One step at a time
Local business Greenfeet leaves its imprint on Chico and beyond
Valerie Reddemann has used only 11 plastic bags this year. Though she had hoped to use just 10, she takes comfort in knowing that she is making lighter, more environmentally friendly footprints on the planet.
Challenging herself to use reusable bags and spare landfills from unnecessary waste is just one of the concepts she hopes her Web site, Greenfeet.com, is helping people understand.
Reddemann, an energetic 40-year-old mother of one, started the site as a home-based aromatherapy business a decade ago when she and her family lived in Los Angeles. As she learned more about chemicals and their effect on the human body, her niche business suddenly developed into something even more eco-conscious: a site that offered fun, stylish and affordable products to help the average consumer live more sustainably.
“I wanted to bring awareness to the consumer,” she said. “We can still enjoy a modern life and enjoy the benefits of technology, but we can do so with a much lighter impact on the planet.”
In 2000, Reddemann and her family moved to Chico to be closer to relatives and to continue to expand the business and message on sustainability.
The Web site grew and soon offered a larger variety of sustainable goods, such as apparel and baby-care, housekeeping, lighting and personal-care products to offer people alternatives to the standard retail fare. One of the recycled products, for example, is a snack bowl for dry goods made from an old record.
When it comes to shopping choices and the health of the Earth, Reddemann encourages consumers to think not only of their children and grandchildren, but also of the hundreds of generations to come. She says something as simple as using glass dishes for leftovers can change one person’s impact on the environment.
“It’s one step at a time; you don’t have to throw away everything in your house and start over,” Reddemann said. “If all you can do right now is recycle, then you should be applauded—you’re doing something.”
In 2003, she took the business to the next level by opening a store on East First Avenue in Chico. The store was successful, but Reddemann closed up shop after about four years to focus on the business’ burgeoning online market.
Greenfeet has shipped all over the world, including Canada, Australia, Europe and Japan.
Products are available for local pick-up at the company’s new home base near the Chico airport, where Reddemann, her husband and small staff work more than 40 hours a week trying to share the importance of living green with their online community.
The most effective way to educate people about their impact on the planet is to make it fun and lighthearted, said Reddemann, who doesn’t believe in the “doom and gloom” approach.
“We’ve found that for people to do something, you have to empower them,” she said. “Make it fun, upbeat and celebratory.”
Greenfeet was one of the top 10 finalists for the 2007 People’s Choice Award for the most popular environmentally friendly business in the United States. The honor comes from consumers, who send nominations to Co-op America, a nonprofit focused on creating a socially just and eco-conscious society. (Chicago-based ReusableBags.com took the award.)
“We didn’t win, but that’s OK,” Reddemann said. “We felt really honored that our customers felt compelled to vote for us.”
Another way Reddemann spreads her message is through the site’s podcast—More Hip than Hippie—where she and her co-host, Dori McKay, popular DJ at Chico’s The Point 107.5 FM, discuss how people can be “more sustainable and Earth-friendly without sacrificing convenience, style and affordability.”
McKay and Reddemann met when The Point broadcasted from the Greenfeet store during a promotion. The women soon found that they shared the desire to educate people on living green and making the world a more healthful place to live.
“Val’s been in this business long before the green thing was cool,” McKay said. “She doesn’t just sit back and sell things; she’s making it a lifestyle and educating others.”
Reddemann’s husband, Rob, mentioned the idea of a podcast during a brainstorming session about how to spread the word on living green to the local community. The women started the weekly program in a half-hour format, but have since extended it to an hour-long segment in which they help simplify the complexities of sustainable issues.
“There is so much information out there about sustainability and going green, so it’s easy to get confused,” McKay said. “Our approach is to tell people that even the smallest thing can make a difference.”
In addition to the podcast, video and product demos will soon be introduced to make the site more interactive. The idea, Reddemann said, is to get people involved and to establish a sense of community.
As national surveys point to growing numbers of eco-conscious consumers, Reddemann looks forward to the future of Greenfeet and hopes for a healthier environment.
“Everything we do is leaving a mess for someone else to clean up,” she said. “If we’re more aware of the things we do, then we can say we only left a little mess.”