Hanna is a sustainability blogger turned eco-entrepreneur. Her blog, Flor and Cesta, is the ultimate guide to becoming a sustainable city dweller without the need for radical lifestyle change. Hanna uses this space to question big brands' 'sustainable' practices, to inform us of the latest smart city initiatives and simple ways that we can make a difference to our environment. Hanna also created a series of 'Responsible Recipes' in collaboration with Rubies in the Rubble to prove that cooking doesn't have to be difficult, expensive, or require complicated ingredients.
More recently, Hanna has launched Acala - an online store of natural, organic and vegan health and beauty products from leading brands. All responsibly packaged; refills, plastic free and zero waste packaging.
Hanna very kindly agreed to be interviewed by Rubies. This is what we found out...
- Tell us a bit about yourself and what motivated you to start Flor and Cesta?
Growing up with a mother who ran her own gardening business and always being surrounded by germinating plants (literally, every surface was covered with them near springtime!) I have always taken an interest in ‘growing your own’, eating local and being self-sustaining in the sense of food. We were also always taught to use reusable water bottles and to pick the non-plastic option wherever possible, so I think minimal waste and plastic free living is something that was ingrained in me from an early age.
It wasn’t until much more recently though that I started to become aware of environmental issues on a wider scale. The turning point for me came though after a few years working in the city; I would watch the rubbish bins in my office fill up every day with paper cups and lunch bag wrappers as we all rushed blindly from meeting to meeting, completely unconscious to the amount of waste we were contributing to landfill daily. I thought “there must be a better way to do this!”
It was then that I decided to start Flor + Cesta. For me it is a public commitment to living a sustainable lifestyle and a way to engage others in important topics whilst showing that living sustainably is fun! The goal of the site is to arm readers with all the know how to make easy and informed changes every day that fit within their lifestyles.
- What does sustainability mean to you? Any tips for people looking to live more sustainably?
To me sustainability is all about living in equilibrium with the earth. Too often as humans we think about what is good for us but not about the impact it has on our environment. We cannot only satisfy our own needs but that there is also the need to adjust to the needs of others and nature. It involves being in tune with your surroundings.
Making the change to living more sustainably can seem overwhelming with the current options we have available. And we’re all super busy right! It’s all a journey and perfectionism is impossible. These would be the key things I would say to people. When I first started trying to live more consciously I felt paralysed to the point of thinking I could probably never leave the house again! It is overwhelming and you’re not going to crack it all at once. I would suggest breaking it down into chunks and focusing on the small achievements that lead to a better bigger picture. An easy start that means everyone can get through a day zero waste is to buy a reusable cup, a reusable water bottle, a lunchbox and take their lunch into work with their own cutlery. And if you think you haven’t got time to make your lunch- bulk cooking my friends. Cook in bulk and freeze it, it means you always have something ready in the freezer.
- You’ve gone from sustainable blogger to eco-entrepreneur. Tell us a bit more about Acala and your inspiration for starting the business
I had a huge “a-ha” moment a little while ago whilst, of all the glamorous activities, I was taking out the rubbish. As I tipped it into the chute I realised that 90% of the waste was from bathroom items. I started thinking, “If that’s just one week, how much rubbish am I creating in a year?!”
I quickly realised that the environmental and health benefits of these natural and organic products can often be outweighed by the amount of plastic packaging committed to landfill. While it may seem like a simple thought, it was a big wake-up call that led me to expand my definition of sustainability and what it really means to consume in a way that is beneficial for your body and the planet.
In the beauty industry, fancy packaging is a sign of product success. A colossal 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry. The cardboard that envelops perfumes, serums and moisturisers contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest each year. If this level of consumption continues, by 2050 there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in landfills, the equivalent to 35,000 Empire State Buildings.
In my experience, though, finding alternatives is hard; with our busy work and personal lives, few of us have the time to hunt around for eco-options. So, I decided to make it simple for people. Acala is an online store offering an extensive range of natural, organic and vegan health and beauty products from leading brands. Think eco-friendly Boots and you’re on the right lines.
The store will stock everything from skincare, suncare, dental and personal hygiene products to refillable cosmetics and travel items. All Acala products are responsibly packaged, and I will be offering customers refills and plastic free packaging options on the majority of products. Where plastic is necessary it will always be biodegradable or 100% recyclable.
- What's the power of people making small changes to their lifestyle like buying eco-friendly skincare ranges?
We are seeing a shift in consumerism as shoppers become increasingly health-conscious and environmentally aware. As this growing tide of consumers prepared to use their shopping basket to make a point increases, brands are increasingly having to actively change and speak out about their supply chains and environmental policies. Consumer power is really strong at the moment, so choosing to turn away from and call out brands using unnecessary chemicals and packaging can have a huge effect.
Some skincare brands are already starting to make changes. For example, as a direct result of customer feedback, REN skincare have pledged to become a zero waste business (all packaging, operations and supply chain) by 2021. This is really exciting news!
- What would you say are the most up and coming ethical cosmetic brands to look out for?
As mentioned, definitely REN, they are doing some amazing things. I also love BYBI, founded by Elsie and Dominika Rutterford of Clean Beauty Co. Their brand not only beautifully natural, the girls have really thought about everything in their supply chains and packaging. If you’re looking for natural, refillable cosmetics I’d recommend Zao. The only refillable cosmetics brand in the UK, we are stocking them on Acala. There are also some amazing, super brands out there creating some beautiful natural products in biodegradable packaging such as Kutis Skincare from Wales. Their natural deodorants in biodegradable cardboard tubes are a top seller on Acala.