Where Climate Change meets Entrepreneurship - Ummama Imran
Just last year, at least 90 lost their lives amidst the heavy monsoon rains. Hundreds have died due to heat strokes & fatigue because of rising temperatures (0.5 C over the last 50 years). The future expects even higher temperatures, further stress on our drainage system, a water crisis, and drops in yield of major crops, which, at best, will reduce quality of life and, at worst, become a cause for higher rates of mortality.The effects of climate change are now becoming too large to ignore - and we all have a part to play in dealing with the consequences.
Within the severity of climate change and subsequent awareness surrounding it, there has been a rise in small business all over Pakistan, with many becoming more aware about being eco-friendly. I was able to interview Emaan R, to ask about her journey with CodeGreenPK, a business founded in November of 2018.The idea for CodegreenPK was born in September of 2018, after Emaan learnt about the widespread use of plastic in all sorts of consumer products. Beyond just packaging such as plastic bags, plastic is also used in both non-durable and durable goods, like furniture, appliances, trash bags, utensils, etc. This usage has increased 200 times since 1950, when global plastic production was two tons, to 2015, when it was 381 million tons.
The cumulative production (in tons) of plastic outnumbers the number of people alive today
Following this realization, and due to her upbringing recognizing the importance of caring for animals and reducing waste, Emaan decided to start CodegreenPK to sell products as alternatives to those made mainly of plastic. Having no business background, she faced countless challenges, including those concerning finances, having to fuel the business from her own savings, time management with having to balance a fulltime job with CodeGreenPK, and simply learning the ins & outs of maintaining a business.
Another major roadblock came in the face of the Coronavirus Pandemic, with not only a concern for spreading it through mechanisms of delivery, but also due to concerns with vendors stopping production & high import prices.
However, despite all the impediments, despite getting hesitant support from other similar businesses - CodegreenPK continues to maintain a growing community of eco-conscious consumers and has influenced other businesses to consider more eco-friendly packaging. Emaan describes this as one of her greatest achievements with the business so far, which is yet to grow as she has just begun to hire others.
Emaan says that the new goals for CodegreenPK are to look towards expansion of the products available, as we begin to live with the coronavirus and Codegreen is able to resume sale of imported products. They are now aiming for integration of technology, opening a physical store, projects surrounding waste management, and much more.
I’ve personally used a couple of CodegreenPK’s products and was also the winner of their giveaway, where I won a metal straw. Some of their bestselling products include Bamboo Toothbrushes, Metal Straws, Organic Soaps & Shampoos in recyclable packaging, Biodegradable utensils, Tote & Produce Bags, and Reusable Menstrual Hygiene Products (all of which I’ve used!)
If you aren’t already convinced to try switching to these alternatives; here are some reasons to:
- Each year, three billion toothbrushes are disposed of. Every toothbrush you have ever used is still out there - either in a landfill or the ocean. Bamboo toothbrushes on the other hand are biodegradable.
- There are at least 437 million plastic straws on the world’s coastlines and this number will only grow. Whereas, metal Straws are reusable & will not take 200 years to decompose.
- Human have produced so much plastic since the second world war that it has become possible to plaster the earth in plastic. These take up to a thousand years to decompose and even then aren't able to fully do so and continue to pollute the environment. 34% of dead leatherback turtles have ingested plastics. Simply reusing our old plastic bags or using cloth bags reduces the demand for the production of plastic bags while reducing the drastic effect they have on marine life.
- A woman is estimated to discard 11,000 to 16,000 sanitary products in her life according to various sources. A single-use sanitary pad is estimated to take around 500 to 800 years to decompose and thus, poses a huge threat to the environment. Reusable pads last longer & aren’t nearly as problematic.
I also had the opportunity to ask Emaan of anything she thinks is important for those considering to be a part of this emerging field of eco-entrepreneurship or just someone wondering how to be more eco-friendly:
"It’s important to remember that unlike other forms of entrepreneurship, manufacturing products cater to & promoting eco-friendliness should be done for the sake of the cause which will greatly affect and inconvenience us in the future. We live in an age where performative forms of activism are too prevalent and it’s important for those interested in following in such footsteps to be honest with themselves and be educated on the reality of climate change’ and its effects."
I have learned that you’re never too small to make a difference. - Greta Thunberg
Moreover, it's important to remember that even if we aren’t taking huge steps for the environment such as activism & entrepreneurship, something is always better than nothing. Eco-friendly alternatives may not be affordable for everyone so it's important to do small things that will add up. These include being mindful of water waste (taking brief showers, turning off the tap when brushing your teeth etc.), turning excess lights off, shopping less (choosing high quality pieces over fast fashion), eating less beef and dairy products (animal agriculture contributes to a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions), reusing plastic bags instead of purchasing new ones or using cloth bags, ordering packaged food less, drinking beverages without plastic straws, using reusable water bottles and so on.