The Eco-Driven with Toyota & Friends event I attended in Napa Valley two weeks ago was definitely a one-of-a-kind eco-lifestyle event. I participated in a grape-stomping contest at an organic winery, I helped make an Asian-inspired guacamole that was judged by Chef Mary Sue Milliken and I participated in a relaxing yoga session sponsored by yogitoes.
After the event was over, I connected with yogitoes Chiefess Executive Officer (CEO) Susan Nichols for a question and answer session about the green business practices in place at yogitoes.
MNN: How did yogitoes get its start?
Susan Nichols: I slipped on my mat during my Ashtanga yoga practice – that was the ‘ah ha’ moment that led to inventing the Skidless® Towel. It seemed so simple – combine a super absorbent microfiber towel to catch sweat with silicone nubs so it won’t slip. Simple until I started working on a proto sample! It was much more complex than I thought, it took a year and led to a patent. It actually created a new industry – towels designed for a yoga practice – and I founded yogitoes® in 2003 with the launch of Skidless.
The original design hasn’t changed - we’ve just converted it to 50% recycled material. Each one is made from eight recycled plastic bottles in what is now called rSkidless® Towel. The “r” stands for recycled, and our collective responsibility for helping the planet.
Why did you choose to focus on sustainable products?
We all know how little actually gets recycled. yogitoes is in a unique position where we can be part of the solution. If all makers felt an obligation to use recycled or repurposed materials in our products it would make such a huge difference in our world! The rYoga products have already rescued nearly 900,000 plastic bottles from oceans or landfills.
Beyond the product line, what sustainability measures are in place at the company?
We’re always looking for ways to minimize our carbon footprint. From day one we have been using dyes that were free of heavy metals and recycled packaging materials. Our team is passionate about sustainability in our personal lives and we bring that to work with us. yogitoes renovated our offices and rExperience Lab to LEED standards. We exposed the skylights for natural light and ventilation. Our fixtures were made using reclaimed materials. All of the little things make a difference and the result is an environment we love spending time in. We try to approach everything with a focus on sustainability – we even got our landlord to join us in composting and recycling! We have a bike pump and repair kit for employees who bike to work. Our water purification system filters water without the wastage of reverse osmosis, producing zero waste water. At our events, it’s ‘bring your own bottle’ and we serve water or chai without using single-use disposable packaging. At a recent event we had 160 guests yet all of the trash fit into one medium-sized, biodegradable trash bag. We just received our Green Business Certification from the City of Santa Monica, and Susy Borlido, (Director of the Business Greening Program from Sustainable Works), refers to us as the greenest office in the Santa Monica Green Light District!
How does yogitoes give back to the community?
yogitoes donates 1% of our annual sales to environmental and wellness organizations including 5 Gyres, Kurmalliance, Project Air, Breastcancer.org, The Rape Foundation and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Beyond the money, we help them reach a wider audience by featuring them in our marketing and hosting events with them. This August yogitoes opened rExperience Lab at our headquarters on Main Street in the Santa Monica Green Light District, to engage the community in sustainability of mind, body, spirit and mother earth. This is a new business model – a space that places community outreach ahead of retail sales. It’s possible that it serves more hours in outreach than it does as a retail showroom!
Our first event was Blue Drinks, part of an international networking organization that connects the community in turning around the health of our oceans. October 25-28th, we’re offering The Divine Female: Conscious Beauty and Breast Cancer Prevention. The Divine Female will combine the pop-up retail Yoga Beauty Bar with free yoga classes and conscious beauty treatments with a portion of all proceeds donated to Breastcancer.org. This is all free and open to the public.
Tell me a little about the decision to use the title of Chiefess Executive Officer.
I am known for my Susanism’s and we have always been a bit unconventional. As a woman business owner I’ve mentored several other female entrepreneurs and I think that women can make an impact in leadership roles. The title Chiefess Executive Officer usually gets a giggle but then inspires a conversation where I can make that point.
What one piece of advice would you give a new entrepreneur that wants to incorporate sustainability into her business model?
Maybe people won’t pay more for a sustainable product today, but there is a paradigm shift and they are beginning to expect that the brands they love will make that shift ahead of them. Joseph Campbell talks about the ‘hero’s journey’. This is our chance to be a leader and there isn’t a more important cause. To start a business now without this foundation just seems self-defeating!