The internet is well populated by websites offering green products. Sometimes they are products they manufacture, other times it is items that they simply distribute. Jay Kilby’s site, “We Buy It Green” is rather unique in that they sell nothing directly and serve primarily as a product guide for the eco minded shopper. With the holidays closer than we would all like to admit, I had the opportunity to interview Jay about his part-time project and full time passion.
DS: Jay I know your profession is being a school teacher so please tell us little about how, when and why you started your excellent website, www.webuyitgreen.com.
JK: I teach a course called Contemporary World Affairs, and as I prepared for this course, I learned more about the significance of climate change and the growing green movement. At around the same time, I read an Atlantic Monthly article about how former President Bill Clinton was coming up with new ideas for creating private markets to promote public goods (like a clean environment) as a more effective strategy than simply relying on charity or government. I began to get ideas for a website that could do the same kind of thing by bringing eco-friendly merchants and shoppers together and providing the kind of information shoppers need in order to identify genuinely eco-friendly choices.
DS: Your Green and Fair Trade Directory is an excellent resource. Please tell us about how products and companies qualify to be listed at no cost.
JK: All products on our site must have some distinctive feature that makes them eco-friendly, or they must be certified fair trade products, or they must be sold by a merchant that practices fair trade. For eco-friendly products listed on our site, we check third-party resources, such as the Green America Responsible Shopper guide, to see whether merchants have a poor report card on fair labor practices; if so, their products are excluded from our site even if they are “green.”
I should explain more about your reference to “no cost” for companies. We are a business, and we do plan to charge all merchants on our site in the future. However, we have committed to offering our merchants the option of listing up to five products free of charge until at least July of 2010. That date may be extended, depending upon whether our data is indicating that we are producing revenue for our merchants. We do not intend to charge them until we are reasonably certain that we can create a decent return on their investment in us. Also, we do promote products from businesses that prefer to work through a third-party affiliate network like Shareasale or Commission Junction, and we are creating revenue for WeBuyItGreen through these networks.
DS: I find your “Eco Library” rather interesting. What prompted that addition to your site?
JK: The purpose of our site is two-fold, to enable responsible consumers to comparison shop a wide choice of eco-friendly or fair trade products and to provide educational resources that will help these consumers make good choices. As the market for green products has grown, it has become apparent that many well-intentioned consumers are confused about how to identify which products are better for the environment. Identifying what is genuinely “green” and whether it will make an environmental difference is a very complex process. The Eco Library is a collection of brief articles based on research that I have done on these issues. We separated it from our blog because we felt that whereas the blog articles address topics of current, but short-lived, interest, the Eco Library articles speak to more enduring issues, such as the differences between “fair trade” and “direct trade,” or the environmental merits and drawbacks of bamboo fabrics.
DS: Jay, what about your “Meaning of Green” page. You do an excellent job of defining green, which is not an easy task. How did you arrive at the well written copy visitors can find there?
JK: Well thank you, but these criteria are hardly original. As with the Eco Library, the information used to define “green” for our site is based on researching and surveying a wide range of other sites and resources and then adopting what made most sense to us. As mentioned on our Meaning of Green page, I did find the information provided by Dr. David T. Allen on this question very helpful and am grateful to him for providing it online free of charge.
DS: Jay, I think you are providing a terrific service and resource for green consumers. Where do you see WBIG going and growing in the years ahead?
JK: I am pleased that even as a start-up created during a recession, we have been slowly growing, both in terms of online traffic and the revenue we are generating. As the recession eases and word about us continues to spread, I am optimistic that our growth will accelerate, allowing us to provide an attractive return on investment for our merchants and play a part in an exciting future for the green economy.
DS: Thank you, Jay. We hope everyone will visit your site to learn a little more about sustainability and perhaps to find that perfect gift for the greenie on their shopping list.