A Legacy of Environmentalism with Steve Savage

BGBS 038: Steve Savage

Today we go back to environmentalist, Steve Savage’s roots (pun intended) as we explore the windows that were opened for Steve to form Eco-Products and 1908 Brands. Steve grew up with a lifelong passion for the environment that sprouted when recycling at a young age with his dad. That passion truly blossomed on a life-changing 14er hike (mountain peak exceeding 14,000 feet) where Steve realized the wondrous beauty of nature and vowed to protect it. 

Even so, Steve’s path wasn’t always as clear as you’d think. It was a winding road of competitive tennis, international finance, and a couple of trips to Russia that finally brought Steve back to helping his dad with Eco-Products, a company that sold all kinds of environmental products from building materials to janitorial supplies. Join us as we discover how both Eco-Products and 1908 Brands identified their windows of opportunity and entered them head-on to find success in the wake of the 2008 recession and a pandemic, respectively. And afterward, let’s reflect. What does your window look like?

 

1908 brands is the parent company to what is going to be eventually, a dozen, maybe two dozen brands and we really want to change the products that are in people’s homes”

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The story of 1908 Brands and its heritage of environmental responsibility, including Steve Savage’s great-great-uncle, William Kent’s donation of what was later known as the Muir Woods National Monument
  • The environmental comparison of US homes to European homes and how 1908 Brands pledges to change that
  • Steve’s move from Chicago to Boulder when he was 12 years old and why he loved it
  • How Steve’s experience hiking the Chicago Basin 14ers at 14 years old transcended his appreciation for the outdoors and helped him realize his calling to become an environmentalist
  • Steve’s change of heart from playing tennis for the University of Kansas to studying Russian for a corporate future in international finance 
  • There are three arrows in a recycling loop. In 1990, Steve and his dad sought to fulfill the third arrow with Eco-Products by taking remanufactured recycled products back into the market.
  • The beginnings of Steve and his dad building Eco-products and its steady growth year by year through visits to schools, churches, and greek life
  • Why a new resin on the market called polylactic acid in 2006 became a turning point for Eco-Products
  • The proverbial rocketship path of how Eco-Products went from being “not-so-sexy” to financially booming during the 2008 recession
  • Pactiv’s vicious strategy to knock out Eco-Products as a competitor and how that led to selling the company to Waddington North America in 2012
  • Steve’s drive to keep Boulder Clean alive by having his hands in “another cookie jar”, aka 1908 Brands
  • The “window” of the pandemic allowing for 1908 Brands to flourish through their plant-based disinfectant, which is EPA registered effective against SARS-CoV-2

 

If you’re interested in listening to the full episode or reading the transcript, you can learn more here.