In 2016 it is very easy to be a self-proclaimed environmentalist, but it is not as easy to be an environmental entrepreneur. Cara Basmajian is the founder and CEO of Eco Can™, a recycling/trash receptacle that “provides a simple and convenient way to separate recycling from trash in spaces where recycling is often overlooked, such as bathrooms and bedrooms.” Not only is the Eco Can sleek and chic, but it also strives to protect our planet and help those who live on it: for every unit sold, Eco Can donates a meal to Children’s Hunger Fund.
You can visit the Eco Can website at www.myecocan.com, read more about Cara and her Eco Can in a recent article by The Beach Reporter, or purchase an Eco Can here for $19.95 today. I had the honor of interviewing Cara about her product.
RL: Thank you, Cara, for interviewing with Rissponsible Living! I am excited to feature your product. Can you tell me about the Eco Can? How does it work, and what inspired you to create such a product?
CB: Sure, thank you so much for featuring Eco Can! Eco Can is simply a dual recycling and trash can intended for bedroom and bathroom use. Eco Can is made of two parts easily attach and detach to sort recycling from trash, while maintaining the appearance of a standard bedroom or bathroom small trash can. One day while I was in college, it hit me that I was throwing so many recyclables into my bedroom and bathroom trash cans. I was shocked to find that there wasn’t a product on the market that solved this issue. I had never imagined that I would be an entrepreneur or run my own business at such a young age, but one Saturday morning as a graduating senior, I randomly woke up with a fire in my gut telling me to pursue this idea I had and I have not looked back since!
RL: Have you always been passionate about the environment? How have your personal experiences shaped your desire to be eco-friendly and inspire others to be as well?
CB: Since I was young, I’ve recognized that I am a very passionate person. Whether it’s the food I’m eating, the book I was reading, or the yoga class I was taking, I always want everyone to experience what I was getting out of it! My passion about the environment really started when I had this idea and I began researching about recycling and observing the patterns of the people around me. I find myself every day becoming more and more passionate about the environment and about inspiring others to be as well.
I feel very fortunate to have gone through some unique personal experiences that have taught me a lot about myself and others, which have played a huge role in my entrepreneurial journey. I spent many years from the ages of 12-20 sick with a chronic illness that in some episodes kept me out of school and in bed for 4-5 months at a time. I could go on for days about what I learned in those years, but most importantly, in respect to Eco Can, it instilled mindfulness in me. In order to maintain my health, I have to commit every day to getting good sleep, eating well, exercising, taking a significant amount of supplements/vitamins, etc. I’ve learned first hand how important being mindful of how you treat yourself and your body truly is, and in recent years I’ve looked beyond that to see the incredible benefits of being mindful about how you treat others and our environment.
RL: You have a beautiful website and the Eco Can seems like a very practical product. Why do you think everyone should have an Eco Can – what are the main selling points and how would it best benefit the average household and reduce people’s carbon footprints?
CB: Well thank you! I was definitely nervous about launching a website, as I had no experience in design or website building – but it works for now! A while ago I read that about 75% of household waste is recyclable, while only about 10-15% of that recyclable waste that accumulates in bedrooms and bathrooms is recycled. That to me is a crazy statistic – imagine how much waste we could reduce if people began recycling that 60-65% that is currently being thrown out as trash!
I think of Eco Can as having two main benefits. First, of course increasing recycling goes a long way to help the environment. One of the coolest things that I have experienced thus far with Eco Can is using the product myself and observing others use it. It’s an amazing feeling to have created something that serves a real purpose. Every week when I empty my can and see that the recycling half is full, it inspires me even more to get this product to the masses because I know the incredible impact we can make on the environment putting it to use. Also, I love seeing people like my dad use his Eco Can. My dad is my favorite person on this planet, yet he hardly ever recycled anything until he began using his Eco Can in his bathroom and office. All of a sudden he is exponentially more aware of his waste and is learning about recycling at 55 years of age – and he’s excited doing it (although this could be because his daughter created it haha)! Regardless, it’s awesome. Second, a less obvious benefit and building on the example of my dad, is that I truly believe that this product will help cultivate a more mindful individual. It’s empowering to know that even such a small effort such as sorting recycling from trash in a bathroom has a real effect on our planet. I think once you realize this, it opens your eyes to how much waste you create and even further to how you treat your own body. I genuinely hope that this will lead to people thinking twice about buying plastic water bottles or what foods they regularly put in their mouths. I know that’s a lot behind a simple recycling and trash can, but I am passionate about bringing my dreams for this mission to a reality!
RL: Our environment is getting worse at a point where it’s sometimes beyond repair. What do you think are some of the reasons people don’t take more time to care for the environment, and how can millennials (people in their 20s and 30s) be better stewards for the environment?
CB: Unfortunately, it feels like we live in society centered around selfishness and a fast-paced lifestyle, not to sound too grim… Whether it be due to social media or pop culture, it is all too easy for young people to get sucked down the path of comparing themselves to others and trying to meet ridiculous expectations set by society. I sense that a lot of people in younger generations today are missing a sense of identity. From knowing who you truly are or at least setting out to discover that, I’ve experienced that that’s where you find your true purpose, which I believe in whatever unique way involves serving others and respecting yourself and this planet. I remain optimistic that our young generations are trending towards becoming more conscientious, and I believe this begins with our leaders. Whether it be a political figure, a business icon, a professional athlete, or a celebrity, it’s important for everyone with a platform to stand for respecting the environment and others, being comfortable in their own skin, and aware of those less fortunate in this world. I argue for this because I believe that teaching people to care for the environment begins with teaching people to care for themselves – I look at this issue with a more holistic approach. I also have a lot of hope in kids today – I am beginning to partner with a non-profit called Grades of Green that works with hundreds of thousands of young students across the country, and I am inspired and impressed constantly by these kids and their desire to spread environmental awareness!
RL: I know that your sister and my friend, Chloe, goes to church with your parents, and your family has a strong faith. How does your faith play a role in your passion for the environment (or Creation)?
CB: I love this question. My views on this are constantly developing, but I’ll give you what I believe at this point. As a Christian, I believe that God created this world, which tells me that we are to respect it. Living in southern California you can walk outside at any time and marvel at nature’s beauty – whether it’s a pretty flower or the Pacific Ocean. God intended for nature to be respected and appreciated, a lesson that sometimes falls short in Christian communities. There are so many personal blessings that come from nature (who doesn’t find joy and peace sitting on a warm beach or walking through a field of flowers or hearing birds chirp in a forest??) and it’s important to recognize that. We share this world with billions of people and creatures and we definitely don’t own this world. When this is understood, respect for the environment follows.
We live in a time where we hold more power than ever to affect the environment and where Christian stewardship is beginning to more largely include taking care of the environment. This excites me and gives me a lot of hope. For example, the pastor at my church, Journey of Faith, has touched on how we are supposed to gently leave our mark on this world. In this year’s Easter services, he put up photos of trash built up in countries around the world (relating this to our sins). While the sole intention of that was not for everyone to recycle their sermon programs, the photos had a real effect on many of the thousands of people who attended the Easter services. While those leading the environmental fight often separate themselves from religion, I hope that we see Christian leaders, and leaders of all faiths that believe that God created this planet for that matter, step up and encourage us all to live more consciously and gently.
RL: What is next for Eco Can? Any new additions, products, or vision for the company?
CB: I am currently focusing all my efforts on getting into retail stores. This week was exciting for me because I received samples in different colors and sent some out to buyers who have requested them. So far, there is interest from two major retailers in Eco Can, but I am in the very very early stages of any retail agreements, so I am both managing my expectations and remaining hopeful. Fingers crossed!!
I have ideas for variations of Eco Can and more products that will hopefully come later, but for now I’m super focused on getting this product out there and beginning to establish a brand with Eco Can. I have big dreams of creating a successful brand that will give me a platform to use what I’ve gained from my personal experiences to inspire others and make this world a better place!
RL: Well thank you so much, Cara! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with Rissponsible Living. Is there anything else you would like to add?
CB: Thank you for this interview! I love what you’re doing and it’s always inspiring to speak with those who are passionate about similar causes!
© Rissponsible Living, 2016
Cara Basmajian is the founder and CEO of Eco Can. She lives in Manhattan Beach, CA, where she is originally from, and attended UC Berkeley and UCLA for college. She loves yoga, history, and chocolate chip cookies.