This Massive E-Commerce Brand Is Going Zero Waste — And It’s Working

Thrive Market, an LA-based e-commerce company, focused on getting healthy foods to customers across America at cost-effective prices, is going zero-waste. But can a company of its size and its nature, really get rid of all its waste?

Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Gunnar Lovelace, chatted with me about the realities of building a zero-waste business, particularly one that requires shipping, packing materials, and large warehouses to stored hundreds, if not thousands, of SKUs.  He’s keen to point out that the current capitalistic system is not working for the planet or even for the customers — who live on the planet and thereby are affected by the dirty water, polluted air, and destroyed ecosystems. 


Thrive Market compresses the cardboard used in packaging to make it easily recyclable.

“It’s tough to find a business without some form of sustainability messaging emblazoned on their platforms or packaging,” he said in a recent interview in LA. “Unfortunately, the term sustainability has been co-opted by some of the most insidious corporations on the planet, and despite all the marketing-speak around sustainability,  according to the EPA, more than 75% of greenhouse gas emissions from many US industry sectors still originates from our supply chains.”

So Thrive Market set out to rethink its supply chains and has completed the zero-waste challenge in two of its fulfillment centers. Lovelace explains the challenges and roadblocks faced, but also offers advice for other businesses looking to explore a similar path.

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How This LA Coffee Brand Is Ushering In More Organic Farmers, Especially Women

Los Angeles-based Groundwork Coffee specializes in sourcing from certified organic farms. Yet, organic farming is actually on the decline in coffee, says Jeffrey Chean, Chief Coffee Guy and Partner at Groundwork.

“I began noticing this around the time the Rust disease began spreading throughout Central America,” he says. “Aside from the clear interest we have in making sure there is a supply of organic coffee to roast, we believe that becoming a certified farm, coupled with sustainable farming methods, helps improve growers lives by reducing their personal exposure to harmful pesticides, increasing yields, and keeping their land fertile.” 

But organic is not enough, he adds. “The coffee has to taste good, too, or no one is going to want to buy it certified or otherwise.”


Groundwork supports AMUCC to help more farmers produce organic coffee. Every year they highlight certain growers who produce an exceptionally tasting coffee.

To encourage growers to produce great tasting organic coffee, Groundwork introduced the Quality Award for exemplary micro-lots. This year, it was given to two sisters, Argenis and Bertha Rosas, who are able to farm and operate their own micro-lots through AMUCC, a women’s cooperative located near the Cauca River in Colombia. The program, supported by Groundwork, provides a premium to convert conventional farms into organic. But the conversion process can take three years; AMUCC helps cover the costs during the conversion process.

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Credit: VYB SWIM

This 50-Year-Old Company Just Gave Birth To A Startup Run By 12 Young Women

In the summer heat, swimsuits are an obvious choice. However all that outdoor activity has a downside: the fabrics used in swimwear are primarily synthetic materials –nylon, lycra, and polyesters, which fail to break down. It gets worse: manufacturing swimsuits produces waste — excess fabric that goes unused and trimmings to get the right shape.

Credit: VYB SWIM

A new company, led by 12 women, is challenging the swimwear industry to reduce its waste.

Orange County-based RAJ Swim has been manufacturing swimwear for national brands such as Reef, Athena Swimwear, and Next. With 50 years in the swimwear industry, they could be considered a stalwart. This summer, co-CEOs of RAJ Swim, Lisa Vogel and Alex Bhathal, decided to experiment, rethinking how they could tap into millennial sensibilities and build a more eco-conscious line of swimsuits. The duo allowed 12 millennial team members — notably all women– to build a new brand: VYB (pronounced as “vibe”). All the swimsuits for this proprietary brand would come from deadstock.

“I vividly remember Yvonne Macias, our assistant manager, pointing to the rolls of multi-colored deadstock fabric saying, ‘Why don’t we just use the fabric we already have?’ Instantly, we had that ‘aha moment’ and collectively, we decided deadstock would root VYB as a brand,” says Holly Harshman, the 29-year-old Marketing Director of VYB.

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Credit: Mark Rampolla

Why This CEO Is Not Taking A Salary For His Latest Company

Credit: Mark Rampolla

After his success with Zico coconut water, Mark Rampolla is saying no to a salary for now.

Mark Rampolla started Zico coconut water in 2004.  In 2013, it was acquired by Coca-Cola — a notable success for the health food market. This year, he’s taking on the role of CEO for another food brand, LA-based Beanfields Snacks. However, he does not want a salary.

Rampolla does have interest in the company, though, as an investor.

But Rampolla is out to make a bigger statement, foregoing compensation to help the company scale: “Sometimes we just need to be rational and think about what we can all bring to the table to make a company rock. Once Beanfields is rocking, I’ll step aside and look at our companies in our portfolio, or new investments, and think about implementing similar, non-traditional models.”

Rampolla rose to fame after building Zico, perhaps one of the first coconut water companies to have national brand recognition; he knows the food market, he says, and wants more health-oriented food companies to rise. “The goal here is to get Beanfields to rival Doritos.”

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Two Californians, 180,000 Bags, And An Alternative Factory Model: Could This Be Bangladesh’s Future?

Despite all the talk about the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, Apolis co-founder Shea Parton says that there is still a dearth of responsible supply chains in apparel.

“Sadly, within the garment and textile industry, it’s not normal to prioritize people and seek to use business for good — so I really think you’ve got to be okay with being rare and unconventional,” he says.


Apolis’ collaboration with Saidpur enterprises is giving employment to more than 100 women in Bangladesh.

Apolis, started over a decade ago by Shea and his brother Raan, remains a small sustainable fashion and lifestyle brand. With 9 full-time employees and two retail locations, it’s certainly not in a position to sway high fashion brands towards sustainability.  But the duo have decided to build their own business, by engaging with suppliers as much as possible.

“It takes a lot more time to go directly to factories, and there tends to be more potential liability involved in doing so,” Shea says. “When you have an agency running the supply chain for you, they take on most of the responsibility of auditing that chain.”

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Surf Your Way To Better Health At Work, Says This Startup

Surfing at your office desk could be the best alternative to sitting or standing at your desk — both of which put strain on your feet, legs, and joints, says Joel Heath of FluidStance.  A new study by Mayo Clinic backs up the entrepreneur’s claims.

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FluidStance’s surf-inspired boards take up less space than a treadmill, but allow much more movement than a standard sitting desk or standing all day. Heath who has worked in the outdoor industry for over 20 years found himself parked at a desk ironically. He shifted to a standing desk but even that caused pains in his hips and made him stiff.

So with his savings and a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, he launched FluidStance in 2015 in the seaside city of Santa Barbara –far from startup hubs. However, within a year, the FluidStance boards found themselves in Silicon Valley –Google, in particular.

Though sales have been steadily increasing, Heath says, with 2017’s projected run rate for gross revenue at 20 percent higher than last year’s, he was as keen on learning if the boards were really making an impact.

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How This Nebraskan Entrepreneur Built ‘The Bay,’ A Startup That Helps Youth Across The United States

Mike Smith is a 30-something-year-old from Nebraska. He has four companies, a non-profit that supports youth, over 100,000 followers on Instagram, and spends most of the year on the road, speaking to students around the country about how to be better human beings.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith is a Nebraska-born entrepreneur who has built a career by speaking to American youth across the country.

“I don’t believe in jobs, I believe in lifestyle,” he says. Dressed in a t-shirt, and a baseball cap with shoulder length hair, Smith is anything but the traditional startup entrepreneur.

In fact, he doesn’t like to be called an entrepreneur. “I can’t even spell it. I always have to check on my phone,” he jokes.“But seriously, I just don’t really think of myself as the kind of entrepreneur that’s often portrayed in the media these days. I don’t build companies to make money. I do them because I get really excited about some issue.”

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