Founders | The Better Packaging Co.
Waiheke Island, New Zealand
change can happen from anywhere. especially when that “anywhere” is an island off the coast of New Zealand — a place so green and so of the earth, you are reminded daily of how important it is for us to save this good green earth. all of this (and so much more) is what inspired two women who call that island home — Kate Bezar and Rebecca Percasky — to rethink the way the global e-commerce industry packages goods. (no big deal.) their solution? super chic packaging that you can compost in your own little bit of anywhere. here’s how — and why — they do it.
Kate: i live surrounded by water and men! my husband and i have three young boys and live on an island off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand. it’s very beautiful. i grew up spending a lot of time on and in the ocean and start to feel claustrophobic if i ever live too far from it.
Rebecca: weekdays are spent in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and, whenever possible — weekends and school holidays (and lockdowns this year!) — we head to Waiheke where we are tucked away in thirteen acres of protected native New Zealand bush. it’s George and i, our three kids and puppy (some would argue the most important member!).
Rebecca: i feel i’m getting the best of both worlds as i love the energy of the city, but am able to go “off grid” (Kate’s words!), shoe free and switched off on Waiheke. Waiheke is particularly special to me as it’s where Kate and i first met when we lived there while our children were young.
Kate: i love being part of a small community and feeling connected to my place. the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, have a word for this: “turangawaewae”. it means the place where you feel especially empowered and connected, and find your foundation. Waiheke Island is that for me. i also love living slightly ‘off-grid’ but being able to catch the ferry into Auckland a couple of times a week to spend time with my Better Packaging team gives me great balance. i enjoy a town “fix”, but always feel that when i set foot back on the island, my whole being relaxes. i may live on an island, off an island (NZ) which essentially sits at the bottom of the world, but technology being what it is, i can run an international business from here with no problems at all! i am very lucky.
Kate: i am passionate about many things — my family, my environment, my work — and don’t feel a lot of separation between them. to me, who you are and what you do are intimately connected, or at least, i have always wanted them to be. i believe in business as a force for good and build businesses that create positive change — societal, environmental and personal. i’m super proud of what Becs and i have achieved through The Better Packaging Co. over the past couple of years. we have truly revolutionized e-commerce packaging by providing eco-friendly alternatives to plastic mailers (also known as flyers, satchels, envelopes…) and, most of all, made them affordable, accessible and beautifully designed.
Rebecca: i’ve always been incredibly aware of packaging — its environmental impact, the fact that we use too much, and that, most often, it’s made from the wrong materials. i have been waging a private war on single use packaging since my late teens. i was traveling with friends who purchased a single use plastic water bottle, i remember so clearly stopping in my tracks and thinking “this is nuts – there is a tap right there!”
it wasn’t until years later, when i was involved in the start-up of StarShipIT — an e-commerce tech platform that facilities the transactions of millions of orders every month — that i decided to do something about it. during this time i got to see firsthand an industry that is doubling every two years, and how the environmental impact of all that e-commerce packaging is devastating. but what got me really moving was when my eldest child, who was seven at the time, chose to do her school project on ‘saving the planet’. she listed simple things she could do, like switching off the lights and walking to school, and it really got me. i was heartbroken, as here was this little person i loved and was responsible for and she was carrying such a heavy burden. i knew i had to do something. so that night i sat up and wrote a list of five things i could do to make change, four were in the packaging space and the first was to make a more sustainable courier satchel.
Kate: developing a more sustainable courier satchel: sounds easy right? but there’s actually a lot more to a courier satchel than you might think — it has to be tough, durable, waterproof, have strong seams, a good seal and labels have to stick to it. finding something that met all those criteria, as well as having a low environmental footprint, was super tricky. when evaluating its eco-cred, we looked at all four stages of the product life cycle; material inputs, production, use and end-of-life. too often all the focus is on end-of-life, but if a product causes a lot of negative impact when it’s produced, then that must rule it out.
anyway, eventually we found a material which was partly made from plants, in a low energy process, fit all the usage criteria and was certified to break down safely in a home compost. because courier satchels end up in people’s homes, the appeal of a product that they could then dispose of easily in their backyards (rather than having to rely on broken recycling infrastructure) was immediate. top that off with clever communication, small design tweaks (like adding a cut line to every flap to encourage reuse) and we had ourselves a game-changer!
Rebecca: i’ve learned that, for the most part, when you do the right things for the right reasons, everything else falls into place around it. we are trying to change an industry that has been around for over 100 years — the plastic industry. it’s not always easy and we face a lot of push back from people who want the status quo to remain. what keeps me on track is ensuring i always re-align myself with why i am doing it. we have to make change and we have to make it quickly. there is no other option.
Kate: i have always built values-driven businesses and know the power inherent in that approach. when values drive decisions, we make them differently and doing things differently is the only way to drive change, and i believe, succeed. i can point to numerous examples of times when Becs and i have made somewhat ‘crazy’ decisions that don’t necessarily make sense from a P&L or balance sheet point of view at the time, but were coherent with our values — and have turned out to be inherent to the success of our business.
Rebecca: crazy is a great word! i’m juggling a young family and growing a business. it’s exhilarating and exhausting but i wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. i feel i’m exactly where i’m meant to be, doing what i’m doing with people i love doing it with. crazy and perfect.
Kate: the success of our business means that there are literally thousands of other business-owners out there wanting to lighten their footprint, to do better by the environment and to make more considered, responsible choices, and that gives me a great sense of hope and helps me sleep at night.
Rebecca: lots of family! i’ve got four brothers and sisters and we are all getting together at our place on Waiheke Island; twenty of us in total for seven days — yikes! lots of yummy food, beach time and hanging with my kids and the younger nieces and nephews. i’m really looking forward to getting my feet in the sand and cuddling my sister's toddler’s chubby legs — heaven!
Kate: listening to: the sounds of summer — cicadas, my Teams chat pinging, my eldest son’s playlist as mine never gets a look-in anymore. reading: Bear Grylls books to my six year old. watching: ‘My Octopus Teacher’ on Netflix.
Rebecca: “my new swanky pants!!”
Kate: “i’ve recently rediscovered shirts — love a good shirt. i wear them tucked into high-waisted pants, tied in the front over a dress, sometimes i’ll turn up the collar and/or sleeves, and team with at least a couple of necklaces at once. the edit shirt has the most amazing sleeves to add a touch of drama to an outfit.”
Kate: buy second hand! save money and the planet – almost everything you need has been made before and we’re now lucky enough to be able to find whatever we need pre-loved through sites like eBay and Etsy (for vintage).
Rebecca: when we get the odd sport-free Saturday, Ii love to pile the kids into bed with me — books, tea and toast and lots of laughter. puppy generally jumps in, steals the toast and it’s game on!
Kate: make your decisions according to your values and you’ll never have any regrets.
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