Nikki Sevilla and Joshua Caampued wanted to be “kinder to the earth” when they started EcoNest Philippines, a company that provides environment friendly packaging solutions, in 2018. In the face of adversity posed by the pandemic, EcoNest continues to spread awareness and provide top-quality eco-friendly goods.
Nikki Sevilla spent more than a decade working for premium retail brands. One day, she began scribbling a logo on a sticky note. Three months later, she quit her job and started an eco-friendly packaging business.
In three years, amidst a slew of sleepless nights, manpower issues, and a worldwide pandemic, Nikki's seven-man team, which includes herself, expanded a small shelf in BGC to having 15 distributors across the country.
EcoNest is the brainchild of Nikki and Globis University of Tokyo graduate Joshua Caampued. The two friends saw the tremendous gap in eco-friendly packaging in the Philippines and decided that they’d be the ones to fill it.
“My business partner shared with me technologies from different countries, and that’s when we came up with the idea to put up a one-stop-shop in 2018,” Nikki said.
This desire to innovate and fill the gap left by multimillion peso companies with sustainable, quality goods has allowed them to drive the industry forward.
EcoNest specializes in a variety of eco-friendly packaging, ranging from sugarcane takeout containers to birchwood cutlery to eat with. But the real star of the show is their cassava biobags, or “cassabags” as they call it, which are fully biodegradable plastic bag alternatives.
Their products are plant-based, biodegradable, and compostable. EcoNest’s products also has biodegradability and compostability certifications from the world’s leading inspection and verification companies.
Beyond business, however, Joshua Caampued, EcoNest’s Chief Finance Officer emphasized that the pillars that hold EcoNest were never founded on profits alone. “We want to create a community of environmentally conscientious industry leaders, business owners, enterprises, and end users to build a sustainable future,” he said.
Nikki had a great job in retail and marketing international brands, but she found herself constantly wondering: “How am I making a positive impact on the community by selling clothes?” Despite her success at work, this single question left her unfulfilled. Nonetheless, it was also her exposure to international brands that she was able to research on what she wanted to focus on: environment-friendly products.
One of Nikki’s favorite hobbies is baking, so when she signed up for a bazaar that required eco-friendly packaging for baked foods, she looked for online sellers to fit these requirements.
At the time, she had become well-versed in different kinds of plastic wrap, but was eager to find environment-friendly alternatives. It was during this search that she made a shocking discovery.
“There were so many stores that claimed to be eco-friendly, but actually weren’t,” Nikki said.
The options that she found – or rather, the lack thereof – pushed her to develop the idea of making real eco-friendly packaging products available to the public.
The cassabags became the company’s alternative to plastic packaging. With the bags themselves originating from Indonesia, they worked to secure a supplier to source them as soon as possible.
"We want to cure mindsets through education apart from offering eco-alternatives, we give out newsletters and infographics among our customers and clients so that they know how to properly dispose of our items," Nikki said.
Southeast Asia is the primary contributor of plastic to the ocean. In the Philippines alone, approximately 2.7 million tons of plastic waste is generated annually, according to a 2020 USAID report. Nikki said that bigger companies and even consumers themselves have “forgotten [the] environmental cost” of using plastics.
EcoNest attests to the quality of their products being worth the minimal price difference with plastic packaging.
Aside from their 100% biodegradable cassava bags, the online store boasts a collection of eco-friendly goods: reclaimed sugarcane formed into durable takeout boxes and plates; recyclable bioplastic cups derived from plant sugars; bamboo fiber straws that can last for hours in your drinks – the possibilities are endless. It’s proof of the potential of sustainable living.
Aside from being one of the first eco-related online stores in the market, EcoNest continues to support local enterprises with the same advocacy. They highlight the importance of an active social media in the process of not only growing their business, but informing their buyers, as well.
“Social media has helped the brand a lot, so we try to post as much as we can and share as much information as we can. We try to use our platforms to try and highlight other start-ups to interact and build the online community,” Nikki added.
As eco-oriented goods pick up steam in the market, larger businesses are beginning to follow suit. “More buyers prefer companies that are using eco-friendly alternatives as well. It’s become a trend these days. Some companies use eco-friendly alternatives because it adds value to their business too,” Nikki said.
As the pandemic hit the country in the first quarter of 2020, thousands of local enterprises suffered as a result. EcoNest was one of them. They had to close a physical store in BGC in Taguig City they had just opened months before.
During that time, every day became a challenge for them. Even communication was difficult, as they had to consider the language barrier with suppliers. EcoNest also grappled with issues related to customs and logistics, on the back of reduced manpower caused by the pandemic.
Nikki added that "the demand is getting crazier, but we're happy.”
Luckily enough, the existence of payment processors such as PayMongo have been able to ease the company’s burden. After being recommended by both a friend and a customer of theirs, EcoNest decided to sign up with PayMongo.
PayMongo Links has become a convenient way for EcoNest’s customers to send their payments, especially because they no longer have to send screenshots or emails as proof of payment. EcoNest has also included PayMongo as a payment option in their Shopify site.
EcoNest has collaborated with the likes of PLDT, hosted tree-planting activities, and partnered with multiple NGOs to educate communities. They have recently launched a Trash to Nature Waste Collection and Incentive Program with the help of their Sustainability Alliance partners - St. John Bosco Parish Tondo, Bokashi Pinoy Philippines and SACHI-Group, Inc.— with the hopes of achieving their vision to create a community dedicated to working towards a sustainable future.
When referring to fellow eco-enterprisers, Nikki said: “The more businesses collaborating with each other to close the loop, then the better it is for us. We all have to find ways to work together and support each other to create impactful solutions for the whole nation."
Transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle isn’t easy. But Nikki noted that sustainability goes beyond the things you buy and use daily.
“I always tell people sustainability is not based on the items that you use, or the materials that you use for your company. It actually starts within you. If you feel deep inside that you want to be sustainable, that you want to run a sustainable household, or even an enterprise, a business, then it would start from there,” Nikki said.