Every week on The Primer we ask a local business or product to introduce themselves in eight simple takes. This week we talk to Kristy Lorson, the founder of popular Facebook group Zero Waste in NZ! about her latest business venture, EarthSavvy.
ONE: How did EarthSavvy start and what was the inspiration behind it?
We all like to think of ourselves as being ‘greenies’ and I’ve always tried to tread lightly on the planet. But to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve always been that effective. When it comes to big environmental issues, I’ve mostly felt pretty helpless and appalled by our society’s lack of action.
After my daughter appeared on the scene, I did my best to be a ‘green mum’ with cloth nappies and homemade baby food, but it wasn’t until I happened upon a book called Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson that the lightbulb went off. I finally understood how I was connected to the problem of overconsumption and how I could be part of the solution. So I began to transform our household, replacing nasty old disposable products with sustainable reusable alternatives.
Our family (myself, my husband and our daughter who’s now five) used to throw out a standard-sized rubbish bag once a fortnight. Now, it takes us nearly two years to fill a wheelie bin. When I first started to reduce our waste, I found it a bit time-consuming and expensive to gather the resources to help to make this lifestyle possible. So I thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if that process was streamlined in the form of a helpful, well-priced. one-stop zero waste shop?’ Enter EarthSavvy, named after my daughter (Savana, or Savvy to her friends).
TWO: Did you have any interest/experience in business or entrepreneurship prior to starting EarthSavvy?
None! The entrepreneurial world is a completely new experience for me. It’s been a huge learning curve so far and I’m thoroughly relishing the challenge. The reason I started EarthSavvy was not out of some burning desire to be an entrepreneur (although it is a pretty exciting adventure and it’s great to be my own boss). It’s awfully cheesy, but I just want to make the world a better place for my daughter and her friends.
THREE: What sort of products does EarthSavvy offer and what sort of materials are they made out of?
Most household waste comes from the kitchen, so that’s where we’ve focused our product range to begin with. We’re launching with ‘zero waste survival kits’ containing reusable produce bags, bulk food bags, cotton cleaning cloths, folding stainless steel cutlery sets and an EarthSavvy badge, all bundled up in your choice of a stainless steel lunchbox or an organic cotton tote bag. The products are also available for purchase separately. EarthSavvy products are made from materials that are either recycled, biodegradable or endlessly recyclable.
FOUR: A lot of the products EarthSavvy offers are similar to everyday products people have at home but maybe don’t bother to use for waste reduction purposes. Why do you think EarthSavvy products help to encourage a zero-waste lifestyle more so than regular tote bags, lunchboxes etc?
If you already have these products at home, you don’t need to go out and buy anything new. The whole point of zero waste living is to conserve resources. Use what you have! However, if you’re in need of tools to help you reduce your waste, EarthSavvy is here to help. I did a huge amount of research to find products that were good quality, purpose-built and would make it easier to live this lifestyle. Lots of thought has been put into what materials we use and making sure we strike a balance between sustainability and affordability.
In order for the zero waste movement to grow, we need to make sure that it’s achievable for everyday New Zealanders. For example, with our reusable produce bags and bulk food bags, we’ve opted to use rPET (recycled plastic bottles) as we want people to be able to take them supermarket shopping without adding extra cost to their grocery bill for the weight of their bags. We’ve been living this lifestyle for over three years now and have a fair idea of what works and what doesn’t, and the items that we stock are ones that we use daily in our own lives. Every product in the EarthSavvy range is there because it will reduce waste, not just greenwash your life or make your house pretty.
FIVE: You’ve mentioned that you and your family take nearly two years to fill up a wheelie bin. What would be your advice to people who also want to dramatically reduce their waste footprint?
A good place to start is to look in your bin to see what your biggest waste items are, or you might find it helpful to make a list of consumable items that you purchase before starting to look for zero waste alternatives (you may discover that many of your usual purchases can be eliminated altogether). If you need something, ask yourself whether it’s possible to use what you already have or borrow from someone else. If it’s something that you need to buy, opt for good quality secondhand products if possible and choose materials that are either biodegradable, endlessly recyclable or made of recycled materials (plastic can only be recycled a few times so it’s a good one to steer clear of). There are lots of fantastic resources available, from books to websites and YouTube videos. Here’s a list to get you started. You might also like to check out our handy zero waste room-by-room guide and join the 15,000+ Kiwis in our Facebook group, Zero Waste in NZ!
SIX: What do you think is the biggest waste-related issue in New Zealand today and what would be your solution to combatting it?
I think New Zealand’s biggest issues relate to our overconsumption and disposable culture. We’ve been sucked into this crazy idea that we need all of this stuff to make us happy, but there are plenty of studies that show that our stuff is not making us any happier. We’re consuming resources at a rate that our planet just can’t sustain. New Zealand was recently named the most wasteful country in the developed world (per capita) which is a far cry from the 100% pure, clean, green brand that we promote ourselves as.
Quite simply, we can’t continue to plunder the earth, fuel climate change and leave a trail of waste behind for future generations to deal with. We have to leave our disposable culture behind. The good news is that for pretty much every product you can think of, there’s a money-saving, planet-saving, reusable alternative. Living zero waste doesn’t require any major sacrifices. It’s actually an incredibly satisfying creative challenge that reconnects us to the planet and each other.
SEVEN: Do you have any other plans to scale/grow further and if so, what are they?
We’re planning to offer more products in the future, but the aim is to keep the range pretty tight and focused on reusables that will reduce waste. We’re also super keen to do more in the education sector and continue providing zero waste workshops to people around the Auckland region.
EIGHT: Lastly, tell us about a start-up or business that you really admire right now.
There are so many great social enterprises – it’s hard to pick just one! I do love the work MyCup is doing at the moment though, with their ‘buy one give one’ initiative. They provide free menstrual cups to community organisations who then distribute the cups to people in need. How awesome is that?
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