How This Environmentally-Conscious Entrepreneur Is Following Her Passions
Catherine Morris didn't launch her biodegradable packaging business because that's where the market was going. She launched knowing there was a problem that needed to be solved, and now the market is coming to her.
Player: Catherine Morris
Company: GREEN HOME
Catherine Morris launched GREEN HOME, a biodegradable packaging company, long before it became fashionable to go "green'. A burning passion and an understanding of what lay in store for us in the future shaped her business concept though, and 12 years later, she is exactly where she needs to be.
Catherine comes from an environmental and humanitarian background. As head of Earth Life Africa while studying at UCT, she thought she'd end up working for an environmental or social NGO.
And then she saw a disposable cup made from tapioca starch in a museum while on holiday in Thailand. Immediately, she started wondering why we didn't have similar products to this in South Africa. Within a year, Catherine made a radical career move and launched GREEN HOME from her garage.
Q. What was your big idea, and how did it come together?
My background was always in the environmental and social space, and because of this awareness, I recognised packaging as an important piece of the puzzle that we need to get right to create a sustainable South Africa.
Being exposed to others ways of doing things – as early as 2007 – gave me insights into what we could do locally. So, I didn't get into packaging because I liked it, but because I wanted to change it to something that makes sense and really works.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge you've faced?
In the early days, one of our biggest challenges was educating people about the need for biodegradable materials.
Related: Video: The 3 Skills You Need To Be A Successful Entrepreneur
Since the plastic pollution crisis has entered main steam news, we don't have to do that as much anymore. People are starting to get it now. Everybody knows that plastic is harming the environment.
Competing with huge plastic packaging companies is still a challenge. Biodegradable packaging is growing, and the more people support it the better the economies of scale become, but we still have a distance to go.
Q. There is clearly a strong need, but most people won't make lifestyle changes unless it affects them directly in some way – how are you tackling this?
We talk about the need for healthy biodegradable materials as loudly as we can. We also work hard to make great sustainable and compostable products available. Happily, more and more people are joining the conversation and doing their bit. It's all about building momentum.
Environmental factors are also bringing realities home. People are seeing widespread plastic pollution on beaches in Durban, storms in Mozambique and the serious drought in Cape Town.
These experiences help us to realise that business as usual is not an option. We need to make changes and find better ways of doing things so that our lifestyles are in balance with the Earth.
Q. How have you aligned GREEN HOME South Africa to a large need that needs to be addressed?
At GREEN HOME, we always say that packaging should last as long as its needed, not longer. Making single-use packaging from indestructible plastic is totally crazy. We want to change that. We're committed to tackling the plastic pollution crisis by making compostable plant-based packaging the norm.
Q. Why is it important to be passionate about what you're doing?
If you're tackling a big challenge, passion is essential. Along with a vision. As a company we are passionate about and committed to affecting positive change. It's what keeps us motivated and driven to stay true to our mandate of supplying compostable packaging solutions made from plant-based raw materials.
8 Ways You Can Make A Change Today
Here are Catherine's tips on how you can start making small changes that will have a big impact:
- Refuse what you don't need. Just say no to plastic bags, straws, bottles etc.
- Reduce the things you do need. Buy unpackaged goods where possible. Unpackaged food is often less processed, so its healthier for you as well as the planet.
- Use re-usable options where possible. Like cloth bags and glass or metal water bottles and re-usable lunch containers.
- If you do need single-use packaging, make sure it's biodegradable and compostable.
- Compost all your organic waste (including compostable packaging).
- Instead of cling wrap, use beeswax wrap, or a bowl with a plate on top, or a container with a lid.
- Do a waste audit. Pay attention to the things you throw away. Then see if you can find better solutions.
- Talk about it. Let your local shops and cafes know you want more sustainable solutions. Chat to your friends and family. Spread the word about the movement.
"Anybody who wants to live a healthy life on a healthy planet should care. We can create a system that actually works and is good for people and the planet. Who wouldn't want that?" asks Catherine.
"Plastic is having massive negative impacts on people, animals and the ecosystems that support our lives. Microplastics are everywhere – in our air, water and food – and in us. If we want to turn things around and create something better, we need to act. It's that simple."