Stainless steel straws with a side of social enterprise

In support of Plastic Free July, we’re catching up with a few Kiwi businesses that are determined to improve sustainability in New Zealand.

CaliWoods reusable straws are an environmentally-friendly stainless steel alternative to plastic straws. We talk to founder, Shay Lawrence, about how her business is helping to eliminate single-use plastic.

State of the environment around the world a catalyst for change

Travelling around the world after finishing university opened Shay’s eyes to the state of the environment. An avid surfer, she was horrified to find that plastic pollution littered even the most untouched pieces of ocean.

“I was fortunate enough to work in the super yacht industry, which landed me on patches of isolated, tropical sand,” she says. “It was truly shocking to see human consumption and plastic pollution follow us to these places. There were bottle caps, straws, bags, showing that we really haven’t left any stone unturned.”

The realisation hit Shay hard. When she returned to New Zealand after six years abroad, she set out to make a positive difference to the environment.

“I knew that I wanted to try and inspire some positive change in the sustainability space. CaliWoods has been the voice thus far.”

Social enterprise a great mechanism for positive change

Sustainability isn’t a new concept for Shay. She studied environmental science at university, and says she always had an interest in business, too.

“I find the sustainability space and social enterprise a really great mechanism for positive change. Since starting CaliWoods, I’ve learned that from small actions there can be massive, wide spread reactions and change really can happen if we commit to a more sustainable future.”

Eliminating single-use packaging is one easy step that consumers can take to live more sustainably.

“Look at the serial offenders and slowly start to remove each one from your life. It might be disposable coffee cups the first week, plastic bags the next. Small, achievable goals so that the habits stick.”
Another easy step is to be more aware about what you’re consuming – think about whether you really need it.

“And that goes for CaliWoods Straws too. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. This is the single most impactful thing individuals can do. It stops waste before it begins and places importance on quality products that will really last.”

Shay says the CaliWoods range is growing, with plans in the works to add to the range of smoothie, cocktail, tall and bubble tea straws. “We are also working alongside the hospitality industry, providing viable alternatives to the plastic straw – reusable as well as non-soggy, hospitality grade paper straws.

CaliWoods straws pack with smoothie

The big picture

Long-term, Shay hopes to continue to grow the product line. She’s focusing on useful products that will help people live more sustainably. She’s committed to focusing on social enterprise so that the company continues to operate for purpose as well as for profit.

“I’m also focused on CaliWoods being a source of information and a thought leader in the sustainability space. I want it to be a place that people can come to for reliable eco-tips and sustainable living ideas. This will help us to all be more informed and work towards more responsible lifestyle choices. “

Nationwide, Shay would like to see the necessary steps taken on the consumer, business and government level to set ourselves up for a circular economy in the waste space, achieving climate change related emissions goals and protection of our precious and unique natural environments.

“In 20 years I’d like to see a change so that consumption works in harmony with the natural environment, rather than in an exploitive way. Effectively a carbon zero economy with value placed on quality, minimal consumption and circular use of resources.

“This is going to take a massive mindset shift and changes from businesses to take into account the true cost of everything we use. The cost to the environment also needs to be taken into consideration.

“The scale at which we currently manufacture everything from food to clothing is so large. To achieve this, change is going to have to be huge as well as rapid. I’m not sure if 20 years is realistic, but if we all focus on our little part, as businesses and individuals, our collective action will for sure have a positive impact that at least is heading in the right direction.”

If you want to learn more about how you can reduce single-use plastic, check out the CaliWoods website and Instagram.