When you step out your front door directly onto the ocean, the need for sustainability in everyday living is naturally at the top of your mind. That’s what led Genevieve Livingston to create Eco Collective and bring on business partner, Marimar White-Espin, in the development of the philosophy “sustainability made easy.” What started in Seattle as a farmer’s market one-stop-shop for green goods has led to an online platform and is on its way to brick and mortar, along with community-building and zero-waste initiatives. Here’s the Eco Collective duo to tell us more.
Tell us about the motivation behind Eco Collective.
Genevieve: I started Eco Collective because I really care about the ocean. That’s my driving force. I’m a competitive sailor and have noticed a lot of pollution while I’m traveling and racing; that’s what made me an environmentalist in the first place. But the motivation for starting Eco Collective was that I wanted to be more green but didn’t have the time to make all of my own products. I started talking to friends about making my own toothpaste, etc., and they had the same experience: they’d make their own products for a little while and then give up because they didn’t have time for that. I started researching alternative products to put together the best product in every category to find what’s been tested, is reliable and is selected because they’re the greenest that they can be while also being effective and affordable. I started the business in June of 2017.
Marimar: I met Genevieve at the farmer’s market at one of her first pop-ups and I was really excited to see what she had started. My motivation was looking for alternatives to single-use and plastic products but also anything that would save me money. I noticed that if I started zero-waste, low-impact living I could save a lot of money. For instance, I’m not paying for tampons every month when I have a menstrual cup. Sometimes people aren’t aware of the cost savings because certain eco products can cost slightly more but they last longer.
How do you curate your products?
G: When we source brands, we’re drawn to small companies with handmade or all natural products. We are especially interested in supporting women-owned companies. We test products out on our communities—we have a meet-up group of more than 100 women so and we’ll show up with product samples to get their feedback and see what they like and don’t like. People keep telling us that they can’t find these products anywhere else in Seattle. A lot of the brands we carry aren’t here physically, so some of the people from our collective being able to pick up a product, smell it and feel it, that’s a cool aspect of bringing these brands here.
M: Some of the things we look for in products are natural, organic and locally made elements, low packaging, zero-waste emissions, transparent business practices. Right now we’re only two people but it feels like so much more because of the community of people we have around us giving input and feedback.
What is surprising you most in your first year of business?
M: What surprises me is just how fast we’re growing. We got some new products for a pop-up and looked in the back of the car and realized we don’t have enough room anymore. The overwhelming response of how much people want a low impact living store in Seattle is amazing. When we do pop-ups we get more awareness out there about low-impact living because we’re connecting with people who might not otherwise have connected with us online if they haven’t searched for the right lifestyle terms. That’s exciting because people can learn about it and then connect with us online. People get a little light bulb in their head when they learn about some of the products we carry.
Where do you gain inspiration?
G: I live on a sailboat in this beautiful corner of the Pacific Northwest. That forces me to live simply, have a smaller wardrobe, hand select the items I bring into my life and be really purposeful. With living on a boat, a lot of the things that we use (our soap, dish soap, shampoo, face wash) it all has to be biodegradable because it’s so close to the water. There’s a little starfish that lives on my doorstep; I’m doing this so that I can keep living in this place that I find so beautiful.
M: My inspiration is living simply and it’s really tied in with mental health. We are running a business and living in Seattle, which is tech-crazy—there’s so much stimulation, which can get really overwhelming. So if I can simplify my life and not have too much clutter, then I can keep my mind clear and focus on the things I care about and connect with more people. It’s so uplifting to talk to people, hear their stories and talk to them about low-impact living to see how it ties into their lives, and help them find products they’re struggling to find for themselves.
What does the future of Eco Collective look like?
G: We expect to have a permanent location by the end of April. It’s all still very much in the works; we have so many beautiful neighborhoods in Seattle but right now it’s between Ballard and Capitol Hill. As we work on putting together events, we are going to be hosting a zero-waste documentary viewing at a local brewery. Another event coming up will have Bea Johnson, the mother of this movement, here in Seattle, so we’ll be part of that, too.
M: We’re focused on the education of low-impact living and giving people the information so that they have the resources they need. So we’re creating information through social media, blog posts, newsletters and beyond, from selling the products to being a greater resource for zero waste living. It’s not about spending money; it’s more about supporting the lifestyle and the bringing the brands to light for the consumer. We want to be accessible and don’t want this lifestyle to feel exclusive; everyone who can make even one change should be patting themselves on the back.
We’re also working on creating zero-waste starter kits and packaging them as subscription boxes, in a way so that someone can decide if they want to slowly get new products for each room of their home and not be overwhelmed by everything all at once. It’s amazing how much we can do with digital marketing through social media to find and connect with people who are interested in low-impact living.
How can Seattle locals get involved with you?
G: Come to our events: the documentary screening, a beach cleanup, an outdoor pop-up and a zero-waste makeup workshop. And come to our meet-ups! Seattle Zero Waste holds a meet-up every month and it’s the most fun, refreshing, intelligent conversation that you’ll find (and not just about low-impact living). They’re really cool people; I’m proud of the collective that we’ve built around low impact living. They’ve become some of our closest friends.
If you’re into sustainability, you might be interested in more of our features on Bits of Brilliance.