In support of Plastic Free July, we’re showcasing a few of our small business customers who are embracing sustainability as part of their business model.
CaliWoods is a Social Enterprise that provides eco-alternatives for everyday plastic items. We talk to founder, Shay Lawrence, about how her business is helping to eliminate single-use plastic.
State of the environment around the world a catalyst for change
Travelling around the world after finishing university opened Shay’s eyes to the state of the environment. An avid surfer, she was horrified to find that plastic pollution littered even the most untouched pieces of ocean.
“I was fortunate enough to work in the super yacht industry, which landed me on patches of isolated, tropical sand,” she says. “It was truly shocking to see human consumption and plastic pollution follow us to these places. There were bottle caps, straws and bags – showing that we really haven’t left any stone unturned.”
The realisation hit Shay hard. When she returned to New Zealand after six years abroad, she set out to make a positive difference to the environment.
“I knew that I wanted to try and inspire some positive change in the sustainability space. CaliWoods has been the voice thus far.”
Social enterprise a great mechanism for positive change
Sustainability isn’t a new concept for Shay. She studied environmental science at university, and says she always had an interest in business, too.
“I find the sustainability space and social enterprise a really great mechanism for positive change. Since starting CaliWoods, I’ve learned that from small actions there can be massive, wide-spread reactions, and change really can happen if we commit to a more sustainable future.”
Eliminating single-use packaging is one easy step that consumers can take to live more sustainably.
“Look at the serial offenders and slowly start to remove each one from your life. It might be disposable coffee cups the first week, plastic bags the next. Making small, achievable goals so that the habits stick.”
Another easy step is to be more aware about what you’re consuming – think about whether you really need it.
“And that goes for CaliWoods products too. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Reducing consumption is one thing individuals can do to make the biggest impact. It stops waste before it begins and helps you to place importance on quality products that will really last,” Shay adds.
Shay says the CaliWoods range has grown over the last year to include stainless pegs, cutlery packs, eco-friendly food wraps and other replacements for plastic. “We launched reusable straws into the market when people didn’t even know what they were. It’s so amazing to see the massive increase in awareness, adoption of habits and the general consensus that we urgently need to step into our role as Guardians of the Earth.”
The big picture
Long-term, Shay hopes to continue to grow the product line. She’s committed to focusing on social enterprise so that the company’s strong purpose is measurably impactful. In just two and a half years, CaliWoods has diverted over 1 million pieces of plastic from being used. The business has also engaged with over 60,000 people about sustainability and plastic pollution.
“Our core mission is to inspire sustainable lifestyles. I’m focused on CaliWoods being a source of information and a thought-leader in the sustainability space. We are a place that people can come to for reliable eco-tips and sustainable living ideas. This helps us to all be more informed and work towards more responsible lifestyle choices.”
Nationwide, Shay would like to see necessary steps taken on the consumer, business and government level to set ourselves up for a circular economy in the waste space, achieving climate change related emissions goals and protection of our precious and unique natural environments.
Adjust our mindset for positive impact
“In 20 years the change I would like to see is our relationship to ‘stuff’ working in harmony with the natural environment, rather than in an exploitative way. Effectively, a carbon zero economy with value placed on quality, minimal consumption and circular use of resources,” Shay continues.
“This is going to take a massive mindset shift and change within our system to take into account the ‘True Cost’. We must consider the environmental cost in every item we use, the way we move, what we wear.”
“The scale at which we currently manufacture everything is almost unfathomable. To get to where we need to be, change is going to have to be huge as well as rapid. I’m not sure if 20 years is realistic, but if we all focus on our little part, as businesses and as individuals, our collective action will for sure have a positive impact that at least is heading in the right direction.”
“We invented ourselves into this situation – human ingenuity and an openness to adapt will be the thing that gets us out.”