As consumers, we’ve become increasingly conscious about our purchases. With a click of a button, we have the ability to create a positive difference in the choice of where we get our products, the people who produce them and the environment that serves us greatly. Today, we talk with Mirabel Rosar, Founder of ARAO Jewellery to talk to us about sustainability in entrepreneurship and what it means to live a sustainable lifestyle.
Nana Asia: How did you become interested in sustainability?
Sustainability started very early on in my life in small but meaningful ways. At 8 years old, my new year’s resolution was to not litter, which means throwing trash only in designated bins. I would conserve energy by switching off unnecessary lights or saving on water when brushing teeth. I started my own journey without realizing it.
Years passed and I became more aware of nature. In my 20’s, I started to surf a lot. Being close to the water made me realize how beautiful sea life is but that we have limited resources too. People need to care for the planet in order to co-exist.
In September 2009, my family’s house in Manila was under water due to Ondoy, the second most devastating tropical cyclone of the Pacific typhoon season that year. When your home is buried in 4-meters of flood waters for 7 days, it’s nature’s way of crying for help to care for the environment we live in. 921 people died from that storm. I was just thankful that we are still alive today.
Nana Asia: What inspired you to create ARAO?
Before putting up ARAO, I was working for the largest processed meats company in Australia, which was acquired by the largest meat company in the world. Back then, I wasn’t aware of the massive, destructive impact of the meat industry to the environment. There were several trends that raised a lot of issues against this category like animal welfare, health concerns, but not necessarily the planet.
When I moved to Hong Kong in 2018, I wanted to do something bigger than just conserving water and energy at home or reducing my consumption of meat. I wanted to help more people and do more for the planet. Being a surfer, I also wanted to do something directly related to water.
Many cultured pearl farms are located in the Pacific that boast of the greatest marine biodiversity in the world. Since the Philippines is the third largest source of South Sea pearls, with golden pearls being the national gem, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to promote sustainability.
Nana Asia: What are some hardships you faced in creating your own eco-friendly brand and how did you overcome it?
Being an eco-friendly brand means looking at every single detail from product, packaging, processes to people. Hence, I encountered a lot of hardships before launching the brand and continue to do so.
First was packaging. According to EuroStat in 2018, packaging waste generated was at 174 kilograms per person in the EU. Paper and cardboard was the main packaging waste material at 32 tonnes in 2018 followed by plastic and glass.
I asked myself ‘how do I develop a luxury packaging design that conveys premium quality yet remain environmentally friendly?’ I decided that less packaging is better to achieve zero waste. So, I sourced recycled carton and paper jewelry boxes and recently replaced excessive tissue wrap with an Ivory linen pouch that could be reused by customers. This was a pricey decision given the cost to convert to pouch was 70x more than the commonly used tissue wrap.
Next, I asked myself ‘how do I reduce ARAO’s carbon footprint from deliveries?’ With the launch of our new PARADOX collection, we received a lot of orders from Hong Kong and the Philippines. The Philippine deliveries were shipped via logistic companies using air transport. To overcome this, I now work with a local supplier in Manila who could maintain the same level of quality and service yet deliver with lesser use of carbon.
Nana Asia: How do you incorporate sustainability in daily life?
Since sustainability started so early for me, I think it’s always been my way of life. How do I do it?
First, I CONSERVE on resources like energy and water. I still turn off lights that are not in use. I still turn off the faucet while I’m brushing my teeth and I still throw trash in the bin and segregate them. I always strive to go paperless too. I have opted to use e-calling cards and online vouchers rather than print.
Next, I ACQUIRE things carefully and not excessively. I focus on the essentials and give away unused items at home. I am consuming less meat and seafood and eating more plant-based foods. I don’t think I will ever give up meat but I believe, like in everything I do, BALANCE is key.
RENEW, REUSE, RECYCLE are more relevant now than ever too. This means always bringing an eco-bag to avoid using plastics, avoid using single-use products and trying to reuse products and items as many times as possible before binning them to reduce waste. I also try to reuse items creatively. An example would be using large carton boxes from grocery deliveries to build wearable airplane boxes for my daughter and her friends. There are so many ways to do this.
Lastly, do it EVERY DAY. Consistency is what makes actions and behaviours to habits. According to ScienceDaily, about 40% of people’s daily activities are performed each day in almost the same situations. So if we are able to do sustainable acts automatically, every day, then we build good habits to a more sustainable future where people CARE more for the environment and our planet.