Kristy Hunter & Stine Smith Co-Founders of Good Change Store

Stine Smith & Kristy Hunter – The Good Change Journey

Meet Stine + Kristy – Founders of Good Change – a business with a vivid vision towards small changes to make the world a better place!

Stine + Kristy interviewed each other in the first podcast episode of Good Change Conversations. If you want to know more about why two women with no previous experience in going green, apart from a natural preference, started an eco company that takes away synthetics, plastic and waste from NZ landfills, listen in...and enjoy their easy tips for reducing waste at the end of the podcast. 

You can listen to the podcast HERE.

Or read the interview below.  

Stine: So, Kristy what is your background?

Kristy: My background is in sales and marketing. I've done a little bit in sponsorship, a bit of fundraising, I worked in various sales and marketing roles in FMCG and retail and also recruited in Sales and Marketing for a number of years.  I've also had a very strong passion towards charities and giving back. And I've worked in both New Zealand and London over the last 20 years.

Kristy: And Stine, tell me about you.

Stine: Well, I had a bit more of a corporate background, so I started out in corporate sales with IBM, moved along to Management Consulting in the UK and across to the Middle East which finally led me to arrive into New Zealand with Fonterra as a Change Manager  - a bit of a journey. And then I met you, Kristy.

Kristy: Yes, that's where it all began.  I'll never forget that day when Stine approached me and we had a bit of a common interest or a common care for doing things good out there, and it was walking the aisles of supermarkets that made us really start to realize the sheer amount of plastic that was on the shelves of the supermarket. And in particular, we had seen a bit of a gap in the cleaning category, where there were loads of different products. They were all wrapped in plastic, and there wasn't really an alternative for consumers to go out there and buy a product that was natural and that would have a bit of a component of giving back to the planet. And so that's where the whole thought process began.

Stine: I remember one of these conversations. I remembered this cloth, that was invented in Sweden.  I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm from Denmark originally and been in New Zealand for 10 years now. And, there was this cloth that I knew from back home, that I’ve grown up with, that is a fully natural cloth, but actually not that present in the New Zealand market. And that's when we started gathering forces and thought, well, with both our skills combined and with what we both want to achieve and what we're seeing in the market, we can do something here.

Kristy: And I remember you mentioning that this cloth had been recognized for decades as a really good functional cloth, but no one had really actually promoted the fact that it had these incredible compost ability features to it; that it's actually compostable in your garden. And, you know, you can use it for a period of time, six to nine months, and then you can hand it back to the earth.

Kristy: The conversation started. And from the very outset, we were all about pushing this brand and this product out to New Zealand consumers. And we wanted to do it quickly. We wanted to scale the business quickly. We didn't want to be a gimmick that sat on the shelves of gift shops. We wanted to create a product that was affordable for consumers because to change those habits with people and make them change to our product, we knew that they had to be of a reasonable price. We wanted them to look good because it's nice to have that design component. Having something nice looking on your kitchen benches is always a bonus. And obviously the compost ability features. All of those things together. We wanted to scale it fast and get it out through supermarkets. That was the only way forward. So off we went.  There was a few product mantras in there that became our business mantra going forward for anything else that we introduce.

Stine: Anything else that we do, these are the kinds of products that when we're launching them, they have to tick certain boxes. And I think that first eco cloth, which was our flagship product for that first year, and really got us into the market, has set the boundary, has set, sort of the framework for all products going forward within Good Change. As we're talking products we are also wanting to be showing that we are much more than a brand because we did start this because we both had a desire to change things, doing good and helping people. So, what we're talking about in our podcast series is about doing good and the power of doing good. And I think, you know, that's a really good point Stine because gone are the days where you can just go out there and promote a flat single dimension product to the market.

I mean, it's just a personal thing as well, but we want it to have a little bit more than that. And we wanted to give back a little bit more and have a bit more purpose behind the brand. Our dream, or our mantra is about using the cloth or this brand as a vehicle for social change. And that's lead us down a really amazing pathway.  With products in the 21st century, there is a different way of running a business. This is a different time. And especially, I think not to go back to this over and over, but especially during lockdown, we did see that the world in many places, to pull the positives out of this, came together, and there was a big driver across humanity to help each other. And, we truly profoundly believe that it's not about having one winner. It's about having everyone wanting to change something and do something together. We can all be winners together instead of elbowing each other off the podium.

Kristy: Yeah, it's a really good point Stine because you know, collaboration and working together, which is a lot of what we're seeing now, post this really crazy time that we've been experiencing in the world, it actually harvests new perspectives,  it harvests fresh innovation and fresh ideas and a really new, fresh way of thinking. So, you know, traditionally, a lot of people have been doing things the same way for so long. And now the world’s has had a bit of a shake up since the pandemic. We really want to take all those parts and just create new channels and new ways of doing things. Don't always accept the status quo. Don't do things the way they've always done. If it doesn't work, try something new and be a little bit of a rule breaker.

Stine: That's especially for you Kristy. Hey, we wouldn't be where we are today if we hadn't broken some rules.

We've learned, when we are in a company that is trying to do good pushing eco products, there's a lot of people greenwashing, which is fake eco products coming into the market. And there's also a big educational driver from moving away from maybe the traditional blue rolls that a lot of people have been using, or that bright yellow and pink cloth that sits on the kitchen bench. I think very few people know how synthetic they are, how the base material of this is plastic and petroleum and how they release microplastics into the waterways. And, also when they do at the end of their lives, people throw them out, they lie in landfills or some even go into oceans which has negative effects on the environment. So I think there's a lot of the larger educational piece about how you as a consumer can make better changes; how the power of the wallets, the power you have as an individual when you're standing in that supermarket, making that choice, how that has on the environment moving forward, because if there is a greater good, there is a greater force that when we combine it, we actually all have a voice.

Kristy: Absolutely. And you know, it opens up a whole new range of questions and conversations. And from our point of view, the whole Good Change brand has been about that education piece and whether or not it be school fundraisers that we run, where we go out and we actually have the children going out and selling the product and making some money for their school. But at the same time, we're educating the youth market on planet health and how to look after your planet or how to make choices, when out in the supermarket, around plastic alternatives in the home. So one piece might be fundraisers. Another thing is educating around ocean plastics and talking to schools about what these petroleum-based products can be doing to the environment and other more healthy choices they can make in terms of what they buy in the supermarket.

Stine: And I think the fundraisers are such a good point Kristy, because the fundraisers are where we support schools, raising funds for their schools through our products, but it's also through the material we provide, the service we provide of actually either support, coming out, speaking at the schools, or just supporting those dialogues. It becomes a bit of an incentive for the dialogues that the school decides to then have with the students, which also just helps having that conversation, which starts all the positivity and that starts the mindset and questioning of what you're using as a consumer. Yeah. And it comes back to what we're all about - small changes. And we feel that, you know, if we’re having that conversation with one or 50 or 500 students, those students will be coming home to their dinner table talking about it with their parents, their siblings.

Kristy: Yeah. It's a little bit self-perpetuating. It creates a little bit of a snowball effect. When you start talking about small changes and you start talking about good changes with others around your home, the sheer volume of people who are discussing these things, they end up making positive changes for themselves.

Stine: That's right. Cause I think once you start doing one thing and you feel, oh yeah, I could do that, I could change my dishwashing detergent. I could change my decisions in terms of what I buy for clothing or my dishcloth, whatever choice it is that you make. Once you feel you've made one and you saw, well, actually I could do that. You realize that you are empowered and you can do more and you can make more changes. We also have a big giving back component. And I think giving back as a company is important because you are, well, I wouldn't go as far to say as a role model, but you do get attention as a company or as a company owner.

So, giving back is a positive thing that I think all companies need to be involved in.

Kristy: It's a real feel-good thing. And I think it's like giving Christmas presents or a present to somebody and watching them open it. There's always that really good, positive charge that you get from the positivity and that positivity can be transferred on to others.  

Stine: For you and I Kristy, we’ve both traveled a bit in Asia and I think especially around the countries like Cambodia, they have really stuck out for both of us, when we saw all that waste and all the after effects of Western civilization that was just lying everywhere in nature, because lack of education to these countries and for people and how to deal with rubbish or the negative effect of rubbish, I think it really struck us hard how all that waste is affecting people, how it is destroying the waters and the nature.

 And we both really had a desire when we started this company, one of the things that stuck out for us, even though it feels far away, sometimes from New Zealand, this is one thing we're doing (it’s not the only thing by the way), but even though that particular thing felt far away, we also felt that as a company, we do have an obligation to also help other people, no matter where these people are and Cambodia has really stuck out for us. So, we are supporting Cambodians and all families in Cambodia, with clean water, which we know will help save lives because we have seen these villages. So, for every product purchased, there is one family that gets clean water. That for both of us means a lot to know that there's a direct lead from one product purchased to the help given straight away.

Kristy: It all comes down, as well, to the reason why we're putting this whole podcast together is to interview and meet and communicate with other people out there who are also doing positive things. And if there's three takeaways that people can take from each podcast that we deliver, whether it's something to do with mindset, whether it's sustainable farming, whether it's compostable packaging, whatever, there's a little bit of good coming out of each interview.

Stine: And we know things are busy, so for us, it's important to find solutions that make a difference, but are also easy to implement. So, each of these podcasts, and each of the people we interview, we'll give you, at the end, three key learnings, three key action points that you can actually take with you.

And if there's some things that you try and they don't work, it really doesn't matter. Making mistakes is what enables us to learn. So we don't vow to be perfect, but if we can make a small change in the way you operate on a day to day basis, then it's gotta be a positive thing overall.

None of us are perfect at it. It's very hard to live with zero waste, very hard to live fully organic, but it's about doing what you can do and you will see that once you make a little change, you do have the power to make bigger changes.

Kristy: Okay. A big one for me. And it's so funny because I look at the older generation and I think that they are still probably catching up a little bit. I don't mean to be critical. I'm thinking about my parents actually, but, I stopped using Glad Wrap years ago and I just do not see the point in Glad Wrap, because if you're going to store something in the fridge or wrap something, if you’re going to wrap something in the kids' lunch boxes, I put it in a beeswax wrap or even in paper, or I just put it into a compartmental-ized lunchbox. If I'm going to put something in the fridge, I just use a reusable container with a lid. So, it’s pretty straightforward.

Stine: Agree. And I think another important one, in terms of trying to live sustainably, a lot of people say we can't afford organic food, which is a very fair point. There is also ‘plant your own garden’ and it doesn't have to be a fancy garden. You got a little burm outside your house? Dig it up. I don't think the council will mind, (I should probably be careful what I say), preferably on your own property. Dig a little garden, plant something. Plant some lettuce. It has a few positive effects to plant a garden. There is obviously the direct effect that you get to eat your own fresh produce, which is spray free, which is amazing.

Planting something,  seeing something grow, has proven to have a positive effect on your minds and your mental state. So, there is a nice positive effect of planting a garden as well.


Kristy: And how lovely to show your children where food comes from. I mean, I just relish the idea of walking out and plucking a beautiful juicy red tomato and slicing that up on a piece of toast or whatever you want to do.


Stine: And we’re lucky in New Zealand that most things grow quite easily. I mean, in Denmark, the ground is frozen half the year, but here we're actually very lucky that you can grow. So even though, you might say I'm not a big gardener, well, just plant something low maintenance. Just focus on that to begin with.

Kristy: Absolutely. And another thing I was going to mention is a couple of years ago now I was quite a big paper towel girl, and I haven't bought paper towels for a couple of years and I'm not trying to push our bamboo rolls, but as an alternative, I've just been using these reusable towels that you use wash and reuse up to 85 times.

So, it’s just a total and utter habit changer for me. And I've been sitting on one roll for about five and a half months, and it's still going. And I think Stine, you probably have some quite good tips or information around paper towels and what actually happens to paper towels when you compost them.

Stine: Well, paper towels is one of those single use items that we do try to move away from. So, another good tip, as you say, with the paper towels, is to stop using single use. So whatever that is, paper towels, or if it is your, as you've all heard about, you’ve probably by now, your coffee cups, that plastic water bottle that you buy in the store, even down to a toothpick, just choose something that is made of natural materials or something that you can use and reuse over and over and over again.

Paper towels - one thing is the making of the paper towels, (now that we are talking about paper towels), but also it is single use so it's a lot of processing for one wipe. So once you wipe once and then you throw it out in the rubbish (and especially if you've got children, a lot of us would feel guilty thinking about how many wipes you can actually use a towel for, in a day, when you’ve got children). If you use something that is reusable, you can wipe and you can wash it and you can wipe, you can wash it. And when those paper towels do end up in the landfill, they do release a little bit of methane gas as they break down so there is just a lot of negative effects. Primarily the most negative effect is that it's single use, which is what we really want to try and move away from.

And I think those are our top three tips.

Kristy: They were. I could continue on. I've just got one more and I've talked about it before, but shopping around the outside of the supermarket. So, a lot of lettuces are packed in soft plastics these days. Gone are those old days where you just used to take in your reusable bag and just fill up your bag with vegetables. Companies just seem to be needing to preserve the products for longer by wrapping them in plastic. So, try to ignore those aisles where all the plastic wrapped products are with all the biscuits and bits and pieces and just stick to the outside and really think about the choices you're making when you're shopping.

Stine: Yep. Cause there's a big, powerful message in the power of where the dollars put.

Kristy: Absolutely!

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