Alison Price Founder & Managing Director of SoilCyclers. Picture: AAP Image/Steve Pohlner
Alison Price Founder & Managing Director of SoilCyclers. Picture: AAP Image/Steve Pohlner

Why going green is gold for business

GOING green is a growing trend for Queensland companies keen to boost their bottom line, according to experts.

The rise in eco-friendly offerings is being driven by both demand by consumers for greener products but also the cost savings it can bring to business.

Griffith Business School's Dr Joan Carlini said adding an eco-friendly or socially-conscious practice to a business, can strengthen brand reputation and ultimately sell more products or services.

"There is a market at the moment for consumers with virtues - a lot of us want to do the right thing," she said.

"If there are two products in front, and for example, one claims to be less harsh on the environment, then that can be more attractive to a lot of people ... but it is also important that it does the same job.

"We can see a lot of examples in places like grocery stores, where more social dimensions are being placed on products whether it be to do with the environment, community practices or fair trade."

But she said companies had to be consistent in their approach to sustainability, otherwise could face consumer backlash and further scrutiny.

"When companies start talking about sustainability it needs to be a really consistent approach ... if they don't have that they can seem hypocritical, which can lead to a lot of problems in the future," she said.

The Courier-Mail's Queensland Business Monthly magazine spoke to four women who have found going green can benefit the planet and boost the bottom line.

ALISON PRICE, SOILCYLERS

Few would argue that when it comes to environmentally progressive businesses, construction and mining industry companies have not traditionally been at the top of the list.

But Alison Price, founder and managing director of Brisbane-based SoilCyclers, is rapidly changing that and saving her clients a truckload of money along the way.

Launched in 2009, SoilCyclers works across the construction, waste and mining sectors to recycle soil for further use, and is the largest business of its kind in the state.

While, traditionally, topsoil from a project would either simply be dumped and replaced, or trucked out to be recycled elsewhere and then stored, Price's company is completely mobile and able to work on-site saving cash, time and pollution.

"It's unique, I'm not aware of anyone else who is coming in, and sifting and blending on-site," Price says.

"It takes a lot of trucks off the road, which saves clients a lot of money.

"It's a really nice feeling. You're doing the right thing for the environment by not dramatically changing the local ecosystem, by not wasting the existing topsoil."

Working with soil scientists to get the specifications of what's required, the company can blend in the appropriate elements such as gypsum and potassium sulphate.

With chunks of the projects also including major highways, the sifting of unwanted materials such as bricks, plastics and metals out of the existing soil to be reused is an important part of the process.

"Imagine working with the topsoil on a major highway project - it can include all kinds of rubbish, shopping trolleys, a number of things which we can remove without it all just going straight to landfill," Price says.

"So we're taking the rubbish out of the soil, aerating it, and ultimately the client ends up with a good quality product which is equal to, or better than, an imported topsoil product.

"If they were importing topsoil at commercial rates, they would probably be paying about $28 a cubic metre. Depending on what needs to be changed with their soil and what level they want to get it to, our standard rate would be about $14 a cubic metre, so we're saving them about half the cost."

With Price now employing 15 staff and turnover climbing between 70 and 80 per cent each year, she says she is proud of where the business is placed within the sectors it works across.

"We've grown from very humble beginnings, from dry hiring our machinery to importing our own from Germany, using some of the best recycling technology available in the world," she says.

"We've grown slowly, and it's been a gradual process, but we've really made an impact.

"I do think I have the dream job - I get to save my clients money, and I get to do something which helps the environment at the same time."

Sophie Mulheran designs ethical and sustainable stationery and homewares. Picture: AAP Image/Claudia Baxter
Sophie Mulheran designs ethical and sustainable stationery and homewares. Picture: AAP Image/Claudia Baxter

SOPHIE MULHERAN, SOPHIA

By creating an eco-friendly and sustainable business, Sophie Mulheran has taken her passion for art and the environment and turned it into a thriving venture.

She spent eight years working as a gymnastics coach, but then a back injury led her to launch her own business, Sophia. in August last year, specialising in ethically made homewares and stationery.

"I had been getting to the point where I wanted to start doing something else," Mulheran says.

"I've always loved creating things myself and I had always wanted to run my own business.

"In the past few years, I figured how I could make it happen.

"I started off drawing in my spare time and then it progressed from there. I've found something that I have both a talent for and something I'm also very passionate about."

About 90 per cent of the products Mulheran sells, which include dinnerware, artwork, cards and artworks, are made entirely from recyclable materials, and all her products are plastic free.

Among her most popular products are copper plates, which she hand makes from electrical wire.

Starting with $1000 of her own savings, Mulheran has now built up her business to include several stockists around Brisbane, plus one in New Zealand, and has been filling international orders through her online store.

"The next step for me will be to make sustainable and ethical fabric and ceramic items," she says.

She is in talks with a business in Melbourne to begin getting her fabric made for her to create cushions, sarongs and picnic rugs bearing her unique designs.

Mel Briody of the eco business Greenery Lane selling eco growing gifts for individuals and corporate. Picture: AAP/ Ric Frearson
Mel Briody of the eco business Greenery Lane selling eco growing gifts for individuals and corporate. Picture: AAP/ Ric Frearson

MEL BRIODY, GREENERY LANE

Giving a living gift which grows is the latest trend being embraced by those wanting to minimise their eco-footprint, and give a little back to the earth.

Brisbane-based startup Greenery Lane had been busy cementing its place in this expanding niche market, selling everything from seed paper grow kits and greeting cards to succulents in biodegradable pots.

The lineup includes personalised products for weddings and corporate and private events.

But when business founder Mel Briody and her sister Olivia Vizer came up with the idea of giving plants as gifts, they struggled to reconcile the idea of potentially thousands of small plastic pots going to landfill.

"Plants are beautiful gifts, but most of them come in these little plastic pots which usually just get thrown away," Briody says.

"It's easier to ignore when you're dealing with a small amount, but when you begin thinking about it on a larger scale it becomes a lot more problematic."

Briody, who describes herself as a passionate environmentalist, says she is proud to be able to say every part of her business is plastic free, including postage.

"As a company and as a consumer, I thought I was pretty conscious about what I was buying and using, but when I really examined it closely I realised that I actually could be making much better choices," she says.

"There are a lot of resources out there now and more companies doing more innovative things.

"But I was surprised by how hard it was to find certain things which were recyclable."

Greenery Lane is Briody's first business, and she says she feels there is a growing movement in Queensland, and the country, to embrace eco-friendly businesses and practices.

"I've always had a passion for the environment," she says.

"I think people are definitely a lot more conscious about the impact that their purchases have on the environment around them."

After less than a year of operation, Briody says she wasn't expecting the business to grow as rapidly as it has.

She says the company would be looking to hire staff and move to larger premises in the near future, to keep up with demand.

"We'd like to be the leaders for growing gifts in Australia. There's definitely a demand for it," she says.

"We're working with a few wholesale customers at the moment, and we're planning to have more of an outreach through that network to be available in more stores in the future."

Spicers Retreats’ Alice Dahlberg has been implementing eco-policies across the resorts, including banning plastics and straws, composting, and cultivating restaurant gardens. Picture: Lachie Millard
Spicers Retreats’ Alice Dahlberg has been implementing eco-policies across the resorts, including banning plastics and straws, composting, and cultivating restaurant gardens. Picture: Lachie Millard

ALICE DAHLBERG, SPICERS RETREATS

Luxury accommodation group Spicers Retreats has spent years building a reputation as a provider of some of the country's most desirable getaway destinations.

With retreats in some of the most beautiful parts of the country, including Queensland's Maleny, Montville and Maryvale, the stunning natural settings are without question part of the appeal, but the Queensland-based group has also embarked on reducing its footprint, making positive changes for the environment and also its business bottom line.

For the past six months, Spicers Retreats' Alice Dahlberg has had a new role, as the group's sustainability officer, implementing multiple changes to the way the business operates, having progressed from her role as a supervisor and a senior position in the finance team.

Dahlberg, who hails from Sweden and has been working with the group for six years, says she is passionate, not just about the company limiting its impact on the planet and enhancing sustainable business practices, but also about the fact that going eco-friendly could also have a positive impact on the bottom line.

"One of the things we have done is to eliminate plastic straws from our retreats. It's something that can seem like a small thing, but the impact is large," she says.

Dahlberg estimates that as many as 40,000 straws could be saved by the change, and combined with other green initiatives including composting, other plastic removals and water and waste monitoring, could save the business upwards of $20,000 per year.

Restaurant gardens growing fresh vegetables and herbs have also been planted at several of the retreats. This has been an initiative by the chefs.

"It can seem like a small thing, but they are something which can have a huge impact on the environment," Dahlberg says.