16. Soula

During my three years with Lighthouse Foundation, I was fortunate enough to work with our community committees. Building relationships with these enthusiastic, committed and generous teams of volunteers was hands down, my favorite part of the role. Soula was one of the many volunteers I had the pleasure of working with. Seven years after we met, I stumbled across a photo of her familiar face in The Guardian. After reading about her new business venture, I was keen to learn more. Soula not only agreed to the interview, but invited me into her gorgeous home and made me a delish devonshire tea. And this just reflects who she is as a person — giving, open and incredibly kind-hearted. 

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“My mother and I were really close. She was my rock. So, when she died a few years ago, it changed my life. I was feeling quite lost. My contract at work was coming to an end. We’d just finished renovating our new home. It was a real crossroads. I wondered what I was going to do.

At that point, I felt as though I connected with my mother. She guided me and made me believe that I could do whatever I wanted.

First, I started an organic tea company. I’ve always loved tea and I am really passionate about passing on its health properties. I created a range called 8 Teas. Not only is 8 my lucky number, but it also represents infinity and infinite health through tea.

Two years later, I learnt that 90% of the one billion disposable coffee cups used each year in Australia end up in landfill. I found it ridiculous that paper cups are non-recyclable. My research taught me that the plastic lining of the cup which makes it waterproof is made from petroleum oil. It doesn’t break down and it creates dangerous greenhouse emissions and if people try to recycle them, it contaminates the rest of the recycling.

I found a range of plastic lined cups that are made from corn starch so they’re recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. I knew there was something I could do with them and I knew the timing was right.

So, I then created the Grow Cup of Life — an eco friendly takeaway cup that converts into a green growing pot plant thanks to a superfood Enviro Grow Kit.  The Enviro Grow Kits can be purchased at participating cafes for less than the price of a coffee. When you’ve finished with your coffee you pop the kit’s soil pellet in your biodegradable cup, fill it with warm water and pop the kit’s superfood seed strip under the soil. You then sit the cup on your window and within a few days it will germinate and a plant will grow.  I am offering this product to cafes as an eco friendly option and to schools as an educational way to fundraise.

These Enviro Grow Kits are complemented by our own range of keep cups. So, we’ve provided two solutions to the disposable coffee cup problem.

It’s early days, but I’d really like the 2000 cafes who have signed on as responsible cafes to get behind what we’re doing by offering customers the option of purchasing a Grow Cup of Life or offering a discount to those who bring a keepcup from home. I’m having conversations with some of these local cafes.

This idea is simple, but if people can take it on board, we can make a difference. I think that there are certain small shifts we can each make. Resource wastage is not right. We should all make a more conscious decision when we buy a coffee — a decision to preserve our beautiful planet.

I’ve always wanted to help the masses. When I hear of an issue — large or small — I want to help solve it. 

I think in future, when I’ve got the Grow Cup of Life up and running, I will find a way to work with homeless children again. Just the other day I saw a young homeless girl sitting outside the local shops in Balwyn. It really broke my heart. I wondered what had happened to make her circumstances that bad. I went home and returned with a bag of warm clothes and blankets for her. Some people cast judgement or make assumptions about people on the street, but all I saw was a young girl without a safe home and without love. I realised in that moment, that I want to do some more work to help the homeless. That will come next!

All I really want to do is contribute by raising awareness of social and environmental issues. I want to help others enhance their quality of life in whichever way I can — through products, through events. I just want to help.

I turned 50 last year and decided, I’ve got another 50 years, so I’ve got to make them count.

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