It’s been almost eight years since we opened ECHOstore, the pioneer sustainable lifestyle store in Serendra, Taguig City. I can still hear the friends who came and asked, “Is this concept sustainable?” and “Will you make money?” Other went as far as throwing comments like, “The packaging needs improvement.”
Many years and stores later, we feel the growing demand for organic and natural products. The space also gets filled with like-minded entrepreneurs not only setting up social enterprises, but serving healthier and locally grown food as well.
This was and still is our appeal: buy local so we can support our own. It’s not just buying “Made in PH,” it is also about buying from sources near you, just like how we do it in our Davao store which sources from Mindanao producers and our Cebu store which sources from Cebuano producers. This action is green and sustainable as it produces less carbon footprint.
This, however, is still a challenge as many people still look for imported healthy food like chia seeds, Himalayan sea salt and quinoa, not knowing that we have good, locally-sourced alternatives and options like Botolan Sea Salt instead of Himalayan and Adlai instead of Quino, which is also gluten free.
Natural or organic
In lieu of certification, we invited people to visit the farms where we grow our veggies. In Cebu, Davao and Iloilo, the organic farms nearby have been vetted by the ECHOstore team already. IFOAM (International standards) already allows third party guarantee system or PGS instead of expensive organic certification. Ultimately, the consumer decides if they will buy what you vet. We have been successful at this “vetting” exercise for over 5 years now.
Sometimes we run out of popular items like peanuts which grow naturally and come from Iloilo and unsweetened peanut butter. But the customer will just say “OK” because they also help small producers who may not have the funds or the resources to order big or produce quantity.
We have also seen small become bigger like an ice cream producer and a cosmetics manufacturer who started supplying us when they were smaller but are now mainstream entrepreneurs with their own stores.
The buzzword of this decade. Everyone wants to go socially responsible with enterprises that make only decent financial profit but have greater social and environmental impact. For the green stores, it is the triple bottom line approach—do good, go green and be sustainable.
It is a welcome development that more people are now health and environment-conscious thus, restaurants and hotels now provide options for gluten-free breads, organic chicken, grass-fed beef, sustainable fish and organic greens.
As more stores open, the consumers must follow by changing lifestyle habits and making choices for a greener future. We see it happening and we love how the market is responding.
We hope that more entrepreneurs join this green and sustainable movement. The younger generation or the millennials and the seniors or baby boomers are the first ones who changed their lifestyle habits. Now, it’s time to involve Generation X or those born between 1966 and 1980. Gen X still eats lots of processed food, the unhealthy choices, and still feel invincible.
Do you already have a green store in your neighborhood? Maybe you should open the first one and see everyone follow. I know in this heat, it is a chore to go and do al fresco in weekend markets, so a brick and mortar store is the place to go. Another suggestion is an air conditioned café oftentimes included within the green store where you can chill while you ponder on the new choices you make.
Let’s support green stores! Local. Socially-responsible. Sustainable.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Salcedo Village, Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City, Iloilo and Antipolo City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org