Plastic straws are out, metal straws are in. Look around a Kopitiam or café and you’ll easily find metal or even bamboo straws taking the place of colourful plastic ones.
Yet just four years ago, you would have hard-pressed to find a reusable straw. Enter Seastainable, the first company in Singapore to change that by kickstarting the reusable straw trend locally.
As the name suggests, the purpose of Seastainable is not only to reduce waste but keep the seas sustainable by reducing marine pollution.
The company was founded by Samantha (Sam) Thian, an avid advocate for marine conservation. Her passion for marine life was kindled when she started diving recreationally at 16. As time passed, her love for sealife deepened and she took on the role of a whale shark assistant researcher in Malapascua, Cebu in the Philippines.
Sam felt one with the sea. She loved swimming alongside the fishes, spotting shy sea creatures hidden amid the corals, and exploring what the deep blue had to offer.
Seeing how plastic waste polluted and contaminated the seas with her own eyes in some diving zones, it wasn’t long before her love for the seas developed into a strong resolve to protect it.
Her convictions towards marine conservation and her work led her to meet many different youth leaders over the years. These leaders did conservation work in different forms – art, engineering, advocacy etc. Meeting them and seeing their work broadened her mindset towards marine conservation. This helped her in understanding that marine conversation didn’t only have to take place underwater.
At that point, Sam belonged to the pool of youths who wanted to make a lasting difference but had no financial capacity. She could donate, but small amounts would not make the huge impact she wanted to create. Hence, she decided to start a business to raise funds for marine conservation.
Upon graduation, Sam made the arrangements to start Seastainable with only $800 in hand despite having no idea about the lasting impact she would make.
To date, Seastainable has raised over $31,000 for 33 conservation projects in 5 countries in Southeast Asia (namely Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei), impacting at least 6,000 individuals in local communities. This depth and breadth of reach in the marine conservation community was realised only because of Samantha’s hard work and dedication.
Managing a social enterprise is no easy feat. It is riddled with restrictions and the difficulty of even staying afloat. Furthermore, it was additionally challenging for Sam as she was juggling Seastainable as her passion project while working full time at Unilever as a Global Procurement Assistant Manager in the Sustainable Plastics department.
However, this did not stop her from helping others who wanted to do their part in the same space. Sam shared that several youths had come to Seastainable for sustainability development support, so they would collaborate by planning and developing initiatives together.
She keeps herself grounded by reminding herself that though you can dream big, you need to be sustainable in whatever you do personally, first. It’s only after that you can help others be sustainable too.
With how much Seastainable is doing for marine conservation, are you sea-riously not inspired to care for marine life?