We are very excited to share that we now have a special kiosk in the EcoCenter with sustainable living products, books, and toys. Reach & Teach is a peace and social justice learning company dedicated to transforming the world through teachable moments. The co-founders, Craig Wiesner, and Derrick Kikuchi launched Reach & Teach in 2004 as a subsidiary of their award-winning educational consulting company, WKMN Training, LLC.
WKMN Training started out teaching kids about the problems in the world through open dialogue that doesn’t just deny the challenges we are facing. This came together as a mission to transform the world through teachable moments.
They want all people to know that they can make a difference in the world and, through their company, provide them with the tools to do so. Reach & Teach is a treasure hunter, searching the planet for that special something that mainstream bookstores won’t promote. Whether the products come from a non-profit or a small publisher, we see our job as making sure that great content can be found under one virtual roof.
I asked Craig Wiesner some questions about the company and their interest in sustainable living as part of their mission. Here is my interview with Craig
What prompted you to expand your offering at the store to include products for environmental sustainability when your initial focus is on social justice and peace?
The intersectionality between creating a more peaceful and just world and sustaining a healthy environment was always clear to us. The health of the planet impacts those at the margins much more quickly and severely than it does those who have more privilege. One of our earliest inspirations was an organization called YUCA (Youth United for Community Action) in East Palo Alto, which through grassroots activism succeeded in shutting down Romic, a hazardous waste toxic plant which would never have been allowed to operate in a wealthier community. Some of our earliest offerings in our store included books for kids and curriculum for schools covering ways to protect and heal the planet. We’ve also made being green a core value for every aspect of our business, becoming one of the first businesses in San Mateo County to be certified as green, receiving the Sustainable San Mateo award a few years ago, and being a Green Business Network member for nearly two decades.
How do you choose the products that you bring into the store and how did you decide which ones are featured in the Kiosk?
Naturally, as a retail business, our first mission is to meet the needs of the customers who shop with us. When choosing our books, toys, games, fair-trade gifts, and lifestyle products, we curate from the plethora of products in the world to find those that are the highest quality, unique, impactful, beautiful and fun. We want people to walk out of our shop smiling, knowing they’ve found something special for themselves or someone in their lives that will be treasured. We are equally mindful of how products are made and by whom. Products we offer need to be ethically manufactured by people who are paid living wages, who have good working conditions, by companies that have a clear commitment to sustainability.
We chose products for the kiosk that we felt would match the sensibilities of those who would take time out of their lives to volunteer someplace dedicated to the environment, and others who love the beauty of the Baylands and might stop by the center as part of a lovely hike. We looked around our shop and asked ourselves, what would folks who were visiting the center find interesting, useful, and fun?
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing consumers who want to make ecologically sustainable choices and how do you solve it.
The biggest challenge consumers face is the disconnect between caring about the environment and “consuming.” Over-consumption, careless consumption, conspicuous consumption are behaviors that those who are passionate about the environment avoid. How does that jive with shopping? That’s one of the struggles we face running a retail business in this age. Our response is to be zealous in our curation of products, making sure that what we offer is truly special, made to last, and made in a way that recognizes today’s challenges to the planet and its people. We also choose products that can give people an “aha” moment, suddenly opening their eyes to the wonder and majesty of nature. Our smartphone microscope, for example, does just that. A family taking a hike through the Baylands stumbles across a plant that looks interesting and someone pops the microscope onto their smartphone, takes a few pictures, and then goes home. Later, they share the incredibly detailed and beautiful image of that plant on Facebook and…. hundreds or thousands of people discover the intricate beauty of that plant which they might never have seen but for a family taking a hike with a product they bought from the center’s kiosk.
One last thing I’ll share about consumption is the desire of so many of our customers to be able to buy products in bulk, refilling containers instead of constantly buying products in new containers. For around eight years now our shop in San Mateo has offered soap refills for laundry soap, dish soap, shampoo and conditioner. Customers bring in their empty containers and we fill them up, with soaps that are eco-friendly and reasonably priced. These days plastic containers that are tossed into the recycle bin are, more often than not, not really being recycled. It is much better to refill them!
What can visitors to your store expect?
People tell us that our store is an oasis of peace, a place where the worries of the world drop away, where time stops, peaceful music reduces the stress of life, and where each product has a special story behind it, stories our team loves to share. Customers feel good buying something in our shop because they know how carefully it was chosen and whether they are buying something for themselves or someone they care about, they know that it will be appreciated, treasured. That was our goal, and we work constantly to maintain that. After filling up the kiosk at the center, we stepped outside and breathed the air and stared at the beauty of the Baylands. We felt that peace, heard the voices of nature that could make time stop, and knew that those voices had a special story to tell too. That’s why we’re thrilled to have a little piece of Reach And Teach at the center.
We hope you browse the Kiosk on your next visit to the EcoCenter. The Kiosk runs on the honor system and you can pay by cash, check or credit card. There are more directions at the kiosk.
Visit their online store or their brick and mortar store at
144 W 25th Avenue, San Mateo, CA