That’s what Dogeared (www.dogeared.com), a Culver City-based jewelry company, asked itself when it engaged students from Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) to conduct a sustainability audit, and share ideas about how the company could enhance its planet-friendly practices.
As a certified B-Corporation, Dogeared lives by the philosophy that what goes around comes around by handcrafting everything locally, respecting the planet, and partnering with nonprofit organizations that share their vision of a better world. With names like Karma, Balance, and Make A Wish, each piece of jewelry connects and inspires with meaningful messages.
With a commitment to developing better business practices, Dogeared was enthusiastic in welcoming Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) ecsonline.org as a nonprofit partner and its Green Ambassador Interns to survey the company’s environmental impact and recommend improvements.
Green Ambassadors is an environmental education and service-learning program at ECS that empowers youth to be agents of change and take action locally to make a measurable difference in their communities. The Green Ambassadors Internship is an after school program that helps students apply the environmental lessons they learn in school beyond their campus through professional development and engagement with community partners. Interns are 10th and 11th grade students who serve as “junior consultants” with local businesses to help reduce their collective environmental footprint through sustainability audits and recommendations.
In 2013, Green Ambassadors interns conducted a sustainability audit for AAA Flag & Banner with final recommendations for the company in their transition to SGP certification, the highest standard in the graphics industry. As a result, the sign, banner and flag company developed an environmentally friendly product line called “PlanIt Green,” which uses all recyclable, eco-friendly materials produced in Europe under stringent environmental standards for air quality and toxic substances.
In April 2015, a group of Green Ambassadors Interns visited the Dogeared offices to evaluate four key areas of sustainability: energy, waste, water and community culture.
“We’ve learned about these things in our classes, so it is exciting to see an actual business in action and its impact on the planet,” said 10th grader Christian Anhielo. “Dogeared is doing a really good job environmentally, but investigating ways it can improve is a great experience for us.”
After spending half a day on site, the students returned one month later with the audit results. The students reported that Dogeared is doing many things well, including relying on large windows for optimal natural lighting, an electric car charging station, repurposing unsold jewelry, opting for digital advertising over paper catalogues for waste management, using drought tolerant landscaping for water conservation, hiring local vendors, and paying its employees above minimum wage.
However, the students still identified some key areas of opportunity for Dogeared. Recommendations from ECHS included:
• Use colorful graphics above the recycling and composting stations so employees will have a clearer picture of how to sort waste
• Install low flush toilets for increased water conservation
• Add solar panels to the roof, and use power strips and LED light bulbs, for better energy efficiency throughout the offices
• Replace bubble wrap packaging with biodegradable honeycomb wrapping
Tenth grader Vanesa Iniguez gave sound advice as a junior consultant, “Start small, so you can see changes right away, while the bigger changes are being implemented.”
After the presentation, Dogeared Co-Founder and Head of Happenings Merlin Clarke thanked the students for their insight and recommendations:
“As we focus on our core business and delivering our product to the marketplace, we sometimes we forget that we can also improve our day-to-day routines. We are grateful that you’ve shown us new ways to enhance our environmental initiatives. We will definitely look into implementing your suggestions.”
The students had one final recommendation that will support both organizations’ visions – that Dogeared partner with ECHS to make an “eco” charm with a sustainability message. Dogeared loved the idea.
– Joanna Brody