Charbella Hosry: The Eco-Friendly Entrepreneur
The team at The Wellness Project has been meeting some remarkable individuals over the years that are working relentlessly to make their cities a better place, through their various endeavors. Lebanon can be a challenging market to change consumer perceptions about sustainability and living in eco-friendly ways, as there is no government legislation in place that enforces recycling or that gives incentives to companies and individuals who follow green practices with waste management. Whilst there are plenty of individuals who are adopting green practices (and we are always very excited to witness this), there is still a long road ahead. Then again, by and large, trying to minimize waste and toxins into the environment is a global challenge. Anyway, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and spread the word when we see notable environmental initiatives…
Charbella Hosry is someone who has caught our attention recently. Three months ago she launched her new company called Eat a Plate LB, and has become the sole distributor for the Arab region of a line of 100% organic plates and cutlery made from clean edible compressed wheat bran with no additives or chemicals that is made in Poland. The plates, which are compostable in 30 days, are also safe for microwave use and can be used in the oven for baking (for up to 180 degrees Celsius). Soon, she is going to expand her portfolio and bring in other utensils and products that are also 100% biodegradable, safe and also edible. “It all started when I was raising my two young children,” says Charbella. “I didn’t want to feed them with neither disposable or reusable plastic plates, or use Tupperware to store the food.” Fearing there is leaching of plastic toxins into her children’s meals, especially when the food was hot, she decided not to use any of the available plastic tableware and began to investigate better alternatives.
“I research extensively before I find the right products. I will not accept to market anything unless it is genuinely free from toxins and 100% safe,” Hosry explains. Taking into consideration that Lebanon has been facing a garbage crisis, and its potable water source is diminishing with polluted waterways, she felt she had to apply a business model that is, first and foremost, going to spread awareness about eco-friendly practices and not further contribute to the ongoing waste crisis. Hosry also points out that many food-packaging items claiming to be healthy and environmentally friendly are actually misleading. One example would be the brown cardboard Kraft boxes often used in fast food chains, food festivals or take away restaurants. They are usually coated with wax, which in turn releases chemicals onto the food itself. “These products may have at least 20% chemicals, plus many are not recyclable, compostable or biodegradable,” says Hosry.
Photo credit: https://www.carterspackaging.com/Shop/Category/Biodegradable_Wax_Lined_Boxes
As mentioned earlier, Lebanon is a tough market to introduce eco-friendly products. One reason, according to Hosry, is that the government imposes no taxes on plastic disposable tableware, while her 100% biodegradable wheat bran cutlery and plates are taxed. This is because her products are considered to be food (since they are edible), and are imposed the same taxes as imported food. Ironically, cost per unit for a plastic plate made in China is already much cheaper than a Eat a Plate LB wheat bran plate, plus it is not taxed at the Lebanese port of entry. This only makes the price disparity between the two even higher for the consumer. Europe, on the other hand, applies taxes to all plastic tableware and none on the biodegradable kind to discourage plastic and encourage healthy alternatives. Hosry says that in some countries eco-friendly products have even become cheaper than plastic, making it easier for people to switch. “To eventually change legislation to our favour, we need to build awareness slowly but surely,” says Hosry. She has already started an online campaign to market her eco-friendly plates and cutlery. She is also present at Souk El Tayeb every Saturday in Beirut Souks with a space to market her merchandise and talk to people about eco-friendly practices. “It’s mostly about spreading the word from person to person and this is how people are becoming more aware and interested,” claims Hosry. Orders are picking up for birthday parties and events, plus a newly opened play area for children and various healthy food restaurants are also on board. Hosry also proudly tells us that a large bakery chain in Lebanon is now going to place their sweets on these biodegradable wheat bran plates instead of using the customary plastic trays.
Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/Eataplatelb/
In addition to her business of marketing healthy biodegradable tableware, Hosry also manages Go Light, a diet and nutrition centre. Her team of dieticians and nutrition experts work with clients to develop tailored eating plans, whether for weight loss or for better health. The centre also works with many restaurants to help devise healthy menus. Whatever Hosry does, it is clearly to contribute to the wellbeing of her clients and to safeguard the environment as much as possible at the same time. Hopefully, this business model will grow and more eco-entrepreneurs will surface to provide Lebanese with healthier options, and to educate the public at large that living sustainably is possible and should be done. “We can’t just wait for the government to ban plastic disposable items and impose recycling,” says Hosry. “We are lucky if this happens, but we need to take matters into our own hands and stop using plastic when we can. The first step, and the easiest, is to start with tableware.”