Sheenagh Berry launched Green Island to offer a full range of eco-friendly swaps for everyday home needs such as cleaning products and food storage. FRANK talked to her about her personal and business journey to a greener way of living.
Sheenagh, we love your products! What started the whole business idea and when was it?
Sheenagh Berry: The idea came to me in the December of 2018 while on a yoga teacher training course. I found myself surrounded by an inspiring group of earth-conscious women and I began to look at how I lived my life and the small changes I could make towards living more sustainably.
I started researching different eco-friendly companies and buying their products. I really loved what they were doing. However, I saw a gap in the UK market for one brand selling a whole range of plastic-free and eco-friendly products, as opposed to just concentrating on one single product.
What was the information about the climate crisis in the media around that time?
Sheenagh Berry: The end of 2019 through to 2020 saw the devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest and Australia. Stories flooded the news and social media platforms of billions of animals killed or displaced. Families lost their homes. Farmers lost their businesses and millions of acres of land burned, making it the worst fire season in history. David Attenborough called it “the moment of crisis” and said the rising temperatures of the earth are to blame for it.
We plant a tree for every order at Green Island and those first few months we focused on the Amazon Rainforest and Australia.
What products were your first and how did you decide on them?
Sheenagh Berry: The very first products we started working on were our stainless steel water bottles. A reusable bottle was one of my first swaps so it had to be included in the launch. We then created our organic range of bags, bamboo toothbrushes and our popular silicone ziplock bags. In my mind, these are all easy swaps to make for most people and can cut down on a huge amount of plastic in the home.
What was the most surprising thing you found when exploring making new plastic-free kitchen solutions?
Sheenagh Berry: Packaging. I have seen so many companies selling products labelled ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘plastic free’ all wrapped up in plastic packaging! It infuriates me.
Lots of manufacturers think I’m crazy when I tell them I don’t want any plastic in my packaging or shipping. Just put the products in a box and seal with paper tape! I have them wrap products in paper when needed, rather than putting everything in an individual plastic wrapper.
Now, this is the norm and I’m happy to say they have adopted these practices with other customers of theirs, reducing their overall plastic consumption.
The stats around the amount of cling film we use is extraordinary, which is why your lids are so brilliant. How did they come about?
Sheenagh Berry: We use around 1.2 billion metres per year in the UK. It’s terrifying and just not needed.
I stopped using cling film at home a few years ago and would use beeswax wraps, or a plate on top of a bowl but it didn’t give you that airtight seal, so I was looking for an alternative. Our stretch lids are so versatile and do the job perfectly. You can cover bowls, cans, pans and even cut fruit and veg. The airtight seal also makes them stackable saving space in the fridge and the best bit is they are reusable over and over again.
What is your bestseller and why do you think that is?
Sheenagh Berry: Our silicone ziplock bags are very popular. They’re great for freezing leftovers or organizing your meal prep. I always have them full of chopped bananas in the freezer ready for a smoothie at a moment’s notice. Our bamboo dish brush bundle is a favourite too. It’s functional, plastic-free and looks really stylish, unlike its plastic counterparts.
How long did it take for the business to ignite? What were the key factors to your success?
Sheenagh Berry: We hit the ground running really. It has been a LOT of hard work. Plenty of late nights spent on the laptop researching, designing, social media planning, building relationships with stockists and up until March of this year I was packing all of the orders myself. We now have a wonderful team at our warehouse who take care of the orders. This gives me more time to concentrate on other parts of the business.
Who is on your team? Are they all eco-warriors?
Sheenagh Berry: I still do the day to day running of Green Island myself but my son, Sky, works for me sometimes. He takes care of admin, researching new stockists and product ideas. He lives with me so he is used to using all of our products at home.
I have just taken on a new team member as our business development manager. His name is Matt and he has a lot of experience working with e-commerce businesses. He has made lots of positive changes for us already and I’m really excited to see where the next six months take us. Matt loves to travel and is extremely passionate about slowing down plastic pollution in our oceans.
It seems like there is a stronger sense of urgency around the climate crisis at the moment – finally! Do you feel this in your personal life and in business?
Sheenagh Berry: I definitely feel it more myself in the last few years. Part of the reason is due to my yoga studies. It opens you up to a different way of thinking about the world and wanting to protect Mother Earth and all she has given us. The business has brought everything to the forefront though. The climate crisis is on my mind constantly.
Tell us about your new products, what is firing you up at the moment?
Sheenagh Berry: We have quite a few new products launching very soon. I like to keep them a surprise but I will say this. Keep an eye out if you are looking for baby products – exciting things are happening!
How does your family as a whole and especially your children feel about being plastic-free?
Sheenagh Berry: My entire family uses our products now. My sister and her husband are probably our best customers! Their freezer is full of Green Island ziplock bags with vegan curries and smoothie ingredients ready to go.
My boys are 14 and 17 so they are pretty independent and make their own choices. Their favourite product would be our stainless steel bottles. They didn’t think they were ‘cool’ at first but now they love them and they have got lots of their friends using them too. I love it when I hear them telling their friends they need to stop buying plastic bottles and use one of ours.
My boys feel very strongly about the damage we are doing to our oceans. My eldest was 8 months old when we moved to Spain and my youngest was born there. Living by the beach for years gave them a huge appreciation of the sea and mother nature. They have also been lucky to have spent summers in Thailand and have seen the devastating increase in plastic pollution washing up on the beaches. They want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
What is your message to families wanting to go green?
Sheenagh Berry: We are by no means a completely plastic-free family. I feel it is really important for people to know that.
It’s not about being perfect. There is too much pressure to be that. It’s about making one small change at a time and doing what you can. Refuse plastic when you can, reuse what you already have and recycle properly. Thank you for being the change.
Follow Green Island on Instagram at @greenislandco to get the latest updates from the company!