One of the attention-getters at Ideas Are Us LLC is the Elephant Poo stationery. It’s not a common commodity around Atlanta – which is exactly why Ruksana Hussain saw a niche for eco-friendly Fair Trade gifts and décor handcrafted in India by local women’s groups.
Seeking an entrepreneurial venture after moving to the U.S in 2006, she used the Fair Trade Federation website to connect with groups near her hometown that supported women without education or training. Now, working with Fair Trade certified suppliers and pursuing her own certification, she offers their handicrafts wholesale.
With that social responsibility comes environmental responsibility.
“It was interesting to see that, even at that grassroots level, there was this awareness of having to be green,” Hussain says. “To see that these people are not educated about being green and yet they’re using the resources around them to make the best of what of they have, that was what occurred to me as being very special.”
Likewise, she looks for opportunities to be greener in business – which unfold into other benefits, too.
“You know, for every single thing that you can use, there’s so many other ways that you can make it more effective and make a less negative impact for the planet,” she says. “There’s definitely a lot of untapped potential.”
Easy tips for being green
Ideas Are Us is green in its products, which are made from natural resources like banana fiber and the aforementioned poo. But Hussain is also green in her practices. Here are three simple tips you can borrow from her:
- Stay home. “I’ve tried to stay out of having a brick and mortar store, and I think it removes one big cost and one big (environmental impact). I’m selling retail only through the shows I do and any stores (that) will feature my products. But my website is going to be solely wholesale. If you do have a brick and mortar place, I would strongly suggest getting an energy audit done. If you can prove that you have certain criteria covered, there are tax benefits to that.”
- Stop printing. “Secondly, I would focus on paper usage. You start printing out everything and you start filing, and it’s a lot of paper. And after a year of having that paper, everyone’s just going to shred it, and not everyone goes around recycling. You don’t have to print everything. Just back up things virtually; put it on a hard drive. For promotional (materials), I have a business card and a post card and that’s it. If somebody wants a catalog, I mail them a PDF catalog of my products. There is no printing involved. You can do your transactions online. It even eliminates having to send out checks; you can do payments online. There’s really a lot you can do without having to waste any paper.”
- Don’t dump. “The third is to make sure that all of your electronic equipment is recycled the right way, including printer cartridges and eco-friendly [light] bulbs. Don’t just throw it in the trash. All office equipment needs to go to the right place, so go to a recycling place.”