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Sustainably Yours: Three green entrepreneurs

As the world looks to reopening, it needs to consider making itself more sustainable. The current form of capitalism is based on profit maximization by selling the lowest-quality product and depending on good branding to get the highest price. This short-term thinking and ‘buy and throw away’ mentality has led us to the climate crisis that we are currently in. However, sustainability doesn’t need to come at the cost of profits and can benefit your brand. 

By Palmer Owyoung

Sunday 13 June 2021, 10:00AM

According to a 2019 survey by Accenture 72% of consumers are buying more sustainable products than they were five years ago and more than half of consumers said they’d be willing to pay more for products that they can reuse or recycle. A 2019 study from New York University found that products that were marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than products that weren’t.

When making your business sustainable, there are three things that you should consider:

1. Your Supply Chain. A 2009 study estimated that 75% of a business’s CO2 emissions are related to its supply chain. This comes from manufacturing, packaging and transporting goods, so, when possible, it is best to buy locally, which is also good for the economy.

2. The quality or durability of your product. Most companies don’t build products to last and design them to be impossible to repair when they break down, which is good for the manufacturer’s bottom line, but bad for the environment.

3. What happens to the product and/or the packaging at the end of its lifespan? If it’s disposed of in a landfill, then it’s not sustainable.

Here are three businesses in Phuket that have adopted sustainability into the ethos of their brand.

Vegan Booty and VeganReady are owned by serial entrepreneur Christina Wylie. The Vegan Booty is a restaurant in Chalong that sells burgers, pizza, chicken nuggets, ice cream and other indulgent plant-based comfort foods. VeganReady is a startup that sells a variety of frozen ready-to-eat meals, sauces, meat replacements and fully prepared meals for restaurants and hotels.

According to a 2018 study from Oxford, eliminating meat and dairy from your diet could reduce your carbon footprint from food by up to 73% and was one of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact on the planet.

Christina sources all ingredients for the meals in Thailand with as much as possible coming from Phuket and even some from the company’s garden. The packaging for VeganReady is made from cornstarch, which you can return to her offices in Phuket Town either in person or by post so that it can be repurposed. 

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The frozen bags are made with paper, which Christina admits doesn’t hold up well in the freezer, so she is always on the lookout for ways to improve the sustainability of her packaging.

Project Rattan was founded by Australian architect Patrick Keane and his wife Juliette Eve. They fuse modern 3D technology and computer-aided design with traditional Thai arts and crafts to produce unique furniture and architectural installations. As the company name implies, they make their products from rattan, a fast-growing palm that is native to Asia.

The strength and pliability of the material make it ideal for creating furniture and it can supplant less sustainable materials like plastic or hardwoods like teak that take a long time to grow. They source their rattan in Thailand and process it using non-toxic methods. Since it comes from trees, it also sequesters carbon rather than emitting it.

The company uses traditional artisans to work on their designs, which helps keep local craft workers employed, in a traditional art form that might otherwise go extinct.

The company’s work has mostly been showcased in upscale restaurants like Spice and Barley or the Vikasa Yoga Retreat, both in Bangkok (See Instagram @projectrattan). However, their company is starting to get international recognition, especially for their unique interior structures, which not only create a pleasing aesthetic but give a building an organic feel to it.

Elleciel a phonetic spelling for the acronym LSCL, which stands for Live Simply Consume Less, is a surfboard shaper based in Nai Harn. David ‘Mousset’ Sautebin, a former Swiss watchmaker, has been in business since 2010. The most sustainable quality of his boards is their durability. Surfboards often only last for one or two years before they need to be replaced. However, David’s boards have been known to go for five years without a ding.

He begins with an expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam blank, that comes from a Thai company. He then laminates the board with a layer of paulownia wood, which not only gives the board a beautiful aesthetic but also acts like a shell to prevent dings and dents. David then covers it with basalt or fiberglass and then coats it with Entropy Resin, which replaces petrochemicals with renewable bio-based ones. The finished product is a surfboard that is not only more durable than a conventionally made one but also looks more like an organic piece of sculpture than a tool for riding waves.

These three green entrepreneurs prove that, although it requires some forethought, it is possible to run a successful and profitable business while keeping it sustainable. We need more businesses in Phuket to follow their example.

Palmer Owyoung is an environmental activist working with the Kamala Green Club and the Global Sustainability Hub.

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