Honest Tea CEO On Life As A Green Entrepreneur (Video)
Honest Tea, an organic beverage company, made headlines when it launched an app to recycle Facebook posts last week and set up a 30-foot-tall inflatable recycling bin in New York City’s Times Square on Monday. It’s all part of a campaign the 14-year-old company, bought by Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) last year, calls “The Great Recycle.”
The company’s goal is to recycle every bottle it produces by 2020. That’s a worthy target, especially considering that Honest Tea generates approximately 20 million glass bottles and 60 million plastic bottles annually. It has a long way to go before it’s as sustainable as it can be.
If I could change one thing about the company, it would be to reduce its use of plastic bottles and single serve juice containers. Studies have shown that plastic bottles leach, and plastic is made of petroleum products, which is not a renewable source. Worse yet is single-use products, which can’t be reused.
To be fair, CEO Seth Goldman argues that, from a packaging standpoint, the pouches have a smaller footprint than glass bottles. As for the arguments against using plastic, Goldman responds that the Honest Tea is working on a PLA (plant-based polylactic acid) alternative.
I have mixed feelings about the company’s use of PLA as an alternative. A 2011 study, albeit only a partial life-cycle analysis, showed that plastic and PLA had virtually the same carbon footprint. PLA tends to be a genetically modified product and doesn’t fit into mainstream recycling.
Still, Honest Tea is clearly doing its best to stay true to its core ethics. The company strives to “create healthy and honest relationships with its customers, suppliers and the environment.”
Here’s a little sip of Honest Tea’s many sustainable features:
- Its products are made with organic ingredients and fair trade certified tea leaves.
- Honest Tea gave all of its employees bikes to encourage health.
- The company decreased its packing to create lightweight PET bottles
- Its bottle and pouches are free of phthalates and BPA.
- Its corporate headquarters in Bethesda are environmentally friendly.
- The company partners with Terracycle to give 2 cents to schools for each Honest Kids pouch collected. Other companies who sell pouch juice drinks have followed suit.
- Goldman founded Green Bethesda, a green incubator to help foster and support sustainable businesses.
In this short clip of my interview with Goldman, he discusses the company’s origins and shares words of wisdom for startups. You can view the longer version, which includes more information about “The Great Recycle,” the company’s challenges and why Goldman is compromising less, at Green Talk.