Wednesday, September 01, 2010

snackTaxi - American Eco-friendly Small Business

At Our Green House, we seek out small USA-based businesses offering unique eco-friendly products to share with our customers. On our blog we're starting a series to feature these businesses. In keeping with our current Back-to-School theme, snackTaxi, created and owned by Erin Kelly-Dill is our first American Eco-friendly Small Business feature post.

Who: Erin Kelly-Dill

What: snackTaxi - food movers for a happy planet! Reusable, washable bags made of 100% cotton with nylon interiors. Use them as you would plastic ziplock bags for snacks and sandwiches.

When: Founded in 2003 when Erin's kids were entering school.

Where: Plainfield, Massachusetts - in a sun-filled room of her home that was formerly the family's dining room.

Why:  As she was packing those first lunches, the reality of all the plastic trash that her family would be generating over the years brought on feelings of guilt and frustration. There had to be a better way!

How: Combining her love of sewing, an eye for good design and an environmental conscience, Erin came up with a prototype initially intended simply for her own children's snacks and lunches. Shortly after that she had friends, local customers and then local shops requesting their own snackTaxis. Erin's business has built up to the point where she now employs a handful of talented, local seamstresses. She is committed to keeping the work fun and local, never outsourcing the labor.

Challenges: Fulfilling a dramatic uptick in orders after being featured on Disney's Family Fun magazine, CNN and Oprah. Copyright issues with the original product name: Happy Sacks. Finding time for yoga and jogging with her husband.

Rewards: Supporting the local economy. Knowing her product makes a difference to the environment. Doing something she truly enjoys.

On the trade-off between organic and affordability, Erin says, "Organic cotton is better for the environment, but I want to make something that people can afford." If snackTaxis were made of organic cotton, they would potentially be up to five times as expensive.

When I asked Erin where is the most unusual place snackTaxis have been photographed, she replied, "Probably Puerto Rico- a fan sent photos to our facebook. There’s also a funny youtube video - it’s a kid holding one and talking about ways to be green." As for the most unusual item she's heard about being kept in a snackTaxi, "the same fan keeps his passport in a snackTAXI, as well as his phone!"

At snackTaxi they receive lots of really great customer email and phone calls. A favorite of Erin's was the mom who had to order more taxis because her son opened them himself and thought they’d make great sleeping bags for his stuffed animals! She says, "I also once had to measure dog kibble into a sandwich-sack so the owner could figure out if they were big enough to pack food for doggie daycare! We also get lots of great email from folks who can’t believe how many plastic bags they’ve eliminated from their lives, and we’ve gotten some great notes about the lengths folks have gone to in order find lost snackTAXIs. A woman from Brooklyn said she’d thought one was gone forever, and then found it after the snow melted in the street on her block- still usable!"

I wrapped up my interview with Erin with one final question: What's your favorite way to take a break from business? Her response, "my lifelong guilty pleasure- fashion magazines!"

Thanks Erin for making time in your SUPER busy back-to-school season for this interview. We're so glad that you're out there making a difference!

snackTaxis are available in both snack & sandwich sizes in 7 different designs at

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