From bamboo kitchen roll to beach clean-ups, the Coacoara Foundation is paving the way towards a greener world…
Founder of the eco-friendly foundation, Liam Ulla, explained what inspired his mission to remove single-use plastics from our households, and his plans for the future of the organisation.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO SET UP THE COACOARA FOUNDATION?
I have always wanted to own a charity, or something that can give back, throughout my life, and be there when I’m not here as well. Last year, I was approached to do ‘Mr Dorset’, which means that you represent Dorset for England, and if you win you then represent England for the world. I met a lady who gave me the inspiration to really push for what I want, what I believe in and what I could do, and to set up the foundation. It’s all well and good reposting stuff on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s just about getting out there and actually helping the world. Taking people to do something about it. And if you are one of those people who believe in it, then definitely go for it.
WHERE DOES THE NAME “COACOARA” COME FROM? DOES IT HAVE A PARTICULAR MEANING?
I am currently the British windsurfing champion, and spend much of my time training in Jericoacoara in Brazil, which means, “Lair of the Turtles”. Up until recently, it was very eco-friendly and self-sufficient. You can’t drive through the centre of the place – you have to drive by buggy rather than normal cars, and when you get there you’re made to park on the edge of the town and walk everywhere. I went back in November last year, and they’ve started allowing the locals to drive close to the centre. To me, it still holds a place in my heart because of how it is run; they had one diesel engine which used to go on for a couple of hours a day, just to give them a bit of electricity, and then the rest of it was just fires. That’s the reason we named the foundation Coacoara.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF RUNNING THE FOUNDATION?
Bringing people together and making change. There are some really lovely people out there – you don’t really come across them all the time. When you have a foundation like this, most of the people that want to help and give up their own free time are all really great people, so I love bringing people together to help to make a difference. With the beach cleans, it’s cool just seeing the amount of people that turn up and have smiles on their faces and really want to help.
WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE TO THE BEACH CLEAN-UP EVENTS AND ECO-FRIENDLY PRODUCTS BEEN LIKE?
The response to the beach clean has definitely been the best. We’ve had people getting in touch with us left, right and centre. The BBC wanted to do a story on us last week, which was pretty cool. Unfortunately, due to how busy I am, running another company and helping out with my best friend and business partner’s company, I have been really tied up, so they are going to get back in touch with us in the future when we can do something with them. We’ve had no end of people approach us, and no end of people to help and be a part of it, so the response has been fantastic on that side. On the product side, all of our partners’ products are on the site, so there’s a few being added on today and tomorrow. There were some that we had to hold off on, before adding them on slowly.
Our own products haven’t been added on yet really – we have a vast range, including a bamboo household towel, which is like your kitchen roll but it can be used across the household, (clean the bathroom, mirrors, windows, etc.) One sheet lasts a hundred times, so you can wash this sheet in the washing machine and reuse it again and again. You get 2,000 uses out of one of our rolls, which comes with 20 sheets. Other products include bamboo toothbrushes and floss, plus compostable bin liners and packaging. We have replaceable shampoos that we drop off to you, and once you’ve used it, we then collect the bottle and give you a new one, and that bottle is then refilled. It also comes in recyclable plastic.
We do want to avoid using plastic, but I think plastic that is coming from the ocean is always going to be there, so if we can still use that and recycle that then it’s better than sending it to a landfill, or somewhere where you may not see it but it’s still causing damage.
WHAT KIND OF CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN THE LOCAL AREA AS A RESULT OF YOUR WORK WITH THE FOUNDATION?
I have started working closely with some partners in the area – for example Sandbanks Concierge, which is a company who run the expensive houses in Sandbanks, Canford Cliffs, Branksome Park and so on. They’ve started taking on our products for their customers, and they’ve taken a real interest in replacing all of their bin liners and different single-use plastics that are being used within the home, replacing them with our products. Our aim is to remove single-use plastic from households and businesses, and as people in the area are starting to become more aware of it, they’re starting to put in the orders through Sandbanks Concierge and other people we know personally.
In terms of the general public, we’re not really there yet. It’s only just starting to happen, where more and more people are becoming aware and want to make a difference.
WHAT KIND OF EVENTS OR PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR THE NEAR FUTURE?
We have beach cleans every two weeks. We are doing a paddleboarding event, one in July and one in August, as a fundraiser for a project to create Dorset’s first compostable site. They’ve got one in Hampshire, and we’d like one here. What that would mean is that you would have a food waste bin, so you would put all of your food waste, paper and card in a compostable bin liner, and then the lorry would come once a week to pick up however much waste is in the compostable bags. It would then go to our compostable site, which would then be composted down and that soil becomes very fertile for produce to be grown on in the future. Essentially, it would come full circle.
We would also like to do an eco-festival to bring all of these people together. A bit of live music and make sure it is completely run off of solar panels, with no fossil fuels or plastics being used. We’ve got some cool events on the way, but with COVID, we have to be a bit cautious, as we don’t know what’s going to happen.
ULTIMATELY, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THE COACOARA FOUNDATION TO ACHIEVE?
That’s a hard one because it changes all the time. Realistically, my aim at the moment is to build compostable sites throughout the UK – I’d like to have five across the country within as many years. I want the foundation to be able to show people how to make changes, how to stop using plastics and how to become more efficient with the items that they buy. There are some great soaps out there, so you can use a bar of soap instead of a bottle made of plastic with shampoo in it. You don’t need to use these certain plastics – they’re just not needed. So, I think it’s just about raising awareness and using the money that we’re able to crowdfund to put into projects, like more signage on the beaches, more bins on the beaches, creating recycling centres so that the plastic isn’t just being shipped off to China and being left in a massive yard. I want the foundation to really make a difference to this world. In this day and age, with social media, I don’t feel that there are a lot of people who really step out of their comfort zones to make things happen, and I just want the foundation to bring those good people together with good visions and good ideas to then implement them in the bigger picture.
Most importantly, I’m not on my own with this. I have a great team behind me. The team and the ambassadors are on the website. Dania Kaddah actually came to me and proposed doing the beach cleans, so she has been great with this. Sam Leonard, our marketing director, has also been fantastic. It’s not just me doing this and I can’t take responsibility for it all. The team has been fantastic and the people who join us for the beach cleans, the volunteers, are brilliant as well.
For more information about The Coacoara Foundation and to register to take part in their events, visit their website. And you can also follow HQB Media on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.