Interview with Ryan Lewis
Founder & CEO @ EarthHero

EarthHero's marketplace offers high-quality home and lifestyle products that are sustainably sourced and produced. This empowers consumers to buy products that benefit the good of all and for sustainable suppliers to also connect with their passionate community. They're helping shift our traditional and sometimes harmful commerce system into mindful consumption of intelligently designed products. They’re building a one-stop shop for everyone who loves the planet. Visit EarthHero and start shopping sustainably.
Hi Ryan! Could you please introduce EarthHero and what led to your founding the company back in 2016? What did the first year of the company itself look like?
Hello, my name is Ryan Lewis and I founded EarthHero to help make it easier to shop sustainably. We go out and we find the most sustainable brands making the most sustainable products and bring them all together on one common platform to help make it easier to shop this way. Whether you're looking for new apparel, items for your home, for your pets, personal care items or really anything that comes up in your life, we've gone out and sourced the most sustainable version of those products so you can shop in a way that aligns with your personal values. We have a massive consumption problem with billions of people on this planet. We're creating way too much waste, we're using way too much energy, there's way too much pollution and I can go on and on. But, the way that we consume is really harming our planet. However, there are now solutions available on the market that can alter that trajectory. At EarthHero, we go out and find those products and what we found really is that at this point most people are either concerned or even alarmed at the current health of the planet but don't necessarily know how to most effectively opt in when it comes to shopping this way. We've seen other categories where people are opting in whether it's electric cars, or renewable energy, or even organic food. In terms of integrating the day to day shopping in their life, it's been quite a fragmented and confusing experience. Our goal is to make that process super simple. In fact, our mission is that we exist to make sustainable shopping so easy, everyone does it. Our first year was focused on how to message that in a way that activated people. In general we feel very concerned, in order to actually integrate that into our lifestyles in a way that gets us to change that deep paradigm is a challenge. That's really what we continue to focus on is activating people.
What are some of the most popular products on EarthHero? How do you test and source new sustainable products while ensuring they come from manufacturers who create authentic positive impact?
Some of our most popular products on EarthHero are reusables. Reusables are items that replace one time use items in your life. Think zip-lock bags, plastic straws, one time use coffee cups, water bottles, aluminium foil and wraps. We have a huge assortment that helps replace all that stuff with reusables that can last indefinitely and completely eliminate all the waste created from those items. Another category is what we call personal care or bath and beauty. Such as, soaps, shampoos, conditioners and lotions. It's a wide variety of clean, healthy products that are also packaged well. As far as how do we validate and verify which products are made sustainably and have an authentic impact, we have our five stage methodology and this is a unique and proprietary way of evaluating products. We look at everything from the material that the product is made from, to the ingredients that are in the product, the packaging that the product is both in itself, but also shipped in. We stay away from plastic when it comes to that. We also look at labour, to make sure that the people that made the products are treated fairly. What's interesting is a lot of these companies and the brands that we partner with also have impact programs or philanthropic efforts. Whether they're planting trees or in some cases donating eye surgeries for every pair of sunglasses sold, there's tons of different awesome models that give back. Everything we have on our site is validated and we pass along all certifications that companies have to our product pages to help.
What were/are some of the unexpected hurdles you have to navigate as the CEO of EarthHero?
Starting anything is difficult. Starting Earth Hero, I think one of our biggest challenges and my biggest challenge, is to figure out how to essentially shift a very indoctrinated paradigm around the way we consume. You have big marketing from the industrial area and beyond promoting that more is better, cheaper and more convenient and everything that helps you get excited about buying just about anything for any reason. Essentially, we need to unwind that. Our goal is that every time you swipe your credit card or insert your credit card, you're thinking about whether the purchase is participating in the movement towards sustainability. How to come up with the right language, tone, imagery and getting people to activate what is already within them, but also in conflict with the way they were probably raised and certainly with the culture that they're surrounded by is a challenge. We've done a lot of experimenting over our first year and a half, we've learned a lot. I still think we have a lot more to learn. What's great though is this movement is truly accelerating and is moving from a small niche culture to a larger sort of uprising. It's so fun to participate in that and to see customers light up when they discover us and realise that they can do this. That they've found a place that can support their personal values. Although we're making progress, I still think we have a long way to go and we're fighting against a very indoctrinated paradigm. I remain optimistic and I really like the direction that things are going.
Who are some of the main partners of EarthHero? How does being based in Boulder benefit your work?
Our partners are our brands. We have close to 100 brands that we've partnered with, within our first year. We're planning on greatly scaling and expanding the number of brands and partners that we work with. They are the heart of EarthHero and we wouldn't exist without them. Every one of our partners we've hand selected for the way in which they approach their business. What's really cool is that our brands have sustainability built into their models. A lot of them have regenerative practices where the more they sell, the more good they do. Some examples are 10 tree, for every one of their organic clothing articles that is sold, they plant 10 traceable trees. You receive a chip so you can see that happening. We have another brand called Solo Eyewear, every time a pair of sunglasses is sold, they donate an eye surgery in a developing country. I could go on and on and on. One of the most exciting parts of EarthHero is sharing our brands' stories. They are our partners and bringing them all together is where the magic happens. Being in Boulder, Colorado certainly helps as it is a hot spot for sustainability. We're surrounded by people that are actively helping accelerate this movement in a whole variety of ways. There's a very collaborative culture here. People want to help each other and that's certainly helped us get off the ground and running. Boulder is a huge part of our initial early success.
What's next for your work with EarthHero? Where do you see the company at the end of 2019, and what are the main benchmarks you hope to reach this year?
2018 was our first full calendar year and while we learned a lot and got a lot of feedback, and really felt like our brand became validated in the marketplace, at this point going through 2019 we need to scale. I always view it as revenue equals impact. The more products we sell, the less of the bad stuff is getting made. It's kind of that supply-demand economics. As far as specific benchmarks, we have close to 100 brands and 2000 products on our site today. By the end of 2019, we're expecting hundreds of brands and thousands of more products. Having a larger assortment will allow people to feel more comfortable shopping on a site where they find what they're looking for. We listen closely to our customers. Another goal of ours this year is to have a deeper understanding of and deeper relationship with our community. The goal is to collectively understand exactly the messages and the content that they need to hear, to overcome some of the obstacles that are preventing them from living a more sustainable lifestyle.