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The Tipping Point - Kairen Founders on sustainability

by Marco Augugliaro |

When Dubai residents Marco Augugliaro and Shruti Jain visited an island in Tanzania to see baby turtles hatching, little did they know that the horrors of pollution they saw there would spawn the beginnings of a business with sustainability at its core. As Marco tells it, "We arrived on a beach completely covered in garbage, waste and debris. Appalled, we asked for an explanation from the people on the island, but they simply said that all the waste was what the sea was washing up ashore. When we looked, we saw little turtles hatching among the garbage. They can't see well at birth, so they head for the sea by instinct, attracted by the sparkle of light reflecting off it. These turtles, however, were being completely deviated by shiny objects in garbage. It was at that point that we decided we needed to step up."
The husband-wife duo, who hail from Italy and India respectively, are passionate scuba divers and wildlife photographers. Seeing the impact of human pollution reach even the remotest parts of the earth ("plastic bottles in the middle of the Serengeti!") made them want to be "a little angry" about what humans have been able to do to the earth. It took a while, but earlier this year, Kairen was born.
Meaning 'pure ocean' in Hawaiian, the brand recycles plastic bottles into fabric to create swimshorts for men. On average, Marco says, each pair of shorts correspond to "nearly 12 bottles, 383 straws or 30 cutlery and plate sets - the ones you receive when you order food home". Although not a novel idea, one cannot deny its complete effectiveness. "Plastic is eternal," says Marco. "It does not degrade. This technique, therefore, gives us a chance to take the waste out of the system, and keep it from going to the landfill."
The couple's goal is to stimulate the industry into becoming more sustainable. It's costlier to make the switch, however, due to difficulties that relate specifically to the manufacturing technology involved - which probably explains why the entire industry hasn't jumped on board yet. "Our purpose is to see a plastic-free world," says Marco. "That's why any product we make will already have the higher production costs worked into our base."
There are several reasons they'd attribute to the current apathy that ails our society as far as 'green' issues are concerned. Because, while everyone is aware there is a problem, the overwhelming majority prefer to write it off as somebody else's problem. "There's a problem of visibility," offers Shruti. "Only when we went to an island in Tanzania did we realise the intensity of our impact on the environment. So, while everyone is talking about it, many of us still haven't seen those effects firsthand - which is what leads to being passive."
There's also the culture of consumerism to blame, says Marco. "If you're born into a culture of consumption, not thinking or caring about the impact of it all, that's going to be the most difficult thing to change. That's where we need the intervention of governments and laws to work towards a more positive perspective." 
The consumer, for its part, is ready, he notes. "They want sustainable products - but without the unaffordable price tags. They want to be given the chance to make the right  choice. It's critical to give them that."
The urgency is real because we're "tipping towards a point of no return", says Shruti. "Our kids will not find it unusual to see baby turtles born among plastic and debris. And we really don't want to see that world."