I love how being more sustainable is leading to more innovative products on the market. And one area that is becoming a lot more sustainable right now is product packaging. With most countries banning plastic bags, and phasing out single-use plastics, there is a push for more sustainable options.
Product packaging and single-use plastics make up a very large part of plastic waste. And since 91% of plastic isn’t recycled, it’s great to see more sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging coming onto the market. When I first heard about water-soluble bags and packaging wrap, I knew I needed to find out more.
I caught up with Jose from Green Ocean Group, an Australian business that launched in 2019, to learn more about their products and story. Currently they offer water-soluble shopping bags, as well as garment bags, and packaging film and are doing product research on some new products including compostable bin liner bags.
How (and why) did you get started?
My wife Natalia and I started this business as we are huge ocean lovers and we can’t live without being near the ocean honestly 🙂 We also wanted to have our own business for some time and it was obvious for us to do something that will help the ocean, animals, and the environment in general. We believe in climate change and are still understanding how bad it is right now, which is why we wanted to bring a product that could replace plastics, which should help reduce plastic pollution.
We did months of research and tryouts and we found bags that can dissolve with water, I mean, it might not be perfect, but it turn out to be an amazing alternative that leaves zero waste. We are also planting trees for every order to help out nature and us to have less carbon emissions in the air. We really care about spreading awareness and these products at an affordable and always flexible price, as we are not for the profit but for the Earth.
What was your launch (and/or the first few months of business) like?
It was a bit crazy cause we started with a basic Wix site and just talking to people on social media and the feedback was powerful! Even though people weren’t buying yet, we were very happy and knew right away this was a good alternative solution and hopefully the next best option in the market. Then March and Covid-19 came and everything went at a really slow pace until now that is getting better.
Tell us about your products and what makes them different
Well, we offer water-soluble and compostable bags, packaging film, and the raw material for plastic manufacturers to get on board and start producing these bags locally as well. Water-soluble products means they can dissolve with cold or hot water (depending on the bag type). Anyone can dissolve these bags in a cup with 200ml to 300ml boiling water in a minute or two and then pour it down the sink. The main ingredient is PVAL or polyvinyl alcohol, which is odourless, biodegradable and non-toxic material. We have a Japanese biodegradable certification and two worldwide compostable certification for these products (ASTM D64000 on the US, and EN 13432 from Europe)
We have done a large research and trials with these bags on different environments and they are really strong (great load capacity), but also you can use it the same as plastic or paper bags really, which is great. These bags are good for reuse for one or two years as well which also helps reduce carbon emissions, but I would say mainly the difference about our bags and packaging film is that as a first disposal option, they can dissolve at home in minutes, by anyone, after reuse. If the bags get to the ocean they will stretch and break down in minutes/hours, and then decompose completely in a few months. As a second disposal option you can industrial compost them, instead of being the first option as most eco-friendly alternatives that exist right now. As a third disposal option if people use it as bin liners, then it will decompose in landfill in time (we can’t say exactly how long) but we know it will, specially if it rains, the bags will stretch and break down very quickly.
Who are the main people who purchase your products?
Startups and small-medium size businesses that are environmentally focused
Why is the environment important to you? Is there anything you are doing to reduce your impact?
The environment is our whole motivation for creating GOG and is extremely important to us because we understand that we (humans) are in the Earth territory and we should be respectful with nature, where we have been all the opposite. We understand we need Earth, but Earth doesn’t need us, so if we are here, we should be more respectful and work together, not against it.
At home we recycle everything we can, we are also composting organic waste when we can and we reuse bags and have a style of life where we think twice before buying something that we know is not pro social or environmental responsable. For GOG, we ship our products on compostable mailers and/or 100% recycled carton boxes. We also plant from 1 to 500 trees per order to offset carbon emissions created during shipping.
What have been your most popular product(s) so far?
Water-Soluble and compostable Shopping bags, Garment bags, and packaging film.
Where are your products made? What influenced your decision to make the products in this way?
We are manufacturing in China at the moment so we can get an affordable price to put it out in the Australian market.
How do you attract and retain customers?
We like to make it personal, to reach and talk to customers directly, understand their values, business and need for a solution. We don’t like to push them, just make all communication organic.
How much time do you spend working on your business each week?
I would say, 45 to 60 hours approx.
What’s something you’ve learned since starting your business?
- While you love what you do, you can do anything!
- Consistency is key
- Learn to know people, there is always amazing positive people and always will be haters, but is important not to make it personal, we can’t enchant all
What has been the hardest part of running a business?
- Making a living, while working full time, for the first years of your business.
- Figuring out the best business strategy and target
What has been the best part of running a business?
Meeting tons of amazing people with the same interests and values 🙂
What tools and software do you use?
- Shopify for our website now
- We just started working with VA´s from the philippines (social media, database, etc…)
- G Suite for emails
- Instagram, facebook and LinkedIn
- Sales Navigator (LinkedIn)
What’s next for you and your business?
We’ve just started selling dissolvable shopping bags in very low quantities so every store, brand and business can have access to them (starting from 25pcs to 1,000pcs).
So, we are aiming of 2-3 months of marketing campaigns around these bags in social media and email marketing, just to spread the word and hopefully attract more small/medium size businesses.
We are also doing some research to bring bin liner bags! As compostable bin liner bags are quite thin (we have tried ourselves and we can’t find good ones) We believe this could be a game changer, but we are still taking a few weeks or months before confirming anything.
We are always looking for applications to use water-soluble bags.
Do you have any advice for other business owners who either might be thinking of starting a business, or looking for ways to make their business more eco-friendly?
If you have a business idea, especially if it is something you love and believe in, it will definitely work because pasion is the best tool of all. Also, be consistent, even if you have little time, just keep fighting for it! It´s true that it might take a year or two before you start seeing profits, so just have that in mind and you will be fine.