Phoebe Yuen

Phoebe Yuen

16 December, 2013
A green oasis
Co-Founder, ECOLS

ECOLS has been applauded for its commitment to selling products that bring attention to environmental issues such as waste and sustainability. Admittedly, the informative staff say that potential shoppers at this environmentally themed furniture store are drawn more by the design than the environmental aspects of their products, but of course, that’s an added bonus, and whatever draws people in the front door, by the time they leave the have hopefully been imprinted with the store’s aim and purpose. In addition to products, there are also green themed art pieces and videos found in the store. The futuristic looking LED showroom also demonstrates some of the coolest uses of LED technology we’ve seen! We chat with Phoebe Yuen, co-founder of ECOLS about the store.
Ecozine: What was the inspiration for ECOLS?
Phoebe: In my previous job, I looked at marketing LED lighting and how to reach more retail customers. I wanted to open up more channels in Hong Kong for the environmental market, because if retailers aren’t willing to do it, consumers do not really have access to these options. I started off with the LED market and how it can drive the idea of energy reduction and living a green life. I learned more about environmental design, and that evolved into looking at the life cycle concept of products. It’s been a little over a year, so we’re still experimenting with a variety of things.
Ecozine: Is sustainability also incorporated into your business operations?
Phoebe: It’s important to us that we train our staff about the environmental products. We also have an ECOLS rating system, which includes a rating on materials, manufacturing, creativity and stylishness as well as an overall rating. Our staff need to be knowledgeable about the products, for example the difference between recycled and recyclable products. In the manufacturing process, using a recycled product does not mean it is perfectly green – for example, though recycled plastics may be used, there may be dioxins produced when the plastic is melted in the manufacturing process. We want staff to be able to explain to our customers when they ask questions. It’s really half about the design and half about the environment, and when people choose products there’s a need to balance between the design and the environmental aspects. We use a variety of ways to educate our customers about features such as fair-trade products and recyclable materials. It can’t be done like a lecture, of course, but through the conversations with customers, we can let them know about these features and concepts.
Ecozine: Where are the majority of your products made?
Phoebe: There’s quite a wide range, from America, European countries, Africa to areas in Asia. The more products I have seen, the more I have learned about the places they come from, and it’s great to see that this market is growing at full-speed in European countries. It’s hard to source these types of products still in Hong Kong. There’s definitely a wider range of products available to choose from in European countries. We talk with the designers to see if they are truly passionate about their work and whether their works are really environmentally friendly. We need to know the artist and see how the product is made before we decide to bring it into the store.
Ecozine: Do you work with local artists/designers on product development?
Phoebe: Essentially, locally made products are more environmentally friendly, so we do strive to engage local designers. We’ve worked with designers on items such as baggage tags from advertising banners and the compressed glass coke bottle that can be used as a tray. In the opening of our new location, we have successfully launched a series of local design products.
Ecozine: What do you find most challenging in the process of managing this store?
Phoebe: It is tempting to go back to operating a store the traditional way, rather than using green products. For example using recycled products like paper and candles can be challenging and add to our overhead costs. The added cost does tempt me to switch back to traditional products, but if we’re going to be responsible in educating customers, we need to act first ourselves.
Visit the new location of ECOLS store at The One, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.

By: Ecozine Staff


Be the first to comment on this Article