Eco-Libris Q&A

Q&A with Raz, CEO and co-founder of Eco-Libris

Interview conducted by Jamie Bezozo
Tell us about yourself and what your company does.
I’m the co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris (http://www.ecolibris.net/ ), a green business that works with book readers, publishers, authors, bookstores, and others in the book industry to balance out the paper used for books by planting trees.
Millions of trees are cut down annually for virgin paper used for the production of books sold worldwide. We want to raise the awareness to the environmental impacts of using paper for the production of books and provide people and businesses with an affordable and easy way to do something about it: plant one tree for every book they read, sell or publish. Customers also receive a sticker made of recycled paper for every book they balance out saying “One tree planted for this book” and can later display these stickers on their books’ sleeves. Publishers can use our logo in their cover designs to indicate one tree is planted for that book. We have partnered with three highly respected US and UK registered non-profit organizations (SHI, AIR , RIPPLE Africa) that work in collaboration with local communities in developing countries to plant the trees. These trees are planted in high ecological and sustainable standards in Latin America and Africa, where deforestation is a crucial problem, and planting trees not only helps to fight climate change and conserve soil and water, but also benefits many local people, for whom these trees offer many benefits and an opportunity for a better future.
About me: I spent a few years in financial management and business development positions and also served as an advisor to the Israeli Minister of the Interior. Afterwards, I co-founded Hemper Jeans, an eco-fashion jean company focusing on producing fashionable jeans made of hemp. I write on green business for the second-largest newspaper in Israel (Ma’ariv). I hold an MBA from Tel Aviv University and live in Delaware with my wife, Peleg and our baby Shira. Besides developing, writing on and breathing green business, I like playing soccer and watching Woody Allen films and old episodes of Seinfeld.

Do you find that it is difficult to be an entrepreneur in your business in this day and age?
I think it’s a great time to be a green entrepreneur. It’s still very challenging but there’s already a lot of awareness to the need for change and you see more and more people and businesses that are looking for ways to go green. Maybe in 2-3 years it will be even easier, but I think that timing is very important, especially when you’re an entrepreneur with an innovative service or a product, and now it’s definitely the right time, at least for me, when it comes to greening up books.

Is it hard to get some of the bigger businesses to get really interested in helping the environment?
Yes. But I guess it’s much easier if you compare it with 2-3 years ago, when the environment wasn’t such a mainstream issue. A lot has changed in the last couple of years and I believe that the big businesses will get more and more familiar with environmental issues when they see that by helping the environment they also help their bottom lines. I think that regulation, such as giving carbon dioxide a price, would contribute to this process as well.

Are you involved in art at all or any other clubs outside of your company?
Unfortunately, no. I wish I had more time.

What motivated you to get involved in this business?
My strong belief that green business can make a difference and my love of books and trees. I wanted to establish a green business that would become an agent of change and would help move the book industry towards sustainability. I knew it would take some time to get to the point where all books are made in an environmental friendly manner, and I wanted provide people and businesses with a simple and affordable tool to do something about it in the meantime: plant a tree for every book they read, publish, write or sell.

What do you think is the best environmental knowledge you could share with others that could impact them to make a difference?
My recommendation would be two books we reviewed lately on our blog and are about two important issues when it comes to green living – parenthood and urban living. I believe both of them have the knowledge base and the ability to drive people into making changes in their lives:

‘The Urban Homestead’ by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen – http://ecolibris.blogspot.com/2008/07/mondays-green-books-urban-homestead.html

‘The Green Parent’ by Jenn Savedge – http://ecolibris.blogspot.com/2008/04/mondays-green-books-series-green-parent.html

Where did you go to school? Did you gain anything from the experience?
I went to school in Israel. I mainly gained good friends and the love of playing soccer!
What are your favorite song lyrics?
Baby Lemonade by Syd Barret is one of my favorites:

In the sad town

Cold iron hands clap
The party of clowns outside
Rain falls in grey far away
Please, please, baby lemonade
In the evening sun going down
When the earth streams in, in the morning
Send a cage through the post
Make your name like a ghost
Please, please, baby lemonade
Im screaming, I met you this way
You’re nice to me like ice
In the clock they sent through a washing machine
Come around, make it soon, so alone…
Please, please, baby lemonade
In the sad town
Cold iron hands clap
The party of clowns outside
Rain falls in grey far away
Please, please, baby lemonade
In the evening sun going down
When the earth streams in, in the morning
Send a cage through the post
Make your name like a ghost
Please, please, baby lemonade
If you weren’t in this business, what do you think you would be doing as a career?
Maybe become a full-time journalist (I do it now as a freelancer). I love writing articles for the newspaper – it’s very challenging, but also fun. Another option would be to write travel guides (green travel of course!). I’ve always envied the guys who write these guides.
Do you have any advice for other people hoping to become entrepreneurs and start their own company?
Do it because you love it and not just because you think it’s worthwhile; otherwise it won’t work. Try to have some fun on the way and be patient!
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