Our Sustainability Story to Combat Plastic Pollution
The story behind how @BambuuBrush® and how our bamboo toothbrushes were created plays a huge role and how we work hard to run as a business and strive to achieve the goals and targets we set to combat plastic pollution. From our years of living and working around the world and witnessing first hand the impacts plastic pollution is having on our planet to drive our passion to combat plastic pollution, to experiencing the generosity of people all around the world in developing countries in which created the motivation and impetus for us to run our company with a huge aspect to give back to those who are vulnerable. All of these elements are crucially important to @BambuuBrush® and to ourselves as Founders in making real positive impacts to our planet.
Although our background's started differently, our passion to travel and travel with open minds to understand the variety of ways to live around the world brought us together.
Once finishing education Rebecca's first instinct was to get out and experience what the world has to offer. After one year of working for Heart radio station and saving the funds Rebecca booked a one way ticket East in which started Rebecca on a journey of 10years living, working and travelling to over 44 different countries. Those 10 years consisted of a range of job roles, climates and experiences from 3years lapping up the beauty of Thailand working in numerous roles in the travel industry to 4years in Sydney sponsored on a skilled working visa where Rebecca met Tommie to another 3years around Asia, Europe and Oceania within the social media industry.
Tommie's route to @BambuuBrush® was slightly different. With Tommie's dream since a young boy to be a PE teacher, he completed university with a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Nutrition and Exercise Science degree and then embarked on a career in the education sector working for one of the UK's leading PE and School Sport Apprenticeship companies for 2years. After a 6month sabbatical travelling around South East and Australia, Tommie knew that he wanted to experience much more of what the world had to offer so booked a one-way flight to Australia and started a new life as a travel agent in Cairns, North Queensland.
We spent a large amount of our time in the most beautiful places in South East Asia, and began to revisit places in which we had travelled in previous years and this is where we started to see first hand the increasing damage plastic pollution is having not only on our environment but to ourselves as humans.
During our time travelling the globe, we have seen a dramatic difference in the quality of the world’s beaches and noticed a steep increase in the amount of plastic pollution ending up on coastlines, and in general in our environment. There are a number of key moments in which turned the tide in our mindset and where we refocused our energy towards making positive impacts to our planet and using our platform on social media to spread that awareness.
The first instance was when we first left Australia, in July 2016, and started to develop our skills in social media and we travelled to the remote Thai Island of, Koh Lipe. Koh Lipe is not one of the popular Thai islands and resides on the border between the south of Thailand and the north of Malaysia. The reason we were visiting was due to when Rebecca had lived in Thailand almost 6years prior, she had travelled to Koh Lipe and had constantly referred to the island as "The most beautiful place she had ever seen", and naturally wanted Tommie to experience it. The island of Koh Lipe was absolutely stunning and true to Rebecca's word it was up there with some of the most pristine waters and incredible views we have witnessed together. Although it was certainly paradise there was such an abundance of plastic pollution arriving on the shores twice a day when the tides are retracted back to the ocean and it was evident that this was a serious problem. Tommie was so shocked at the state of the beaches that it drove Tommie to speak on camera for the first time to highlight "the parts of paradise that you do not see on social media".
Another instance was during one visit to the Philippines at the beginning of 2018 gave us with a heartbreaking image while sat on the sands of Panagsama Beach, Moalboal. This iconic beach is world famous for “The Sardine Run”, and for swarms of jellyfish, with an abundance of jellies in the shallow waters, turtles often flock to the area. I sent up the drone in an attempt to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures from above, and within a minute we spotted two turtles swimming - I was super stoked! Unfortunately the excitement was quickly tarnished, as amongst the coral was an array of plastic bags, cups, straws, and other man-made items floating around. The image of one of the turtles mistaking a plastic bag for a jellyfish and trying to eat it really resonated with me, and we have remembered it ever since.
At that moment, we truly understood the impact that we as human beings have on our natural planet really hit home. Places of natural beauty like Panagsama Beach should be memorable for the endless positives, rather than for sinister images of magnificent species being put at risk due to our own behaviours and materialistic choices. We as humans are destroying some of the worlds endangered mammals and spectacular sea creatures, and we struggle to see this as “natural” in the natural world.
The "straw that broke the camels back" moment during our travels was in Nice, France in the summer of 2018. The majority of our jobs in social media were based around Asia and naively, plastic pollution became the norm and although it was horrible to witness with us seeing this most days it wasn't as hard hitting as the initial instance. Quite negatively in our minds it became "Ahhh it's Asia, plastic pollution is the norm". This is where Nice, France was a game changing moment. We picked up a job to travel around Europe for 8weeks in a campervan visiting 30 different cities, 16 different countries. Throughout this trip we began to understand that plastic pollution is just an "Asian Problem" this was a global nightmare that not many people were addressing. The key moment in Nice was we were out swimming in the sea and then a wave of plastic waste just hit us. Plastic bags, crisp packets, sandwich bags, everything. At this moment we knew that we needed to use our platform on social media in a positive way to educate and inspire people and we needed to look into products that we can help people make simple changes away from plastic.
From that moment we started researching more into plastic pollution it was clear that impacts on our environment were so apparent, and also the negative impacts of plastic pollution on a someone's health. We knew that we needed to work out "HOW" can we combat this.
Here are just a couple of the simple facts that we had found when diving into a number of studies around plastic pollution:
- Studies show that by 2050 there will be more plastic pieces in the ocean than fish and 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste in landfills across the globe that will not biodegrade.
- Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans.
- Approximately 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution is found per mile of beach in the UK and that number is growing.
- 8 million tonnes of plastics enter our ocean every year
- Every minute around the world 1 million plastic bottles are sold
- There are a variety of studies showing a range of quantities from 7,000 to 11,000 to 30,000 pieces of plastic that we consume and ingest each year
- With it being clear that plastics are now fully engulfed in our food chain, there have been studies that have shown plastic ingestion and links to the causes of cardiovascular diseases, cancers and even genome adaptations.
From then on we started to be more specific in our selection with the companies and organisations that we were working with, to make sure the ethics of the business upheld the values of sustainability and plastics. We worked with Intro Travel to develop and launch their socially conscious initiative - Small Change to balance out the impacts travel causes to our planet and environment by giving back.
As we continued to work with companies and organisations in the travel industry to balance out the negative impacts travel has on our planet with positive, give back actions we became more aware that we needed to use our own social media platform and loyal following and get our followers more engaged with plastic pollution and our environment. This was the moment that we began to look into products and a brand that we could take to market to inspire people that we can all make simple changes away from plastic.
Once looking into more specifics facts about major polluters of plastic in our oceans and a product in which is a simple change in a household, it was clear that a sustainable toothbrush was the perfect product. There were 3 facts that really drove home how bad plastic toothbrushes are for our environment:
- There are 3.6billion plastic toothbrushes sold around the world each year
- 4.2billion people are using plastic toothbrushes every morning and evening across the world.
- A group of environmentalists and scientists had witnessed an albatross regurgitating a plastic toothbrush to feed to their chicks in Hawaii, so the experience we had in the Philippines was not unique.
We now had the loyal following on social media, the perfect product but had no clue about business. Tommie has had a number of little business ventures in the past from a hat/headwear brand and another venture selling customised event wristbands whilst at university in which lessons were learnt but apart from that we had no prior business experience so how were we going to market @BambuuBrush®. To this day we still say that our passion overtook any business acumen and that is what drove us to work hard to launch the business and then to set the targets that we have done.
We knew that we needed to get @BambuuBrush® to be sold on mass to make real positive impacts to our planet so set the crazy goal of #1millionby2020. #1millionby2020 was to educate and inspire 1 million people to swap away from their "normal" plastic toothbrushes to our bamboo toothbrushes before the end of the next decade so essentially within our first year of trading we wanted to sell 1 million bamboo toothbrushes.
With our loyal following on social media we needed to create an online movement to engage our followers even more. Whilst in Maldives in the previous October on a job working for a guesthouse, we took a number of product shots with our first sample batch of bamboo toothbrushes. The below image was one of the shots we took and this was the trigger for us to create the current craze we have on our instagram feed.
The next hurdle to overcome was that fact that we had pretty much £0 to our name. The social media industry does not pay very well and although we had experienced so much and we were very grateful for the work and jobs we had taken, a lot of the work was payment for travel expenses and flights etc. During our trip around Europe with Travel Twisters, we had our camper-van broken into and Rebecca's laptop was stolen. We made a claim once returning to the UK, not expecting to receive anything back and we were granted £840 in insurance, which was absolutely incredible. Weirdly enough our first batch of @BambuuBrushes came to a grand total of £847 in which we had to pay 2 days after receiving our insurance claim. Coincidence... I think not.
We received our first batch of @BambuuBrush in the first week of January 2019 and knew we wanted to go live as soon as possible so gave ourselves the deadline of February 1st to get everything up and running. The website was created with a little help from a friend in Canada, our products photos were taken and edited by another friend in Hitchin, we knew nothing about our delivery and fulfilment process so another friend got us in touch we a local company who complete their own fulfilment to give us the confidence to progress and we cannot be more thankful for everyone who has helped and allowed us to be able to set up @BambuuBrush and GO LIVE.
January 31st at 7pm GMT @BambuuBrush® went live with our clear, focused aim with our #1millionby2020 campaign to educate and inspire 1million people to swap away from their "normal" plastic toothbrush to our environmentally friendly and sustainable @BambuuBrush®.
At @Bambuu®, we are not expecting to be able to change the world and the plastic problem overnight... but we can make a start. With 4.2 billion people brushing their teeth every morning and night with a plastic toothbrush, we have a chance to make a significant impact on plastic production if we work together. If we can educate, inspire and empower someone to make one simple change away from a plastic toothbrush to an @Bambuu® and start and end their day in a sustainable way, who knows the next environmentally friendly decision that person will make next. Maybe that person will the swap to a reusable water bottle, or a reusable coffee cup, begin to cycle to work, bring their own tubberware containers for lunch or then decide to eat less meat. Each of these add up on a global scale and by changing a small percentage of our population’s habits and encouraging people to make a small change could, in turn, have a much bigger impact on our future planet.