Razer invests in green toilet paper Bambooloo
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Bambooloo has a very clever name. In fact, it’s not crappy at all for a company making toilet paper from renewable resources like bamboo, which you can use in the loo.
Perhaps this clever name is why Razer said recently it is investing in The Nurturing Co., the maker of Bambooloo, one of the world’s first single-use and plastic-free, bamboo toilet paper and home care brands. This is what you get when you start with a clean sheet of paper.
“We’re using toilet humor and breaking the the taboo a lot of people don’t like talking about, and it’s something we all do every day,” said David Ward, CEO of The Nurturing Co., in an interview with GamesBeat. “From an environmental sustainability standpoint, there’s some really cool stuff to say.”
Now the company is making investments from its $50 million fund to support and invest in environmental and sustainability startups. The Razer Green Fund is being managed by zVentures, Razer’s corporate ventures arm, and will be a part of Razer’s strategic investment activities.
The company started three years ago, though Ward has focused on the sustainable brands space for about eight years. He remembers quite well that almost no one was interested in sustainability or plastics in the ocean. “We came together as a group of people to try to not only create sustainable products, but also to mitigate the plastic in all of the packaging,” Ward said. “We started with a clean sheet of paper really to see what we could do in terms of designing out of the product as much of the plastic, if not all of the plastic that we could.”The company noted that a lot of toilet paper brands use a lot of plastic, not only in the packaging but in the product itself.
Pandemic TP demand
Then the pandemic hit in 2020 and everybody wanted toilet paper. I remember going to Costco during the weekend of the first lockdowns and the toilet paper was gone. “We saw an upsurge in demand and a change in the way people reacted to us,” Ward said. “Toilet paper was a normal part of conversations in taxis or Lyfts. And I would say, “I make sustainable toilet paper. We sold out as many other brands did. It made this basic item into something quite important. We turned a bit of a psychological corner.”
Bamboo pulp has proven to be the sustainable choice for toilet papers. In addition to its growth speed, bamboo pulp requires 90% less water and 70% less carbon to produce as compared to wood pulp. By shifting to bamboo toilet paper, a family of four can save over 30,000 liters of water in a year, Ward said.
“It shocked me that no one had done what we were proposing,” Ward said. “We are bringing to the consumer what we believe is a very compelling product which competes very well against the incumbent brands, which are in the United States.”
During the early part of 2021, Ward saw that Razer was going to build a new office in Singapore with a sustainable focus. So he sent a message to Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan to have a supplier discussion. Tan replied like he really liked what The Nurturing Co. was doing. So Ward supplied some product for testing, and the relationship started there. Soon, the idea of an investment came up. Ward didn’t know much about Razer, but his cofounder was excited about it as a gamer. And Razer invested.
To kick off its new Green Fund initiative, Razer has completed a seed investment into The Nurturing Co. through zVentures. Bambooloo is supplying bamboo toilet paper in some of Razer’s global offices, including the new, soon to open Southeast Asian headquarters and Malaysia office, as part of Razer’s Green Organization plan to ensure that all of Razer’s office operations will be 100% carbon neutral.
Razer’s green focus
Back in March 2021, gaming lifestyle products company Razer unveiled its 10-year sustainability roadmap as part of its #GoGreenWithRazer initiative, which detailed four key verticals of Razer’s commitment to preserve nature and protect the environment, including using 100% renewable energy by 2025 and achieving 100% carbon neutrality by 2030.
Within this 10-year plan, Razer also announced multiple initiatives under the Green Community vertical, to educate and rally gamers worldwide to contribute to green causes. This includes the Sneki Snek Campaign in partnership with Conservation International to protect a million trees, and the limited-edition Kanagawa Wave Apparel Collection made from recovered marine plastics.
Falling under the green investments vertical, the Razer Green Fund will seek to foster a green mindset amongst Razer’s community of youth, millennials, and Gen Z via selective strategic investments. These investments aim to accelerate sustainability companies, with a focus on renewable energy, carbon and plastic management.
Beating out wood pulp
All of this is an ambitious dream for Ward, who spent 25 years in the fashion industry and is a descendant of Roman gypsies who grew up with sustainable vegetable gardens. And his goal is to touch a billion lives in 10 years.
Ward noted that regular toilet paper is made from wood pulp from trees that take about 25 years to grow. Each tree produces about 1,500 rolls of toilet paper. But once you cut the tree down, it is dead. The tree needs top-grade arable land to grow, and it only produces its maximum oxygen output, which is good for the environment, for a quarter of its life, Ward said. During that lifetime, it consumes a large amount of carbon and water.
Most toilet paper is packaged in plastic, and the paper itself often is mixed with materials that are allergenic. And wipes are often as much as 65% plastic.
By contrast, a bamboo tree takes about three weeks to grow and it’s back like a grass a few weeks after it is harvested. Across 25 years, the bamboo can produce five or six times the amount of raw material and it can produce about 35% more oxygen. It doesn’t require a lot of arable land and it can grow on eroded landscapes or mountainsides, much like a grass.
Bamboo is also hypoallergenic, which makes it less irritating for the skin.
“If you feel itchy, the toilet paper we use has trace chemicals in it, and nine times out of 10 that is what gives us irritation,” he said. “Consumers have rallied to say, ‘Enough.’ We’re going to try and find solutions work with brands that are removing these kinds of things.”
And it uses about 90% less water, Ward said.
Making a dent
I asked Ward how big a dent he could put in the toilet paper industry in terms of disruption.
“You obviously you need to start somewhere. And in a way it’s the same thing with the whole wood pulp industry. There are probably something in the region of about 50 brands in the world doing what we do in bamboo. But we’re up against giants in a sector that is $380 billion,” he said. “It’s been run by giant corporations who have basically avoided telling you anything for the longest possible time.”
Ward said there are good academic papers that note the value of bamboo over wood pulp. But he acknowledged, “Moving this needle is not going to be easy. As an alternative fiber, bamboo is the No. 1 choice to replace wood pulp. But it isn’t going to happen tomorrow at the scale that we are talking about. But it’s a very interesting space for companies like ourselves that started with a clean sheet of paper.”
That clean sheet offers a lot of benefits.
“We have a sustainable material product that delivers as good if not better results to the consumer,” Ward said. “It doesn’t impact the Earth in the way that the material before did. And it’s also being designed to not have the social and environmental impact in terms of the packaging after use. So it is a combination of points that will lead to a greater point of difference over the traditional product.”
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