How many business ideas have originated in a pub?
It was a Tuesday; I had been at my new job working on the production line of a Christmas hamper company for only two days, yet the tedium was already taking its toll. I headed to a local establishment for a couple of cold ones with my friends. Due to COVID, all graduate job prospects looking as weak as Carling on tap; it was lining up to be a seemingly sombre meet. This was, however, a turning point in my life and the start of what is now SustainaBox.
The Lightbulb Moment
It was a lightbulb moment, although perhaps not the sort I can imagine Einstein or Newton having. There I was, trying to explain this idea that sprung into my mind… I was doing a poor job of it. For reasons unknown I kept talking about watches made of wood, hardly the stuff of Einstein. No doubt my friends were thinking “not this again…”. After all, this wouldn’t be my first failed venture. In 2017 I tried to persuade my friends to ship a load of SD cards back from Singapore to the UK. After being ridiculed out of setting up my SD card empire, I settled on bringing some bloody awful jackets back from India. They’re still sitting in my loft (if you want to fit in at the next Extinction Rebellion march, I’ve got the jacket for you).
But this idea had butterflies fluttering in my stomach. For some reason I knew there might be a seed of hope in my, admittedly, jumbled up thoughts. Looking back it's clear that there were three main influences that lit up my lightbulb that day.
I must first thank the national treasure that is David Attenborough for my first influence. In recent years he has enlightened us on not just the beauty of nature, but also the importance of environmental protection. Like many of you reading this, it left me in awe. Yet, I couldn't shrug off my underlying feelings of guilt and sadness as to my inability to make a difference. Like many I tried changing my day-to-day habits. But I couldn’t afford a Tesla, I couldn’t dictate to my parents what to cook or make them replace their boiler with solar panels. I started to question the worth of my actions. But it was this exact feeling that inspired me to place tree planting at the heart of SustainaBox. Planting trees gives you the power to make a change, to make a real and substantial impact that will last for decades to come.
The Value of Giving
As with many things in my life, the second influence came from my brother. In recent years he’s asked for a donation to a charity instead of presents. This hit home for me.
How many times have you got more pleasure from giving a present rather than receiving one? How much better do you feel when you know you’ve helped someone who needed it? Typically, I’m not much of an idealist. But I couldn’t help thinking how much better things could be if my brother’s actions were common practice.
Time for an introduction to social entrepreneurship. Social enterprises are a new type of business that balances purpose and profit, using business to achieve a mission, using business for betterment. Whether it’s donating the profits to a cause, or employing those who are disadvantaged, these practices raise solutions to real life issues. Now it doesn’t matter if you’re the giver, or the recipient, social enterprises allows you to have a positive impact.
Room for Improvement
The third influence came from the Christmas hamper company I was working for at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want this to seem like me slating them and jumping up on my high horse. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. On the whole they are above the industry average in terms of commercial waste management.
But that was the problem. The amount of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable and general waste still going to landfill was shocking (if you want to see a real s**t show of “environmentally friendly” packaging, look up OXO-biodegradation). Commercial practices are moving in the right direction, but they’re lagging, by a disturbing amount.
That’s why every piece of our own packaging is sustainable, biodegradable and compostable. To reduce our own waste, we’re reusing the packaging sent to us from our suppliers to protect your SustainaBox during delivery.
Perhaps I should focus on getting through Christmas unscathed first, but that’s not exactly in my nature. I guess there’s a fine line between ambition and naivety. But my vision is to create a platform in which consumers can substitute their purchases with better, more sustainable products. Integrating tree planting into this platform allows consumers to reduce their carbon footprint significantly whilst also improving the ecosystems around us. It’s just as easy as pressing a button.