Interview With Ford’s J Mays – Detroit Auto Show 09

J Mays, Group Vice President, Design, and Chief Creative Office for Ford Motor Company talks to Life Goggles and Ron Doron from The Drivers Seat.TV. Topics include the future of design for hybrid and electric vehicles, melding the Fusion and Mondeo together, and much more.

If you can’t see this video please click here.

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Talking About Alternative Fuels – Interview with Ford’s Nancy Gioia

Nancy Gioia – Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs for Ford Motor Company talks to Life Goggles and Ron Doron from The Drivers Seat.TV at the Detroit Auto Show 2009. She covers some very interesting ground such as:

– Plug-in hybrids, a whole suite of all electric vehicles.
– “Range anxiety”.
– Diesel technology.
– EcoBoost.
– Climate Change challenges.

If you can’t see this video please click here.

Interview With Anna Burns From Eco Emporia

After reviewing one of its products (here), we wanted to find out a little more about Eco Emporia so got in touch with the company’s director, Anna Burns, and asked her a few questions.

Tell us about Eco Emporia’s philosophy?
Eco Emporia sells desirable objects handmade from discarded things. We believe that repurposing a discarded item into something desirable not only helps to reduce waste, it gives the item a new life and a unique story of its own. All of our products have been handcrafted by artists with a passion for reusing and recycling, so our customers not only get an unusual eco-friendly gift they also help to support craftspeople make a living from doing something they love.

Anna Burns

Sourcing only handmade and recycled products must be quite tricky, how do you go about it?
We were first inspired by handmade recycled crafts during our travels abroad. When we got back to the UK and developed our business idea, we began to source products by visiting craft and trade fairs and searching on the web. In recent years there’s been a growth of online marketplaces, photo sharing sites and forums which have all been a great source of suppliers. Now that our website’s live, green designer-makers are getting in touch with us direct.

And how to do ensure the quality?
It’s great news that we’re finding more and more designer-makers who are creating some fantastic recycled products. Not every item will meet Eco Emporia’s criteria though. Customer research has taught us that it isn’t enough for a product just to be eco-friendly, it has to be attractive and desirable too. We’ve really kept this in mind when selecting products to stock and ‘desirability’ is high on our selection criteria, together with being skilfully and cleverly-made in a sustainable way. We always like to see and test out products for ourselves before we buy them. We also ask suppliers to complete a questionnaire to tell us more about how they make the products and source materials.

How do the craftspeople get hold of the materials? For example, Bryan Parks uses old chopsticks for his bowls, where does he get them?
Our craftspeople are as equally creative at obtaining their raw materials as they are about making them into something desirable and new. For example friends and family can be a great source of unwanted clothes and charity shops and scrap stores can benefit from craftspeople buying items which would otherwise have been ‘unsaleable’ to regular customers. Bryan Parks lives in Oregon, USA and has a fantastic story to tell about the bowls and jewellery he makes by reusing bamboo chopsticks. He used to live in China and one day asked the question about how many chopsticks were thrown away each year. The answer is billions of chopsticks are binned and millions of trees are harvested to make them. To help give these ‘single-use’ utensils a longer life, he works with local Chinese restaurants to collect chopsticks previously used by their diners. He then sterilizes them, stains them with tea and creatively threads them into necklaces and cleverly-designed folding bowls.

Eco Emporia

Is it easier to get hold of recycled materials these days?
Yes, I think it is a little easier these days for craftspeople to get hold of enough unwanted materials to be able to replicate, to some degree, the products they make and so create a sustainable business from it. Many local businesses are keen to work alongside our suppliers in an effort to help reduce the amount of material sent both to landfill and recycling. For example Karen Davies sources the wine and champagne bottles she uses to make her ‘squashed’ platters, from local pubs and restaurants. Sarah Baulch works with textile factories near her home in West London to source off-cuts of cloth which she transforms into decorative soft-furnishings, and EaKo rescue decommissioned hose from fire brigades across the country to create very funky belts.

The ‘green’ business sector is getting busier and busier, how do you stand apart?
By focusing on the niche market of desirable handmade recycled products. When we designed our branding and website it was very important that they reflected our ethos and helped us to stand apart. We’ve made our website very attractive to look at and easy to navigate. Buying on the web means that the customer can’t touch the product for themselves, so we’ve made sure our photos are clear and focus on the detail. All of our products have past lives which we tell our customers about both on the site and in the product information card we come with each order. We make the craftspeople the ‘stars’ of our site by including a photo and a profile of each. Not only do we enjoy selling recycled crafts but we like to have a go at making them too, so our ‘Make It Yourself’ section features a number of projects we’ve created to make practical and attractive use of everyday would-be waste. A lot of people have told us their love this fun element to our site.

How did Eco Emporia start and what’s your background?
Like many businesses, my husband Peter and I came up with the idea for an eco gift company by identifying a problem. We were becoming greener at home – reducing, reusing and recycling, but when it came to looking for Christmas presents in 2005, we struggled to find suitable things that were both eco-friendly and desirable too. At that time many of the green stores offered only functional products or ‘eco-gadgets’ as gift ideas. For us they weren’t attractive enough. So we’d identified a gap in the market. Our entrepreneurial plans had to be put on hold though, because we’d just got married and were about to embark on a year long honeymoon travelling around the world. That year away gave us the chance to dream about our business idea and to get inspired by seeing craftspeople who reused and recycled as a way of life.

We had a ‘eureka’ moment in Australia when we wandered into an art gallery exhibiting recycled crafts from South Africa. We were excited by the creativity and amazing stories behind the products and the people who made them, and this really helped us to focus on our niche market. Prior to travelling both my husband and I worked for several years in corporate marketing and Peter specialises in eCommerce and internet marketing. I’ve always enjoyed making things and have been on various craft courses, so Eco Emporia has enabled us to combine our interests and play to our strengths.

What’s your favourite product?
I really do love all our products so it’s difficult to pick a favourite, but the ones which appeal to me most are those which are ingenius yet simple in design. Like Darrell and Julia Gibbs’s Rescued Paper Notebooks where each page is made from a sheet of waste paper with the printed side folded in on itself to make two sides of blank paper to write on. I also love fun products that make me smile like Lorraine Berkshire-Roe’s quirky papier-mâché tea cups which even have bubbles painted in the ‘tea’.

What are the company’s plans for the future?
We’re a very new company, having launched our website in September 2008 so hopefully the next few years will be ones of growth as we spread the word to new customers and expand our product range. We’re attending markets and fairs as well as selling online and in the future it would be great to have more face to face contact with customers. We’ve got lots of creative ideas about how we do that, so watch this space!

Interview With Simon Duffy From Bulldog Natural Grooming

We’re a fan of Bulldog’s cosmetics here at Life Goggles, such as its Post Shave Balm and Shower Gel (you can find all the reviews here), so we thought we’d have a chat to its co-founder, Simon Duffy.

Tell us a bit about your background and how Bulldog started off?
We started Bulldog to take on the big brands in the men’s skincare world and create an entirely new category – natural grooming – where ethics, purity and efficacy are the core focus. The range includes shaving, cleansing and skincare products. You will never find parabens, sodium laureth sulfate, artificial colours or synthetic fragrances in our products.

This is our first proper business venture if you discount countless failed teenage money-making schemes. We started working on Bulldog part time in November 2005, founded the business in February 2006, resigned from our jobs in May 2006 and launched nationwide in Sainsbury’s in July 2007. Bulldog is now available nationwide in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Superdrug, Ocado, Debenhams, Whole Foods, and Planet Organic.

Prior to founding Bulldog, Simon was an innovation and branding expert who helped the likes of Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Samsung to create new products and Rhodri Ferrier worked in finance, and was involved in organising corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Simon Duffy

Why focus just on men?
When we used to visit the male grooming aisles of the UK supermarkets, we actually found it a very boring category. What we saw were: “for men” versions of women’s products; boring functional products that were all the same colours, styles and had the same chemical heavy formulations, and very little character. All these brands take themselves way too seriously. Unlike other categories, there are no toiletries brands that men really love. Instead it’s just stuff we have to buy.

From a consumer point of view, Bulldog was nowhere and then suddenly available in lots of high street shops, I presume that’s not the case?
I’d love to say it was an overnight success, but we have been working hard for three years to get this far. What’s more, we have only just begun our journey and we know there is a long way for us to go to achieve our mission of pioneering natural grooming for men in the UK

What’s the male ‘beauty’ market like at the moment? And how do environmentally friendly products fit into that?
Overall the “male beauty market” is really boring. Mainly this because of the unisex compromise that both dominates and commoditizes the current options available for men. Next time you try shopping for male skincare products count how many options are actually “for men” versions of female products and brands.

Environmentally friendly products have a key role to play in expanding the options for men. Lots of men are keen to avoid controversial ingredients that have been linked with everything from skin irritation to male infertility. Lots of men care about the environment and the are concerned about the chemicals they are washing down their plug holes. At the moment the overall size of the environmental products niche is small, but it is growing year on year.

Do men really care about what goes into their products?
Our research shows that an increasing number of men do care and I think the larger companies will find it increasingly harder to fool most men with their “green-washing” tactics.

We get great feedback from men on our website. For instance, lots of men tell us that they find the Bulldog’s approach of using alternative natural ingredients gives them a shave that they don’t get from shave gels that include sodium laureth sulfate and other known skin irritants.

You’re very open about your ingredients, why?
It’s a key part of what we believe, and it’s how we think all companies should operate in this market. Many food and drink companies now list out ingredients like saturated fats, salt and calories on the front of pack so that people can make informed decisions about their health. We think this should also take place in the toiletries market so that consumers can make informed decisions about whether to purchase or avoid products containing ingredients like parabens and sodium laureth sulfate.

How do you source your ingredients?
Ethically, sustainably, and from natural sources whenever possible.

Competitors like Dr Bronner for example have very few ingredients, you seem to have a lot with chemical-sounding names, why is that?
We fully disclose all our ingredients and explain why we use them and where they are from on our website www.meetthebulldog.com. Often the long Latin names are for one of the twenty two essential oils we use across our entire range. We have to write them in this way due to government regulation. For example – Dipterocarpus Turbinatus is actually Balsam Oil. We use ten essential oils in our Lemon & Bergamot shower gel so this takes up a major part of the overall ingredient list for this product. Most of our products contain between seven to ten essential oils.

We only use non-natural ingredients in the exceptional cases where there are no viable natural alternatives, and only then when we are sure they are safe and mild. We are continually working to push the naturalness of our products and hope to introduce a new preservative system and increase the percentage of natural ingredients in our products later this year. This is an area of emerging science and we stay on top of any breakthroughs.

Who do you view as your competitors? Everyone, just the other organic ranges or just the non-organic ranges?
The aim that we have set ourselves is “To Pioneer Natural Grooming For Men”. Over the next five years our goal is to inform and educate men about the benefits of natural ingredients and reduce the number of man-made chemicals in Britain’s bathrooms. We see ourselves competing across UK retail with major players like L’Oreal, Nivea and Gillette.

Environmentally friendly products are seen as more expensive than traditional ones, but yours isn’t, why is that the case?
Our whole range is priced between £2.99 and £5.99. That’s because we don’t want to limit the appeal of Bulldog by making it too expensive for regular men who shop in places like Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco or Superdrug. Our mission is to pioneer natural grooming for men. To do this we need to provide viable alternatives to the likes of Nivea, L’Oreal and Lynx. Price is an important factor for our shoppers, and especially so in the difficult financial times we currently find ourselves in.

How does bottling, packaging and delivery fit in with your philosophy?
Our primary green credentials stem from the way in which we formulate our products. We are trying to remove as many man-made chemicals as possible from the everyday grooming products that men use. As far as our carbon footprint is concerned, we aren’t that innovative yet, but we are different. Unlike the vast majority of our competitors, we manufacture all of our products and its packaging here in the UK. It would certainly be cheaper for us to import packaging from China and have the packs filled in Eastern Europe, but it certainly wouldn’t help the environment. One criticism we have of ourselves is that we probably don’t communicate this fact as clearly to consumers as we could.

All of our products are packaged in 100% recyclable packaging, and we are working closely with our packaging partner to explore the inclusion of post-consumer-recycled plastic in our bottles and tubes. This is more of a challenge than you would expect, particularly if you want to manufacture in the UK.

You seem to be growing and growing, what difficulties have you faced and what barriers are there to further expansion?
The major challenge for Bulldog is getting the name out there and convincing people to give the products a try. This is really tough because all our competitors are large multi-national corporations who have massive marketing budgets, huge advertising campaigns, and the deep pockets required to fund price promotions in-store.

We compete by being different. First of all we knew we had to create amazing natural products. We are relentless in making sure that all our products have a great performance. All the feedback we’ve had has been very positive.

Secondly we launched as Bulldog. The Bulldog represents all of the positive attributes of men. He may not have a rippling six-pack, in fact he’s a little overweight and quite wrinkly, but he’s also tenacious, loyal, honest, hard working and protective. He is “Man’s Best Friend” and we probably all like to think that we have a bit of the bulldog spirit.

If men want to buy affordable natural grooming products with brilliant performance, that are also free from controversial ingredients, then we are the only brand available. We have a real point of difference.

What’s next for Bulldog?
Innovation is the lifeblood of brands and we are constantly searching out and testing new natural ingredients. We set very tough standards on both efficacy and naturalness which allows us to be very focused when reviewing possible new directions.

In terms of building our distribution we are taking it one step at a time, but we are looking to substantially build our distribution and hope that in the next three to four years you’ll be able to buy Bulldog anywhere you might pick up a shave gel or shower gel.

How about doing a deodorant? It’s hard to find good, environmentally friendly ones!
We have a further 10 products in our pipeline for the next 12 months and this includes a brilliant natural deodorant that will open up an entirely new market for us in male grooming. Innovation is key to the development of Bulldog and we will be pushing hard to deliver amazing new products for UK consumers.

Thanks to Simon and Patrick Hobbs for sorting the interview out.

Interview With Tony Momoh From Echarger

Solar charging has been getting cheaper and consequently more popular, Echarger.co.uk aims to make solar charging affordable to everyone. Life Goggles spoke to it founder, Tony Momoh.

Tell us about how Echarger got started and your involvement in it?
Echarger started five years ago coming from African roots we have a big issue with power shortage. I started researching of ways to help my people try and find a way they can use alternative energy to charge certain appliances. The idea got so big that it was too much juggling work and doing research at the same time. Then four years ago my mum passed away, God bless her soul, and I had to go home for the funeral which was hard to deal with it. We arrived at the airport and the light was taken off as we arrived we had to wait 10- 15mins before the power generator came on.

Everyone had mobile phones but had to go outside and pay some dude a certain amount e.g 50pence for 30mins to charger their mobile phone – what a joke. I made a effort to get this out no matter what it takes if I had to sacrifice having late nights working and juggling Echarger well so be it. I only have one chance in this life so make most of it and being a martial arts studying (kungfu – ten years, taichi – three years and wingchun – two years) the spirtiual element and discipline gave me the insight to push myself.

Another scenario sometimes at work you will get a colleague coming to you do you have a spare nokia charger . Traveling abroad in cuba sis calls you run out of juice on your mobile, on the bus coming home from work you see school kids especially girls yapping away then the mobile dies off. I mean so many scenarios which happen to everyone everyday from all walks of life .

So really echarger evolved from there sourcing for supplies here and there and thats how we got to were we are now.

Mobile charger

Were you a green person before getting involved?
The term green person is more of a trend. I would say being a sensible person that understands use less than waste For example: you tell me who would want to wash their clothes with their hands, they would rather use a washing machine. Having cold baths is actually good for you but people would rather use a hot bath in summer :(.

Solar power has been around for years, why do you think it’s only becoming popular now?
The oil crisis, increase in utility bills, as human beings feeling bad what we have done to the planet we can use the sun. I mean there are so many factors.

It’s also a complicated technology – how involved are you in solar power technology – do your products change as technology advances?
I do a lot of research on solar power technology finding out how it works and had a few friends that wanted to get it built in South America, Africa and Europe so that keeps me abreast. Yes it does constantly searching for new products 🙂

We seem to be gadget obsessed in the UK, is there any way we can make it green?
To obsessed is an understatement 🙂 Yes there is a way to stop. Keep the gadgets at home and spending time walking with the family/friends/making a difference to the planet on your own at home / surroundings etc. We are a society of sheeps we follow without thinking – if Mr A has the latest iphone, I have got to have it. They forget Mr A can afford to pay for it / he rented it or it was a gift and its paid for, but the individual that wants it can’t afford it but he or she will break the bank just to get it. Basically following the trend.

Is it a problem there are so many different ways of connecting to gadgets?
Not really. I mean at the end of the day technology is so advanced now that everything interlinks now.

What’s the biggest advantage of solar power?
It’s free a God given resource that has being around since the creation of man or the planet, also would like to add you don’t have to pay any corporation nada 🙂

And disadvantage?
Corporations muscling in to make money of it 😦

Solar bags and backpacks are getting more popular, why is that?
A trend sometimes but then there are genuine people out there that do want to make a difference to cut the emissons we burn out there all the time. We all carry gadgets and sometimes we do need them to be juiced on the move. So in a way we can cut the cost of our bills using the bags to be part of the solar bag revolution 🙂

How has your business changed over time?
Yes it has trying to get products that are customer friendly easy to use and it does the job.

What’s next for Echarger?
Keep on finding ways to get reliable products to our customers from all walks of life be it London, UK / Europe / South America / Africa or the rest of the world. Keep the drive of making a difference saving this planet before it implodes 🙂 Peace.

Interview With Will Wynne From ArenaFlowers.com

Arena Flowers sent us a lovely bunch that we wrote about in our Eco Reviews. We thought we’d find out a bit more about them so I spoke to managing director Will Wynne who spared quite a bit of time as you’ll see to answer my questions. It’s worth sticking to the end as there are some good eco tips in there too.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved with Arena Flowers?
I spent five years working in London in venture capital, where I was put through a pretty intensive five years of training in the dos and don’ts of start ups and finance. I then spent three years working at eBay, building and running their retention marketing team and learning all things marketing and webby. Arena Flowers came about when myself and an old university friend Steve, now our finance director, realised that there was a gap in the market for someone to do the online flowers business really well. We thought that making people happy is a nice business to be in, so we got together a core team of five and set about building the site and raising a small amount of angel funding, all whilst still doing our day jobs until we new it was a go-er.

Will Wynne

There are a lot of online florists, what makes Arena different?
Online floristry isn’t rocket science – but it is case of doing a lot of little things well. There are different business models. There are relay organisations, where you pay a very hefty commission to pass your flower order on to a local operative. Then you have the supermarkets and big multiples – where they basically factory produce flowers to send out and try and sell you Marmite too. What we’re trying to achieve is a combination of all the best parts of online flower buying – and more: excellent floristry, as we have a team of expert florists; very high quality flowers (and other gifts) because we buy our flowers direct from growers or off the auctions in Holland and our flowers spend almost no time in transit and go straight to customers; great value for money, as we cut out all the middlemen and we buy in volume so get fantastic prices; a superior online experience, with features such as being able to add a photograph or video to go with your order, or our sending a free text message to customers to confirm when an order has been delivered; and a human feel – we’re not robots (we do make mistakes sometimes!) – we’re a small group of people trying to deliver a great service, rather than a faceless behemoth.

With our average customer feedback score on Shopping.com’s independent feedback system at 5/5 and our customer retention rates extremely high (30% of orders daily are from repeat customers, after only 20 months), it seems that we are offering a service level that customers appreciate. We can always do better and are always trying to improve, but so far, we do seem to be succeeding in taking flower delivery in the UK to the next level.

FFP is something new to us, can you tell us a bit more?

FFP

We’re very proud to be the first UK florist to sell FFP (Fair Flowers Fair Plants) flowers as it is THE standard for the flower industry. FFP’s aim is to create a global standard for the flower and plants business. The key differences from more commonly understood measures, such as Fairtrade, are:
• FFP is restricted just to the flowers and plants industries.
• FFP is not restricted to developing countries, whereas Fairtrade is.
• FFP audits the full supply chain, from growers through to distributors and then on to the retailer, rather than just growers (as is the case with Fairtrade).
• There is no automatic premium on FFP flowers so consumers shouldn’t have to pay more for them. Customers like that bit.

We were lucky enough to snare an interview with Regina Dinkla, the Project Manager for FFP, about the ins and outs of the programme which answers just about all the questions one might have about the FFP. You can read it on our blog here.

Since you started in 2006 how has the business grown?
It’s grown a lot. We went live in late September 2006 and took 14 orders on our first day. We’re now doing several hundred orders a day and are still growing strongly. We’ve had over 120,000 orders and have more than 90,00 customers. According to Alexa, we’re the leading independent florist online now by some margin and, during non peak periods, we even challenge the established players. We love that, as it indicates that flower connoisseurs are choosing to come to Arena and are welcoming our fresh approach to floristry (if you’ll excuse the pun).

Have you seen changes in the market already?
There’s a lot of activity in the flower market all the time. The biggest change in the last six months may surprise your readers, as it has nothing to do with flowers and all to do with economics; the decline in the value of the euro from 1.45 to the pound in November 2007 to around 1.25 now has meant a huge amount of pain for the floristry industry as a whole. Obviously a lot of flowers are imported so this has effectively meant the cost of product has gone up nearly 20%. A lot of businesses have struggled to cope with that as already tight margins have just been squeezed even further and we’ve heard of a few flower businesses going under. It’s hard for a local florist to explain to their customers that prices have gone up because a mortgage crisis in America and a lack of banking liquidity in the UK has damaged our economy and pushed our interest rates and thus the value of the pound down. At Arena, we’ve just continued to focus on what we can affect, namely striving to get great value out of our commercial agreements and optimise our operation so that our customers continue to enjoy a great product at a great price.

Flowers

Do people usually think environmentally when buying flowers?
We certainly get a lot of customers who like our ethical credentials. In addition to the FFP first, we’re the only UK florist to be accredited under the Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Company programme and when people call in or email, they do mention both of these. The great thing about FFP is that the flowers are typically no more expensive than non-FFP flowers so, faced with the choice, why wouldn’t people choose an ethically and environmentally sound option? Not all our varieties are FFP accredited yet, as requirements re mixing FFP and non FFP are quite stringent. But hopefully in the not too distant future, 90% of our range will be FFP accredited and our customers will have almost no option to buy anything other than FFP accredited flowers from Arena.

We’ve also got a growing corporate business, as organisations increasingly have good environmental credentials as a must have in procurement. We’ve built a free tailored business solution called Arena For Business that lets businesses do all kinds of clever things like add orders to invoices (rather than pay with a credit card), track employee spending and simplify checkout considerably. The combination of our greenness and Arena For Business means we’ve won some great corporate accounts.

How green is Arena Flowers? Presumably you have to use transportation, plastic and so on?
We’re doing pretty well but of course we’re not perfect. No one is. But we’re always working on it. All our packaging and greetings cards are either recycled or printed on paper from sustainable sources. We don’t airfreight in any flowers so the carbon footprint is reduced. We tried an electric van but that simply wasn’t practical – the battery life wasn’t long enough and it was a bit rickety – we’re green but we don’t want to get flattened by a juggernaut on the A40. Hopefully that technology will be fit for task soon as we’d love to have a fully electric fleet.

I think the most significant contribution to our greenness is less obvious though; it’s the efficiency of our business model and operation. We cut out all the unnecessary steps and wastage and time and handling, getting our flowers direct from the fields into our customers hands as quickly and efficiently as is humanly possible. Oh, and our web hosting is carbon neutral too.

Are different varieties of flower more environmentally friendly than others?
It’s complicated and depends what you want to measure. Some flowers require more water than others (e.g. lilies and tulips) and others only grow in the tropics so transport is an issue. Typically, if someone wants to go really green, we recommend they buy one of our orchids or another plant as they last a very long time and pump out oxygen from photosynthesis in the meantime.

What about the vases, wine, chocolates, cuddly toys and so forth?
It’s well known that flowers convey emotion and feeling as well as looking beautiful. Our strap line is “An experience delivered”. We try to help the customer wrap as much fun or sentiment around their flower delivery as they want, with luxury champagnes from Pol Roger and chocolates from Prestat (both of whom have a Royal Warrant). In addition, flower deliveries are often for special occasions, like birthdays or celebrations, so these added gifts are fit well and are very popular. And obviously, something like a vase is very practical. Our flowers last a very long time so they need to be put in a vase. We actually did such a good job selling Prestat’s chocolates on our site, we overtook their own website. So they asked us to rebuild their site and run it for them – so chocolate lovers should head to www.prestat.co.uk to check it out, including their famous “Choxi+ chocolates”, which is both high in anti-oxidants and very tasty indeed.

You have international partners, how does that work?
We currently use a couple of expert international partners with global networks. We deliver to nearly all the countries in the world now. We’ve done full technical integrations so our orders and systems interact seamlessly and the customer experience is just like using the UK site. But, much more exciting, we’ve just started our own international roll out. www.arenabloemen.nl, our Dutch language site, went live just over a week ago, and we’re now delivering our own flowers across Holland and the Flemish part of Belgium. We already had a facility in Holland, as that’s where we buy our flowers, so it was a natural step to use that to supply the local Dutch market. It was a lot more complicated to do than one might expect, but it went very well and we’re already taking a good number of orders. ou can read our write up on the launch here. And here is something pretty amazing done by our Dutch floristry team – a life size elephant made out of flowers.

Flower elephant

What are your plans for the future?
We’ve got lots! We want to continue growing in the UK through word of mouth and through our online marketing expertise, to keep creating happy customers. We’re growing our wedding business quite fast too. We may look at additional product areas where we think the Arena proposition will work well, but we’re in no rush. And we will roll out other localised country sites going forward, with www.arenablumen.de nearing completion. Our mission is to give flower lovers and gift senders superb quality, a great price and an exceptional experience, all from a sound ethical base, no matter where they live. And we’re having a lot of fun doing it.

Interview With Sian Kendall From The Green Dog Company

Ever thought about how your pet affects the environment? Sian Kendall has. She set up The Green Dog Company so we thought we’d have a chat.

Let’s start with your background and how you came to set up The Green Dog Company?
We try to live a green lifestyle ourselves, for example, we try to buy organic products that are produced locally wherever possible. We found that although there were products natural and eco friendly pet products available they were difficult to find and there was no ‘one stop shop’. After talking to other dog owners we discovered that we weren’t the only ones who would like these products to be easily available and all in one place. So after a lot of research to find manufacturers and products we would be happy to sell The Green Dog Company was born!

Why dogs?
Well, simply because dogs are what we know best. As dog owners ourselves we understand the sort of products that are actually going to be practical and helpful to other dog owners. I wouldn’t sell any product on the site that I wouldn’t be 100 per cent happy to use myself on my own dogs.

Sian and the girls

Are dogs different to other pets in terms of greening up?
I don’t think dogs are particularly any more or less green than other pets but there are lots of opportunities to be greener. There’s the food and treats they eat, the collars and leads they wear, the beds they sleep on and the shampoos they are bathed with to name a few.

Are people educated about pets and the environment?
Because eco pet products haven’t been widely available many people aren’t aware of the options out there and haven’t considered the ways that they can minimize the impact of their pets on the environment. We hope that The Green Dog Company will also help to educate people about ways to be a greener pet owner. We will be publishing a series of articles on the website very soon on a range of green topics to help people make informed choices as dog owners.

Is having a pet bad for the environment?
Definitely not! Infact, in many pets can be good for the environment. Chickens for example are great ‘green’ pets. They can be kept organically, their waste can be used as a natural fertiliser and of course they produce lots of lovely eggs to eat which don’t require any packaging! Most pets have a very minimal impact on the environment, it is as owners that we often increase that impact through the products we choose to buy for our pets. Dogs encourage a very green past time which is of course lots of walking!! A great opportunity to enjoy the natural environment around us.

If I was buying a dog, is there any type, breed or place to buy from that’s green?
Well I’m not sure there is a greener type or breed of dog but i would highly recommend considering rehoming a dog from a rescue centre before looking anywhere else and then I guess you could say you would have a recycled dog!

What’s been the toughest area of pet ownership to ‘green up’?
I guess the toughest area to green up is probably the rather unpleasant matter of dog waste. There’s no getting away from it, but there are several ways of disposing of it and it can be quite confusing. Probably the most eco-friendly options are either to bag it in biodegradable poo bags and bin it in designated bins or your household waste bin where it will be taken to landfill and biodegrade naturally or using a specially designed wormery to produce compost for shrubs and trees or, if you have a large enough garden, you can bag it and bury it. Either way you really must collect it carefully as dog feaces can cause some very nasty illnesses in humans. We stock Onya Dump It Bags which are handy little bags to clip on your lead and come with 100 biodegradable poo bags to fill them with. Alternatively you can fill them with treats, either way you will always have them Onya.

I notice you also have slippers on the site – presumably for owners. Is going through their pets a way to reach owners about the environmental message?
The slippers are actually for dogs – not to wear though! We hope that the dogs will prefer this loofah version to chew rather than their owners favorite pair! Most owners care so much about their pets that by getting them to first consider the immediate impact of some less ‘green’ products on their dogs it could help them to see the wider picture and consider the impact of not only their pets but themselves on the environment as a whole.

What’s your most popular product?
Our hemp collars and leads have been our best selling product to date. They are made of natural hemp and dyed with natural vegetable based dyes. Hemp is naturally hypo allergenic so great for dogs with more sensitive skins and actually gets softer the more it is worn so is really comfortable for the dogs. The leads are also lightweight and comfortable to hold. We will soon be launching a new, wider range of colours in the collars and leads.

Are there any benefits for the dog?
Eco friendly products are particularly good for more sensitive dogs or those with allergies. Hemp for example is naturally hypo allergenic, our range of shampoos contain no Sodium Lauryl Sulphate which can irritate the skin of humans and dogs and our range of organic pet food and treats contain no artificial colours or flavorings and are easily digestible.

What pets do you have?
We have two dogs, a five year old Springer Spaniel called Rosie and a four month old Cocker Spaniel called Bracken. They both enjoy testing all of our products! We also have two Haflinger ponies and two Lincolnshire Buff chickens.

What’s next for The Green Dog Company? Green cats?
We would very much like to develop The Green Dog Company to include green cats and perhaps other green animals too. We are very keen to hear from anyone who has suggestions of particular products they would like us to sell.

I will be attending dog shows and other events across the East Midlands so if you see us at an event near you please come and say hi, have a browse of our products and treat you four legged friend to an organic dog treat on us!