to hear how what we offer at Nest has become part of people’s lives.
Besides selling “green” products, does Nest operate in a “green” way (conserve energy, LED or skylights, use recycled products, etc.)?
Yes. We’re signed up with Clean Currents for our electricity. We’ve been converting our lighting to LED over the last couple of years and are most of the way there. We choose recycled paper products whenever possible. We use BPA-free receipt paper. We are mindful of the thermostat, no need to freeze indoors in the middle of summer. We recycle all of the cardboard we receive and coordinate with another local small business that re-uses most of the packing materials we get.
Where do you find the products you sell? How do you make sure they are “green” and meet your standards?
We go to mainstream wholesale gift shows, handmade craft shows and “green” industry shows. If there’s a category or specific item we’d like to introduce at Nest, we’ll search online. Regarding our standards, we ask lots of questions about labor practices and sustainability. I’ve learned that if a vendor is prioritizing Earth and ethics in their manufacturing, they will anticipate and understand our questions. When someone is confused by our questions or struggling to answer them, that’s usually an indication that they won’t meet our standards.
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Tom Clocker is a freelance writer covering all things Baltimore. His work can be found on Examiner.com.