In this week’s interview, I’m excited to be talking to Jonathan Davies of eco-. If you haven’t heard of eco- yet, they’re a new online marketplace for the UK, offering hand-picked and high quality eco-friendly products that don’t break the bank, and allows you to sort items based on what you’re looking for, and your ethics.
I’m always excited when I find out an ethical business has men behind the scenes – purely because it’s quite a female-dominated marketplace. It’s why I jumped at the chance to interview Jonathan, and hear his take on living in a more eco-friendly way. I hope you enjoy our interview, and gain an insight into how things can be more balanced.
1. What sparked your interest in eco-friendly living?
My first contact with eco-friendly living was through my mom. She is far from being an eco-friendly warrior, but she has an “obsession” for healthy products. It means most of the food I had on my plate was organic, locally-grown, or from our garden.
Years later, I travelled the world, and I saw the ravages of plastic with my own eyes. I love the ocean, and I can’t stand what’s happening. In Sri Lanka, I could not surf five minutes without getting a plastic bag wrapped around my leg. In some less touristic places like Phu Quoc (a Vietnamese island), or on the coast of Myanmar, I’ve seen what a “paradisiac” beach looks like when the staff of a resort is not cleaning it daily. Not so pristine.
That was really eye-opening for me. Travelling to “remote” lands and islands and seeing how trash had made its way there long before I did was just a sad thing to see. You feel powerless.
In all honesty, I am still far from being a perfect eco-friendly person. I travel a lot, move from country to country, flat to flat… but I am learning and taking green steps where I can, in accordance with my lifestyle. I think there is not one and only good sustainable lifestyle, it’s all about the small changes you can do in your own lifestyle. People need to understand that small individual changes matter.
2. eco- is a great place to find new and interesting products. What exciting items have you discovered that everybody should know about?
If I could pick a couple, I would say these two items: piñatex shoes and plantable business cards. I choose them not only for the products they are, but also for the innovative materials.
Piñatex (or pineapple leather), is a vegan and ethical alternative to leather made out of pineapple leaves. The results are amazing. It looks like leather and has that cool luxurious textured feel. Proof is that designer brands such as Hugo Boss are starting to adopt the material.
Plantable paper, while it may be less “sexy” than piñatex, is as original as paper can be. The concept is simple: the paper (ideally made of post-consumer materials) is biodegradable and embedded with seeds. Once planted in soil, the paper composts away and grows into beautiful flowers or vegetables. I don’t have a business card, but if I did, plantable paper would definitely be my pick. I mean, isn’t it a great way to show your eco-friendly values, as well as making for a great small-talk topic?
Aside from these two materials, I also love discovering products made of recycled or upcycled materials. It’s exciting to see how technology and creativity are evolving in the eco-friendly world.
3. It’s great to speak to a male-led eco-friendly business. What can we all be doing to invite more men to save the planet?
That’s a tricky question and I could write a whole thesis on that topic. I also don’t want it to look like I am generalising or being sexist. I believe men are as interested in saving the planet as women, but I see three main reasons why men are more ‘discreet’ in the eco-friendly world.
A big factor that appears to keep some men from acting in a more eco-friendly way is the displacement of masculinity. You know, “be a man”; the belief that men have to be strong and show no emotion. Following that belief, some studies prove that many men AND women actually think eco-friendly manners are more feminine. But that idea of macho-masculinity is decreasing, especially amongst the younger generations and I believe it will soon reflects in the eco-friendly world. Go and hang around in Reddit’s eco-friendly subreddits, you will see that many men are present, enjoying the “anonymity” of the platform.
Another factor is that in a family scheme, women tend to be the ones taking care of the family’s consumption (grocery or clothes shopping for instance). And as reaching a greener consumption is one of the most important areas of an eco-friendly lifestyle, women are more involved on a daily basis. Again though, I don’t want to generalise.
Finally, I believe eco-friendly men are less visible online for the simple reason that men in general are way less interactive on social media.
So what can we do to get more men to save the planet? Get rid once and for all of that wrong definition of masculinity… and send your man to do the shopping more often!
4. Who inspires you to be more sustainable, and who should we all be following?
I wouldn’t say someone inspires me to be more sustainable. What inspires me is what I saw while travelling. I want my future children to be able to have a swim in the sea, I want animals and their natural habitat to be respected…
I do have a lot of admiration for personalities who convey eco-friendly messages and take action, such as Elon Musk, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Al Gore (to list a few men). They have the power to be heard and people listen to them. For instance, Musk has millions of followers and lots of them are millennials. Now, the lifestyle of some of these celebrities may be controversial and not as eco-friendly as they should be, but what matters here is the message they share with their audience.
Talking about men taking action, I cannot not mention Captain Paul Watson, the “pirate” of marine conservation. He has taken activism to the next level. He is not afraid of using violence and has had problems with authorities on at least three continents. Now I don’t say we should all try to sink whaling vessels, but maybe we could use a bit of his fury.
5. Finally, do you have any exciting news or plans that you can share with us?
eco- is still young and will grow in many ways. At the moment, our catalogue is still limited, but we are constantly adding products. We want eco- to be the one-stop online platform to buy all kinds of eco-friendly products, for the whole family.
However, having a sustainable lifestyle is not just about buying eco-friendly alternatives. There are many areas in life that people can be greener, such as travelling in an ethical way or having an eco-friendly Christmas… That’s why we are also working on a blog, to help people take decisions, understand some concepts (such as the zero-waste lifestyle) and learn everything else about eco-friendly living!