One of the biggest obstacles to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle? Breaking bad habits. From refusing plastic straws to carrying a reusable container, greener living is a constant work in progress. And don’t get us started on how plastic bags in Singapore supermarkets are still handed out like hotcakes!
Like many of us, the above was a growing frustration to Yumika Hoskin. Growing up in Australia with its outdoor lifestyle and golden shorelines, Yumika always had a love for the ocean. After moving to Singapore, she was struck by the rampant consumption of plastic and waste on the island, and eventually set out to create a solution.
The result? Peco Bag; a line of eco-friendly reusable bags made from rPET plastic waste. Colourful, tongue-in-cheek and able to fold down to pop in your pocket, she’s making good on her vision to help everyday citizens in Singapore and beyond change habits for the good of our planet. We chatted to the social entrepreneur about her sustainability journey and the affordable green swaps anyone can make everyday.
How did an awareness of sustainability come into your life? What moments have defined your journey?
I grew up in Australia surrounded by beautiful beaches. Plastic and rubbish washing up on the shore was something that made me very conscious and aware; I found it alarming that our waste was ‘showing up’ in our faces again. That experience definitely prompted me to question how and why plastic ends up in the ocean. I also grew up with the great influence of my mother, who is Japanese; she always packed our lunches and items using reusable packaging.
I’d say the most defining moment for me was moving to Asia and seeing the wasteful use of cheap single-use plastics, plus the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude. Whether it was juice being offered with a plastic carrier (then discarded in minutes) or the overuse of plastic bags at the supermarkets to pack single items, green living stemmed from both frustration but also a motivation to make people more aware.
It’s no surprise then that you eventually started Peco Bag, your line of reusable bags made from recycled plastic.
The idea of Peco Bag was first sparked by my trips to the supermarkets and not finding a product that was easy to carry around with me. Eventually, I became inspired to help people change a habit by offering a stylish, compact reusable bag made from recycled material that could conveniently fit in your pocket. I’d also always wanted to start a business and have more purpose in my career.
We launched Peco Bag on Earth Day 2019. First it was a passion project to see where it went, but now I’m so happy to see its success and we’ve had many milestones. We’ve been published in magazines like Her World, and it’s been wonderful to have such loyal customers who pick up a Peco Bag for their household and friends. I’ve also worked with corporate companies who want to offer gifts to their workforce and create a greener environment. Our mission, #ChangeAHabitChangeTheWorld and helping to influence just one person to make a positive change is always worthwhile.
You share tried-and-tested green lifestyle tips on social media, too. What easy swaps can we make?
I think making any sustainable swap starts with becoming aware of where things come from, e.g. how most single-use plastic comes into your life. For some, it could be the bathroom or kitchen, for others it could be from going to the grocery store. I started with the bag, now I never leave the house without a reusable coffee cup too. I’ve had so much fun exploring social media and discovering other sustainable brands and their products. It’s all about being curious!
One easy switch is to head out to a refillery store and stock up on household products without the packaging. By starting and sticking to even just one habit, you’ll feel a sense of pride and after that, guilt when you do consume plastics which you know could inevitably end up in landfill or incinerated. By reducing your overall waste, you’re making a difference and lessening the reliance on someone else recycling it for you.
Do you think working within the media industry has affected your relationship with consumption? Is there anything you’ve had to learn/unlearn?
When on set, I’m always offered water in plastic bottles; they’re often quite ‘politely’ pushy with it! I feel rude constantly saying ‘no, no, no!’ and explaining that I’ve brought my own refillable bottle; it’s about sticking to your morals. As an influencer, we’re constantly offered products to try too which is such a blessing, but I’ve learnt to only consume from brands that align with my values, and requesting that when they do send items to never include single-use plastic novelty items and tote bags. I also want my work to set me apart, so being recognised for advocating sustainability has let me connect with the brands I really want to work with.
Finally, tell us the ways you’re #Down4Earth and how you feel others can be too.
When you start a business, profit is always a huge factor. But I think pride in your product, connection to your customers and being true to your mission is the most important thing. So for brands, I believe whether they’re a sustainable business or not, there are always ways they can offset their carbon footprint, or give back to projects like planting trees or donating to charity. I’m #Down4Earth by prioritising giving back to save our environment.
#Down4Earth is a social awareness campaign launched by ZERRIN on World Environment Day 2021. The campaign features Singapore-based sustainability advocates with a passion for urban farming, circular fashion, composting and more. They prove that there’s more to sustainability than the quintessential 3 R’s and there’s something everyone can do. Discover more about the campaign. Photography, styling and production by ZERRIN STUDIO.
Susannah believes better design can help create a brighter future. A former magazine editor, she now runs ZERRIN and works at the intersection of consumers, brands and sustainability advocacy.