Dynamic Earth stock room manager Tom Lampe, left, and store manager Laird Jones hang Green Circle's LEED-Platinum plaque in the outdoor gear store. Next to the LEED plaque is a certificate from SNews and Backpacker magazines recognizing Dynamic Earth's sustainable practices.
Dynamic Earth stock room manager Tom Lampe, left, and store manager Laird Jones hang Green Circle's LEED-Platinum plaque in the outdoor gear store. Next to the LEED plaque is a certificate from SNews and Backpacker magazines recognizing Dynamic Earth's sustainable practices.
While Matt O’Reilly was surprised when his store, Dynamic Earth, was nominated by customers for Retailer of the Year honors for sustainability, clinching the win really caught him off guard.

The award was presented by SNews and Backpacker magazines Jan. 21 at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City, Utah. Other retailers nominated for recognition included Backwoods Outdoor Clothing and Gear, Backcountry.com and Midwest Mountaineering.

“We really didn’t expect to win. There were so many huge retailers up against us,” O’Reilly said. “We were literally just sitting in the corner at the awards presentation and were really excited when they announced we had won.”

Other award categories included an overall Retailer of the Year and honors for conservation, youth involvement and online retail. More than 100 retailers were nominated overall, and selections were made by a panel of judges.

Earth-friendly business
Dynamic Earth sells specialty outdoor equipment, including kayaks, backpacks, tents and clothing, all designed for those who want to get outside and enjoy nature. A second store opened in 2007 in Overland Park, Kan.

O’Reilly said the sustainability honor fits with the company’s mission to help preserve the environment, and its motto, “Leave no trace.”  

“I don’t want to do business if we can’t do business with our sustainable ethics,” said O’Reilly, who opened Dynamic Earth in 2003 after graduating from Colorado State University.

From the beginning, O’Reilly said he worked to make Dynamic Earth more environmentally friendly, from recycling to turning off all electronics, including computers, at night. He participates in speaking engagements, and the stores recycle plastic bags and have a Never Buy a Box initiative, reusing all cardboard boxes for shipping.

Two years ago, O’Reilly upped the green ante, moving Springfield’s Dynamic Earth to Green Circle Shopping Center. Located at 1110 E. Republic Road, Green Circle is O’Reilly’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-Platinum retail development. It’s one of only 16 core and shell projects in the U.S. to hold platinum certification and reportedly the only LEED-Platinum retail center.

The $3.5 million, 23,000-square-foot center, designed by Hufft Projects LLC, has recycled wood composite siding, geothermal heating and cooling, a cistern for water collection, and a green roof with a rooftop garden.  

O’Reilly said his store’s new location in Green Circle is partly responsible for the retailer’s sales growth. He said Dynamic Earth had revenues of more than $2.5 million in 2009, a 16 percent increase compared to 2008. So far in 2010, he said, the business has recorded a 20 percent increase in monthly sales compared to monthly totals a year ago.

For Mike Donnelly, a Dynamic Earth customer since the store opened, the store’s sustainability efforts are a key selling point.

“I find it really admirable that they invested more than they needed to help out with the stewardship of the earth. It really influences my decision to shop there,” he said. “They’re one of the companies here that have shifted more from a model of being totally profit-driven and more aware of their connection to the community and to the world.”

That kind of impact is what earned the sustainability award for Dynamic Earth, said Marcus Wolf, senior editor of SNews – which stands for Specialty News – a trade publication for outdoor retailers and manufacturers.

“Not only has Dynamic Earth built their own sustainable business, the owner has helped influence and educate others on how a business can be sustainable and still be profitable,” Wolf said.

A ‘kick in the pants’
Even with low-impact business operations and development of a LEED-certified shopping center under his belt, O’Reilly’s not finished with sustainability efforts. He said there’s always more that can be done – and that the award gave him a “kick in the pants to spring forward with other initiatives.”

One initiative might be a separate entity – possibly a nonprofit – aimed at educating the community about sustainability. There’s definitely demand for that education, as O’Reilly said people are often interested in touring Green Circle to learn more about its green features.

He envisions the new entity sponsoring 10 events a year between the two Dynamic Earth stores.

“The events will have nothing to do with what we sell at the store, but if we do it right, we can gain an inherent buy-in from our customers,” he said.

Another idea in the works involves an adopt-a-highway roadside cleanup program, with discount coupon rewards for customers who participate in the initiative. Another might be store-sponsored recycling days during which customers can bring in recyclable items and receive coupons, or garden contests based on photos of customers’ plants.

That O’Reilly is beginning to think of his next step in being even more sustainable isn’t a surprise to Donnelly.

“They always seem to stay on the absolute cutting edge of sustainable efforts,” he said. “I trust they will always do the best they can.”