SUSTAINABILITY: HEATHER BLAIR OF BAD GAL BOOCHA
We recently spoke with Heather Blair – a woman who MEANS BUSINESS when it comes to Kombucha! Between making sure that it’s good for you and your body, Heather also insures that all products used to make the drink are locally and ethically sourced which is so inspiring!
Tell us a little about you, your business and why you decided to set it up?
I’m Heather, I’m 26 and I run Bad Gal Boocha. We are a kombucha nano brewery based in Cupar-muir, Fife. Before I did this I was working as a home carer and just about to start my nursing degree. I reckoned that doing shifts on placement and home care shifts would burn me out…so I decided to set up a business instead!
Can you explain some of the core principles you have for your business?
At its heart, Bad Gal Boocha brews only real kombucha. In my eyes real kombucha is alive, full of good bacteria that is produced naturally during fermentation, uses a SCOBY to brew and is flavoured using proper whole ingredients. Much of the kombucha on the market isn’t real and this is due to a whole host of reasons however this will never be us. Whilst we brew this way we also focus on creating ethical and local supply chains where possible whilst REALLY focusing on our impact on the environment.
What is Kombucha? How would you describe it to someone who has never tasted it?
In a nutshell it’s a fermented tea. Kombucha is made using a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts), we “feed” this with a super sweet tea and then this bio-mat of bacteria and yeasts work together to convert the sugar and caffeine in the tea into acetic acids, probiotics, glucosamine and B vitamins. Kombucha is amazing, its slightly sweet, acidic and a wee bitty fizzy whilst being really good for your gut.
On your website you explain, ‘Our packaging is 95% plastic free,’ and this is fantastic! Was it difficult making sure you were as plastic free as possible? What were the processes to get to this stage?
It wasn’t difficult at all. It just took some out of the box thinking and a lot of talking. I scrutinize my processes daily and really focus on what I’m doing wrong and what has a lasting impact. There was lots of waste that couldn’t be recycled properly when we were using sticky labels so we decided to change to tags. It’s not just our product that’s basically plastic free, our whole brewing process is the same.
Why is it important to you that your products are environmentally conscious?
A huge portion of my product is essentially rubbish. It has little use once the kombucha has been consumed and this bothers me a lot. It really realllllllly annoys me when companies take no responsibility for their packaging and pass it onto the consumer. Packaging goes straight to the bin, why do we need so much of it? Even then a huge portion of this ends up in the oceans and it’s not just far away seas rubbish is ending up in. The waters along the East Neuk of Fife are FULL of plastic and waste. Its horrifying. I don’t want me and my business to be a part of the problem.
Sustainability can be really vague and cover so many things, what does it mean to you?
Sustainability is about making sure what we are doing can last and have little negative effects on other
s, nature and the future. It’s about using only what we need and keeping enough around for our generation and generations to come.
What does sustainability look like in your day to day life?
Sustainability on the daily is all about reducing my waste and ethically consuming (not buying anything for the sake of it, not supporting big companies if it can be avoided, sourcing food properly/locally). Nothing complicated.
What barriers do you face when trying to make sustainable decisions for your business?
The biggest one is the fault of other companies. You can have something coming to you in a certain type of packaging which is then changed at the last minute and this change isn’t communicated to us. Happens a lot. Communication is key.
Sometimes it can all be a little overwhelming to understand what all of this means, any hints or tips for those who have an existing business and want to start being more sustainable OR hints or tips for those starting their business and want to make sure sustainability is considered from the very beginning? What one thing can they start with?
Always assume you aren’t doing good enough and speak to other people. Be hard on yourself. Sounds like super harsh advice but following the IPCC report we need action now. There’s no time left. Collaboration and education is key to evolving. We wouldn’t be here without it. Ask questions too, if you want something delivered in a certain way and aren’t sure if it’s doable then just ask.
How is nursing going? It’s inspiring seeing someone so young jump to build their own business AND study at the same time. What would you say to someone who wants to make this leap? How do you juggle them both?
I actually just took a year out of nursing to protect my own mentality! I’d strongly advise everyone to not do what I have done. In all honesty too I never juggled both, I half arsed both and got super hit with stress, anxiety, imposter syndrome and super guilt when I took some down time.
We’ve seen across your social media that you actually go out and forage some of your ingredients, this is incredible – how did this come about?
My partner is a wonderfully talented and slightly miserable chef at The Cellar in Anstruther. Basically he kept eating bits of tree and things that grew out the pavement when we were out on walks and I was like wow that’s cool. I think I started reading more about foraging and educating myself to low-key impress him not gonna lie. It’s been great foraging ingredients for the past few months as I love being outside and I’ve been able to pass on what I’ve learnt to soooooo many other people which is an added bonus.
You also have a bottle return option? What are the benefits of this?
Bottle return schemes allow us to create a more circular economy. By reusing the bottles we are stopping bottles going to recycling (recycling is great when there is a market for it but just now the recycling markets aren’t really there so much of the waste to be recycled ends up in a landfill). It also stops the need for new products to be made and ties in to the sustainability message above. On top of our returns scheme we are about to launch a new bottle upcycling scheme meaning that bottles can still be returned to ourselves to be refilled but also they can be upcycled and refilled with other products such as soaps and cleaning sprays and reused in the home for years to come.
Businesses you admire for their sustainable practices and why?
There are loads but I’ll pick two. Kim from Leaf natural Food Wraps is absolutely KILLING IT with her sustainable practice. She makes all of her own paper bags out of recycled amazon paper, creates business cards out of cereal boxes, turns offcuts from her wraps into firelighters and she managed to save some conveyor belt material which we are gonna turn into chalkboards. The other is The Little Green Larder. Absolute sustainable queen. She actually gave me the idea to start the bottle upcycling (see how chatting to others and working together helps guide the sustainability process?).
We’re absolutely amazed and inspired by Heather’s work ethic and business – we’re so excited to see how she grows in the future!
To learn more about Heather and her business visit – here!