By: ANTHONY AYALA
Indiana University South Bend hosted a panel discussion to address the relationship between business and sustainability. Professor Harry Vasilopoulos, of the Judd Leighton School of Business and Economics at IUSB moderated the panel consisting of two experts, Shaun Maeyens and Becky Reimbold.
Shaun Maeyens is the owner of Zen Café, a coffee shop located in South Bend. Maeyens was a graduate student who had planned on obtaining a Ph.D. in Japanese when he changed directions and became an entrepreneur. Becky Reimbold is the owner of Just Goods, a local general store with two locations. Similar to Maeyens, Reimbold’s background involved education and social justice work in conjunction with working for nonprofits. She had no intention of being in the retail business.
Reimbold’s business began back in the spring of 2003 when she was in Ecuador.
“It allowed me to meet this women’s cooperative and they were looking for a market for their goods. I was staying home with the kids at the time. I said I would bring some product back and see if I can find a market for them. Basically I didn’t have any luck and was like, ‘Well, I guess I have to open a store,” she said.
While many of us go to a store and simply buy what we want without giving it a second thought, we are made aware at some point in our lives that the products we buy were made in factories, many with unethical aspects to them. Whether it is child labor, workers dealing with over exposure to harmful chemicals, or low wages, Reimbold didn’t want to be a part of that system, she said.
Instead she sought an alternative resource where people could have their everyday needs filled in an ethical way. This is the philosophy behind Just Goods, sustainably made materials for sale. Cleaning products, clothes, and baby products are just a few of the items available for the community to purchase.
While Reimbold and Maeyens sell different goods, both focus on promoting sustainable goods for the community.
For Maeyens, “It’s about real relationships. I don’t want to just serve someone a cup of coffee. I want to know where it came from and I want to be proud about it,” he said.
Maeyens’ work has changed the life of one of his partners in Honduras. The equipment is now easier to clean, saving water, and safer. Prior to their relationship the farmer was only able to sell six bags of coffee on the market for pennies. Originally the farmer had the coffee nursery installed behind his house. Now with Maeyens’ funding, the farmer has established a full coffee nursery on newly acquired land.
In addition Maeyens has helped improve quality at the picking level by introducing a more effective way for the farmer to check if his product is ready to be picked, reducing waste. Now the farmer makes sixty-three bags that he sells to Zen Café.
In addition to these large-scale sustainable efforts, both Maeyens and Reimbold work to reduce their footprint in their daily lives. Maeyens has transformed his home into a so-called smart home. This allows him the ability to control his lights, and thermostat even when away from home. For example, it allows him to turn off the light he forgot on his way out from work. Reimbold buys all of her food locally and she has compost in her backyard.
If you are interested in this topic, you can attend the next discussion in the series “In Bog We Trust: Protecting Natural Assets” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, in Weikamp 1001. Kris Krouse, the executive director for the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, will be speaking. The organization has been preserving natural land in Northwestern Indiana since 1981.