Founder, Mama Eco
Shannon Kenny is the founder of Mama Eco, and online website dedicated to helping people find simple solutions to sustainability.
Shannon Kenny is the founder of Mama Eco, and online website dedicated to helping people find simple solutions to sustainability. Growing up on the Caribbean island of Trinidad instilled a deep sense of environmental responsibility within her, and in 2017, she turned that conviction into her career with the launch of Mama Eco. Prior to that, Shannon worked in the travel industry as a luxury travel advisor, and in the art world as an artist and curator. She has spoken at sustainable events such as the Osmunda Earth Day Fair, and moderated panels, such as a Sustainable Travel Panel, hosted by the Impact Travel Alliance. Her blog has been featured in several publications, like redbook, Woman’s Day and The M List. Shannon’s goal is to empower people to make conscious decisions about the way that they buy and consume, and to help them see that their actions have impact.
Even as a kid, I was collecting trash on the beach and encouraging my family to conserve water. And after spending years at a day job that completely sucked the life out of me, I knew I had to find a career that was more fulfilling and had purpose. I spent two years trying out business ideas that would allow me to fuse my passion into something I could support myself on. And after several iterations, and a few learning experiences along the way, I shifted towards what I now call: Mama Eco 2.0. An online resource for people who want to live sustainably but don’t know where to start.
The idea of social entrepreneurship has been exploding over the past few years, and a growing number of companies are building their core values on the idea of social, ethical and environmental impact. Companies like Everlane, Patagonia, United By Blue, Conscious Step, Ecosia, and so many others are using capitalism as a vessel to create change. And they are living proof that you can create a successful and profitable business with minimal environmental or social effects. And as consumers shift their buying power towards supporting companies with these types of motives, more businesses will follow suit since that’s what the market dictates.
There’s a big shift that’s happening in restaurants and cafes, specifically as it pertains to ‘takeaway’ items. Businesses are moving away from single-use plastics and moving towards compostable products. Now in theory, this is great because compostable products are made from renewable resources and don’t leech the kinds of chemicals that plastics do. But with a huge gap in consumer education about proper disposal, a lack of designated receptacles at those restaurants, and the fact that most people don’t have access to commercial compost facilities, we find ourselves in just as dire a predicament as we were before. You see, compostable products don’t break down naturally, and are just as harmful to the environment and to wildlife as plastic if they are not disposed of in a commercial compost. Compostable products are in a “chicken and an egg” situation right now. We need global, national, and local composting facilities to break down the compostable products, but we also need enough product on the market to create demand for those facilities.
When I started moving towards sustainable living, I would spend hours and hours researching products that had minimal impact on the planet, often not finding what I needed. You see, at the time, there was no one place that you could go to find sustainable products, at least not anything that was good or user-friendly. So I decided that I would create my own solution. A resource where people could easily find sustainable products, and either buy direct from the company that made them, or buy from websites they were already shopping on, like Amazon or Etsy. I’ve created sustainable product listings, that look and feel just like an ecommerce website, but then send them along to where they can buy it, making a commission for each product purchased.
In conjunction with the website, I’ve also created a blog and instagram to inspire people to live more sustainably and lower the amount of trash they create. The overarching theme of what I post is that you don’t have to completely change your life to be sustainable. Instead, you can simply tweak your approach, which over time, creates big impact. My goal is to empower people to make their own sustainable changes, in a way that is palatable for them and in a way that has REAL impact.
I’m working on several digital products that will be available for purchase directly through my website. These will include several resources that people can download to help them live more sustainably and lower their carbon footprint. In addition, I’m starting to do sustainability consulting where I help businesses, like hotels and restaurants, lower their carbon footprint and reduce their company’s waste, which also saves them money long-term. I will also be doing this for individual clients who wish to make sustainable changes in their personal lives.
Even though it is completely unintended, 90% of what I actually do is marketing. I thought I was just spreading a positive message about sustainability, but it all comes down to how I communicate that information. And that’s all marketing.
From a business perspective, brand partnerships have been the most successful part of the business thus far. Coming together with businesses whose values truly align with my own, and finding creative ways to promote their mission has been both rewarding and has allowed me to introduce my community to sustainable solutions that they would’ve otherwise been unaware of.
My initial business model was solely based on affiliate marketing. But once I started running the numbers on how much website traffic I’d have to generate, I realized that affiliate marketing could not be my primary source of income, and I’d have to diversity my income streams. That’s why I branched out into brand partnerships with companies that focus on and promote sustainability, and am now transitioning intro creating my own digital products along with some sustainability consulting. I see all of these as individual pieces that make the business work as a whole, which creates a much more stable and profitable business.
When someone discovers my website or instagram, they feel relieved that they’ve found a resource that can help them be more environmentally conscious. They no longer feel overwhelmed by the looming thoughts of climate change and plastic pollution, and finally feel like they can take control of their carbon footprint. They start swapping out the products they they current use for sustainable alternatives and they follow my blog for new ideas on how to live sustainably. They start to realize that the changes they make really do have a positive impact on the planet, and as that confidence builds, they share their ideas with their family and friends, creating ripple effect of awareness and action around sustainability.
People want to be inspired to take action. They don’t want to be told what to do. So I keep my message positive and try to make it as easy and attainable as possible. I offer suggestions and encouragement, and help people to see that the journey to sustainability is just as important as the end goal.
Embrace naiveté and follow your gut. A lot of people look down on naiveté, but I see it as an advantage. If I knew how hard it would be to start my own business, I probably wouldn’t have quit my stable job to start Mama Eco. And if I had believed all of the people who said it was a bad idea and a very risky move, I wouldn’t be where I’m standing today. But I believed in what I was doing, even though it sounded crazy to the people around me. I trusted my intuition, and put everything into Mama Eco, and let me tell you, it’s been worth every single second. I know I’m fighting an uphill environmental and bureaucratic battle and that there’s so much to be done to get this planet on a sustainable path, but I believe in that vision, and I won’t stop until it becomes a reality.