A big thank you to GTCL for featuring us into their blog which is a series where founders of sustainable brands ask each other some questions about their journey and their vision of the future. Read on to discover 513 Paint Shop and GTCL, their motivations and aspirations as sustainably-minded businesses.
1. What inspired you to start this business emphasising sustainability?
513 Paint Shop: It was exactly because we were looking for eco friendly paint to paint a kid chair as a gift that we realised there is a need but there weren’t many choices in the market. So why not we offer these choices of beautiful colours of paints that are also safe for our health and our environment.
GTCL: That's super interesting! When we think of paint, the nasty chemical smell is what comes to mind. So refreshing to know there are alternative options that are safer. Our definition of sustainability is in how food is mindfully made and that extends to how it is farmed as well as how it is prepared. We started our business really because of 2 things, 1) as Singaporeans we loved to eat. When we first discovered pili nuts 8 years ago, we feel in love with how buttery it tasted and felt this should be introduced to the world. 2) we suffered a lost of a family member to cancer and that heightened our awareness of food sources and preparation.
2. What are some common misconceptions about sustainable products?
513 Paint Shop: That we needed to sacrifice something in order for them to be sustainable. Like in terms of their efficacy or price or aesthetic or variety in choices. We make our own collections, just to show customers that while our paints are eco friendly, you could still have many beautiful choices of colours and finishes for all the application needs without sacrificing the durability or functionality of the paints.
GTCL: For us many people immediate think that sustainable means it must be organic. Well yes and no, you're likely to find better farming practises with organic products. However sustainable food also mean those that are mindfully prepared and even wild-harvested. We should be asking questions such as - what goes into that dish, or bag of chips? How was it cooked? How was it farmed? Slapping an organic sticker on a packaging does not make it pesticide-free nor does it make it more nutritious or safer for the environment. Many people are also not aware that organic certifications have a loop-holes too.
3. How do your products make a difference?
513 Paint Shop: Paints cover large surfaces in our homes and interiors. They are a major source of indoor air pollution and for generations we have simply accepted that after we painted our homes, it would smell for a while. And never even realised that even long after the smell dissipates, the harmful chemicals, toxins and VOCs continue to be emitted in the air and affect our health, causing respiratory illnesses and cancers.
And exactly because paints cover large areas of our built environment, we produce a lot of them. Hence manufactures who are conscious of using non toxic raw materials, green energy, clean water etc have a large impact in contributing to a more sustainable economy and habitat for all.
GTCL: Wow, we wonder how many consumers are actually aware of this impact. As we shared earlier, we created our products as we wanted people to have access to good quality food that benefits both the farmers and the consumers, and importantly enjoy as well. Back when we first started, healthy food was generally boring and bland. We wanted to also support lesser known produce so as balance the biodiversity especially in the tropics. Now, our farmers who adopt beekeeping have a healthier life and crops, a stronger source of income for a better livelihood. Our bee colonies are increasing and pollinating even more crops that ever.
4. What would the world look like if sustainable products were mainstream?
513 Paint Shop: Then we could spend more energy in other things! I think that’s a reason why many people are not choosing more sustainable products it’s because they are not as easily accessible, in terms of where you find them, prices that are more comparable to other products in market, and in terms of choices to suit their needs. Convenience is a deterring hurdle especially in a society where time is a luxury to most. If sustainable products were the norm, then we have less problems just dealing with all the packaging, all the plastic in our oceans and beaches, so that the health of our planets, animals and our own species could have a chance to heal themselves.
GTCL: We saw a bit of that eutopia when the world went into lock down and was it a sight for sore eyes. If the mode of operation across the world was one of mindfulness, we would not be worrying about the climate, we would be healthier which also means there will be less lifestyle diseases which also means less pain and we will also look amazing because we're healthier and putting only real stuff on and in our bodies.
5. How can parents do better to educate our future generation to be more sustainable?
513 Paint Shop: Be the examples. Children learn by observing and mimicking. When our own responsible actions are consistently aligned with what we believe, like not expecting others to behave differently or blaming others for their choices etc, we teach our future generations to be responsible beings.
GTCL: Absolutely agree! We're also seeing the reverse happening, where children are educating and often times encouraging their parents to consider other options that are better for their bodies and the environment. Exposure and just having open conversations are good starting points.
6. Can you recall an interesting moment in your journey when building this sustainable business?
513 Paint Shop: Beginning of the journey is always full of surprises and challenging moments! Recall so many times in the beginning when people who came in our shop and had all kinds of funny ideas of what we were selling exactly. Maybe because we’re really the first boutique paint shop in the city pioneering the market and because we displayed shelves of sample jars of colourful paints in little glass jars. Some thought they were candles, food items, make ups etc! Slowly we understood that what’s obvious to us may not always be the case for others, so we adapted our display to really make it loud and clear we are a shop selling eco friendly paints for homes and interiors! Since then we don’t have anymore confused customers!
GTCL: That sounds like so much fun though! Wish we could come visit. Well, when we were first given the stingless Trigona bee honey which the farmers said was a medicinal honey, we didn't think much of it until we tasted it. It was super sour! To be honest one of us actually cringed cos sour was not one of his favourite flavour profiles. Then it was when he was healed from a cold that it completely changed his perspective and the journey of Anaya began. We have such a fun time watching people's expression when they first taste this natural honey.
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