Olive, Fine Organic Living: Style Meets Sustainability and Social Responsibility
Apr 02, 2013 01:25AM
By Beth Davis
Olive, Fine Organic Living, an eco-friendly, organic, sustainable and fair trade store, is the brainchild of Michael Katarincic, a former attorney who had the desire to try something new. He told his friend David Neubert about his plan to open a store designed to make a difference in the community—one that was both environmentally and socially responsible, and Neubert, who was in corporate sales at the time, wanted in.
In 2008, Olive opened, bringing eco-friendly alternatives in apparel, personal care and home goods into the mainstream marketplace. “We really felt there was a void and a need to educate customers,” explains Neubert, who is now the general manager. “You hear so much about eating organic food, for example, but you don’t hear as much about cosmetics or personal care products. Once you learn about the appalling conditions and the way some of these workers are treated, you develop a higher level of consciousness and there’s no going back.”
Olive is extremely selective in offering the finest eco-brands in the world— and only those that have met strict standards, such as fair trade and humane labor practices and third-party certification. “If a customer asks where an item is made or how a company’s workers are treated, we want to be able to answer them with confidence,” says Neubert.
Awareness and education are crucial to the store’s mission. Helping people understand that they can still make a difference in the world without having to sacrifice style, quality or taste is as simple as browsing the product selection. All of the Olive men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, for instance, is crafted from natural or recycled fabrics that include organic cotton, linen, soy, hemp, bamboo, silk, recycled polyester, recycled nylon, recycled plastic and more. The materials are soft, the designs are stylish and the quality is superior.
Olive even carries a wide selection of organic brands of fine and casual jewelry. Besides being sustainable, the chemical-free clothing also provides a remedy for individuals with skin allergies and sensitivity. Those concerned about what goes on (and through) their skin are delighted by Olive’s personal care and skin care brands, which are carefully screened and rank among the safest and least toxic in the industry.
In an effort to diversify its offerings and provide for the wants and needs of its customers, Olive recently expanded its store to include organic mattresses and green building supplies. “Our customers wanted to sleep in comfort without worrying about what they were breathing in,” says Neubert. “We found that they were doing research online for organic mattresses, but they couldn’t sample one. They wanted to see and feel what they were purchasing. It just seemed like a natural fit for us to bring the mattresses into the store.”
The same can be said for the green building supplies. Olive partnered with Andrew Pace, founder of The Green Design Center, in Waukesha, to create an in-house green design center within the store. Ideal for those looking to renovate or build a new home, the new center offers sustainable/eco-friendly products, including AFM Safecoat paints, which can be mixed and tinted right in the store, as well as stains and sealers; American Clay wall plasters; EcoFusion bamboo and Wicanders cork flooring; and Cambria and Torzo countertops.
To help make homes more energy efficient, Olive stocks responsibly manufactured heating and cooling products, such as window treatment inserts that reduce lost energy in both the summer and winter months. Of course, once customers have a non-toxic, energyefficient home, they want keep it that way, so the professionals at Olive guide them in their search for everything from air purifiers to low-flow showerheads or LED lights.
“Our goal is to be a one-stop resource for all of your organic living needs,” notes Neubert. “If you want a greener home, we want to know what that means to you and how we can make that happen. We can customize a plan and provide information or put customers in touch with designers, architects and others in the industry that have the skills and expertise to accomplish their objectives.”
The folks at Olive practice what they preach. The store was constructed with innovative, eco-friendly materials, such as counters and cabinets free of resin and formaldehyde, recycled carpeting and furniture, cork-based flooring and wood harvested from sustainably managed forests. The store also uses energy-efficient lighting and bamboo clothing hangers. Even the clothing hangtags are planet-friendly, tied with hemp twine and printed with soy ink on recycled paper.
“If we can educate and get people to understand the importance of healthy living solutions, then we will be successful,” says Neubert. “I believe in it 100 percent. It’s good for us, good for our customers and good for the environment. I can’t imagine finding that anywhere else.”