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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

EcoPlum 'Pops Up' for Earth Week


There are many ways to celebrate Earth Week and highlight the importance of living a more sustainable life. EcoPlum, an online fashion and gift item store, is holding its first pop-up shop with Environment Furniture in New York City, lasting from April 16 to April 22. EcoPlum will then move its pop-up shop to the New York Green Festival, which runs from April 24 to April 26.

Wanting to know more about EcoPlum and the pop-up shop, I talked to the company's CEO and founder, Gia Machlin.

What exactly is EcoPlum? “It's an online store with a full range of fashion and gift items, where the selection is fashionable, stylish and always sustainable,” Machlin told me.

Machlin started EcoPlum in 2008 when she found there weren't a lot of shopping options for sustainable goods. "There was a lot of greenwashing going on in 2008, when we launched EcoPlum,” she said, "so we were very careful about making sure we had very strict standards that could be defined."

Driving in her car with her husband, it dawned on Machlin that there weren't any green rewards programs for shopping sustainably. So, EcoPlum started one of the first green shopping rewards programs. Through the EcoChipz Rewards Program, shoppers earn points for what they buy and can either redeem them for coupons or donations to environmental groups EcoPlum supports, which include the Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund and 350.org. Shoppers earn one EcoChipz point for every dollar they spend on the site and can redeem them once they have earned 150 points.

Pop-up shops allow people to really see products

There are times I have looked at products in an online shop and thought, “I’m not sure I want to buy it. I’d rather see it in person." Pop-up shops allow people to see EcoPlum’s products in person. Or, as Machlin said, “We found that many of our newer products were really beautifully crafted, artisan products that weren't represented fairly in pictures online.”

About a year ago, EcoPlum met folks from Environment Furniture at a Green Drinks event held in New York City. (Green Drinks is an organization that holds monthly meetings for sustainability professionals.) Later that year, EcoPlum approached Environment Furniture about doing a pop-up shop in their store, and the furniture retailer thought it was a great idea. EcoPlum has been going to the New York Green Festival, run by Green America, as a participant for years. But this is the first year they will have a pop-up shop at the festival.

Machlin personally curates all of the products found on the website. She looks for artisans that are either Fair Trade certified or made in the U.S., with a specific focus on items that are made out of recycled, upcycled or reclaimed materials. There are numerous examples of sustainable products from the thousands of items on EcoPlum, such as tumblers and glasses made out of old liquor bottles from the Las Vegas Strip.

More than an online shop

From its inception, EcoPlum focused on educating its customers about the products they buy and helping them lead a more sustainable life. There are three ways it helps people lead a more sustainable lifestyle:

  1. Accessibility. People don't have to do the research to find out if a product's green claims are true. Machlin and her team already do that for their customers.

  2. Education. EcoPlum educates people about the products on the site through its blog.

  3. Rewards. Customers are getting something back through the rewards program.

EcoPlum wants to “encourage and inspire people everywhere to think more consciously about their purchases, their behavior and taking care of our planet,” Machlin told me. The online store works to educate its customers “on all kinds of issues beyond just the kinds of products they can buy, and that's important." In other words: EcoPlum works to create awareness among people that this is the only planet we have, and taking care of it is a priority.

Image credit: EcoPlum

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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