She Started a Green Business that ‘Changes the Way the World Shops’

“I had to choose between going broke or breaking the world,” said Lisa D. Foster, Ph.D., entrepreneur, business coach, and pioneer of the reusable bag industry in the United States. In 2005, Foster founded 1 Bag at a Time, which produces quality, affordable shopping bags that contribute zero environmental waste for at least two years. Since the start, the company has sold more than 20 million bags, significantly reducing the use of plastic bags while shopping. Foster was hosted at Halcyon House in Georgetown on June 2 for an enriching sustainable business discussion centered around her new book, “Bag Lady: How I Started a Business for a Greener World and Changed the Way America Shops.”

“Would you like a bag?”  the question that would change Foster’s life forever  was first posed to her at a supermarket in Australia around the start of the century. She had never contemplated this question, and it set a movement into motion. “Do I want a bag?” she wondered. Days later, Foster was researching the impact of plastic bags on the environment, and could not ignore the disturbing findings. At the time, Americans were using 1 billion plastic bags every day; by 2050, there would be more plastic than fish in the ocean. When Foster returned to the U.S., she was unable to find reusable bags anywhere. She was astounded that seemingly no one knew about the damage they were doing to the world with their plastic bags. Foster decided to take matters into her own hands and 1 Bag at a Time was born.

Foster was a high school English teacher at the time and started by making cold calls to potential customers during her fourth-period break. She contacted local natural food stores and other businesses that aligned with her sustainable values. In her first year, Foster sold 250,000 bags. She did not have prior business experience but relied on her storytelling skills and literary background to pitch the story of the tragic life of a plastic bag to companies all over the country. The story spread rapidly, and people began to listen, including many large organizations like Ralph’s, the largest subsidiary of Kroger, and Vitamin Cottage, a well-known natural food store out of Colorado. In the same week, both companies purchased 100,000 bags and Foster was officially in business. The next year, she sold 2 million bags. In year 3, she sold a whopping 8 million bags.

Foster created a lucrative, eco-friendly business and touts her success to the passion she had behind her work. “I was mission driven, purpose driven, and I stayed true to who I was,” Foster told the audience June 2. She emphasized the value of being authentically dedicated to a cause, especially in business where values can easily slip amid financial gain and fierce competition. Be sure to check out Foster’s book, “Bag Lady,” which illustrates her entrepreneurial journey and has earned a well-deserved spot on the Amazon Best Seller List in Green Business.   








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