compostable alternative soft plastic

This Kiwi start-up offers a compostable alternative to soft plastic

As the former owner of three busy restaurants in New Zealand, Ben Grant knows a thing or two about the issue of packaging. “We had about 10,000 people moving through our premises every week and around 50% of our customers were ordering takeaway”, he recalls. “Add to that all the packaging that the produce is coming in and you’re dealing with huge piles of rubbish and recycling every day.”

Having always been conscious about the footprint he’s been living, Ben decided to change the packaging industry for the better after he sold his restaurant business in 2018. Together with Josh Kempton he founded Grounded Packaging, a start-up company that is aiming to replace soft plastic with compostable packaging from bio-based materials.

“The reason why we focussed on soft plastic is that it is the most problematic area within our current waste and recycling system”, says Ben.

Ben Grant is the co-founder of Grounded Packaging offering compostable alternatives to soft plastic.
Ben Grant is the co-founder of Grounded Packaging.

Soft plastic cannot be processed through the kerbside recycling system because it gets caught in the machinery (side note: soft plastic can get recycled through RedCycle). At the same time, soft plastic – like most plastics – is made from petrochemicals and is therefore detrimental to the environment in more than one way.

Why we still need packaging

Yet, while the movement against single-use plastic is gathering momentum in some regions, it’s difficult to imagine a modern world without packaging.

“Packaging material fulfils an important role in life – and especially in the food industry”, says Ben. For instance, packaging is known to significantly increase the shelf life of fresh produce which in turn helps to reduce food waste.

Entrepreneurs
Tasmanian Devils

Aussie Ark: Saving Australian wildlife from extinction

Hayley Shute has her hands full as we are about to start our chat. A couple of koalas need her attention before we get the chance to talk about her work at Aussie Ark, a wildlife conservation organisation dedicated to protecting Australia’s endangered species. “That’s one of the things I love most about my job: you never know what they might spring on you next”, she says with a laugh.

With the koalas safely moved, Hayley shares her love for Australian wildlife conservation with infectious enthusiasm. “Most people get so excited about lions and elephants, and other exotic animals from far-flung locations, but we are so lucky to have so many unique animals here in Australia – and we need to do much more to protect them”, she asserts.

As the curator at Aussie Ark, Hayley Shute is working to protect enadangered Australian wildlife
Hayley Shute is the curator at Aussie Ark.

As the curator at the non-for-profit organisation she’s working to save some of Australia’s most vulnerable species from extinction and to educate the public about the need to protect them. “Unfortunately, many people have never heard about some of our most threatened animal species”, she says. “And the less awareness there is, the harder it is to secure their future.”

Saving the Tasmanian Devil

Aussie Ark is a project-based Australian wildlife conservation organisation founded by Australian Reptile Park owners John and Robyn Weigel, and conservationist Tim Faulkner.   

Australian wildlife: Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian Devil is endangered because of a contagious form of facial cancer.

In 2011 they launched Devil Ark with the aim to establish an insurance population of the endangered Tasmanian Devil on the Australian mainland. The iconic marsupial – that now can only be found in Tasmania in the wild – is under threat because of a particular nasty form of cancer called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).

Conservationist
Sarah wants to raise awareness for Australian threatened species

wild_ about Australia’s threatened species

Australia is home to some of the world’s most unique wildlife. Yet, sadly we’re not doing such a great job in protecting the continent’s rare natural environment. More than 1,800 plant and animal species are at risk of becoming extinct and the environment department has admitted to having no clue if Australia’s threatened species plans are actually being implemented.  

Raising awareness for the plight of Australia’s wildlife is something that’s close to Sarah Ash’s heart. A couple of years ago the Queensland based mother, photographer, videographer and musician started wild_ –  a photo project, showcasing Australia’s endangered wildlife.

Eclectus parrot
This Eclectus parrot was more interested in what’s happening behind the camera than posing in front of it.
Image: wild_

Sarah took the time to chat about her creative project.

What motivated you to start wild_?

I started wild_ a few years ago while I was working for an environmental management company. I was doing some research for the company’s social media page and came across all these animals I had never heard about.

These species were also listed as endangered and I wanted to do something to raise awareness. If I hadn’t heard about them, this was probably also true for most Australians. So, I decided to use my skills to try and do something about it.

Koala
Urban expansion continues to threaten Koalas.  Image: wild_
Creatives
Sustainable cities start with communities

Why sustainable urban development requires major philosophical shifts

Bustling streets, tons of creative energy and the promise of new opportunities – large cities have always drawn people like magnets. And while the world’s modern metropolises still lure with the promise of excitement and infinite possibility, they also represent one of the biggest challenges for sustainable development.

According to projections by the United Nations, 68% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. While cities only take up 2% of the world’s surface, they consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It’s inevitable then that any serious attempts to reverse climate change will need to include a framework for sustainable cities.

Gregor Mews is an urban planner and the founder of the Urban Synergies Group. After having studied urban planning and design in Berlin, he travelled the world to learn more about the human condition at different stages of urban development.

Now based in Australia’s capital, Canberra, Gregor is working with local governments, non-government organisations, businesses and UN Habitat to create healthier, more connected and sustainable communities. In short, if you want to have a philosophical discussion about what the future of the city should look like, Gregor is your man!

Gregor Mews talks about the role of cities for a more sustainable future. Image: Urban Synergies Group.

 “We’re at a historical moment in time”, says Gregor about the urgency of the problem. “We have three years to turn the trend in global warming around until we enter the adaptation phase.“ However, to tackle this problem, it would require more than just installing solar panels on rooftops.

It’s in this context that Gregor identifies 3 fundamental shifts required in our thinking that will ultimately lead to sustainable urban development.

1. Putting human needs at the heart of urban planning

Most people will have heard about the Mercer Global Liveability Index that ranks cities based on the quality of life they offer to their citizens.

“The issue with this ranking system is that it’s basically designed for rich minorities – highly educated people with a high socio-economic status who want to travel to and live in those places. But these rankings tell us very little about what ordinary life looks like for the majority”, says Gregor.  “For example, Sydney has often been ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world. But I doubt that most people in Western Sydney would agree with this assessment.”

Thinkers

A.BCH: How one circular fashion brand is looking to change the industry from within

The rise of fast fashion has completely changed the way we buy clothing. Trends come and go at the blink of an eye and ever-lowering price tags mean that it hardly seems worthwhile to repair a garment. The result? Globally one garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second.

Courtney Holm, Founder of A.BCH
A.BCH founder Courtney Holm

For a long time, making more sustainable style choices could seem like an absolute minefield. Fast fashion brands continue to dominate our malls and even if you are prepared to pay more for your clothing it doesn’t necessarily mean that the garments were made from better quality materials or under better conditions.

The good news is that as consumer awareness around the environmental and social impact of their fashion choices is growing, more and more brands are emerging that adopt more sustainable philosophies.

Courtney Holm is a Melbourne-based designer and the founder of Australia’s first circular fashion label A.BCH. Through local sourcing, the use of 100% traceable material and radical transparency, Courtney is looking to offer consumers the opportunity to make better choices and is working to change the fashion industry from within.

Entrepreneurs

Goodments: An ethical investment app for the Netflix era

Shun the plastic bag. Eat less meat. Ride your bike instead of driving. Changing the default in our everyday choices is among the most common advice given to anyone looking to lessen their impact on the planet. And while each of these decisions does reduce our personal carbon footprint a little bit, many people are unknowingly undermining their own efforts to lead a more sustainable life through their investments.

Goodments founders Tom Culver and Emily Taylor
Goodments founder team Emily Taylor and Tom Culver

“It’s all well and good to take your KeepCup to the coffee shop, but if you are still investing in companies that depend on fossil fuels there’s a massive misalignment between your values and how you’re going about securing your future in economic terms”, says Tom Culver. To help bridge this gap, the former wealth and investment manager took a leap of faith at the beginning of 2017 and left his stable career to launch the ethical investment start-up Goodments together with his wife Emily Taylor.

Democratising ethical investing

The idea behind Goodments is simple: make it as easy as possible for anyone to invest in recognisable brands that are aligned with their values. The Sydney-based FinTech company is achieving this through a combination of different strategies.

  1. Ditching the finance jargon

“The world of finance is full of unnecessary complexity and language that is completely meaningless to the majority of people”, explains Tom. “That’s why we decided to move away from talking purely about financial returns to emphasising the impact instead.”

Entrepreneurs