Eco-innovators at the forefront of sustainability in London

Flushable wet wipes that do not destroy our city’s rivers? You better believe it. It’s the kind of innovation that’s happening right here in London. We are talking to the people whose cross-border ideas are helping to make London a greener city.

The Deliveroo for clothing repairs

In January this year, Josephine Philips (above) launched Sojo, an app to connect people to local sewing services with delivery by bike

It started with a ridiculous attempt that I tried to sew. I had found a great used pin-striped suit, but it was not my size at all. I tried to change it and it was catastrophic.

I wanted to make tailoring easy and convenient for Gen Z.. I certainly was not the only one with this problem? I did market research and found that it was a problem. I came up with Sojo as a solution.

Your clothes will be back to you within three to five days. You enter your postcode and book what you need. A cyclist picks up the item along with another item that already fits you to get the right size and drops it to your local seamstress.

The day the app was launched, I could not stop crying. It felt so significant. When more than 1,000 people downloaded it in the first 24 hours, I thought: Is it real?

I was the first Sojo cyclist. Ten miles inside I was lying sick next to the road. I hadn’t trained since I played netball as a 16-year-old, but I thought it would be fine to ride 14 miles.

It’s about fitting your clothes to you instead of the other way around. Repairing and tailoring items helps keep clothes out of the landfill, which I am incredibly passionate about.

The future of sustainable fashion goes back to how our grandparents lived – to have a circular relationship with what we are wearing. It will be a beautiful combination of rental, secondhand, exchange, repair, tailoring and upcycling.

I’m hopeful about the fashion industry. But there is still a market for fast fashion. There is a lot of climate anxiety, so if I was not hopeful, it would be a dark place. With all the innovation, the industry will definitely be turned upside down.

Photo: Gobinder Jhitta, Illustration: Tim Easly

Wet wipes that do not destroy the Thames

After five years of research, Alborz Bozorgi and Ellenor McIntosh created Twipes: flushable wipes

It started when one of our friends said they had blocked their toilet three times in a year. Along with hundreds of other Londoners, he had flushed wet wipes – something that causes more harm than just blocking the toilet. We were looking for a solution.

It took us five years of research. Once we had a product, we had to find out if it could be rinsed. In December 2019, we had a finished product: Twipes. They are made of wood pulp and begin to decompose when immersed in water.

Our wet wipes dissolve completely in three hours, which is shorter time than it takes for flushed waste to get into the Thames Estuary. A woman once asked if she could drink the dissolved water. You able to, but we do not recommend it.

We say you do not need to change your behavior. If you want to keep using wet wipes, that’s fine. But switch to the flushable, environmentally friendly ones.

Twipes is a disposable product, but we want to make sure it is the best possible disposable product you can have. No one says you should not carry a flannel with you if that’s how you want to live, but most people do not want it.

There is a lot of greenwashing and there is a lot behind the word ‘biodegradable’. A bag that claims to be biodegradable can still take 100 years to decompose. We invite people to look at our credentials and find out if our product actually does what it says.

If all wet wipes became biodegradable overnight, the impact would be enormous. The goal is to take our biotech and stick it on other products, even if it’s not our branding.

We are not little kids anymore screaming at our parents about putting their cans in the right trash can. We have the purchasing power to make a difference so we can inspire the younger generation.

Chilly's founders James Butterfield and Tim Bouscarle
Photo: Gobinder Jhitta, Illustration: Tim Easly

The changing water bottle

How Chilly’s founders James Butterfield and Tim Bouscarle created the now ubiquitous bottle

James: The idea came from a love of cold water. Back in 2010, I was carrying around a disposable plastic bottle of water that I would refill every day. I started thinking: Wouldn’t it be great to have cold water without having to buy a new bottle every time?

I came up with a design that I thought my friends would like and ordered 500 bottles for my parents’ house. They were shocked. I filled my entire bedroom from top to bottom and hand-tested each bottle while sitting in the bathroom with water spraying all over me because about 100 of the first ones were leaking.

I started selling them at Camden Market and remember the rats crawling around the place. No one really understood what I was doing. It went slowly until I met Tim while working at a digital agency in London. He saw the environmental benefits, and in 2012 we set up a crowdfunding campaign.

James and Tim: Getting into stores like Whole Foods felt like the biggest thing in the world. But it really picked up speed when we started selling online. In Christmas 2016, we resigned jobs and in 2018 we hired our first employee.

Then the whole antiplastic movement took off, with straws and cutlery. From 2018 to 2020, Chilly’s went completely insane. We have saved hundreds of millions of plastic bottles.

Everyone was like, ‘What is this new technology?’ But it’s just a thermos that has been redesigned: two stainless steel walls with a vacuum in the middle. It keeps the water cold for 24 hours, which at the time was something new.

Recycling is not the best way forward Not using these disposable products in the first place is better.

It never gets old to see the bottles in nature. People use them in their daily lives. It’s a big change in habits that did not exist 11 years ago.

Loma founds Joseph Undaloc
Photo: Gobinder Jhitta, Illustration: Tim Easly

The search engine for secondhand shopping

In May, Joseph Undaloc set up Loma, a search engine designed to make the circular economy easier to navigate.

When I moved to the UK from the Philippines, I found out that everything was five times more expensive. That was in 2012, and I was a broken student, so I bought used out of necessity. I remember trawling through Gumtree for ages.

I would make it less complicated for buyers to find what they were looking for. So two years ago I came up with Loma, a Skyscanner for second hand goods. My university gave me a bit of coaching and I soft-launched since May.

I could not afford a developer, so it took me about four months to build the site myself. I have known how to code since i was 12 but it was hard because technology is changing so fast. Sometimes I thought: I could quit right now, but I knew it could help humans and the planet.

There are many moving parts for Loma – it’s like assembling a complicated piece of furniture from IKEA. It brings together seven locations, from clothing to electronics and furniture. [All the tech] is off the shelf and if a piece is missing it will not work.

When ‘Bake Off’ started, there was an increase in searches for used KitchenAids. The search patterns are really interesting. As it got colder, there were many searches for books, and when the lockdown was lifted, there was an increase in summer dresses.

I want Loma to have the same approach to second-hand shopping that Amazon has for convenience. We need to apply the same obsession to items already made.

It’s not just Y2K tops or vintage t-shirts – everything can be bought used. I found a green Chesterfield sofa, which usually costs around £ 2,500, for only £ 250 at Loma. I always find something strangely underpriced.

Want to do your part? Here’s how London’s restaurants become more environmentally friendly.

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