November 18 Questions: Richard Demb

by Leesa Raab

1. What is your name (and age)?

Richard Demb, 36

2. What is your occupation?
CEO and Co-Founder of, an online retailer for natural and organic living. I’m also a regular contributor to the NY Times Small Business section.

3. Do you have a “green” memory growing up?
Growing up in suburban Chicago, I remember when they first introduced recycling bins to the neighborhood. The idea of separating your garbage for the first time was fascinating to my entire family, and we all took pride in doing so. To see that evolve into the recycling program we now have in Chicago has been incredible.

4. What’s your favorite meal?
Undoubtedly breakfast. I love the variety of relatively light but filling choices like fresh fruit, yogurt, waffle or pancakes is incomparable to the other meals of the day.

5. Who/What inspires you to be more “green” in your life?
I’m shocked to hear myself say this, but it’s the media. If I think about all that I’ve learned about food, fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, packaging, and waste recently it all comes back to brilliantly done commercials, documentaries and the sites I read. The ability for a documentary or book to tell a very compelling and convincing story has been phenomenal as of late, and it makes me realize that media gets too much of a bad rap.

6. Where on the “green scale” do you fall?
I’d have to say a ‘forest green.’ I recycle religiously, buy locally, and take pride in drastically reducing my CO2 emissions through public transportation and owning one car, even with 3 kids. The one area that I admit I can be better with however is composting…it’s something I kick myself about constantly.

7. What are the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your job?
We get the opportunity to work closely with passionate entrepreneurs who are trying to change the world, and it’s extremely rewarding. We like to look at ourselves as a stage for these businesses. We give them a place to shout and share their passions with likeminded customers who want to buy their products. On the flip side, this also gives us the opportunity to connect deeply with our customer base. We help them live their best and discover amazing new products on a daily basis. I’ve never seen so many emails with emoticons and exclamation points in my life prior to starting Abe’s Market. I’m very grateful for having such a fun and gratifying way to spend my day.

8. Where’s your “greenspot”: food, bodycare/beauty, oceans, home or neighborhood, explain:
Because I’m exposed to so many impressive products, my ‘greenspot’ spans a few categories. Food is probably at the top of that list. I have little kids at home and I’m very conscious about what they eat, and make sure everything in the house is healthy. Qualities like all-natural, organic and low/no sugar are big selling points for us.

I’m also big fan of personal care products like Bulldog, which is a great company out of the UK that makes 100% organic skin care products for men.

And finally…cleaning products. I’ve been a convert to Eco-Me recently, started by a woman named Robin in NY. The other day I was using their cleaner, Matt (they named all their products after people) to clean out my garbage, and it’s amazing…there is no smell, no chemical residue, and it works wonderfully.

9. Where do you turn for your news?
Email is a vital form of news delivery for me these days. Abe’s Market falls within so many different categories, so I generally read a smorgasbord of content ranging from tech blogs like Techcrunch and Pando Daily to environmental blogs like Mother Nature Network. I am also fascinated by graphic design, so I subscribe to Fast Company’s design email and end up reading at least one of their stories every day. Finally, I’m a big advocate of the Pulse app, which feeds a bunch of news sources from various areas.

10. What is one environmental change you vow to make in the next year?
Reducing my consumption of meat. Ever since seeing Food Inc, it drastically changed my appetite. It is a major cause of environmental issues like CO2 emissions, energy consumption, water depletion/contamination, and topsoil erosion – the film illustrates these facts very convincingly.

11. If you could trade places with one person from any time in history (past or present) for one day—who would it be and why?
It would have to be with one of the Wright Brothers in 1903 – preferably the day they flew for the first time. Just to be there to achieve the impossible…one of the two people who went against every naysayer in the world, made them eat their words, and changed the world in an instance.

12. You have a meeting with the leader of every country in the world. You have 30 seconds to tell them anything you want. Go!
I couldn’t resist coming to them with a message about ending violence. I get that leaders are rarely on the same page –- it’s human nature to disagree. But there has to be a better way to resolve conflict than with the show of force.

13.  You have the chance to send one tweet to all the tweeps in the world. Let’s hear it in 140 characters, or less!
Let’s all stand up, turn to the person to the left or right, and give them a high five. A little love goes a long way.

14. If there was one industry/product that you could make more eco-friendly, what would it be?
Air travel. I feel guilty every time I’m on a plane knowing how much CO2 and greenhouse gases it’s emitting into the atmosphere. The worst part is, more and more people are travelling by air every year.

15. Where in the world would you most like to be right now?
Boise, Idaho. My sister and her family are there we’ve been meaning to visit. She talks about a trail a few miles from her house that leads all the way to Canada – without running into a single town or street. It’s just you and the great outdoors.

16. What is the best book you have read recently?
As a proud Chicagoan, I’d have to say the Devil in the White City. The way the world rallied around innovating for the World’s Fair was remarkable.

17. What makes you cringe?
The amount of plastic bags we have to use for everything. There is nothing worse to me than when a convenience store employee offers a plastic bag when you’re buying one banana. It’s not that employees fault, but something there doesn’t feel right.

18. What do you want your legacy to be?
I hope to affect change. It may take a long time and it may only be baby steps, but it can start with living a bit better every day.

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