A Conversation with Jayden Klinac of For The Better Good

Jayden Kilnac looking to camera outside a glass house.

Jayden Klinac

Meet Jayden Klinac, the face behind For The Better Good, a New Zealand company producing non-toxic, compostable beverage bottles made from plants, not oil.

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When I asked Jayden how he would describe his occupation he told me, “I don’t really know! A gardener?” He says they have a joke within the team that “we don’t have jobs, we all love what we do. On any given day I could go from meetings to heading out on bottle collection runs to composting or gardening…”

As soon as he finished school he bought a one-way ticket to London, unsure of what he wanted to do. After spending a year in Europe he ended up heading to Otago to study design and marketing. Fresh out of uni and still without a plan for the future, Jayden moved to Wanaka and spent some time in the mountains before coming up with the concept for his first business, Honest Coffee Co. “What kick-started it all for me was a quote I remembered from a design lecture. The lecturer was explaining how everything we see is design, he went on to explain that in design ‘every problem is an opportunity’. This changed the way I looked at the world and what we call waste; our environment was the ‘problem’ I decided to focus on.”

You have a clear vision for the future, a regenerative world built around a circular economy. How did you know that bottled water was the right place to start? Why is that?

Bottled water came up as the product to carry this message in two separate circumstances. The first was when I found myself in a situation where I needed a drink of water, I didn't have a reusable bottle on me and the only water available came in oil-based plastic. Humans need water, and most people don’t enjoy supporting oil. I felt we at least deserved a choice. The second part is that we have a strong, important message to spread and we needed a billboard that was applicable to everyone. A bottle of water is one of the rare products that can reach every person on the planet; regardless of age, sex or race, everyone drinks water.

When it comes to creating a plant-based plastic bottle, how do you even go about that?

You just start. I think this is good advice for anyone who is trying to do anything. It's as simple as talking to everyone you think may be able to help, doing anything that feels like progress and having a strong desire to not give up. Some days it looked impossible and others you could only laugh at how things worked out so perfectly, or the right person came along at the right time.

Our bottles are better than traditional oil-based plastic because they are made from renewable (not finite) resources and have a 78% smaller carbon footprint in production, but we need to start looking at products more holistically and they need to be matched with systems and behaviour changes that complement them. It is our system that encourages reuse through our refill network, returns and collections through our Better Collection Network, and our local composting sites that allow us to compost our bottles, divert food waste from landfill, use compost to grow food, and sequester carbon.

The plant-based lids have been in development for a little while, do you have an ETA? What are some of the additional challenges faced?

The lids have been a challenge. We are getting closer every day, although as a small social enterprise we don’t have a huge amount of resources to throw at a task like this to speed it up. It has been challenging introducing these types of materials to traditional plastic manufacturers and getting them to see the opportunity and impact over viewing it as a potential threat to their current business. We have been close so many times then something doesn’t work along the line and we are back to the start, but we are getting closer every day!

For The Better Good is using social media really effectively to generate interest, awareness and support. Tell us about how you are using photos and videos to portray the hands-on, tactile nature of your work.

We just like to show people what they are a part of when they choose our product, including little things they can do as an individual which lead to a larger collective impact, like simply returning their bottles to us. Most people don’t know where their food was grown, or where their recycling goes and what actually happens to it and we are trying to bring in education, connection and make the whole process simply more human.

Noone could argue that what FTBG is doing in any way token or trivial, though other companies don’t always match your level of authenticity. What are your thoughts on ‘greenwashing’ and transparency in business?

It is about doing the best we can with an understanding that ‘perfect’ is a moving target, although we believe it all comes back to intention. Businesses are run by humans and humans make mistakes. If companies have the right intention at the source of their actions then it's good to see people trying new things in order to provide products and services that are lighter on the planet.

How have you found consumer’s attitudes toward your ethos and product? Are people generally willing to listen and give it a go or does it take a little convincing?

Some people get it, some don’t. It's a struggle as a small company to get your message out when you are up against all the noise of the bigger guys. Our model and way of doing things also gives us a rather lengthy message to tell as it's not just about what it’s made from, but we work with the entire lifecycle of our product. In saying that, when we have the opportunity to tell our full story, people get it pretty quickly.

I really liked this statement from your website: “we are also committed to the continual improvement of the best available feedstock options in our supply chain, minimising our impact in every way we can and never thinking that one solution is perfect.” This last part in particular resonated with me, as I think it’s a mindset that can be applied across a range of contexts, for anyone. Is this the key to changing behaviours? What other advice would you offer to a consumer looking at improving their habits for the better good of planet Earth?

Absolutely, it’s less scary to start the journey with this mindset. It’s a never-ending journey knowing that ‘perfect’ is a goal that may never be reached, as it’s always moving. Every time we reach a goal of achieving something better, better moves to taking it even further; doing more. This encourages us to be willing to stay open-minded and pivot to ensure that decisions are always based on what is for the better good.

This advice is from a man called Charles Eisenstien; to be mindful and focus on you. Because we are on a living planet, all things are interconnected; therefore any healing work that you do, climate-related or not, is still healing the planet. As long as whatever you do makes you care, on a heart level, do that.

Need to know:
For The Better Good
A social enterprise making beverage bottles and labels from plants

Photos: Supplied