Growing up in the Philippines, residential student Evan Sinclair developed a passion for sustainability and the environment from an early age.
Now, in his second year of a Bachelor of Arts/Commerce degree at the University of Melbourne, Evan and several of his university friends have put their environmental passions into action by helping to develop Ecco Kuppa, a social enterprise built around the sale of reusable coffee cups, where 100% of the profits are used to plant trees in Brazil and Bolivia.
The project started after Evan joined the university society Enactus, a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to taking entrepreneurial actions to help others.
‘I sort of forced my way into this project, which was in its very early stages at the time, because one of my friends at university was the founder,’ says Evan.
The scope of the project then quickly grew as Evan and his friends realised that they had a number of unique advantages in the reusable coffee cup industry.
‘We’re the only student-led reusable coffee cup company and we’re the ones donating the highest percentage (100%) of profits to sustainability initiatives. I’d say we’re providing a younger perspective in a very saturated market. That’s where we fit in and really do differentiate ourselves for the better,’ explains Evan.
Furthermore, Evan highlights several unique design features to the cups, including their straight lines, different textures and depth of colour choices. The group also plans to make the cups fully recyclable, with Ecco Kuppa currently considering glass, recycled plastic, bamboo and rice husk as production materials.
Getting the project off the ground hasn’t all been smooth sailing though, and dealing with rejection has been something Evan admits he has found challenging. However, it’s these experiences that have helped him to develop the interpersonal skills needed to thrive in the business world.
‘I don’t think I’ve necessarily used anything from my degree, but the project has encouraged me to develop soft skills. I’ve had to develop relationships with café owners and managers, which is really about learning to be an entrepreneur and is an experience not many other uni students get.’
Ecco Kuppa now stocks reusable coffee cups at eight cafes across the University of Melbourne, with plans to expand to other universities and develop corporate partnerships. ‘It’s always really exciting to sell ten more cups to a café because we know that, in turn, that’s going on to plant ten more trees,’ says Evan. ‘It’s a really good feeling knowing exactly where everything is going. There are very few other social enterprises in the country doing something quite like this. It’s something you feel good about spending your time doing.’
Evan has also enjoyed liaising with the Trinity Careers and Alumni Office about his project and is excited to have the cups available through the Trinity Shop.
Evan, who served on the sustainability committee at Trinity, was awarded an Outstanding Contribution to Community Service medal at this year’s Valedictory Ceremony for his initiative.
Asked whether he would consider starting his own business, Evan says he’s focused on completing his studies and refining Ecco Kuppa for the moment, but may consider it in future.
‘Starting my own business is something I have thought about, probably because my family has always had their own businesses. I guess seeing how things work has always been at the forefront of my mind and being able to apply my interests in social entrepreneurship is definitely something I’ve been thinking about. I think it’s really important that companies understand how their actions impact others,’ he says.
Ecco Kuppa coffee cups can be purchased through the Trinity Shop for $15. For more information about Ecco Kuppa, visit their website or follow them on social media.