The “reduce, reuse, recycle” refrain of environmentalists is well known, but for years, two-thirds of that mantra was lost in the shuffle.“Recycling was everywhere,” says Nancy Poletti. “But it’s taken a lot longer for the idea of reusable stuff to catch on, or for people to stop using disposable water bottles and shopping bags.”
For Poletti and fellow working mom Justine Segal, this idea became a familiar theme in their conversations while riding the train from Short Hills into Manhattan, Poletti heading to her job in marketing, Segal to hers in finance. The two met when their children were in preschool together, and eventually discovered that they rode the same train, too. “It was very serendipitous,” Poletti says.
Poletti and Segal, both 39, found that their discussions regularly came back to the idea of sustainability, and how to make it easier for reusable items to fit into their lifestyles. “We got to thinking that we both really believe in this, so we thought about starting a company that focuses on reusability and brings it into everyday life,” Poletti says.
That was more than three years ago. By the summer of 2008, the two had left their jobs, and were “starting a new chapter in our lives,” Segal says.
And with that chapter came a challenge they weren’t expecting: incorporating reusability into their kindergarteners’ lunch bags. “We were trying to do the right thing with a reusable lunch,” says Segal. “But there were all these different containers that didn’t quite fit into the lunch box, and then there would be missing lids, and it was a mess.”
Poletti’s son was particularly prone to losing things. “I’d be shoving all this stuff into his lunch bag, and none of it would ever come home. I tried to avoid using plastic bags, but I needed a solution.”
So, revisiting their idea of starting a company together, Poletti and Segal decided to create that solution themselves. The company name, everydayJun, is an amalgamation of the partners’ first names, and a nod to their goal of providing reusable products for daily use. They began researching companies that made lunch boxes and containers, and eventually created their signature product: the Waste-Free Lunch Kit. It includes a durable, insulated messenger bag, a lunch cube that has three compact sections (one sandwich sized and two snack sized), a BPA-free twist-cap beverage bottle, and a BPA-free spork (spoon and fork combo). The lunch cube was a particularly welcome find. “By having an all-in-one product, we eliminated the lost lid problem,” Poletti says.
Hours of effort went into planning the details of their product. Everything is easily washable, for example, so you don’t get the “toxic mess” that Segal says used to come home with her child’s lunch box.
“One other area we thought was lacking was aesthetics,” says Segal. “You want to be able to wear it, not have to hide it, and we felt a customization trend was emerging.”
With that in mind, everydayJun offers a variety of interchangeable panels, from bandana-themed to polka dots to “mod swirl,” which allow users to personalize the bag and update it as his or her tastes change. “We want people to treat this kit more as an accessory,” Segal says.
The bag also allows for two carrying options—either by holding a top handle or by using an adjustable shoulder strap—that make it more useful for those students who have to carry their lunch from class to class, or for adults who might want to bring the bag to work.
Where to manufacture the bag was also a major part of the discussion, and the team focused on “local first,” exploring manufacturers within the state before looking elsewhere, and then ensuring that any products they sold were made in keeping with fair trade and labor laws. The bag and panels, for example, are made in New Jersey.
After painstakingly trying out products, everydayJun launched the Waste-Free Lunch Kit in August 2009. While Segal put her accounting knowledge to work, Poletti used her marketing experience to keep the business side running smoothly. They store the inventory in their homes and usually have their meetings after the kids are asleep. “Our husbands,” Segal adds, “have been very supportive.”
Each decision has seemed to result in a product that people embrace. “We didn’t really know what to expect,” Poletti says. “But it’s been received very well, and we’ve received great feedback.”
EverydayJun isn’t meant to be a one-product business, however. Poletti and Segal plan to launch new reusable items in the future, and also aim to be a resource for those who are looking to incorporate more sustainability into their lives. They intend to use their platform to make suggestions and encourage people to practice all three of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” activities.
They also hope to teach their children—Poletti and Segal each have two elementary-schoolers—about environmentalism, though they say the effort to shape behavior is not as challenging with their children as it is with their peers. “Their generation has been born with this green mindset,” Poletti says. “Our generation has had to change its habits, but for them it’s always been there, and this product is just something that fits into a lifestyle that they already understand. It’s the parents who need to be taught.”
Easy to Be Green
The eco-minded business partners, aren’t out “to convert anybody or be preachy,” says Segal. “We know people have busy lives, and that’s why we’re just trying to make it easier for them to incorporate sustainability.”
Poletti has tried to incorporate green-themes into her lifestyle, such as changing all of her light bulbs to energy-efficient options or beginning a composting routine. “They’re small steps, but they accumulate over time,” she says.