For Feiy's Impact Series we are talking to entrepreneurs who pursue a path greater than just profit and strive to contribute to the greater good with their products and services.
Today we are meeting Nanou from Baluchon. Who with her social enterprise wants to help people live a zero waste lifestyle, by providing alternatives to the single use products that we use every day.
Baluchon is a "Made in Shanghai" brand I founded in December 2017, aiming at promoting a zero waste lifestyle by proposing trendy zero waste alternatives for people’s homes. Starting with only a single product at the time, the reusable gift wraps, Baluchon quickly grew to propose more products like produce bags, netbags, make-up removal pads, beeswax food wraps. All of them washable and reusable, of course.
Baluchon在法语中的意思是「捆绑」，参考日本包装布的艺术－furoshiki。基本上，你制作的每一份礼物都会用可永续性的材料和爱包裹着。 ： ）
My aim with Baluchon is to replace the toxic, wasteful single-use items people use in their daily life. I am hoping to normalise the use of cloth as the convenient, green & cheap alternative to the current excessive use of disposable plastic, cotton & paper. For that, I designed a collection of five products, each replacing a disposable option, handmade piece by piece, in Shanghai.
My cloth gift wraps are beautiful pieces of fabric used to replace paper gift wrapping. My Panda pads are bamboo rounds making disposable cotton pads obsolete (for make-up removal). My Avoska bags and produce bags are cotton bags aiming at banning single-use plastic bags when grocery shopping. And, last but not least, my beeswax food wraps are wax-coated fabrics perfectly replacing plastic cling film or aluminum in the kitchen. They can be reused for months before they need to be freshened up or rewaxed (that, I do for free for all my clients, in the total zero waste spirit!).
My name is Nanou, and I am the founder of Baluchon zero waste supplies. I am a French mother of two, who has lived in Shanghai for 9 years. By day, I am an environmental engineer who specializes in contaminated land management, which means that I investigate & remediate industrial soil and groundwater in China. “By night”, I’m an entrepreneur dedicated to letting the world know that zero waste can be trendy, accessible to all, and easy!
Like many things in Shanghai, everything for Baluchon happened very quickly, without me having any intention of starting a business! You see, Christmas for me has always been a very magical time. Come Christmas, you would find me buying all the fancy stuff, spending hours wrapping gifts one by one. That was me until I discovered the Japanese art of Furoshiki; beautiful folds and knots, made with cotton cloth instead of paper, that you can reuse for years. This was right before Christmas 2017, my daughter’s first Christmas. It was the inspiration I needed to show her that magical holidays don’t need to be wasteful ones. Sustainability can be a hard concept for adults to grasp, let alone children. She now wraps her gifts in cloth fabric, and I can’t help but feel emotional (and proud!) every time I see her do it. When you have kids, incorporating eco-friendly practices into your family routine is key, and my products are designed to help people do just that.
China, and especially Shanghai, is a place like no other. Things here can go so quickly (for the better or for the worse), it’s almost impossible for us (Europeans) to grasp. The green/sustainable movement is no exception. As of recent July 2019 Shanghai Domestic Sorting law is a current and telling example. Overnight, people all around Shanghai were expected to sort their waste into four (quite confusing for some!) categories, and failing to do so would get you fined at least 200RMB. This is something that could have never happened overnight in Europe. In 2018, China also decided to ban the importation of domestic waste from abroad, causing a trash crisis in the US. China has understood the importance of environmental protection and is stepping up its (green) game! Many families are now conscious of the impact their lifestyle has on the world, and are trying to go greener. I’m happy to see that Shanghai is ready for a change. People from many different communities are responding very positively to zero waste initiatives or brands like Baluchon.
中国，尤其是上海，就一个与众不同的地方。这里的一切可以进行的很快（无论更好或更差），对我们（欧洲人）是几乎不可能去理解的。而绿色/永续性行动也不例外。 2019年7月的Shanghai Domestic Sorting law （上海市垃圾分类条例）是最近的一个例子。一夜之间，上海市的人民被要求要将垃圾分四类（对许多人来说很困惑！），违反者会被处以至少200人民币的罚锾。这是在欧洲一夜之间从未发生过的事情。在2018年，中国也决定禁止进口海外的家庭垃圾，导致美国的垃圾危机。中国已经意识到环境保护的重要性，并且正在加强其（绿化）比赛！很多家庭也意识到他们的生活方式对全世界的影响，并且努力绿化。我很高兴看到上海已经准备好改变。很多来自不同社群的人们对零废弃倡议或像是Baluchon等等的品牌，都给予非常肯定的反馈。
The Sustainable Club in Xintiandi was a pop-up store that 10 Shanghai-based eco-friendly brands started together in May 2019, under the direction of UseDem, to promote sustainable lifestyle in Shanghai via events, workshops and conferences. The shop opening was a huge success, a who’s who of the green shanghai scene :). Being located in Xintiandi, an area known for its luxurious boutiques and restaurants rather than for its green businesses was a total game changer, showing that commercial building management companies now consider sustainable brands like Baluchon bankable and worth investing in.
您刚与其他永续品牌在新天地共同创办了永续社团，您是否能与我们分享更多有关这个计画的目标以及后续的发展呢？还有Blue is the new green（蓝色是新的绿色）这一个标语。
Being a green start-up in China can be very challenging. For the first year and a half, I single handedly managed all aspects of the business from home, be it production, supply chain, marketing, sales, order packaging, and even the farmers markets. At the time, my daughter was not even one yet, I could not have managed without the support of my husband, Guillaume, who has been nothing short of amazing. Not only did he support me at home, he also came with me to the farmers market on the weekends for a whole year, interacted with clients & took care of our daughter at the same time. He’s an amazing man.
When I became pregnant with my second baby, I decided to hire a part-time intern to support the daily operations, and renting a studio to be able to produce out of my family home! Today, I’m still almost in charge of every aspect of the business, so it won’t come as a surprise if I tell you that finding time is the most challenging thing for me. Between my daily job, my two kids, and Baluchon, things can get…let’s say… difficult :) This is why I am on the lookout for a partner, willing to invest his/her time & heart in the Baluchon adventure with me!
Overall, I find the difficulties challenging and Shanghai is a perfect city to start a business. It is bustling with energy, businesses, activities & interesting people from around the globe, sharing ideas & offering their support.
Baluchon is still a small almost home-based start-up for now, but I have great things in mind for the brand! I want to keep developing my products range, as well as extending to the Asian and European markets. I am looking for investors and partners, to develop Baluchon to its full potential. If you’re willing to help me achieve my goals, do send me a note, by the way!
My biggest wish would be for countries to start banning single-use, disposable products made of plastic, so people would have no choice but to look for reusable alternatives. We somehow lost the reflex to “bring our own”, be it a bag, a cup, a jar… Some people still believe going green is a “new” trend. I believe “going green” is just going back to basics. It takes no effort after all; most of the time, all we need to do is mimic the ways of our parents or grandparents.
Which person or which project has been or is a great source of inspiration in your job or in your life?
My mom has always been an inspiration, for many many reasons. She would never call herself “green”, and that is what is crucial; she simply believes all she does is “the norm”. I realize that the way she brought us up, plus later my study of environmental sciences, are the reasons I am the anti-waste person I am now.
Growing up, my mother would reprimand us for leaving the TV on, or not turning off the lights when leaving a room. We did not have paper towels at home, we would simply wash and reuse our cloth ones most of the time. My mom would not be OK with any kind of food waste, she would find a way to cook food before it would go bad. She would also re-paint and re-design furniture so it wouldn’t go to waste, yet it would feel like a change. Her house is very stylish, yet she very rarely buys a new piece of furniture. She finds ways to follow the trends while repurposing things she already owns, at home. She line dries even if she owns a dryer, and cold washes when hot washes are not necessary. Now that she is a grandmother, she is fighting the Christmas craze of buying dozens of (often plastic) toys to kids, and the fast fashion industry. She goes to the local farmers market in my hometown of Dieppe, France, every Saturday, with her own paper bags! No need to say she’s now a big fan of Baluchon! People stop her at the fruit stand to ask her where her produce bags come from :).
There are some modern things that are just too convenient to let pass by. We can, however, re-condition ourselves to going back to basic practices, like my mom and her mom before that. “Going Green” is easy. It’s just committing to make a couple of small changes in our own household. I hope I can be green inspiration to my kids the as my mom has been for me without realizing it :). Just imagine the difference it will make to our planet, if each household in the world made a commitment to go green in just one way.
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