It’s Not Easy Being Green

echomarket-b“It’s not easy being green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out
Like flashy sparkles in the water, or stars in the sky.”

So sang Kermit the Frog, but Chit Juan of EchoStore seems to find it as easy as breathing to be both green and to stand out in a crowd.

To anyone who has discovered ECHOStore in Serendra, I am probably preaching to the converted, but the story behind ECHOstore is inspiring. ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle is the first concept store of its kind in the Philippines. ECHO is the acronym for Environment – Community – Hope – Organization. And store owners Pacita Juan, Jeannie Javelosa and Reena Francisco, have recently opened another store in Salcedo, to join those in Serendra, Quezon City, Mandaluyong, and Baguio.

ECHOstore consists of a café and a mini market selling organic produce and healthy snacks, as well as a gift store filled with environmentally friendly products that are sourced from small rural communities all over the Philippines. And ‘people are looking for the products we are selling,’ says Chit Juan, when I spoke with her recently.

While this is a profit-making company, ECHOstore also claims to have the “heart to see the social issues and the gaps that need to be filled.”  Thus the directors identify marginalized and often physically isolated small business people and connect them with customers, helping to build sustainability for those businesses and a pride in Philippine products.

This entrepreneurial attitude extends to many of the producers, who have been inspired to develop new initiatives. One tomato farmer, for example, was encouraged to invest in a solar drier to save excess tomatoes from rotting, and she now provides ECHOstore with a regular supply of sundried tomatoes.

Chit Juan believes that small producers are shaping the future with the aid of entrepreneurs like her. ‘It is not a trend, but a growing consciousness,’ she affirms. ‘People are getting behind the cause, and word of mouth is very strong in the Philippines’.

Since 2008, these three inspirational women have been promoting not only their producers, but the benefits of living a sustainable lifestyle based on conscious and caring consumerism, healthy, seasonal and local eating, social entrepreneurship and planet stewardship. And they have given talks on these issues at more than 100 corporations, universities and NGOs nationwide.

The store in Salcedo is part of a new business development to encourage licensees to help expand the business. Chit tells me firmly that interested licensees may not join the business purely for financial gain, they must also live the lifestyle. Sitting in her little upstairs cubbyhole, I listen while she expounds on past, present and hopefully future successes, while we sip on freshly squeezed juice. Ginger Boost is an invigorating blend of ginger, apple, cucumber, carrots, orange, tomato and celery. Just be sure and ask for extra ginger!

While only pocket sized compared to the store and café in Serendra, the Salcedo store squeezes in a remarkable number of products from snacks and coffee to ready-made meals, from body scrubs to Messy Bessy’s range of environmentally friendly cleaning products.

At the ECHODeli you can sit down to a healthy and wonderfully tasty Pinoy breakfast with longganisa or perhaps homemade tapa, an omelette or poached eggs with spinach. A range of delicious burgers and sandwiches are available for lunch, and I can highly recommend the mushroom burger –  whether or not you are vegetarian – and there are always the delicious fresh shakes and juices if you are simply passing through.

Also, there is an ever-expanding selection of locally grown, fresh produce such as greens, eggs and a variety of excellent cheeses, providing an everyday organic market so that you don’t have to wait all week for Salcedo’s Saturday market!

Visit the website to read in more detail about the work of these enthusiastic, unstoppable entrepreneurs:

*Adapted from an article written for the ANZA News, August 2014.

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