The Eco-Business Spotlight is Nadi Marketing’s monthly series highlighting businesses and entrepreneurs leading the way with sustainable practices and making a lasting impact.
I’m excited to introduce you to Fiorella Rossel Borkert, Co-founder & Creative Upcycler of The Bountiful Bag. I found The Bountiful Bag on Instagram while searching for local sustainable businesses in San Diego and I’m so happy that I connected with Fiorella. This month they are celebrating 3 years in business, congratulations to Fiorella and her team.
After our first coffee chat, I immediately purchased one of her San Diego Beer Week bountiful pouches and it’s now my main going-out bag. I love showing this bag off as Fiorella upcycled it from the San Diego Brewer’s Guild 2019 beer festival banners and deadstock fabric lining. On top of the upcycling, Fiorella also donates 5% of net profits from this collection to The San Diego Brewers Guild Roadblock Fund, which aids San Diego craft breweries directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s an amazing person and I know you’ll enjoy learning more about her in the interview below.
What is your eco-business and what inspired you?
We are The Bountiful Bag Upcycling Program. Our mission is to rescue [unrecyclable] plastic waste from the beer and entertainment industries and turning them into durable, functional, and fashionable products. We use deadstock fabrics for our linings. To give back to the community, we donate a percentage of our profits to I Love A Clean San Diego and other nonprofit organizations chosen by our contributors. Initially, we were inspired by the original artwork from the bags that carry the grain, a fundamental ingredient to making beer. We were driven by the love of craft beer, the cool packaging, and the durability of this single-use, heavy woven plastic. Then, after doing some research and diving into the world of recycling, we found out that these plastics, in fact, are not being recycled in the United States. This was a big impacting truth that fueled our passion to upcycle more and come up with more products and ways to reutilize this abundantly wasted material.
What’s your biggest challenge as a green business?
Creating awareness. Educating the communities about the plastic crisis without lecturing or shaming them. It has been very difficult to penetrate the market with a new product, and new business model overall, because people right away think of us as a novelty. And while our product IS a novelty, it is also controversial, and political – because we need better plastic recycling laws and legislations. While our product may seem whimsical, it leads to a loaded topic. Green businesses are often unappreciated and also categorized as “overpriced”. Businesses like ours invest their time to search and rescue these plastics, and carefully source for materials that are ethically made or with a lower carbon footprint. The materials typically selected are of a higher cost, because their production and overhead are also more expensive than your conventional mass-produced materials. We also choose to offer living wages (not settling for fair wages) to our employees/associates. Needless to say, we treat them with utmost care and respect. This is our foundation, without them, we have nothing.
What’s the craziest story you have from starting your own business?
When we first started The Bountiful Bag, we got so excited with the variety of bags that we started picking them up from every brewery we were able to. It got to the point that we were flooded in bags, and we weren’t able to make products as fast as beer was being produced. So, this is when we contacted our local curbside recycler to ask for a faster way to drop off all of these bags to get recycled – the bags are labeled #4 and #5, which are supposed to be recyclable. To our surprise, we were told that these bags are currently not being processed locally. After contacting every recycling center in California, sending them to a couple of recycling labs to get tested, it was reconfirmed that this abundant type of plastic is not recycled in the USA. At this point, we had a mountain of bags on the side of our house. We decided that we had no choice but to take them to the dump. So we did. That day was epic, I wish we would have recorded it. It took us 3 trips, about 6 hours to haul mountains of WET and muddy grain bags – because of course, it rained in California that one day. We paid close to $500 to dispose of them, to landfill them. This moment impacted us. We were able to witness firsthand the amount of plastic that gets disposed of in San Diego, by just a couple of small breweries, in just a few weeks of production. Now, imagine how much plastic is disposed of if you think of the fact that the economic impact of the San Diego Craft Beer Industry is about $1.3 billion a year. I was sleepless for days.
How do you see your company growing in the future?
We aim to grow through education and awareness. We want to inspire manufacturers, companies, our communities, and fans about the importance of refusing single-use plastic and reusing what we already have. This may sound naive, but the ultimate goal of the Bountiful Bag is to disappear. We want all of the single-use plastic to go “away” for real, but we are realistic – it is going to be a long while until these magnate corporations change their packaging, and stop giving the responsibility of disposal or recycling – more like wish cycling – to the consumer. For now, our focus is to create a “new normal,” to create and inspire a new cycle – where the unrecyclable single-use plastic, whether is packaging or marketing materials (banners and tents to name a few), automatically enters a new production cycle to become reused in one way or another, instead of being disposed. Whether is upcycled into functional products, used for insulation, used as materials for art installations, or in fact, actually recycled into something durable and useful.
What do you love most about being an eco-business and what drives you to keep going at it?
It has been extremely rewarding to rescue materials that we know were going to end in a landfill no matter what. So far, we have rescued about eight tons of unrecyclable plastic in three years! What drives me to keep going at it, and I have to say, my current personal favorite has been to become part of a supportive and loving community, next to other like-minded ethical small business owners. My highlight for 2021 so far has been to obtain the role of Community Outreach Coordinator and to be in the Board of Directors for the Sustainability is Sexy nonprofit organization. This new nonprofit is all about community and supporting other green businesses – our main focus is to inspire innovation within the San Diego sustainable business community through connection and provide education and solutions to issues facing our city including food waste, single-use plastic, and regenerative agriculture.
Contact The Bountiful Bag
- Website – http://thebountifulbag.com
- Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/thebountifulbag/
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/thebountifulbag/