Green 2.0: Can We Shop Our Way Out Of It?

What does it mean to be an environmentalist today? The pioneers of this movement knew decades ago that the survival of the Earth and everyone on it would depend on making changes, and soon. But is today’s environmental community inclusive enough? And what is the role for a consumer products company in the movement, one that makes and distributes goods?

The movement has mostly been associated with lowering, lessening, reducing—a difficult task for an American consumer who is being taught to grow and to acquire. Two camps were formed, with those environmentalists over there, and the average American—who didn’t bring their own traveler mug, silicone straw or reusable cutlery—over there.

The problem is that most Americans ARE concerned about the environment and most Americans want to do something about it. But they want to do it in ways they understand, and they understand consumerism. They were being left out of the party because the party did not invite them.

When we started Repurpose 10 years ago, we had a simple idea: Could we make the best compostable tableware, bring it to a store near you, make it affordable, and above all make it something you wanted to buy? We could and we did. 

Then consumers were not thinking about the straws stuck in sea turtles or even that you could make these products out of plants. When we talked to stores they would say “I don’t know if this whole Green thing is really going to happen.” We built our brand being very earnest. Our packaging was green. We put leaves all over it so anyone could get the concept. Our messaging—like all product messaging then—was about what was in it: 100% Plants, 100% compostable, 100% BPA Free. The messaging worked and now we are in over 17,000 doors.

But our idea that not just a small group of people would buy this, but that everyone would, was working too. We didn’t launch in natural channels first, like most sustainable brands; our first customer was Bed Bath & Beyond. Whole Foods Market wouldn’t talk to us back then but Albertsons did, and so did Safeway, and Wegmans. (You can find us in all Whole Foods now.) We are sold in Walmart and Aldi, while you still can’t find us at Sprouts. We have a product that speaks to an audience beyond natural, and we proved there were a lot of people who were being left out that wanted to come to the party—people who might not at first glance be considered environmentalists. We wanted to build an even bigger and broader coalition. 

Repurpose recently underwent a rebrand. The organizing principle was: Let’s make being Green fun. After all, often when you’re purchasing compostable tableware it is for an event. Why should beverages and salty snacks have all the fun? Repurpose became the smartest guy at the party—who still wanted to party. 

Rebrands are tricky things, and maybe even harder when you are in the natural and environmental space. Like politics today, we had to figure out how to bring more people under our tent without alienating our base. And if Green is evolving, we had to figure out how to evolve with it, step away, but not entirely. Step forward!

The answer: Green can be easy and accessible. Repurpose makes convenience products like disposable plates, cups, cutlery and straws, but it makes them compostable, and from plants. They’re the greenest disposables on the market. Consumers are racked by global guilt. They know what is going on—studies show they are more aware of ocean plastic right now than ever and the impact on the planet. But here comes life, with kids, working on the go, school picnics and backyard barbecues… They get overwhelmed, shut down, and buy what they know. So, our rebrand features lots of bright inviting colors, a new cool mint green, a revised logo, and cheeky messages like “Cut The Cake, Not A Tree,” and “Here for the Party, Not Forever.” We speak directly to them and our message is, we get it.

Repurpose frees consumers from getting stuck in “no good solutions.” We know that many consumers are going to want a disposable, so we make the most ecologically friendly ones available. And we develop new materials and solutions every day so they can always trust we have done the work for them. In fact, we’re constantly working on making it better for them. They can take a seat, have a drink and toss their cup—in the composter.

But we are still a consumer packaged good. Our brand, and others like us, have a role to play in the Green movement. It’s a role that educates as well as entertains. One that is impactful, as well as easy. We aren’t here to tell consumers what they should and shouldn’t do. Shoppers buy disposable tableware, and they are going to continue to buy it whether Repurpose brings them an alternative or not. We need realistic solutions to address everyday problems, not just guilt and complex processes that make people’s eyes glaze over. Perfection is the enemy of progress. I choose progress.

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Corey Scholibo is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Repurpose, the leader in plant-based tableware. After attending film school at USC, Corey got his start in marketing in the entertainment and luxury goods industries, working on major films and high profile brands from Ben Stiller to SKYY Vodka and Tiffany & Co. Drawn to activism, he went to The Advocate, the nation’s leading LGBT newsmagazine. Corey served as Arts & Entertainment editor and handled the magazine’s marketing and public relations. There he generated awareness about social inequities and fought fiercely for LGBT rights. Today, Corey applies those same principles to saving the planet. Marketing campaigns and sales pitches are less about gimmicks and more about how everyday products can change consumer behavior and make meaningful environmental change. Advocacy, legislation, and lobbying are all part of the heavy lifting to heighten consumer awareness. Instead of selling a product, Corey often finds himself selling the Repurpose mission of achievable environmental change. “Climate change can be an overwhelming challenge, and we need to align with a collective approach to act, and frankly cope,” says Corey. “The Repurpose path starts with accessible, practical solutions we all can make every day. We meet consumers where they are to create the changes we all need.”