Green Entrepreneur: Interview with Eco-Coach Founder Anca Novacovici

September 22nd, 2008

One of the best things about my green journey is the many fantastic people I’ve met. And over and over again, I kept hearing about Anca Novacovici, founder of DC’s Eco-Coach. So OrganicMania sat down with Anca for this two-part interview about how she’s helping businesses and consumers to go green and how she got her own green business off the ground. By the way, if you’re in the DC area, you can meet us both this Wednesday night (September 24th) at Bethesda Green’s Be Green event. Register for free here!

OrganicMania: Why did you start Eco-Coach?

Anca: I’ve always been passionate about the environment, and I got to the point where I had to ask myself, “What do you want to do with your life?”

It was always in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to continue not to help the environment…I was working as a consultant with pharmaceutical and telecom companies. I enjoyed the work that I was doing but I also wanted to use my skills to help businesses and individuals be more eco-friendly. I had a few other green ideas before Eco-Coach, and when I saw other people making them a reality, I thought, “That’s it. I have ideas, and others are acting on them. I’ve got to do this.”

OrganicMania: So once you made that decision, how did you turn your idea into a real business?

Anca: I spent the first few months looking at strategy and direction. My first official business client was a business just down the street. I went in and spoke to the owner of a restaurant whom I knew was socially minded and I thought he might be interested in greening the place. From there, it was all word-of-mouth.

OrganicMania: I know you serve consumer clients too, in addition to businesses. What is the split in your customer base between corporate and consumer clients?

Anca: It’s about 65% corporate and 35% consumer. Actually, on the residential front, I started with a workshop for Moms on going green and having a healthy home, which was very well received. This was even before the first business client. One of our most popular services is a workshop on how to green the home. Another is our in-home eco-audits, where we walk through the entire house and go through steps people can take to go green. Sometimes individuals will organize workshops at their homes, and people get together with ten or so friends to do it. We offer these at Greater Goods in Washington DC. We also do individual consultations and coaching for those that feel they need additional support. Many of our clients on the residential side are Moms with newborns or small children who are interested in making their homes healthier for their children.

OrganicMania: A lot of Moms struggle with getting things clean, while trying to avoid harsh, toxic chemicals. It’s especially frustrating when places like daycares and after-care facilities insist on using Clorox bleach and other nasties. Do you have any suggestions?

Anca: Yes, hydrogen peroxide is a great disinfectant. You can use it instead of bleach. Vinegar and water is another good option, as is Borax. These are all low-cost green solutions. There are also products made by brands that work well and can be found at your local health food store.

Check back tomorrow for Part II of the OrganicMania interview with Anca Novacovici, founder of DC’s Eco-Coach.

Did you like this interview? Leave a comment and share. And be sure to check out the other OrganicMania interviews here. There you’ll find great talks with Honest Tea Tea-EO Seth Goldman, Mom Made Foods Founder Heather Stouffer, Big Green Purse author Diane MacEachern, Mothers & Menus founder Karen Gurwitz, and more to come!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Green Mom Culture Shock: Back to School

September 3rd, 2008

As a seasoned mother of a six-year-old and a nearly two-year-old, I thought I was past the point where much could shock me. But then school started.

And suddenly I went from the friendly confines of the Green Mom blogosphere to the public school system, where teachers routinely send home “supply lists” containing environmentally unfriendly items such as (gasp) plastic ziplock bags and Purell hand sanitizer (2 bottles, please!), where students use thousands of styrofoam lunch trays each day, and where fossil fuels are burned sending children to school on buses that drive past shuttered schools near the bus stops.

I feel like a creature in a strange land.

How’s it going in your world?

— Lynn

Correction: This post originally stated that the styrofoam trays were thrown away. That is incorrect. They are re-used and then after they break are sent to the incinerator.

Green and Organic Savings: Sampling a CSA

August 17th, 2008

Big purchases scare many people these days. So when it comes time to sign up for a CSA, worries may kick in.

Will I get more than just kale?,” you may wonder. “Is $900 for a season really worth it?”

The good news is you can sample a CSA’s bounty. Although few, if any, CSAs promote trial periods, the fact is that during the waning days of summer, many CSA members leave town for vacation and offer their weekly shares for sale.

For around $30, you should be able to pick up a week’s share, about two bags full of farm fresh produce, and depending on the CSA, you may also take home bread, grains, cheese, eggs, or even home-baked cookies.

For more information, check out the list of CSAs at Local Harvest. Then email or call the contact person and ask if anyone is trying to sell a week’s share while on vacation.

Good luck and leave a comment to let me know if you end up sampling a CSA!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Ten Things You Can Do To Help Fight Global Warming

August 3rd, 2008

Global warming can seem like such a huge, depressing problem that it’s easy to wonder what one person can do to fight it. Sure, we all know that we can change light bulbs and buy hybrid cars.

But what else can one person do?

Here are ten ideas: Ten Things You Can Do. OK, maybe you think you can’t do all ten – at least not right now. But take a look at this list – I guarantee there’s something you can do to help fight global warming right now.

1. Sign up for alternate energy. Here’s how. Did you know that residential housing – not transportation – is the biggest contributor to global warming? In fact, globally the biggest contributor to global warming is US residential housing stock and the second largest contributor is Chinese heavy industry.

2. If you are renovating your home, or building a new one, insist on green building materials. This Green Home Guide from the US Green Building Council is full of helpful information.

3. When replacing your appliances, buy only those with the ENERGY STAR label. According to the EPA, replacing a 1990-vintage refrigerator with a new ENERGY STAR fridge would save enough energy to light the average household for nearly four months. Just remember to recycle your old one:

4. Consider downsizing. Do you really need so much room for all that – stuff?

5. Move closer to sources of public transportation, or closer to your job. Better yet – see if you can telecommute.

6. Did you know carpooling has become chic? Start a carpool or better yet – walk or bike ride as much as possible.

7. Buy locally produced goods. They don’t need to be flown across oceans or shipped cross-country.

8. If the children in your community are bussed to school, ask why. Lobby your school district to open up shuttered buildings so that more kids can walk to school.

9. Ask businesses you patronize to turn down the a/c and to turn off the lights at night. Speak up. Customers matter.

10. The power of many like-minded people coming together is awesome. If your community doesn’t have a sustainability initiative like Bethesda Green, start one.

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have any others? I’d love to hear what you’re doing to make a difference. Leave a comment and share!

— Lynn

— Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

An Oldie But A Goody: Healthy, Organic & On The Road at Crunchy Domestic Goddess!

August 3rd, 2008

Crunchy Domestic Goddess is one of the blogosphere’s original “Green Moms.” Our goddess Amy was green before anyone called it green! So it’s a special thrill to have one of OrganicMania’s favorite posts, “Healthy, Organic & On The Road” featured over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess. Check it out!

Amy’s been blogging since ’04, is a contributing editor at BlogHer and API Speaks, a reviewer at Green Mom Finds, a contributor to 5 Minutes for Going Green and she’s the “Eco Diva” at Blissfully Domestic. She is one of the most outspoken and well informed voices in the Green Mom blogosphere on issues including natural living, extended breastfeeding, and natural birth.

This week, Crunchy Domestic Goddess is featuring some of her favorite posts from other Green voices around the blogosphere. So go take a peek – it’s a great way to catch some of the best green posts around.

Thanks, Amy, for all you do, and have a great vacay!

— Lynn

Green Moms Carnival Launches Monday: Tackling Global Warming

July 30th, 2008

A year ago I didn’t think of myself as a “Green Mom.” Sure, I was environmentally aware, and I tried to do the right things for Mother Earth, but I didn’t associate myself as being part of a larger movement.

Well, take a few months, a heavy dose of the green blogosphere, and media attention focusing on the “Green Mom” or “Eco Mom” phenomenon and just imagine what happened.

Not only did I start to identify as a “Green Mom,” but my interests broadened beyond organic foods, natural products, recycling and pollution control to encompass a whole range of other environmental topics, most of which were brought to my attention by a wonderful sisterhood of Green Women Bloggers.

From Jessica at Surely You Nest I learned about the hazards of lawn pesticides; Beth at Fake Plastic Fish taught me how to reduce my plastic waste, and from Heather and Renee at EnviroMom I learned that those folks in Portland, Oregon have thought about everything green!

But it was La Marguerite who prodded me to think more deeply about global warming. Of course I knew about it already. But it seemed remote. And what’s worse, it seemed scary. As one friend confided, “Being a mother is anxiety-provoking enough. I don’t need to read something that’s going to make me even more anxious.”

And the fact is, most “Green Mom” bloggers have only skirted the issue of global warming. Sure, we refer to it, but by and large our blogs are full of far more references to CSAs, organic cottons, phthalate- free toys and recycling than to the depressing news about global warming.

La Marguerite tried reaching out to the Mommy Bloggers with her Green Drop project. She even profiled some Green Moms like yours truly on her own blog. But it wasn’t until she wrote this poignant post, “Mothers Needed to Protect the Earth,” that I really started thinking harder about harnessing the power of the Green Mom blogosphere to draw attention to climate change and to advocate changes to slow the rate of global warming.

What if, instead of blogging about our usual topics, a group of Green Moms focused on global warming instead? As a marketing consultant, I know any campaign to bring about change starts with raising awareness. One way to do that is through message repetition. What better way than to get a group of Green Moms blogging about global warming?

So this Monday, check back at OrganicMania for the inaugural posts of the Green Moms Carnival. It will be a compilation of posts about global warming from around the Green Mom blogosphere. And what’s more, we’ll have some honorary “Green Mom Earth Mothers” joining us too…

(And yes, the Green Moms Carnival will blog about other topics besides global warming in upcoming months. But I do hope that we continue to use the carnival as a venue to discuss global warming).

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Best Green Tip for Your Beach Vacation

July 3rd, 2008

Heading to the beach this weekend? You no doubt made peace with the fact that you’ll be adding to your carbon footprint — hey, anything for some fun in the sand and surf, right?!

But you can still do something to minimize your environmental impact on the beach. And no, I’m not referring to picking up trash on the beach – although that’s always a good idea.

What does nearly everyone do at the beach? Shower! There’s nothing better than those wonderful outside showers. But when you soap up, the soap runs into storm water drains that often lead directly to the ocean. The soap run-off is toxic to marine life.

And those “earth friendly” biodegradable soaps and shampoos? Well, according to this report from the Maryland Department of the Environment, even “a flush of ‘biodegradable’ soap suds will still harm fish or invertebrates in your local stream.”

That was news to yours truly, who regrettably had lathered up outside on more than one occasion with “earth friendly” biodegradable soaps. In Rehoboth Beach, our favorite seaside destination, the storm water drains flow directly to the Atlantic Ocean and to a fresh-water lake, which was recently the scene of a massive fish kill due to environmental toxins from storm water run-off, among other suspected causes.

So enjoy your outside shower, but skip the soap and shampoo. Save the real clean-up for the inside shower!

Happy Fourth of July!


Update: Here’s another good piece about the misconceptions regarding biodegradable soaps.

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

A Bakery’s Simple Reminder to Us All

June 25th, 2008


Green Biz: Do the Simple Things

June 24th, 2008

We all know businesses are trying to go green. Some are even going to incredible lengths to run “green promotions” that are really not authentic representations of their businesses. This type of self-promoting “eco-PR” will likely only get them nailed in the blogosphere as “green washers.” It’s a shame, really, when the right green path can consist of very simple steps, even for the smallest local businesses.

It came to me on my morning walk. As I passed by the local church’s summer camp, I noticed that the kids were drinking water from styrofoam cups.

How many kids across the US are drinking from styrofoam rather than recyclable or biodegradable cups? Wouldn’t it be great if local businesses could step up and donate eco-friendly cups to the camps? The kids would learn a valuable lesson about environmental stewardship, and the businesses would get a three-fer: helping the local community, building goodwill, and taking a simple step to help the environment.

No one needs crazy “green campaigns” that consume more resources than they save. If you’re a small business owner, take a walk, clear your head, and look around your community. You’ll probably come up with your own great green ideas.

And if you’re a parent dropping your kid at camp, tell me – is your camp a bit “greener” this year? Or are things the same as they’ve always been?

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Just a Glass

June 18th, 2008


Wednesdays are one of my favorite days in the blogosphere because of a great carnival over at RocksInMyDryer. Each week, hundreds of Moms share tips about what “works for me.” The tips can be everything from the organic and green living tips yours truly contributes to just about anything having to do with parenting. Today, for example, the tips include “limiting TV,” “toy storage,” “toddler bathtime and pedicure in one,” “chore system,” and “managing a sick family” – along with more than 200 other suggestions!

There’s a simple issue that really bugs a lot of Moms, and it’s something that’s always puzzled me. The whole cup / sippy cup thing. Why do we think kids need sippy cups? Who among us grew up with sippy cups? And does anyone really think it’s cool to watch a kid chew on plastic? It doesn’t matter if its BPA-free or #5 or whatever the “acceptable” plastic alternative is these days.

It’s still plastic.

Your little darling’s teeth are gnawing on this plastic.

How can that possibly be healthy? It doesn’t matter what the plastic’s number is or if it’s made of recycled corn! It’s still plastic, and if you look closely, you’ll no doubt see tiny teeth marks all over the spout.

What to use instead? Well, your glass model above, aka Boo, is holding a small juice glass, courtesy of Crate and Barrel. He’s proud to hold it, and he’s been perfectly capable of doing so since he was about a year-old. His older brother started at an even younger age.

When glass seems to be a bad bet, I sometimes whip out something akin to Dixie cups. Simple paper cups. Remember them?

So next time you’re stressing out about whether or not your plastic sippies are “safe,” give it a rest. Try a regular glass or even a paper cup.

Works for me!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008