Founder of Viveco, supplying crew with sustainable alternatives to everyday products.
With a driving passion to personally achieve and widely promote a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle and philosophy, Hannah Russell is the Founder of Viveco, a company based in Mallorca that is set on opening up the eyes of the islanders and crew to sustainable alternatives to everyday products.
Having worked as yacht crew, sailing all over the planet, Hannah witnessed first hand the deterioration of the oceans and began to research ways to reduce the impact an individual can have. Now, having settled in Mallorca and while running a family household, she is passionately changing her ways towards a world with less plastic, one step at a time.
In a nutshell, what is Viveco?
A place where you can find sustainable alternatives to everyday plastic products and somewhere to come and be inspired by finding out about how to make changes in your life and onboard.
What’s your background?
I joined yachting for a summer and then left after 9 years! I had an amazing time with some fantastic owners, crew and captains and visited some of the most breathtaking places on earth. We lived in Mexico and the USA, Costa Rica, went up the Amazon and my final set of charter trips was on a 73m in the Galapagos. I left to have my son and I then worked in events for a couple of years before starting Viveco.
How did your journey in sustainable and zero waste living begin?
I have always been interested in recycling etc when I younger, but the big change for me came with moving on to land permanently in my own home and having my son. I began to notice how much waste we created just the two of us and began to look at ways we could make changes in our lives. I began to read about the Zero Waste Movement (Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson) and it started from there. I loved the freeing feeling of consuming less and lots of things clicked into place for me regarding buying less, storing less and having more free time.
As a mother, do you think that having children changes your perspective on the world around you?
Completely. For me it made me think much more about the future. I had experienced and seen so many amazing things; diving with sharks in the Galapagos, Pink Dolphins in the Amazon and the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean. It really makes me sad to think that these things we have grown up with, our children and future generations might not know. Children sometimes see things more clearly then we can as adults and they are now making big changes in our world. We should support them wherever we can.
How did the Viveco brand start up?
It started very organically. People would see me using things (like the produce bags at market) and ask me where I got them. I would order other items like Bamboo toothbrushes from Amazon, but they would have been shipped and covered in packaging, which felt like it was defeating the good. I decided to order in large quantities a few items that at the time were hard to find and that were popular – toothbrushes, cotton buds, menstrual cups and it has grown from there!
What does it take to be a Viveco supplier?
I research every product thoroughly before I decide to stock an item. I try to track each product from the source to the manufacturing as it can be a total minefield when trying to be a conscious consumer. Not everything is ‘perfect’ or non impactful but I like when a company is transparent and open to change. It is great because most people I deal with are small start ups like myself and even the bigger ones are still very ethically minded. I also like to try to source items as locally as possible and I am in the process of resourcing all the time.
What is a typical day for you?
There rarely seem to be two the same! Generally, I am up early (I’m typing this at 5.30am) and try to exercise before getting my son ready for school. After drop off, I’ll head to the shop to start packing up online orders and dealing with emails from overnight. The shop is great as such a cross section of people come in, including yacht crew, students , families or the 92 year old Spanish lady who lives next door. I love talking to people about changes they are making in their consumption and habits and always find it super inspiring. During the day I do everything from cleaning the shop, restocking, ordering and researching products to accounts, website updating and admin etc. I close early for Spain at 13:30, which gives me time to have yacht deliveries or meetings in the afternoon. There is usually a pop-up, event or something else happening in the background, so I am always on the go!
Viveco has been in the business for 2 years. How have things changed in this time?
I started with only 6 products and I think our range is now over 100+. From a personal point of view we have grown, opened a premises, and now have a large amount of regular yacht clients which were things I never expected. Over this period I think more generally the world and people’s perception of ‘eco-friendly’ is changing – it is no longer only about recycling. More shops and businesses that are conscious and ethically-minded are opening and this way of life is becoming more mainstream – which is GREAT!
What’s been the most challenging issues you’ve faced at work?
I think working by myself and having to deal with the things you may not be so confident in can sometimes be overwhelming. I had no previous ‘business’ knowledge and sometimes it can be a painful learning curve when you make a mistake. It has improved my Castellano massively, but I still have a long way to go and sometimes I get frustrated with myself that I cannot communicate as well as I would like to – yet!
We hear that the wheels are in motion for producing your own brand of yachting essentials! Tell us about that.
Yes! The first official item in the OeSHun range, Bamboo stemmed cotton buds, arrive today which is very exciting. OeSHun is a range of luxury-eco essential items starting in the bathroom. I would like to be able to offer a complete bathroom set of the essentials (toothbrushes, silk dental floss, cotton buds) that are all in the same stylish branding and totally plastic-free, so it is easy to display and be appealable to guests. We should have the full set by the end of the year and ready for re-stocking before the 2020 Med season. We already have produce bags under the Viveco label, which we will incorporate in this range as well.
What top tip would you give to an individual who is looking to make greener choices at home?
The biggest thing you can do instantly is stop buying unnecessary things. It really is worth taking time to see if you actually need something before you buy it! Overconsumption is a huge problem and stopping this is the easiest and cheapest way to tackle some of the issues we are facing (it even saves you money!) After that I recommend tackling one area at a time (bathroom is an easy place to start) and just see where you create the most waste and switch out items where you can. Try not to do everything all in one go as this can feel overwhelming. Decide that next time you need a new body wash you will try soap, be prepared and have one ready under the sink. Also, start researching where products come from and not just taking the ‘eco’ label as true. Simplify everywhere.
What are three simple changes a yacht owner can make to reduce their environmental impact?
I think there are many things owners can do from an technical/mechanical/maintenance viewpoint but from my perspective:
1. Install Water Filtration Systems
2. Encourage local shopping dependant on location (not flying in speciality foods)
3. Encourage changes onboard – talk to the crew about what can be done in the day to day.
It is well documented that the term ‘eco-friendly’ is often falsely used in brand marketing, with unsubstantiated or misleading claims used as a marketing tool. What is the best way to ensure a product is truly as green as it says it is?
There is unfortunately no quick fix to this, but usually a little bit of research can quickly show a product’s true nature. There are various labels and stamps that can be given to products which can give some guarantee to a product (the EU Ecolabel is one) but you also need to understand what these labels mean. Just be aware that a product having the word ‘Eco’ on it or a picture of a tree does not mean anything. One of the biggest issues at the moment for me is the issue of ‘Compostable Plastics’ which are being released as a replacement to single-use. Even if these items have an EU compostable stamp, this only means that they are compostable in an Industrial Waste Facility (of which there are not many), not if they end up on the ground. It could potentially be an alternative but at the moment the infrastructure is not in place to dispose of these items correctly and I think they are also misleading labelled.
As a well travelled ex-stewardess, where is your ultimate favourite destination?
I have a huge place in my heart for India, but I know I live in the right place when I am always so happy to return to Mallorca.
What would you call your own yacht?
If you were stranded on an island, what three items would you not want to be without?
My Son, My Kindle, Coffee
Best tips for anyone visiting Mallorca?
Get lost in the streets of Palma, then head up into the mountains and stay in one of the Refugis (small hostals, usually on walking routes) for a special night.
You now have a store in Alaro. Where’s next on the wish list and what does the future hold for Viveco?
We now have the store and I would like to be able to expand this a little to be able to provide a few more bulk items. I am really excited about the new OeShun range and I would LOVE for this to become a recognised product onboard yachts, as these simple swaps can reduce so much waste. We are hosting an event in Palma about reducing waste with Bea Johnson on the 20th November, with Save the Med and I hope to start organising more events like this. But I think if the last 2 years has taught me anything, it is that it is impossible to predict what the future will hold – but it is exciting!
To find out more, visit https://www.viveco.co/