Local, Sustainable Gifts - Savannah

Local Gifts from Savanah and Southeast Georgia

I was inspired by a post in a Facebook group asking for recommendations of local items which could be collected into a gift basket. What a great way to support communities in and around Savannah while giving thoughtful gifts that are also more sustainable. I’ve collected some of the group’s recommendations for sustainable gift ideas from Southeast Georgia and added a few of my own in this article. 

Gift Ideas Where to Find It (local businesses)
Cookies made in Savannah Byrd Cookie Company
Handmade soap in Pooler Buff City Soap
Savannah whiskey, bourbon & spirits Ghost Coast Distillery
Plants, flower baskets, locally-sourced produce and foods Polk’s Plus Market
Tea, hot sauce, honey, tinctures from an urban farm in Southeast Georgia Prewitt Homestead
Candy and pralines made in Savannah River Street Sweets
Georgia-grown seasonings Salt Table
Honey and body care Savannah Bee Company
Coffee roasted in Savannah Savannah Coffee Roasters
Gourmet popcorn Savannah Rae’s
Beer brewed in Savannah Service Brewing
Experience Gift Ideas Where to Find It (local businesses)
Cooking Class Chef Darin’s Kitchen Table
Music Lessons Downbeat Music Center, Pooler
Escape Room Escape Savannah
Painting Party Painting with a Twist Pooler
Massage or Facial Pooler Day Spa
Guided Kayak Tour Savannah Canoe and Kayak

Buying Local is More Sustainable

Did you know that buying local does more than support your community and local economy? It is often a more sustainable choice too. Buying local usually reduces the carbon footprint of your purchase by eliminating emissions that come from transporting items to warehouses and retail centers.  Get to know your local growers, craftspeople, and producers to learn how they care for their communities and ecosystems.

More Sustainable Gift-wrapping Options

In general, the less packaging, the better for the planet. If you use wrapping paper, check for options that are recyclable. Papers that have glitter or metallic bits usually can’t be recycled.

For smaller items, you could give your paper grocery bags an extra stop on their way to the recycler by having your kids decorate the bags with hand-drawn pictures for a giftwrap that is not only more environmentally-friendly, but also fun to give and receive. Consider wrapping an item in a kitchen or bath hand-towel which can be used instead of thrown away. 

Do you know of a local gift item that should be added to the list?  Feel free to drop it in a comment.

Reuse Recycle

Wondering what you can do with your stuff instead of throwing it out? Unfortunately, not everything can go in the curbside recycle bin, but many items can be recycled. Here’s a list for Savannah and Low Country citizens.

Item Where to recycle
Aluminum Cans SA Recycling, Savannah
Broken Appliances SA Recycling, Savannah
Auto Batteries SA Recycling, Savannah
Scrap Metal  SA Recycling, Savannah
Books Book Nook, Rincon
Wine Corks Whole Foods, Savannah Cork Reharvest collection box
Beverage Glass Lammergeier, Savannah schedule a one-time or regular pick up
Clothing (clean and in good condition) Acts III, Rincon or your favorite resale shop 
Unusable Clothing, Shoes or Textiles (clean and dry) GreenZone collection box in the parking lot of Another Broken Egg Café, Pooler  
Housewares (clean and in good condition) Acts III, Rincon or your favorite resale shop 
Food Waste COR Compost, Savannah schedule a regular pickup
Plastic Bags, Plastic Overwrap Publix, Pooler collection bin in front of the store
Styrofoam Food and Beverage Containers Publix, Pooler collection bin in front of the store

Do you know of an item that should be added to the list?  Please feel free to share it in a comment.


There are several options for a hot or iced cup of caffeine in and around Savannah. But if you want a single origin roast with a shot of social and environmental justice, the Sentient Bean on Forsyth is one of the best choices. That’s because the Bean has worked hard to grow not just a thriving coffee shop, but also a healthy root system throughout the community. Owner Kristin Russell’s mindful business choices permeate the shop — from the carefully sourced ingredients coming in the door to the minimized waste stream that exits the building.  It’s plain to see why Sentient Bean is one of the Low Country’s most admired businesses.

Origins of the Bean

A farmer’s daughter, Kristin Russell was taught good stewardship of the land from youth. Her environmentalist upbringing was galvanized at college where she was shocked and disturbed by the wastefulness of off-farm life. Russell, together with her like-minded roommate, created a progressive business plan built around sustainability.

The Sentient Bean opened in 2001 on a mission to become a local gathering spot with a positive impact on the community and the environment. Its location on Forsyth Park was an ideal place for people from many different walks of life to mingle. 

Three days after opening, two planes crashed into NYC’s twin towers, and the young coffee shop was quickly put to a test of resilience. The Sentient Bean made a difficult decision to keep the doors open during the period of social, political, and economic uncertainty that followed the attack. 

Despite the challenges, the owners were gratified to see that the Bean filled a gap and did indeed quickly become a place where neighbors could meet, find community, and support one another during a difficult time. “We’re open” would be come a motto of sorts over the years, since the Bean became known for being reliably open and available for community during crises like hurricanes, and recently during COVID shutdowns. “People need a place to charge their phones,” says Russell simply.   

(Self) SustainABility AT sentient Bean

In those first years, the Sentient Bean managed to produce only a single bag of garbage each day, while serving a growing customer base.  This was accomplished though commitment, hard work and homegrown ingenuity. 

The Bean offered guests ceramic mugs which were washed and reused.  There was no curbside recycling, so the staff took recyclable material to the hub every week.  Composting was a practice from day one. Jane Fishman, a friend, would haul the compost to her community garden. The compost fed the plants, which in turn fed neighbors and unhoused who frequented the garden. When the volume became too much for Jane’s small vehicle, owner Kristin Russell sorted the trash from organic material herself, loaded it in the back of her family pickup and brought pails of compost to to the community garden. She continued this practice faithfully until 2008 when a member of the Sentient Bean staff volunteered based on a passion for compost. This staffer, Andy, would start his own compost business in 2011 called “Grow, Eat, Repeat”, take over management of the Bean’s compost, and free Kristin up to focus on more projects. 

The Park Ave address is a great location next to Savannah’s largest community greenspace, but it had another strategic benefit: being situated just doors down from Brighter Day Natural Foods Market.  Brighter Day’s owners shared a passion for community health. In those early days, when the Sentient Bean was trying to scrape together small orders of organic whole foods for their menu, they could purchase ingredients from Brighter Day and add small orders to the market’s truck deliveries from suppliers.

And what about the beans? The Sentient Bean’s beans were (and still are) sourced from Café Campesino, an importer of small farmer coffee, and the only fair trade roaster in the South at the time. 

Scaling up Environmental & Social Action

More than two decades after its first opening, the Sentient Bean has scaled up operations and community impact. In 2008, Russell helped found the Forsyth Farmers Market, which provides economic opportunity for local growers and healthy, seasonal foods for consumers.  The Sentient Bean still serves coffees and teas that are exclusively fair trade, and now there are local Georgia beers on tap too. 

Vegetarian Whole Foods Menu

With only a few exceptions, the menu is comprised of organic or locally-sourced whole foods.  Five local farms steadily supply ingredients, and the kitchen staff is conditioned to work with a flexible menu.  “We serve what’s in season,” says Russell.

In 2020, when Brighter Day’s owners were ready to retire, Russell bought the market and continues to build on its foundation as a source for healthy, natural, sustainable foods.  

An Inclusive Meeting Space

True to its early vision, the Sentient Bean continues to be a meeting place where all kinds of folks gather for events in Savannah, like yoga @the bean, live music, politics, and art exhibits. FCPC Open Mic Night is every first and third Tuesday where “anything goes” — poetry, music, drag, performance art. Anyone can come and show off their talent.  

“*All are welcome” says the sign on the front door…. *unless you are

a pet (with the exception of on-duty service animals)

you are being a jerk (please be kind to others, bus your own table and respect the space)

you are a gun (unless you are in service of an officer)

you are outside food (eat our food. It’s vegetarian, local and delicious)

scaling Down Waste

Russell has chipped in with six other businesses for private recycling to make sure the material has the best chance of getting repurposed. And when the city stopped taking glass for recycling a few years ago, the Sentient Bean upped their investment and began recycling their glass through Lammergeier Glass Recycling.  In three years, Sentient Bean diverted 87,752 lbs of organic waste to compost and created 73 cubic yards of soil through COR Compost. Sentient Bean switched to renewable energy through Arcadia Power  more than five years ago, and meets the qualifications of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership in recognition of efforts to reduce the risk of climate change through the use of green power.  

Waste Stream at Sentient Bean Savannah - Recycle Compost and Landfill Bins

Support Local FarmS

I asked Kristin what regular folks can do in the Savannah area to support sustainability. Her advice: “support local farmers.”  We need thriving, sustainable farms for a healthy community, and Georgia is behind the curve for farmer support.

Here are a 7 low country farms who supply ingredients for Sentient Bean:

Adam’s Farm and Gardens – Savannah, GA

Bootleg Farm Dairy – Springfield, GA

C-Port Mushrooms – Savannah, GA

Kachina Farms – Rincon, GA

Joseph Fields Farm – Charleston, SC

Southern Swiss Dairy – Waynesboro, GA

Watsonia Farms – Monetta, SC


Closing SentiMents

Being a mentor herself to many locals who are concerned about sustainability, I asked Kristin who were her business role models. She is inspired by Bill Harris, founder of Cooperative Coffees, who staked his career on a belief in transparency, sustainability and economic justice for small farmers.

Her other role model is her father, who was a farmer. “I would never have called him a businessman,” says Russell, “but he taught me about long-term planning.  ‘Sacrifices must be made,’ he always said.”

Kristin says it’s impossible to count the number of sacrifices she has made to the bottom line, but “it’s worth it to feel good about what I’m doing here,” she says.


“You have to give yourself permission to make a little less money, so you can make more difference.” – Kristen Russell, Owner of the Sentient Bean, Savannah GA

aluminum can litter on the ground near a bike rack

Georgia is a beautiful state and Savannah is one of her jewels.  Savannah’s great live oaks, feathery Spanish moss and lonely marshes are magical. But, in some places around Chatham County, it’s difficult to travel a span of 100 feet without finding soda and beer cans on the highway shoulder, along the sidewalks, peppering construction sites and in the medians. Georgia landfills collect literally tons of valuable aluminum resources that are discarded by residents, restaurants and businesses. Citizens of the low country can recycle aluminum to make a dent in this wasteful stream, keep our community beautiful, and get a little cash while you’re at it.

SA Recycling IN sAVANNAH pAYS fOR Aluminum cANS

SA Recycling is one local business that offers a better alternative to the landfill for aluminum and other recyclable metals. Nationwide, they divert millions of tons of material from landfills. SA Recycling takes in aluminum cans, refrigerators, washing machines, junk cars (no tires), and other scrap metals. The scrap is shredded, sold and remade into new metal products as part of the circular economy.

SA Recycling Entrance Savannah Georgia


How Does scRAP mETAL rECYCLING Work?

Many of SA Recycling’s customers bring commercial container trucks filled with tons of scrap metal, or junk cars. These trucks drive onto a huge scale where their payload is weighed then emptied. Then their empty truck is weighed again to calculate the value of the load. The driver cashes out a paycheck worth hundreds or thousands.

Here’s How You Can Get Cash for Your Aluminum Cans

You don’t need to haul a trailer to bring your metal to SA Recycling. As an individual, you can bring in aluminum cans, tin cans or other scrap metal for recycling in your hatchback or on the back of your bike.

1. Collect a Half Pound of Aluminum or More

I take a walk every day around my neighborhood in Savannah Quarters for exercise and fresh air. There are lots of new homes being built, and each day I walk by construction sites that are littered with aluminum cans. I’ve started bringing a reusable plastic bag to collect cans and plastic bottles. I pitch the plastic bottles in my curbside recycle bin and the aluminum cans in a box in my garage. Within a month of starting this practice, I had collected the equivalent of two big black garbage bags full of aluminum cans.

Note: Get permission if you want to collect recyclables from construction sites or other private property. Don’t trespass and be safe. The builders and crews in my area have been very helpful. One crew even set aside their recyclables in a wheelbarrow for me to pick up each day. 

Tips for Collecting Aluminum Cans in Savannah and Chatham County

  • Aluminum cans can be found in just about every neighborhood or along the highways.
  • If you’re considering organizing a highway cleanup, park cleanup or neighborhood cleanup, contact your municipality to learn about local rules for organized community cleanup projects.
  • Safety first – wear gloves. Aluminum cans have sharp edges and can be dirty if you’re collecting litter. Wear bright clothing or a reflective vest if you are collecting in a high traffic area. Do not get hit by a car. Kids, bring your adult for safety.
  • Bring a bag for collecting your cans. I’ve ended many walks with arms full of cans and bottles, and I can tell you that a bag is much easier, plus you can collect more.
  • Restaurants, sports games, country clubs, events, and picnic areas are often great sources of aluminum for recycling.
  • Crush your cans to maximize space. Here’s how: with both hands, grab the can at each end, twist and press together. Voila – your can will be crushed! 
  • Although dumpsters usually contain rich stockpiles of wasted aluminum and dumpster-diving is not technically illegal, it can be dangerous. It’s better to collect cans before they get to the dumpster.

2. Separate Your Metals

Don’t mix your metals if you bring them to SA Recycling. Tin cans should be in a separate box or bag from aluminum cans, for example. You can also bring brass ammunition shells, and steel nuts and bolts. 

3. Bring Your Scrap Metals to SA Recycling

Now I had my harvest: two big bags full of aluminum scrap. These bags I threw in the back of my car and drove to the SA Recycling facility at 100 Sonny Purdue Drive.

When Wayz tells you that you have arrived at 100 Sonny Purdue Drive, you may not see anything that looks like SA Recycling. Don’t despair. Keep driving. The road will curve to the left. You will see a long green fence, and lo it will appear unto you…the SA Recycling sign!

You will drive past a security gate, and then you will see a white trailer and a cutout safety figure. Do not drive your car onto the scale. The scale is for commercial trucks. If it’s your first visit to SA Recycling Savannah, it is probably best to park your car, walk up to the cashier window in the white trailer and ask where to bring your scrap.

4. Put your Scrap on the Scale

You will be directed to drive around the corner to the right where, if you are like me, you will be impressed by the mountains of scrap material and the sorting activates that are taking place around you. You will see a small building with a large square scale on the ground in front of the building. There you might find Aaron or one of his colleagues in a safety vest and hard hat who will weigh your loot. You’ll be asked for your driver’s license and then you will be given a ticket with the amount to be paid. My two bags of aluminum cans weighed a total of 0.8 lbs and were worth $13.60.

5. Get a Check

Next, you will take your ticket back to that white trailer where the cashier will trade your ticket for a check.

Deposit your check and go contribute to the circular economy.  Consider using your money from recycling to subscribe to compost services from COR or sustainably-sourced coffee from Sentient Bean, or complete the circle by purchasing a 6-pack of your favorite beverage in aluminum cans.


Aluminum is Recyclable Curbside

In Savannah, Pooler and Chatham County, aluminum and tin can be recycled in curbside containers. Curbside recycling is a much better alternative to the trash, and you don’t need to collect a minimum volume of material. Whether you have 1 can or dozens, you can toss them in your curbside recycle cart. But, if you use or collect a lot of cans, consider bringing them to SA Recycling where you can get money for your metal recycling.

What’s the Circular Economy, and Why Does it Matter to Georgians?

In a linear economy, resources are extracted to produce items. Items like beverages are sold in containers to consumers for a single use. Other products are intentionally designed for short life cycles to be discarded for newer models. This practice is called planned obsolescence. (Think about the washing machines that our parents and grandparents used for decades. Today, we feel lucky to get 5 years out of our Maytag or Whirpool.)

In a circular economy, products and their lifecycles are designed, produced and managed thoughtfully for a continuous lifecycle where resources are reused and repurposed indefinitely in more environmentally-conscious ways. In a circular economy, people use products for longer and waste much, much less. Our soils, wetlands, rivers and oceans receive fewer toxins from manufacturing processes and discarded waste. This means that plants, animals and humans live healthier lives.

Wondering about Bottle Bills?

Seven US states have bottle bills, otherwise known as container deposit legislation. When you buy carbonated beverages in a Bottle Bill state, you pay a deposit of 5 or 10 cents per can at checkout. (Glass or plastic bottles often have deposits too.) After you’ve consumed your beverage, you toss your cans in a bin in your kitchen or a bag in the mud room or a box in the garage. When the box is full of recyclables, you bring your cans and bottles back to the grocery store. You get your deposit back as cash in your pocket. Meanwhile the containers are recycled and stay out of landfills. Win. win.  Georgia does not currently have a container deposit system.


food scraps and compost

Sometime around the summer of last year I started to get really interested in what happens to stuff after we throw it away. Previously, I hadn’t given a second thought to my used and discarded items after they landed in the trash. I think it was probably reading Small is Beautiful that triggered me, and afterward I couldn’t stop seeing wasted excess everywhere around me. One day it was more convenient to throw away my muddy sneakers than clean them. The next I was like, “Why would anyone put this beautiful, useful banana peel in the trash?!” and, “I have an extra twist tie and two rubber bands; can anyone use these?”

Where Does It Come From, and Where Does It Go?

What happens to the gunk I grind up in my garbage disposal? Where do the items in the green recycle bin actually wind up? How much of that junk in the landfill decomposes? What happens to the stuff that doesn’t?

I started thinking about how I acquire stuff; consume or use it; and then dispose of it. How many of my discarded goods wind up in landfills, or ditches, or highway exits, or oceans?

What Compost Can Teach Us

Some of my friends know that I am a backyard composter. Prior to this new habit of course everything went in the rubbish bin to be taken away to someplace where it becomes someone else’s concern.

Now I have a pail in my kitchen. When it’s full, I take it out to my tumbler where my apple cores, coffee grounds, empty paper towel rolls, and carrot tops join their brethren in a steamy stew of goodness. The soldier fly larvae, worms, lizards and frogs feast and are merry.

In a few months I have a beautiful, nutrient-rich humus, and my garden eats it right up. In the fall, I hope to harvest my broccoli, potatoes, and artichokes. My family will be nourished by their gifts. The parts that we can’t use go back in my pail, and the cycle continues. It is a perfect design.

Trash Wasn’t Part of the Plan

God didn’t make trash. To say it another way, nothing in creation was meant to be disposable. Moreover, nothing in creation is redundant. It all has a purpose. As David sang: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Psalm 24:1. The Lord created light and dark, the land and sea, the plants and fishes, all the living creatures, and people.

On the 7th day, He could have created landfills, but in His wisdom, He rested instead.

Everything we have is a gift. Humans, with all of our vast intellect and complex scientific apparatus, cannot create anything new. Every piece of matter that exists on this green earth was there from the beginning.

We are just stewards with a choice: we can can care for it, or abuse it.

Everything has a purpose.

This applies to people too, of course.

A Business Lesson

In my professional life, I was fortunate to work for many years for a small business. My coworkers and I generally considered each other to be valuable humans.

At one point early in my career, my family experienced a significant crisis. I was unable to contribute at my normal level due to increased personal demands. My boss and coworkers stepped in, picked up the slack and supported me in my time of need. When things returned to a balance in my life, I was fiercely determined to give back to the organization that given to me. I hope I returned the value. And at various points, I was blessed to be able to support other co-workers in a similar way during their own times of hardship. It was a beautiful, imperfect cycle.

When the company was sold, I experienced what it was like when the cycle breaks. The new ownership did not know any of us by name or face or whether we had families or pets. And they excelled at maximizing efficiency, “leveraging” resources, and discarding what was no longer valuable.

They tossed the rubbish to be taken away someplace where it became someone else’s concern. From my perspective, it seemed that the value of people and things was calculated by the same formula. Tt was only by the grace of God that I was at a point in my life where I might pass the test and stay out of the rubbish bin. Regardless of whether I made the cut or not this time around, I realized that I was considered disposable.

Meanwhile, in the highest offices of government, I watched our commander-in-chief exploit individuals and resources and cast them aside when they ceased to be profitable. I thought, this behavior is unacceptable. If this is what is rewarded and considered successful, what will become of us?

Am I Any Different?

And I realized with horror that I was not on a very different path from what I had called unacceptable in others. I had liked to think I was generally a kind and compassionate person. But I knew I traded kindness and compassion for profit and convenience far more often than I wanted to admit.

If I Treat Little Things Carelessly, When Push Comes to Shove, Will I Treat Big Things Differently?

“Whoever can be trusted with small things can also be trusted with big things. Whoever is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in big things too. If you cannot be trusted with worldly riches, you will not be trusted with the true riches.” Luke 16:10-14 

I regularly buy items for the cheaper price, throwing away an opportunity to use my purchases to help someone thrive. I mistreat things and then dispose of them when it’s inconvenient restore their value. When I negotiate a contract, my goal is to pay the least amount possible. I would happily accept a deal that was lopsided in my favor. I’ve dumped grease down my disposal, thinking my little bit won’t make a difference in the city slew. I tell an acquaintance whose car is in the shop, “good luck with that,” while mine sits idly in the garage. I’ve chosen to hurry past my elderly neighbor, throwing away a moment I could have used to celebrate and honor her value. Daily, I consume things that are produced by means of violence and destruction, and then I toss the empty container.

If I, as a consumer and citizen, act this way how can I expect businesses and governments to act differently.

Ignorance is Bliss, But It’s Expensive

It’s easy to consume thoughtlessly and discard the leftovers when I don’t see where my stuff comes from and where it goes when I’m done with it. And it’s easy to justify that my bit doesn’t matter in the big picture. Except it does. Every little bit matters. And nothing was created to be trash.

Zero Waste

If things (and people) are treated respectfully and used according to their purpose at every point along their lifecycle, the system as designed works beautifully with no waste.

The pessimist in me wonders if it is possible to make radical, conscientious decisions without being taken advantage of. I think the answer is probably no. But as Mother Theresa said “do it anyway.”

Is it possible to actually live this way and still earn a living? I suspect it’s gonna take some faith. But my friend Matthew said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

So where do I go from here? I make a hundred poor and thoughtless decisions every day. I pray for forgiveness and grace to make one fewer today than I did yesterday.

pumpkin decoration consumer behavior

Lately, I am thinking about my roles and responsibilities as a person who consumes.

Among the things I have consumed so far today are: shampoo, conditioner, soap, toilet paper, Kleenex, water, coffee, dishwasher detergent, gas for my daughter’s carpool drive to and from school, more coffee, refrigerated leftovers, energy for my lights, computer, and air conditioning, and a Westbrook sour beer. Like many people in the Western World, I regularly buy and use lots of things: food, shelter, clothing, energy, goods and services.

I’ve rarely wondered about where the things come from, or where they go after I discard them. That is not my responsibility, right? My responsibility is to be fair to the person who gave or sold it to me (i.e. don’t steal it), and to dispose of it in a legal and compliant manner (i.e. don’t throw it in a ditch).

But now I wonder if maybe that kind of thinking is what’s got us into a bit of a pickle — what with the climate crisis, and the sweatshops, and the toxic food chain, and the social injustices.

Below, I will dig into my consumer thought process.

How do I make purchasing decisions?

I buy what is cheap and convenient. Or alternately, what is luxurious and elevates my status. I discard what is no longer convenient, and I do it in the most expedient manner available.

When I want chicken for dinner, I either: A) go to a restaurant and order it from the menu or B) go to the grocery store and buy a cellophane-wrapped, slippery, pinkish, teardrop-shaped thing. In either case, the product I consume (and feed to my family) bears no resemblance to a bird and is far too enormous to have come from a healthy one.

If I’m out and about and thirsty, I might buy a bottle of water. I drink it and toss it in a garbage bin or, – if one is handy – a recycling receptacle. In general, if I have something to get rid of, I put it in a dumpster and it becomes someone else’s job to figure out what to do with it.

The other day, I was grocery shopping for a friend who was ill. I wanted to give her a little something to brighten her day. But I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So I bought an item of seasonal decor for $4.88. When I got home, I saw the sticker on the back said “Guangzhou Youth Arts & Crafts Co.” Call me cynical, but, whereas the clever CEO of Walmart makes $22,000,000 million per year, I doubt any youth from Guangzhou are benefitting appreciably from my $4.88.

Today, I am thinking maybe I should be taking more personal responsibility for the things I acquire and the things I dispose of.

Where does it come from?

When I acquire something, I’ve started asking more questions. Who made it? How was it made? What is it made of? What was involved in its journey before it got to me? Who profits from my purchase? Is this an “honorable harvest” (read Braiding Sweetgrass if you haven’t.)

Where does it go?

When I’m done with something, there are more questions to be asked. Who handles it? Where does it go? What does it become?

This exquisite, generous world was created as a perfect circular system. And for many millions of years, things have gone along swimmingly in their circular way…The seed grows. The fruit is produced. The fruit is consumed. The “recycled” seed is replanted. The seed grows. And so on. We all benefit when we respect this beautiful design and participate responsibly within it.

What would change if I knew the answers to where it came from and where it goes?

Let’s look a little more closely at that seasonal decoration – a faux wood pumpkin – I bought from Walmart for $4.88 for an example. If I had taken the time to find out where this product came from, I would have been a little sickened by the marketing tactic in the company name: “Guangzhou Youth Arts and Crafts.” This seems to me to be a sneaky way to put lipstick on the fact that the item was made by children in China.

Having since researched the Guangzhou Youth Arts and Crafts Co, this company doesn’t share any information about the way their young workers are treated or how the profits from their child labor are managed.

And what about the journey this product took to get from Guangzhou, China to Pooler, GA? How much pollution was created during the voyage across the ocean? Was the pumpkin worth it? And I haven’t even touched yet the question of what in the world the pumpkin was made of or what harm came to the environment in its manufacture.

It’s easy to get a little lost in this rabbit hole, and start asking lots of other questions too. Like, what’s the appeal of a fake pumpkin anyway?

Is it because somewhere inside, I am grieving the fact that I am so divorced from the natural rhythm of the earth and her seasons that I chose a synthetic approximation which ironically caused further damage to the healthy relationship that I am trying to mimic between humans and nature?

If I had given all of these things a minute of thought, I think I would have left the fake pumpkin at Walmart, and walked myself over to Polk’s Market to purchase some of their gorgeous, warty gourds which actually came out of the earth, here in Georgia.

The fact that I didn’t think of this before I made my purchase is indication that I have a long way to go to become a responsible consumer, but I hope I am making progress. More on “where does it go” later.


Craftsman with hammer and anvil to symbolize resiliency



In challenging times, how do some organizations manage to pull together and foster a supportive environment while others succumb to apathy, angst, or dysfunction? Author and theologian C.S. Lewis wrote,

Pain is God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

We’ve endured a collective suffering over the last year like many of us have never experienced before in our lifetimes — and for some, it’s been a wake-up call. No one looks forward to difficult times, but Oprah Winfrey’s advice is solid: “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”  

There is no 3-step formula for success. Choosing how to respond to difficulty is what E. F Schumacher described as a divergent problem. The beauty of humanity is that we all arrive at our own solution. Nevertheless, here are some reflections that may help build resiliency and lead to healthy growth in the face of difficulty.

Strive for Transparency and Truth

Unfortunately, discovering truth is easier said than done. We’ve all experienced situations where truth seems uncertain. Or, we’ve been in conflicts where we felt were were unequivocally “right.” Almost certainly our opposition felt the same. What can we do? In a 2017 Psychology Today article, Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D writes, “To counteract your brain’s tendency to construct ‘truth’ out of comfort, convenience, and confusion, you can access your Reflective Intelligence to try to sort through your filters. This isn’t easy, but if you are courageous enough to accept a different reality, you might be able to see what else could be true.” She goes on to challenge readers to question the fears and assumptions that may lead us to accept unsubstantiated opinions.

Over the past year, I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions and questioning a lot of assumptions. I’m taking a hard look at choices I’ve made because they are comfortable, easy. or profitable. In these confusing times, let’s commit to choose truth even if it is difficult, costly, or inconvenient. When we face times of adversity, some good questions to ask might be:

  • What do we really want? What values do we hold dear?
  • How (and who) do we hope to serve? What are we helping them accomplish?
  • What things keep us from doing it well?
  • What things help us do it better?
  • What blind spots do we need to correct?

Be Humble

Answering hard questions together requires us to be humble and accept that we need other perspectives in order to see clearly and fully. Let’s avoid an attitude of “putting people in their place.” Instead favor of an environment where all are respected regardless of differences in title or background. Seek out environments where people can win together, not of at the expense of each other…where people share the burden of each others’ setbacks and the joy of each others’ successes. 

We all need a course correction from time to time. Importantly, we must be willing to surround ourselves with people who will call us out when we’re headed in the wrong direction and help us get back on track.

“There’s nothing about humility that makes it incompatible with strength and courage. Quite the opposite,” writes Jeff Hyman in a Forbes article entitled Why Humble Leaders Make the Best Leaders. Hyman goes on to say, “When things go wrong, humble leaders admit to their mistakes and take responsibility. When things go right, they shine the spotlight on others.”

Recognize the Good

In difficult times, many of us dwell on what’s wrong. It is important to face and fix our errors, but we are also wise to pay attention to what’s going right. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool.

When we recognize the good around us, we remind ourselves of our values. Let’s also prioritize inclusion and celebrate how each of us contributes to a heathy whole. Let’s open our eyes to recognize what is good, appreciate it in others, and strive to emulate it ourselves.

Demand Less Banner



I’ve been wondering lately if marketing lingo has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. I’ve worked in B2B marketing for 15+ years. Lately, I’ve been looking differently at a lot of things. My sense of comfort and complacency is out the window. As the great Don Henley said, “The more I know, the less I understand. All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again.” This includes the way I approach my job in the field of marketing.

One lesson I believe is valid: words matter.

This is a self-critique. I am looking hard at the words I use — personally and professionally. They matter. The apostle Luke wrote, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” I want to have the kind of heart that leads me to speak truth and compassion. I have a long way to go, but I hope I’m getting closer, one day at a time.

Today, I am trying to reconcile some marketing terms that seem discordant and abrasive when I hold them up to goals of wholeness, transparency, and empathy.

If we agree that the words we choose are a reflection of our goals and priorities, maybe the terms below present some opportunities to choose differently.

For all of my sales and marketing friends out there, tell me if you can relate. Or, help me understand where our perspectives differ. For all of my non-marketing friends, here’s a peek behind the marketing curtain.

Demand Generation

This is the process of manipulating people to entice them to want something they didn’t want before. If we need to “generate demand” for something, should we really be selling it?

For me, “Communicate Value” is a more helpful phraseDone well, marketing messages can create awareness and communicate value. But let’s refrain from using manipulation to generate demand – even if we can.

Click Bait

As in, “7 Reasons You Absolutely Shouldn’t Click This Link. #4 will blow your mind.” The goal is to get you to click; we don’t really care if you read what’s on the next page. Good marketing delivers content in an interesting way to someone who can benefit from it. But too often, we settle for a poor user experience because the goal is to snare a certain number of visitors. If the usefulness of the experience is an afterthought or even irrelevant, it’s not good marketing.

What if marketers used our skills to create true and meaningful content? Let’s create content that adds value to people’s lives, and deliver it in a respectful way.


AKA if you express interest in my product or service, I am going to put you through some tests to determine if you are worth my time. If you pass the test, congratulations, you are qualified.

This should be a mutual process of finding out if there is a fit. Customer and provider both want to know if a partnership is beneficial. A bad fit isn’t good for my customer or me. A good fit is good for us both.


This is a term for someone who has passed my tests (see qualification) and we have deemed you worthy of follow-up. Does this label make our prospective customers feel valued and respected?

In my utopia maybe we call this a “seed.” We hope that something wonderful might grow out of this possibility. There’s reason to think working together could benefit all involved – Let’s find out together.


If you filled out my form on my website, you’ve converted. We use a term related to spiritual experiences because we cannot find our souls.

Sometimes these are referred to as “Goal Completions.” It feels a little better to me; especially if, when you’ve completed the goal, there was actually a benefit to you and not just me.


 In marketing lingo, we scramble about trying to “acquire” more and more leads and customers. We forget that these are people, and people are not something to be acquired. When we describe it to your face we call it “partnering.”

Let’s work to be genuine partners and teammates with our customers and prospective customers.

Competitive Analysis

 This is the process of spying on our competitors so we can steal their ideas and customers.

How about “Cooperative Learning?” Ideally each provider offers value in a unique way or to a unique group. We can learn from each other to hone our skills and improve our value. To my fellow providers: if I cannot provide the right fit, maybe you can, and vice versa.


This is a term we use for an amalgamation of characteristics that make up our target market (see targeting below). Since we don’t want to communicate with actual people (who has that kind of time?), we lump you all together into some kind of Frankenstein persona that looks a little like you so that we can try to “craft our language” into a message we think you’d like to hear.

Trying to understand our customers and potential customers is a good and valid goal. Let’s make sure we do it with the intention of working to build authentic and helpful relationships with real humans.


 When we decide you match our ICP (maybe this term will make it into a future post), we target you. Scary right? We use terms like spears and nets to describe how we get you in our funnel (see below), and we give our salespeople awards and recognition for hitting a “bullseye.”

Again, it’s helpful for me to think about “fit.” Good marketing works to help people find the right fit for their needs. Finding the right fit can be a “bullseye” as long as it’s a win for us and the customer, and ideally, the world as a whole.

Sales Funnel

 Once you convert (see conversion above), we put you in our sales funnel. I imagine it like some esoteric toilet where you swirl down through Dante’s circles of hell, starting at the TOFU (AKA Top of Funnel), progressing to the MOFU (Middle of Funnel) and finally arriving where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Side note: When I asked my wonderfully objective husband to review this article, he informed me that this is where I have officially devolved into ranting. Guilty as charged.

Maybe we could borrow an engineering term, like “Workflow.” We partner with people in a workflow. At the end of the process, we achieve a shared goal.


Velocity is how fast we can shove you through the funnel (see sales funnel). We have a quota to meet by the end of the month. Hustle up, partner.

Let’s refer back to workflow. If there are spots in our workflow where people are getting lost or not finding value, let’s fix it. If someone needs time to consider, let’s respect it.

Lifetime Customer Value

this is where we decide how much you are worth to us and then enter a line item into a spreadsheet while demons shriek with glee. (Again, with the ranting.)

Are we as keenly interested in the value we provide to our customers? Do we consider the value to humankind and the planet that comes from this partnership. If so, I have no beef with “lifetime customer value.”


This is the term we use for you when you’ve decided not to do business with us anymore. Like, “We’re so sorry to see you churn.” If we use the term churn with you, maybe you were right to go.

Let’s call it what it is: a customer stopped doing business with us. The question is why. Did we screw up? Does someone else serve them better? Or maybe we served their need and completed the job (a good thing)! We can learn from failure and from success.


This is a term for an automated or semi-automated set of messages that we send you based on which bucket you fell into. As in, “Oh, I see you’re not ready to sign a deal tomorrow…let’s have marketing put you into a cadence so we don’t have to talk to you anymore.” Consistency can be good, but let’s be discerning about when to use automation and when to be human.


This is actually one of my favorite marketing words. It means to help someone grow and develop in a healthy way (see “seeds” above). Let’s try to partner with people to provide value and achieve shared goals. Let’s ask, how can we deliver a helpful message at the right time?

An Alternate Vision for Marketing

Most of the sales and marketing professionals I have worked with in my career are thoughtful and compassionate. They genuinely want to do what’s right for their customers. I deeply admire and respect their work. Mentors in the field have taught me to ask these 3 questions when I’m working on marketing strategies:

Is it good?

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Marketing can be (and often is) a process of learning about people’s real needs, working with others to create something that meets the needs, and communicating value in a beautiful and meaningful way. Sales can be (and often is) a process of working with people to implement solutions that meet people’s needs in a good and useful way.

In a podcast on how marketers can contribute to a circular economy, Alena Kuzniatsova said, “I realized that marketing is just an instrument. Take the hammer, for example. You can kill or you build a house with a hammer. The same with marketing. And I realized that I should use my marketing expertise as an instrument for companies which foster sustainability and a clean future.”

Many of our marketing terms stem from the need to scale. To scale, we have to look at numbers. Unfortunately, sometimes we look at numbers and forget people. Data can be very helpful. It guides us and helps us judge whether we are on the right track. We just need to make sure we’ve chosen the right track. We are wise to use numbers to inform decisions that positively impact people, rather than making choices that use people to hit our numbers.

Let’s Make Profit a Tool, Not a Goal

I believe part of solving the “marketing lingo” problem is to look at the right “bottom line.” Is the bottom line “more profit, faster?” Profit can be a useful tool, but in my opinion, it makes a lousy goal. It is important to understand our goals and metrics; and there’s nothing wrong with deciding we need X% more revenue next year so that we can…(fill in the blank). Let’s remember to finish the sentence. What is the revenue for? The revenue itself is just a tool.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.”

What if we choose a different bottom line? What if we choose to work toward wholeness for people and the planet? What different decisions would we make concerning our funnel, our conversion process, our nurturing campaigns, how we respond to churn, and how we use our profit?

There are rarely simple answers, but maybe we could start with better language. The good news is that there are lots of marketers out there that are skilled at crafting messages. Let’s craft messages that help us achieve something great together.

We get to do this wrist band



Several years ago, I attended a training event at Gateway Church for volunteers. As we filed into the room to learn about our responsibilities, each of us was handed a blue silicon wristband with the words “We GET To Do This” printed on it.

We had all signed up to be volunteers because we believed in the mission of the group.

We saw potential for something positive; and we wanted to be a part of it.

There were a couple hundred of us in the room, and we each had different volunteer roles. Some had more visible positions – hospitality crew or musicians. Some of us had more behind-the-scenes roles. Some were coffee makers, some of us chair-setter-uppers. There was a parking crew, a cleanliness crew, and a data entry crew, along with a zillion other roles that were needed to make this sizable volunteer organization run.

Not all of the roles might be considered glorious, but they were all necessary.

Before we dispersed into our teams of chair-setter-uppers and parking gurus, we met as a group. The head of the organization thanked us for our dedication and reminded us:

“We are all in this together. We don’t have to do this; we GET to do this.”

There is so much talk about what leaders can/should do to engage their teams. And if you’re a leader, we certainly don’t want to understate the importance of appreciating, encouraging, and empowering your teams in order to help them reach their potential.

But for those of us who are the behind-the-scenes heavy-lifters, we’re not off the hook.

In whatever we choose to dedicate our personal efforts, we control our own personal level of engagement.

We can choose to slide by doing the minimum. Or we can choose to give it our all. We can appreciate the opportunities we have been given, and we can choose to find ways to make a difference. We can choose to say, “I get to do this.”


A cancer survivor with support group



According to Gettysburg College, people spend an average of 90,000 hours at work during their lifetimes. I am about halfway through my career. If I’m average, I’ve clocked about 45,000 work hours. At this midpoint, I am taking an inventory and asking myself if I’ve used the time wisely.

Harvard Business Review comfortingly assures me that a “mid-career crises can happen to anyone.” Mine has me thinking, what really is good work? There are a lot of businesses doing different kinds of work, employing many different people in different roles. There’s a lot of movement and activity in the corporate world, but when I think about how organizations actually add value to society, I come up with only a few basic categories.

Heal and Protect

Healing is good work. And there is a lot of it to do. We need healing of the body. Healing of the mind. Healing of the spirit. Healing for families. Healing for communities. Healing for the environment.

Similarly, I think we can all agree that it is good to protect and defend the vulnerable. Restore what’s broken; correct injustices; provide care, encouragement, and compassion…these are good ways to spend a day.

Obviously, there are dedicated professional roles for this type of work: healthcare professionals, caregivers, ministers, environmentalists, social workers, advocates, and civil servants. Thank you, to those who choose these professions!

To the professionals in other fields: shouldn’t all of us be concerned with the work of healing and protecting? Can we at least agree that we shouldn’t conflict with it? If we look around though, we see business decisions being made every day — directly or indirectly — that marginalize, exploit, injure, and abuse. We justify it by saying they are “leveraging opportunities.” We say, “it’s just business” while we trample and destroy.

Businesses, let’s do better. Let’s adopt the Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm.” Let’s never be so busy ‘winning’ that we are willing to turn a blind eye to injuries we inflict on people or the planet.

Teach and Learn

E.F. Schumacher wrote, “More education can help us only if it produces more wisdom.”

As a mother, one of the great joys of my life is watching my daughter learn. Like most kids, she is eternally curious. She questions everything.

I am reminded of the “noseblind” commercials from Febreeze. My blessed daughter reminds me daily of things that I have gone blind to because I’ve accepted that’s just the way they are. Or maybe, alarmingly, I have insulated myself enough that I am numb to them. “Why is that man sleeping under the bridge? Why can’t we bring him home with us? Couldn’t he sleep on the couch? Why can’t she marry her girlfriend? How can she have a baby when she’s in high school? Why can’t she go back home with her parents? Why do we have to wear clothes? Why can’t I have a pet wolf?”

“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” – Maria Montessori

A great way to spend a career would be to seek out truths and help others understand more deeply. Coaches, scientists, researchers, preachers, gurus, and teachers, of course all do this as a part of their daily grind.

How should the rest of us think about teaching and learning? Business leaders are fond of saying they love to learn. Don’t we love to “push the envelope”? We’re always innovating. We go to school until we’ve reached middle age and have 27 initials after our names. Are we becoming more wise in the process?

Most of my life, I’ve thought of learning as a necessary step to prepare for a job. I’ve only just started to prioritize learning, not just to acquire knowledge, but to enrich the soul.

One great joy of being human is that there is always something more to learn. A bit of biblical text that is frequently overlooked and underappreciated says, “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” 1 Cor 8:2

Einstein agreed: “Wisdom is not a product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

Cultivate and Create

In the beginning “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 1:15. We were made to create and cultivate.

Humans are endowed with the incredible ability to conceive ideas and to make them so with our hands and our minds. The creative work of a human is a miraculous gift.

Professionally, these are the manufacturers, artists, musicians, farmers, craftspeople, culinarians, developers, inventors. Many makers use their gifts to make good things. They respect their materials, and cultivate or shape them into things that can nourish the body and soul, assist or enrich life.

Let’s not let greed kill value. Too often, we misuse our skills by cutting corners and reducing quality so that we can increase production and consumption. Anyone who’s bought a washing machine in the last ten years knows this to be true. A 30-year old washing machine is still going strong. Washing machines today apparently have an innovative self-destruct feature that deploys 13 days after the warranty period ends.

When we make things that are disposable, we consume but are left empty. When we make good things well, we satisfy the soul.

Support and Sustain

The work of supporting and sustaining can be good and important work. Businesses in a support role help get things/people/ideas to and fro. They facilitate. They communicate. They provide tools, resources, and infrastructure. They empower the workers and the process. They invest and provide funding.

I have spent most of my career in marketing. In my mind, this fits generally into the “support/sustain” bucket. The work of a marketer is to create awareness and communicate value to hep businesses earn customers. I can choose to put my efforts into organizations that prioritize healing, wisdom or creativity. If I’m doing my job well, I can create messages that promote healing instead of injury. I can help educate instead of manipulate. Maybe I could even do something creative. Not a bad way to spend a day, I suppose.

Choose How You Invest

Let’s say that my employer takes that revenue and uses it to work toward healing, wisdom or creativity. The business provides good and fair-paying jobs so that others can join this healing and restoring work.

Now, what if my employer does not do these things? What if employees are treated unfairly? What if injustices in the supply chain are tolerated? What if half-truths are told in order to manipulate others?

I have made a choice to invest in my employer. In the first case, I am a good steward of my resources. In the second case, I am not.

The conclusion I come to is that if we value revenue more than people, we impoverish not only our society, but our own souls as well. If we value people and put our efforts toward healing, wisdom and creativity, we enrich our society and we flourish in the ways that matter.