Every brand’s journey to eliminate plastic is unique. Whether it is born out of the inspiration to eliminate a plastic need, or it evolves into wanting to reduce use altogether, all roads can be challenging.
Coconut Bowls’ journey is no different. They are on a mission to replace plastic with natural products and in doing so inspire a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. The story of Coconut Bowls began when Australian digital nomad Jake McKeon was on a surfing/backpacking journey. During this trip, he witnessed the enormous amount of plastic pollution everywhere he traveled: on the beaches of Central America, down the coast of Southern California, and all around Europe.
Coincidentally, during his travels Jake had noticed something else too: discarded coconut shells that happened to be naturally shaped like a bowl, no plastic needed.
After doing some research, Jake learned that billions of shells were going to waste every year as a bi-product of the coconut industry. He had an idea: if he could take this natural shell, give it a purpose that replaced the need for plastic bowls and then compost it back into the earth at the end of its life, then a beautiful and sustainable loop would be created. With that, Coconut Bowls was born.
Each year, billions of coconuts grow and are harvested for their water and white meat – unfortunately, 99% of coconut shells go to waste. Disposing of these shells usually means burning them, which releases carbon dioxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere.
Coconut Bowls mitigates this effect by reclaiming these waste coconut shells and turning them into a resource. As a result, using no plastic, Coconut Bowls is able to make bowls, cutlery and straws from 100% natural products that will biodegrade in your home compost or the green waste bin.
For packaging, Coconut Bowls uses reusable boxes as well as recyclable and compostable paper. However, that’s just the start of their commitment. They have also partnered with sustainable packaging company No Issue, and members of their Eco-Packaging Alliance. Through this program, every time Coconut Bowls ships a product in sustainable, eco-friendly packaging, the Alliance plants trees in areas of the world that need it most.
In addition to being able to aid reforestation, Coconut Bowls also chose to partner with No Issue for help transforming their petroleum-based dependence into eco-friendly alternatives. No Issue uses only compostable, recycled, and reusable materials, as well as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper and plant-based soy inks.
“We initially began sourcing tissue paper and stickers directly with a supplier in China,” said Coconut Bowls Founder, Jake McKeon. “As a brand, we’re always looking to do better. And once we discovered No Issue, we saw they appeared to share our values and ethics. That made it an easy decision to partner with them to begin producing all of our packaging needs. I cannot speak highly enough of No Issue: their self-serve online solution makes it easy for brands to make a sustainable swap.”
When asked about how brand partners were chosen, McKeon gave some insight into their process. “When looking at brand partners, it’s really important to consider quality and values rather than just price. Often, choosing the sustainable option costs more money, but it’s the right thing to do–and it will add value to your business. Customers increasingly care about conscious brands doing the right thing, and these decisions can help in building your brand and are always worth including in your marketing efforts.”
Coconut Bowls partners with Cool Effect to offset the carbon created from shipping products around the world. Cool Effect is a not-for-profit that provides the opportunity to fund local projects that are scientifically and financially strong.
They also choose localized warehouses in major regions and transport products by sea rather than air to keep carbon emissions as low as possible.
“Shipping is a huge challenge for brands wanting to be sustainable, or as sustainable as possible,” McKeon explained. “Finding fulfillment partners that are as committed to sustainability as us is an ongoing challenge. This year we’ve made huge inroads in removing plastic tape from our shipments. We’re still working on removing it entirely, however, we need to be proud of the 9/10 things we do right. In our discussions with our partners, we try and educate them on how making the change to plastic-free will add value to their business and be an attraction to conscious brands like Coconut Bowls. It is all about education and helping guide them in the right direction with mutual sustainability goals.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR COCONUT BOWLS?
“With the 100% elimination of plastic tape on the horizon, we continue our focus to develop more sustainable solutions to replace single-use, sourcing natural materials that don’t harm the environment and also continue to provide a livelihood for the artisans we work with” McKeon explained.
“As modern businesses, it’s our responsibility to do things better than those before us. The small additional cost into being sustainable is better than the cost otherwise to the environment, and rather should be treated as an investment into your brand.”
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