EU OR NOT, LONDON SHOWS US ITS GREEN SIDE
Hello readers! We have all been waiting & doing a warm up to ready for the London vs. Paris green startups face-off – a friendly duel to see which city has a stronger start-up culture in the green space (pollution as we know is no more the bane of Asian countries only). In round one, the London-based blog Ethical Unicorn founder Francesca Willow introduces us to five of her favorite startups from the city. So hear the bell ring and here goes! Over to Fran!
Ethical Unicorn rainbow of hope amid the London gloom
Fran started as ethical blogger a few months back to document & share with others her Zero waste journey. The aim of her site – Ethical Unicorn – is to bring to people info & tips on zero waste, cruelty-free ethical Fashion & Beauty. Read more from her in her own words:
London is a bit of a crazy place to live. There are a ton of reasons why it’s wonderful, there’s always something to see or do and you’re truly at the heart of what’s going on in the country, but there are also plenty of things that make it tough too. It’s a hectic life full of rushing around and commuting and it doesn’t exactly feel like a green, tranquil home. In fact it’s pretty dirty. I was actually a bit scared to look up the information but our air quality is some of the worst in the world, and let’s not even talk about how much trash we produce. My train ride to work involves riding past a landfill and well, it’s not pretty. But with all that being said there are some businesses that are determined to change things, led by passionate and intelligent people who are working hard to make London greener. Today I’m going to tell you about my five current favourites.
So those of you who are familiar with my site, Ethical Unicorn, will probably know how much I love Blanc; I stumbled in whilst walking past about a month ago and have been hooked ever since. BLANC is an eco-friendly dry cleaners set up by Frenchman Ludovic Blanc and his wife Mathilde in 2013.
Now I didn’t know this before I spoke to them myself but it turns out regular dry cleaning is awful, it relies on soaking clothes in a petroleum-based solvent called Perchlorethylene, or “Perc” as it’s often known. Perc is highly toxic, a well known carcinogen and a renowned air, soil and water pollutant, it’s banned in countries like France and Denmark but not in the UK. In fact, when Ludovic started hiring workers, of those who had previously worked in other dry cleaners many had permanently lost their sense of smell because of the solvent, and this is what we’ve been using to clean our clothes.
BLANC provides a better solution: they use only non-toxic, biodegradable natural detergents and pure water in low energy machines, they’re paper and plastic free, conducting all administration online and using only biodegradable packaging, and they’re meticulous with quality control. At every stage in the process they check the clothes they’re washing, if they’re not satisfied they’ll wash it again. They also have a 24-hour store and a delivery and collection service, so they work well around the busy London schedule. Their commitment to a better planet, better quality and better service has led to them being noticed by publications such as Vogue, The Guardian and Vanity Fair to name a few. The London Evening Standard called them London’s best dry cleaner. When it comes to the future they’ve started work on an 8000 square foot factory in Park Royal, meaning they’ll be able to scale up, open more stores and reach more people by coming to them and they have big dreams of expanding all over London, the UK, and maybe even the rest of Europe. They already have people coming from far and wide across London to use their services, whether it be for the eco-friendly methods or the superior customer service, it seems the only way is up for this company!
Tiny Leaf began as an experiment, a 3-month pop-up that took London by storm. Founded by Alice Gilsenan and Justin Horne after Justin learned about the concept of zero waste restaurants in Europe and visited burning man in the USA. When he came back to London he started looking for something similar only to discover there was nothing here and so, alongside Alice, began working to set something up himself.
With this, Tiny Leaf was born: London’s only organic, vegetarian, zero waste restaurant. The menu took root in organic surplus food stock given by food suppliers, supermarkets, farms, distributors and retailers, with organic wines, beers and cocktails to match. They found that, whilst mega UK supermarkets were initially more hesitant to partner with them, smaller businesses such as Plant Organic and supermarket suppliers were keen to get on board, supplying their ‘waste’ food that was actually fine to eat and completely edible. Wonky fruit and veg became beautiful vegetarian dishes, stale pieces bread became a gorgeous bread and butter pudding. The kitchen and the bar were always in conversation; for example if a large amount of lemons came in one day the kitchen would use these in the menu but the bar would also use them to make limoncello on site, nothing was wasted.
As well as fighting food waste Tiny Leaf was also waste free in setting up their premises. They were a three month pop-up taking over a space as opposed to setting up a new one, they got the keys 10 days before the soft launch and inherited a lot of materials and furniture that didn’t exactly match the Tiny Leaf stripped back aesthetic. In the spirit of zero waste they upcycled everything they inherited instead of buying new, creating an ethical, zero waste dream.
Whilst they’ve since shut the doors on their current premises this is only the beginning for Tiny Leaf; due to their overwhelming success they’re looking for new premises in central London, making them easier to reach than ever, as well as talking to investors and developing the next steps for the business. On top of that they were approached by publishers for a zero waste cookbook of which you can find few recipes here! As well as being full of recipes it encourages readers to cook intelligently, planning menu design and thinking ahead to avoid food waste, as well as encouraging a zero waste lifestyle. What’s not to love!
Ooh I really love this one! OLIO, which was founded by Tessa Cook and Saasha Celestial-One started as an a Whatsapp trial in North London but soon evolved into a product trending at the top of the UK app store.
The OLIO app is a free network and resource that connects people and businesses with each other to share surplus edible food. Going on holiday and have a ton of food you just can’t finish? All you do is take a picture of it, post to OLIO and any OLIO user nearby can see it, contact you directly through the app, and stop by to collect it. If local shops have unsold inventory nearing the end of its shelf life they can also post these (for free or with a large discount) to stop them going in the bin too, stopping waste and growing their own businesses in the process as they connect with potential customers.
After reaching one thousand downloads in the first month OLIO rolled out across all of London at the end of 2015, and on June 9th officially launched in 33 new countries including the US, EU, South Africa, Namibia, Australia and New Zealand. It seems there’s a lot of people out there that are as keen as me not to waste food. I love this concept on so many levels, as someone who travels a lot I always have food I’m giving away and as someone who’s been working to go zero waste I love to see nothing wasted. But I also love OLIO because it’s great to see two women leading the charge in making society less wasteful, props to boss ladies making the world better, and through such an intelligent yet simple idea too. It seems like OLIO and the Tiny Leaf cookbook are a match made in zero waste heaven.
For more tips on how you can kickstart your Zero Waste journey with zero time-taking choices, here’s what founder Mirela suggests.
Ok these guys aren’t technically a start up, but I had to include them because I love them so much.
TRAID started back in 1999 and is a charity all about reusing textiles. TRAID stands for Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development, they aim to divert textiles from landfill, educate people on reuse/mending/the environment, and with the money raised put it back into the textile industry, for example, funding a cotton farm to become organic. Ultimately they want to reduce the amount people consume when it comes to fashion and therefore create less waste going into landfill, and educate people on environmental and ethical issues in fashion.
With donation banks all over the country as well as home collections, TRAID takes people’s old clothing, hand sorts it by category and then re-sells it in their stores, with all money earned being used to make the textile industry better, as well as running regular workshops on upcycling and making clothes last longer. They also launched #Secondhandfirst in 2014, with the goal of increasing the number of people committed to sourcing more of their clothes (and their general needs) second hand. The world already has a lot of stuff in it, and TRAID wants to ‘change the world by keeping the resources we already have in use for longer.’ Signing the #Secondhandfirst pledge on the TRAID website is simply a commitment to sourcing more of your wardrobe second hand, whilst #Secondhandfirst week is a whole week of events and actions across the UK and the world to focus on the environmental and ethical importance of second hand shopping. As a devoted charity shopper I’ve been a long time fan of TRAID, as an environmental enthusiast, I love them even more.
Half business, half art, Maria Papadimitriou has found a way to make plastic last longer as unique jewellery pieces. After studying fine art she lived with a friend who was thorough in her approach to the recycling bins, meaning they would end up with boxes full of non-recyclable bits such as plastic bottles tops. Maria soon fell in love and decided these could not simply go to landfill, and so Plastic Seconds came into being, a place where each bit of plastic can become something new and exciting. Normal pieces of plastic that no one would even think of before throwing away are rescued and repurposed: soy sauce fish containers become a necklace, bottle tops become rings, pen lids become earrings.
Plastic Seconds has a way of looking at an ordinary item and seeing what it can become, whilst simultaneously keeping plastic out of landfill and protecting the planet! As Maria says on her website ‘I have also noticed that they have mood enhancing super powers! You will be swimming in compliments from strangers all day long AND you will make LOTS of people smile, which feels GREAT!’ As well as creating unique jewellery that makes the planet and the people on it happier, Maria also runs a variety of workshops so people can learn how to make their own jewellery from found objects, whilst also helping to re-examine their approaches to plastic. Sign me up please!
You know, it can sometimes feel a bit doom and gloom when we read about the environment these days, like everything is constantly getting worse and we’re totally helpless. But initiatives like these five just show that little by little people are waking up to the world and our responsibility to look after it. Each small change from one of us has such huge impact collectively, and the companies listed above are making those changes easier for Londoners to make. Yes, London’s environmental impact isn’t so good right now, but I truly believe that, through the work of these organisations and the willingness for us all to get on board, things are going to get a whole lot better. Hooray for innovators who turn difficulty into creative opportunity to make a change! If you want to see more of the London eco-friendly journey, you can always read about mine at www.ethicalunicorn.com
Until next time, stay magic y’all.
So there are five of Fran’s favorite green startups. And honestly we are quite bowled over with the varied fields in which it’s possible to go greener. Especially the Dry cleaners Blanc (with a little french touch in there 😉 ! Now it’s Paris’ turn to prove it’s green mettle.
For TOP 5 Paris green Startup picks by founder Mirela, read here!