Aidan W. Buttigieg introduces us to an innovative waste solution to help fight climate change, Kioko. Started by a group of school students, the company fashions coconut bowls out of disused coconut shells.
The cause and impact of climate change is slowly (but surely) occupying the minds of everyone on the planet. Campaigns to reduce single-use plastic are widespread, fast fashion boycotts are taking over hashtags all over social media, congestion charges are increasing public transport use, and plant-based diets are becoming more popular.
However, a key part in the fight against climate change is often overlooked – this is the amount of material waste we produce. Living a more sustainable lifestyle involves keeping an eye on the number of products we consume, reusing them and buying repurposed items wherever we can. Data released by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in March 2020 reports that the UK alone generated 221.0 million tonnes of total waste in 2016. This was an increase of 3.3% from the 214.0 million tonnes generated in 2014. To put that into context: the Big Ben in London weighs around 13.7 tonnes, so now imagine over 16 million Big Bens all piled up on top of each other. That’s how much waste the UK produces every single year.
What can be done to stop this waste?
Meet Kioko, a team of young female entrepreneurs who are trying to chip away at this issue one coconut at a time. As part of the Young Enterprise Scheme, this group of 16 students from Oxford High School GDST came up with two ideas for a potential business: coconuts and home décor.
Combining the two, they eventually landed on Kioko, a company which creates unique and hand-crafted coconut bowls made out of discarded coconuts. Lizzie, Managing Director, explained that the product “combines [their] passions for sustainability with the artistic talent of the group”, stressing that the group’s shared value for sustainability is at the centre of any discussion they have. With their products they hope to help people move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, emphasising that “sustainability is a priority for all of us and we hope to encourage others to be aware of how their lifestyles impact the environment”.
Their message is simple, Shreya, also Managing Director at Kioko, tells me: “We work towards reducing the negative impacts of carbon dioxide emissions but also want to have a positive impact on people’s lives while doing this, through our colourful creations”. The company’s slogan summarises this as ‘happiness in a shell’, deriving from the Japanese meaning of the name Kioko, which implies ‘meeting a world with happiness’. Not only do the bright and bold colours in Kioko’s products bring happiness to the customer but so does the knowledge that the coconut has been repurposed and not gone to waste.
Kioko has a wide range of products currently available. So far, the students have developed 3 ranges of designs: The Core Range, the Citrus Collection, and most recently, their Spring Collection. The team explains how they have named their core range of bowls after coconut species, matching the interesting names with the visual aesthetic of the designs: “for example, our two geometric bowls are named ‘East Coast’ and ‘West Coast’, which we think reflects the cleanliness and modern patterns of these designs”.
The Kioko team tells me: “we feel that a sense of happiness, although sometimes intangible, can be achieved through not only the sustainable aspect of our bowls but also the delightful designs. For example, we have a citrus themed collection which encompasses the theme of summer perfectly, with vibrant colours, which we as a team hope will bring some form of light into people’s lives during this challenging time and will brighten their day!”.
How are the coconut bowls made and how does it help fight climate change?
Erin, Sustainability Director, explains how “99% of coconuts that are used for their oil or meat are usually burnt”. This creates greenhouse gases, such as CO2, which are then released into the Earth’s atmosphere. Kioko’s solution to this is buying the coconut shells that would have gone to waste and then turning them into bowls. “If you can use them, then why not?”, Erin puts it simply.
Kioko buys the used coconut shells from a company which polishes the bowls and sells them to be repurposed. They then paint over the shells and give them another coating to protect the paint and the coconut. The design of each bowl is integral to the heart of the company and Lizzie tells me they have some “incredibly talented artists and designers within the team” who have responded very well to the digital shift that has been accelerated by Covid-19.
The designs are sketched digitally, integrating bold colours with images of nature. Once the process of design is complete, each one is allocated to a designer, who hand paints it onto each bowl. The bowls are then packaged by the team and delivered.
Kioko works to reduce its carbon footprint every step of the way, from packaging to shipping. Their packaging is “100% sustainable”, even the stamp which gives each packaging a personal touch is environmentally friendly, being “100% vegan, made with eco-friendly rubber and oak”. Erin explains that the team wishes to go even further, hoping to become completely paperless by summer, and are working every day to reduce paper and energy consumption wherever they can.
Where to next?
The team revealed that they hope to start a candle range as well very soon, and sustainability is always at the core of every decision. Erin tells me how important it is for them that each customer knows that every candle holder can be used for something else once the wax has been used up. “They are not just waste”, she concludes, Kioko’s products are all biodegradable, so if you need to discard them, they won’t harm the planet.
Much like every other business during this turbulent time, Kioko has faced difficulties but they remain positive. “We’ve experienced challenges like every other small business during COVID”, says the Kioko team, “but we still strive ahead with the same momentum we had before” and things are looking good. Meetings are no longer the same, with everything happening via Google Meets now, and neither are their methods of promotion (usually done at school). Raahi, the Social Media and Sales Director, tells me they have now started exploring social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok to advertise on, and they’ve even recently won a national advertisement competition.
The future of Kioko looks bright. “We are all quite excited about the future of Kioko, although it’s very hard to know where it will go particularly with COVID. But we are always working towards the next project”, the team tells me. For now, the task at hand is winning the competition hosted by the Young Enterprise Scheme, and even potentially selling to customers in Europe and internationally. Above all, however, they hope to have fun with their project and to try and make a dent in the current waste problem that the world faces. “Our generation will play a vital role in protecting the planet, and we must take action”, believes the team, and Kioko is a positive way to help make this change – one coconut at a time.
Check out Kioko’s products here!
About the author: Aidan W. Buttigieg is Deputy Managing Editor of WILD and is in his third year of studying English Literature at the University of York.