Married couple PJ Stafford and Rosamaria Caballero had already started three successful businesses when they started thinking about their next move--and considering the effect they could have on the world they leave behind for their two daughters, Sofia and Paloma. That's when they came up with Green Irene, a company that trains eco-consultants to perform energy audits and Green Home Makeovers--while offering a catalog of tried-and-true green products that helps consumers wade through all the greenwashing. Whether you're interested in becoming an eco-consultant, getting your home audited, or hosting an in-home product party to help your friends and family live a more sustainable life, read on to see how Green Irene can work for you.
Planet Green: How did the company come together?
PJ Stafford, Green Irene: The "lightbulb" went off when we realized how difficult it could be to do something as simple as swap out the 50 bulbs in our home to energy saving models. After all the visits to Home Depot and the buzzing and flickering results, we realized we would have gladly paid a green expert to come in and tell us what to do and how to do it! After many months of research and planning, we founded Green Irene in November 2007. Most people don't have enough tome to make "going green" another time-consuming hobby...If "going green" could be positioned as a way to "save green," it makes it all the more easy to make the effort and investment to do so.
How is Green Irene different from other green consultants?
We performed local green consulting in New York City, but realized a solo or very small green consulting practice did not make financial sense. To do it right, you end up spending 90% of your time doing research and marketing and just 10% with your clients. We set out to reverse that ratio. We train and power the eco-consulting practices of local "ecopreneuers." These "ecopreneurs" are not just doing this for the money, but to have the tools and support to help their neighbors and their community live a more sustainable life. Green Irene Eco-Consultants serve on the local Green School committee; they give free workshops in the community on how to green your home. In short, they are a force for positive green change in their local community.
How easy is it to become an Eco-Consultant?
Eco-Consultants commit to 20-30 hours of training, which is delivered via web-based video. In addition there is substantial supplemental reading. It costs $150 for start-up and training, though a Quick Start bonus refunds $100 of that fee if they perform three Green Home Makeovers in their first 90 days. There is a $25 quarterly fee...However, the Eco-Consultants earn 80% commissions on all services and 20% commission on product sales. As of August, we have 450 Eco-Consultants in 46 states, and 30-50 new Eco-Consultants are trained each month.
What does a Green Home Makeover involve?
The client is shown how to save thousands of dollars through reduced energy use, hence our tagline, Go Green: Save Green. Each $99 Green Home Makeover covers these 11 topics in every room of the home, including outdoor areas: Energy Conservation, Energy Efficient Lighting, Water Conservation, Water Purity, Toxic Free Living, Indoor Air Quality, Recycling, Waste Reduction, Carbon Footprint, Safety, and Emergency Preparedness. The client is provided a Green Home Makeover Report, which is about 40 pages with detailed recommendations, as well as a Family Action Plan.
Are there any skills or interests you recommend for an Eco-Consultant?
We have been surprised at the breadth and depth of the skills that people bring to their Green Irene Eco-Consulting practice. For example, we have a number of LEED accredited professionals, interior designers, green cleaning businesses, and energy auditors. While these skills add a dimension to our Green Home Makeover, moms with young kids or a retired person who knows his community and is connected to the neighborhood is also a very welcome visitor in clients' homes--a Green Irene Eco-Consultant is that non-preachy green friend you wish you had to help you live a more sustainable life.
How do you choose the products that you recommend and sell?
Green Irene's research team extensively researches all prospective products, and evaluates them on the following criteria: product impact, value, certifications and reviews, production, transportation, and packaging. The original Green Irene (Rosamaria) uses each product at home and must feel like she would be comfortable buying it and recommending it to her best friends. Green Irene does not have its own line of products so we are not wedded to a specific item. If we had 10,000 bottles of toxic-free cleaner in our warehouse with our label on it, we may be less inclined to drop it when a better product came around.
What about the Go Green Workshops?
While many people have been to a direct sales party for makeup, cooking tools, purses, etc., they have almost certainly never been to a green workshop to learn about how to green their lives and save money and energy. Our Go Green Workshops are designed around a hostess who is inviting her friends into her home to expose them to some ideas and information about going green that she thinks will benefit them. There is no cost to attend, though most guests buy some Green Irene products.
What's been the most rewarding part of building the company so far?
It's been a pleasure to help people align their personal values with how they can make a part-time income. We also get satisfaction knowing that we are able to magnify our efforts through the work of hundreds of Eco-Consultants helping their clients live a more sustainable life. [There's] a Kenyan proverb: "Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children." We certainly believe this and we are doing our small part each day.