Eco entrepreneur Q&A: Bronte Hogarth

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One of the things you will quickly discover when you begin leading a zero waste lifestyle is that it necessitates getting creative in the kitchen, in large part as a way to reduce food waste.

Many zero wasters will then turn their newfound culinary expertise to their beauty products, making their own lip balm, body balm and face masks, which are some of the easier DIY beauty recipes to master first.

Bronte Hogarth had a little bit of a head start in the DIY beauty department; Bronte’s mother is Natalie Isaacs, who not only ran her own organic aromatherapy skincare business for over two decades, is also the founder and CEO of 1 Million Women, the women’s mass movement for action on climate change.

With a passion for sustainable living clearly in her blood, Bronte launched her own eco enterprise in 2018, Raise The Bar.

Raise The Bar transforms spent coffee grounds sourced from local cafes into natural skin care products with plastic-free/zero waste packaging.

“[My mother’s] journey has greatly inspired me and my passion for sustainability, and to use business as a force for good, “ says Bronte.

Today, I spoke with Bronte about what led her to start her own sustainable business, why living an eco-friendly lifestyle is so important and what her hopes for Raise The Bar are moving forward.

What gave you the impetus to launch Raise the Bar?

When I learnt about the estimated 75,000 tonnes of spent coffee grounds going to landfill in Australia every year, I started to think about my morning coffee ritual a little differently.

That is a whole lot of landfill piling up and emitting harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

I wanted to do something about it, so I started collecting spent coffee grounds from local cafes, and experimenting with making natural skincare products at home to repurpose them. It was a simple idea to be part of the solution to the big problem of waste.

A few years in, our ambitions have grown and we’ve moved on from our home kitchen to work with a fantastic manufacturer. We’d like to eventually apply our model to other waste streams to be able to repurpose more ingredients that still have a lot to give.

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Raise The Bar’s packaging is zero waste. This was obviously a conscious decision.

Above all, Raise The Bar is about contributing to a world with less waste, and the irony is that we are operating in one of the most wasteful industries in the world – the beauty industry and all it’s over-packaging.

Plastic pollution is literally clogging up our world from landfills to the oceans so we’ve made the choice to have zero waste/plastic-free packaging.

For me, this was an easy choice, but not one I take lightly, because at the end of the day packaging is about safety for the user of the product.

Nevertheless, we simply must think of new ways for products to remain stable without plastic packaging. I’m excited about all the innovation happening in this space.

At present our products are packaged in a box that you can recycle, but our preference is actually that you compost it or put it in your worm farm.

You source the used coffee grounds used in Raise The Bar’s scrub bars from local cafes. How did you go about approaching cafes initially? Did they find your request a little odd?

I have a good relationship with the cafes we pick up from regularly, but in the beginning some of them did find it odd!

However, I think some momentum is building here and I am frequently seeing cafes putting bags of their spent coffee grounds out for customers to take home for their gardens.

There are also other amazing businesses working with spent coffee grounds so hopefully the idea continues to spread.

I see the bigger issue being the sheer amount of coffee waste. Just imagine what the scale of the problem looks like in a country with a bigger population like the US?!

We really need a lot of people everywhere helping to solve this issue, and the bigger issue of waste going to landfill in general.

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You currently have an orange coffee scrub bar and a peppermint coffee scrub bar in the range. Why did you choose these two scents? Are there any new products in development?

Our repurposed coffee scrub bars have a really delicious rich chocolaty-ness to them because of the cacao butter, which is why they are so moisturising.

If you think about orange and peppermint, these are both scents that work really well in chocolate.

The orange takes you right back to eating chocolate jaffas, and the peppermint is so zingy and refreshing.

There are new products in the early stages of development, as well as some limited edition collaborations in the works, so keep your eyes peeled!

Tell us about the support you received through ING’s Dreamstarter initiative.

We have been so lucky to have the support of ING’s Dreamstarter program.

They backed us during our successful 2018 crowdfunding campaign, which meant we were able to launch our first product to market, and their ongoing support has helped us to keep growing our social enterprise.

I highly encourage anybody with a game-changing idea they are passionate about to get involved with Dreamstarter as you just might be able to turn that idea into a reality.

It’s early days for Raise The Bar of course, but just getting started and turning ideas into action, and all the learnings that have come from that have been so valuable for me so far.

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How do you strive to lead a sustainable lifestyle at home?

Sustainability for me is such a moving target. Just continually learning and improving is what is important.

Waste reduction is obviously a bit of a passion, so I’m always looking for areas in my life where I can eliminate waste – something that has been quite challenging lately with a toddler around [Bronte is mum to three-year-old, Harper].

It helps that my work and personal life are following the same values, as whatever I’m learning I can put into both.

I completely agree with Anne-Marie Bonneau: “We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”.

Something else that has been big for me is making sure my personal finances and superannuation are not funding fossil fuels or unethical companies, and making switches to better options out there.

Thanks for your time, Bronte!