Auree Admires: Tessa Robinson, NOTPLA

At Auree, we are always trying to develop our ways of working to make sure we are as sustainable as possible in everything we do. We also love talking to other people and companies about how they're doing this. So, as part of our Earth Day celebrations, we got in touch with our great friend Tessa Robinson to chat about her exciting new role at NOTPLA, an amazing start-up working to change the way we all use plastic packaging.

Tell us a little about yourself…

The last couple of years haven’t been plain sailing. During the pandemic, like many l lost my job as the travel industry collapsed when the world of global tourism shut down. The time gave me a chance to re-access what I wanted from my life and how I was going to get there. I am now working in the sustainability world. It’s a bit of a buzz word which comes with its fair share of problems, so I decided to study it whilst working in it to maximise my experience and understanding. I am doing a masters in Sustainability and Management alongside working full time too, so it keeps me pretty busy.   

What would a typical day be for you?

The beauty of start-up life is that no two days are the same. One moment I am in a meeting with some of the biggest companies in the world, like Kraft Heinz, discussing how they are going to reduce the amount of plastic packaging in their products and what solutions there are for this. The next I'm arranging a tasting for our edible packaging!   

Tell us a bit more about Notpla...

Notpla is a London based sustainable packaging company that has pioneered the use of seaweed as an alternative to single-use plastic. Notpla (a play on not - plastic) is addressing both the environmental and health implications of single-use plastic pollution by using only natural materials like seaweed that can biodegrade in nature in 4 to 6 weeks. It is our mission to make packaging as we know it disappear.

What are you most proud of?

Excuse the cliche but honestly it’s the collective effort from the team that goes into trying to change a society and infrastructure built around plastic. It can feel like an uphill battle sometimes but it’s encouraging to know there are some amazing companies out there who are driving change overcoming hurdles along the way. Just Eat have launched our seaweed lined take-way boxes in 4 countries now and more to come in the pipeline.

Seeing our products out there in the market in customer hands makes me feel like a proud parent, having seen the journey it has taken to get them there it’s a journey. 

What are your favourite things about being part of a sustainable start up?

The fact that I can walk away from a meeting and think... ‘this could just change the world!’

Like-minded people, inspired by sustainability but also innovation, chemistry and design. Everyone has their own passions from candle and furniture making, to music teaching and greetings cards, the talents of the team are amazing. Innovation and enterprise is encouraged by Notpla founders Rodrigo and Pierre, which is so refreshing.  

Where do you find your inspiration?

From nature, all the answers are there you just have to look for them. One of our key values is 'nature knows best' and it couldn’t be more true. There are 12,000 different types of seaweed and currently only a tiny fraction are grown commercially so there is enormous potential and still a huge amount of R&D to be done.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

Unravelling and understanding the complex terminology surrounding sustainability, from the diverse meaning and limitations of the word ‘sustainable’ to the realities of recycling. As consumers and businesses, it is essential to understand where terms, products and materials fall short or misguide us. To be truly sustainable it will require many different materials to replace plastic, not just one, so the demand for global resources can be spread across different areas. 

Personally just managing my time of studying and working in a growing start-up has its challenges but what is life if not busy and squeezing everything out of it.

Your favourite weekend retreat would be....

I love a weekend in London heading over to Layla's bakery on Portobello Road or perusing charity shops but I'm always happiest when I've escaped the city to the countryside where I'm surrounded by green fields, woods and plenty of wildlife. I like to be able to reconnect with what season it is and the cycle of life which sometimes feels lost in the city.   

Who do you admire most and why?

I particularly admire women juggling work and family life, two very different roles but both enormously important each for their own reasons. But also anyone who does something I can’t. We all have skills others don’t have and unique ways of thinking.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

It will all be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it's not the end.

Or....what's meant to be won't pass you by.

What are some of the small but mighty ways we can all be more sustainable?

The most useful things we can do as consumers is try to buy food that is locally (even nationally) produced and hasn't travelled thousands of miles to sit on our shelves wrapped in a tonne of plastic. If there is the option to buy loose veg it all helps, or visit your local refill store.

What Auree piece would be on your Birthday list?

Easy peasy, I love the Rowfant Mini Rainbow Charity Hoops, and better still they’re supporting a great cause!