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How I Turned My Passion for the Environment into an Award-Winning Eco-Business

by Katie Sorene

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Eco-entrepreneurs Mart and Rob tell the story of their green fashion business and explain how the journey of one T-shirt can have a big impact on our environment.

Got a budding green business idea but nervous to take the plunge? Have a read of this inspiring case study and become the next eco-entrepreneur!

RAPANUI IN A NUTSHELL

Rapanui is about making cool eco-fashion for young people; that means clothing that is eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable.

We make it easier for people to see where clothing comes from and how it is made so they can make informed choices. It’s called Traceability.

WHERE THE IDEA CAME FROM

In early 2008, we were unemployed graduates in a recession. We figured, “if you can’t find a job, make one!”

As keen surfers we experienced the effects of climate change first hand at our local beach and became inspired to take a different path.

We had the idea to mix eco with trend – to make it fashionable for people to go green.

We realized that it’s not that people don’t care about the environment, it’s just that they don’t have the information they need to make informed eco-friendly choices.


Our organic cotton farm in India

THE MOMENT WE KNEW WE WERE ONTO SOMETHING

When Ben & Jerry’s called up after three months of trading asking for a bespoke version of our cotton T-Shirts and hoodies.

We were also the youngest business ever to be short-listed for the Sustainable Business Awards after just 8 months of trading which was a pretty big deal for us.

THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE WE HAD TO OVERCOME

Obtaining funding for our business. The UK does a lot to support new business ideas but does little to support small businesses that are growing – it doesn’t really make sense.

Our business started with just £200 of savings in a shed at the bottom of our garden.

We didn’t receive any organizational help – it was all done through long stressful hours and an awful lot of hard work.

Cotton transported from field to factory by camel

EXAMPLE JOURNEY OF A RAPANUI T-SHIRT FROM SEED TO SHELF

At Rapanui customers can see exactly how and where our clothes are made through the traceability technology on our site.

For example, here’s the journey of a simple white T-shirt from seed to shelf:

1. Wind farm powers our factory in India

2. Cotton is grown in an organic cotton plantation

3. Cotton travels by camel up the road to the factory

4. Cotton is spun and made into a T-shirt

5. T-shirt travels by high capacity lorry to port

6. T-shirt is shipped to the UK (we never air freight our products)

7. T-Shirt is printed using water-based ink in Nottingham

8. T-shirt is finished and dispatched at Rapanui in the Isle of Wight.

Some of our other products start their lives as bamboo and hemp in China and Turkey and their journeys can also be traced on our site.

The final product: organic cotton T-Shirt

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

Our aim is to get more businesses to adopt eco-labeling to show exactly where clothing comes from.

We hope that this will help to encourage transparent business ethics in textiles and eradicate negative side of the fashion industry.

We are already hosting a national petition for Textiles Eco-Labeling at 10 Downing Street so we are on our way!

ADVICE FOR OTHER BUDDING ECO-ENTREPRENEURS

Do your research, work hard, don’t spend money where you could learn to do something yourself.

Be honest and open and don’t be tempted to over-market your products – no one likes *greenwashing!

TIPS FOR ECO-FRIENDLY TRAVEL

We’d endorse cycling as a great eco-friendly vacation.

We don’t use air travel for our products so we’d say stay away from air travel if you can, if you do have to fly then most sites make it really easy to offset your carbon emissions at the click of a button.

Other tips – use public transport rather than taxis wherever possible and wear eco-friendly clothes!

*Greenwashing – disingenuously spinning your products and policies as environmentally friendly.

Do you go eco when it comes to fashion? What’s your take on traceable clothing? Post up your comments below, we want to hear from you!

More information on Rapanui at www.rapanuiclothing.com.

Photos: Courtesy of Rapanui.

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4 comments… read them below or Add a Comment

Marion

Very nice story! Good luck for your future plans! :)

Mark H

Inspiring effort. Congrats to Rapanui.

jessiev

what a great story. makes me want to BUY their stuff!! thanks for the heads up. i am happy to support such a great, green business any time.

Dan @ LaGuardia Airport Parking

What an inspiring story! I’ve also been thinking about how to turn my concern and activities on behalf of the environment into something that’s financially self-sustaining. Of course, one of the ways I thought of doing was to print eco messages and images on t-shirts and sell these online. Learning about the painstaking attention you spend in ensuring that your materials are manufactured from sustainable sources, made me rethink this idea. Now I need to find where to source green materials. Thanks for sharing.

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