This month, we met Aline Bloch. This dynamic Mom-entrepreneur, unlike any other, created the first mobile eco-store! With her truck named Phil, she spreads the good word of Living Green in Seattle and the Eastside by offering zero-waste products directly to the consumer.
Hello Aline, we would like to know who is behind the “Out of the Box Eco Store”. Could you tell us a little about your background?
My name is Aline Bloch, I left Paris in 2008 to settle in Issaquah with my husband and our two young children at the time (now we have three!). With the move, I realized how much unnecessary stuff we had accumulated. I felt guilty for having so many boxes and throwing away so much stuff. So I decided to react and learn to live better with less. As I am creative, I started to reuse my boxes to make furniture and decorative objects for the house. One thing leading to another, I created my first company, Aline’s cardboard, and worked with my first customers. Later I offered creative workshops around recycling to share my knowledge and encourage people to be more eco-friendly.
I always wanted to have a zero-waste store, and with the pandemic I wanted this store to be accessible to everyone. I remembered the butcher’s truck that used to come through my grandmother’s little village in France and decided to recreate the same concept here by opening “Out of the Box Eco-Store”, the first eco-friendly mobile store in the Seattle area.
It’s an innovative concept. How exactly does your eco-store work?
With the advent of Covid19, we all had to adapt. People have learned to slow down and have unconsciously changed the way they consume. With Out of the Box, it’s no longer the customers who go to the store, but the store that comes to them directly. It is a practical and accessible solution that allows everyone to adopt an eco-responsible consumption mode.
The main idea is to reduce the consumption and pollution of single-use plastic packaging by offering organic home care and personal hygiene products, in bulk and without packaging. You just have to reuse jars or containers and refill them when you need a product.
Right now, my catchment area is centered on Seattle and the Eastside (Bellevue, Mercer, Sammamish, Issaquah, and Redmond). Customers either make an appointment for a home visit, order online and I deliver, find me at local markets or have refill parties with their neighborhood.
My suppliers are mostly small business owners in the Pacific North West. They are generally certified organic and have sustainable and eco-responsible production methods.
In my store, you can find different products: Castile soap, cleaning products, make-up remover, shampoos, soaps, body lotions, washing machine detergents, but also bamboo toothbrushes, shopping bags, compostable sponges, and much more.
Do you have any competitors? What are the little things that make the difference?
There are some low-waste stores in Seattle, Kirkland, Tacoma, and Bellingham. But the mobile concept is innovative!
I think of these stores more as “co-workers” than as competitors. We all know each other and share the same values. We are all here for the same cause and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to my customers when they are looking for a product that I don’t offer.
What is the profile of your customers?
They are mainly women, mostly American. They like the concept of combining mobility and ecology. They particularly appreciate the fact that it is so easy for them to adopt an eco-responsible consumption mode with the service I provide.
Has the pandemic affected your business? How are you handling the situation?
To tell the truth, I started this adventure in April 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, and even because of the pandemic! I thought it was the right time to start because I was providing a real solution to the consumer. People quickly got used to ordering online and having it delivered. The fact that I came up to the consumers was a key success factor as soon as the beginning.
The Delta variant didn’t slow my business at all. I wear a mask, my customers do too, we stay outside and I use hydro-alcoholic gel between each transaction. My van, which I call “Phil”, is always clean!
Do you have any new projects in the coming months?
I have plenty, some of which have already started.
With the success of my mobile eco-store, I needed more storage space. So I rented a loft in October and set it up as a store. My goal is not to make a permanent store (at least not this year…), but to allow my customers to make appointments to pick up their products, and especially I will organize workshops there. The educational and coaching dimension is really important to me.
In the last few months, I have set up the “EcoMarket” project in Issaquah Highland, a low-waste market that is held every first Saturday of the month with local businesses offering eco-friendly products.
And finally, one last project I am working on right now and that is very close to my heart, consists of buying back my carbon footprint and donating a portion of my profits to ecological organizations.
Thank you Aline for introducing us to your concept store and for sharing all these great projects with us! We wish you every success and look forward to seeing you on your website to learn more!