Passionate about the environment, but frustrated with the eco-friendly products on offer, Christopher Toomey (MSc Management 2016) decided to take things into this own hands. Launching Cosmic Panda Club he hopes to change perceptions of eco-friendly products and build range of everyday products that people can trust. And in the process build a more waste-free, environmentally responsible society.
Striving for a better future
Chris had a successful career as a consultant, living and working in London, but following a simple conversation with friends this all changed. He decided to combine his writing skills and his drive for environmental change to raise awareness and make a difference.
“I was talking to my friends about eco-friendly products and how so many of them are badly designed. I realised that there was a space in the market for a quality eco-friendly brand, which gave the option to subscribe to products based on your needs. I was working as a consultant and realised that I could use my writing skills to build momentum and raise awareness through my blog and published articles. I left my job pretty soon after this revelation and decided to go for it. I felt I could do something worthwhile and knew I’d regret not trying.”
Making a difference
Chris believes there are many small changes we can all do to make a difference. For example did you know that 2bn disposable razors end up in landfill every year? Or that 93% of material blockages in sewers is caused non-biodegradable wet wipes, which are also shown to contain anti-biotic resistant bacteria?* These are scary statistics. As well as a product range, Chris writes blogs with useful insights and advice to create greater understanding about how our small everyday actions have a big impact on the environment.
“I don’t think it is enough to make eco-friendly products and expect people to buy them. People need to understand why the environment matters, and what it means to them. There are so many little ways to make a difference and I would recommend picking an area of your consumption and looking at alternatives to the eco-friendly products you use.”
Tackling the challenge
Determined to make a tangible difference, Chris took on the challenge of addressing disposable plastic waste by designing his first product, an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush. “There are 3.5 billion reasons to stop buying plastic toothbrushes – precisely how many are thrown away into landfill each year,” explains Chris. But however passionate you are, starting out on your own isn’t easy and an added challenge for Chris was learning about the production side of things, on top of his business skills.
“The main challenge for me was learning the skills required to create the products. I have taught myself product design, graphic design and learned about setting up a business in the short space of 5 months. This has been a steep learning curve but worth the challenge. With a new business it is always challenging to raise your profile, but I am working on the PR side of things and writing articles to help inform people. There is plenty more to learn about and I don’t think I will ever stop learning.”
“I always felt that I had it in me to become an entrepreneur, but I knew it would be hard. Everybody is different. You have to be entirely self-motivated and you don’t have the security of a normal job, nor the guarantee that if you work hard it will pay off. You have to accept failure and balance reflective humility with self-confidence. It is a big risk but I am more scared of the regrets of not taking that risk, than taking the risk itself.”
Changing consumer habits
“I would like to see my products in the homes of people around the world – and I want people to see that just because a product is eco-friendly, it doesn’t mean it is inferior or costs an arm and a leg,” explains Chris, who is already in the process of developing more products for this range.
“I know this will take a huge amount of commitment, flexibility and hard work and I need to grow and learn from every lesson. I would like my brand to be recognised, and for it to be making a positive impact on our planet. I am currently working on eco-friendly cosmetics, cleaning and shaving solutions. I’d like to have a range of everyday products that people can trust to be even more effective and better-designed than the cheap and damaging alternatives we are so used to.”
Did you know that 2bn disposable razors end up in landfill every year? Or that 93% of material blockages in sewers is caused non-biodegradable wet wipes, which are also shown to contain anti-biotic resistant bacteria?
“I learned so much during my time at Imperial, but the main thing was that business isn’t as complicated as it looks and you have to own what you’re good at. It is also important to be ethical and creative. When you drill down into numbers you can forget that it is really about ideas, passion and people. For me, without these things there is no point in making spreadsheets and being clever – everyone who has passion has their part to play and something to offer.”
*Taken from Chris’s blog post ‘What to do about the 5 Eco Enemies you use in your daily routine’