Sponsored Post: How Two Small Companies Went Greener—and Kept Products American Made
This post is in partnership with UPS
Marlene Zerkel remembers the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement as a tipping point—and not a good one.
“Three quarters of our suppliers moved to Mexico in a matter of months,” remembers the Detroit-area resident and former owner of garment company All USA Clothing. “We had watched the auto industry go up and down in the 1980s in our city. That’s when we decided to strictly concentrate on American made.”
Now a grandmother, Zerkel still advises her son Michael and daughter-in-law Emma, who run a growing online business for the company she started with her own husband. It’s just one of a number of U.S.-based businesses that are winning over customers from some of their foreign counterparts.
All USA Clothing started out 25 years ago geared towards the “American male worker,” supplying clothing to local unions. But now according to Emma Zerkel, the company’s current vice president, the company is growing in large part due to more buyers wanting to support not only local industry but environmentally responsible products.
Moving to a focus online has helped All USA Clothing go greener while reaching those important core buyers. Emma says that instead of paying for expensive paper catalogues, she can post new designs to Facebook, or send out an email to her customer email list. It’s a simple logistical solution that cuts her costs, reduces environmental impact, and allows for instant connectivity with customers who care about sustainability.
“When we started, we figured only unions wanted USA made,” she says. “We no longer have to convince people that it’s worth it to buy American for quality and sustainability. You don’t have to prove it. People know.”
Loll Designs, a modern outdoor furniture company based in Duluth, Minnesota, also takes its environmentally-conscious consumers seriously. Using high density polyethylene made from recycled milk jugs, detergent bottles and margarine tubs, Loll has been making attractive and easy-to-clean outdoor furniture since 2005. For its home base — an old concrete plant now called Hawks Boots —Loll cleaned up the environmental blight at the site, reusing existing structures and designing their new construction for passive solar heating and natural light.
The company is also committed to minimizing the carbon impact of their shipping. All Loll products are packaged minimally with recycled cardboard boxes and packing materials, and are then delivered sustainably. Loll pays a fee to the Carbon Fund, which we use to offset our carbon emissions for our shipping, and Carbon Fund in return uses that money to fund their carbon offset projects,” says Kate Lindello, a marketing and customer service specialist at Loll. “As we grow each year we’re hoping to eventually offset our entire carbon footprint and become totally carbon neutral.”
The company’s practices have translated into sales. You can now find Loll products in Holland, as well as national upscale stores like Design Within Reach. In 2005, Loll used one million recycled jugs in its products; in 2010, they used nearly six million.
“We only work with companies that share similar values as us,” says Loll founder and CEO Greg Bernson. “Customers like our furniture because they not only like these attributes, but because of the story they tell.”
Image from Loll Designs
Text Messages You Can Smell This company's device and app allows you to send scents through your phone.
This Tree Produces Forty Types of Fruit The living, edible art of Sam Van Aken's grafted stone fruit experiment
Dear 14-Year-Old Me The intuitive, emotional side of yourself guides your experiences and shapes how you learn. You grasp information viscerally, which can make traditional schooling a little bit harder for you.
Danish Architects Reimagine the Zoo The search for a more ethical wildlife park
Learning to Farm Fish Responsibly Breakthroughs in aquaculture are winning over longtime skeptics.
Stories for Boys Sundance-winner Rich Hill picks up where Linklater left off.
The Human Side of Spam Spanish photographer Christina de Middel smudges fact and fiction with her staged images of Russian widows and Nigerian lawyers in distress.
Why Oysters are Shacking up in Old Subway Cars States scrap over metal in a race to boast the greenest reef.
A Cable Car Revolution in the World’s Highest City The future of Bolivia’s public transportation takes to the skies.
When Humans Fight, but Animals Win Penguins have resorted to using landmines to keep pesky humans away.
So You Think You’re a Foodie? Pop culture was onto these trends way before you were. A sampling of the screwball comedies, sob stories, and sci-fis that anticipated our culinary moment
Dear Nine-Year-Old Me The transition is going to be difficult for you, but whenever you feel a little lonely and left out, take comfort in the knowledge that you are honing one of your greatest superpowers.