International Women’s Day | Meet Deeva Green Co-Founder of PlantPaper
27,000 trees are flushed down the world’s toilets every day. Traditional toilet paper contains a whole host of harmful chemicals, including bleach, formaldehyde, and other carcinogens.* The reality of the industry’s impact on our planet and health sparked the beginnings of PlantPaper. Made from fast-growing FSC-certified bamboo, free from dyes, and easy on septic tanks – PlantPaper tackles America’s addiction to virgin tree paper in the hope of making a change for good. Meet Deeva Green, one of four co-founders of PlantPaper, a tree-free, toxin-free toilet paper brand. We find out how she balances motherhood and the unique challenges of running a startup as the only female amongst male co-founders to #BreakTheBias.
What inspired you to start PlantPaper?
Good question! Since I was little, I always dreamt of doing something good for the environment – something that would make a positive impact, change people’s perspectives and leave this planet a little better than business as usual. I also always dreamt of having my own business (my parents were entrepreneurs). After studying Environmental Policy in my undergrad and Sustainability Management in my masters, I was determined to put all the pieces together. After reading about the destruction of old-growth forests that occurs daily on a mass scale, decimating complex, irreplaceable ecological systems for the sake of something as disposable as toilet paper, my partners and I set out on a mission to make the best tree-free toilet paper on the market. This was in 2017. We embarked on two years of R+D to get the product right and once we did, then came the even bigger challenge: persuading the public that there could be a tree-free paper that was just as soft and strong as the tree paper they were accustomed to.
Have you faced any challenges, stereotypes, or biases as a female co-founder? If yes, how did you overcome them?
Challenges – yes! As you know, in March of 2020, toilet paper was the product of the moment. Sales unexpectedly went from zero to 100 in a matter of days. As a very small team, it was all hands on deck. Our customer service inbox was always full, we were dealing with inventory issues, USPS and the other carriers were unreliable due to their unprecedented loads and we were putting out fires with the business every day. At the same time, I had COVID-19 and was pregnant with our first child. As a co-founder, I couldn’t suddenly not help keep the boat afloat, but unlike my male co-founders, I was dealing with a pregnancy that was not following a straight trajectory (do they ever?!) and a heavy bout of COVID-19, which at the time nobody knew much about. It was a tough moment. What kept me going was seeing all the new sales and subscribers and just wanting to keep our customers happy. Fortunately, my co-founders were extremely supportive and understanding throughout my pregnancy, but as a woman, there’s just no easy way through it.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?
As a mother and an entrepreneur, expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything. It can be difficult to prioritize: how can I take care of my sick child, while not missing today’s meeting with a future investor? When our child care cancels at the last minute, how can I get even halfway through my list of work to-dos and at the same time make sure my child is safe and sound throughout the day? By preparing for the unexpected, you can take a little anxiety off the daily ‘what ifs?’ – make sure you’re not the only one in the business who knows how to do things that are time-sensitive and that require a quick turnaround. And if you’re lucky enough to have a community around you, find backup childcare and then backups of your backup! And if things at work have to wait until tomorrow, so be it.
Which woman do you admire the most and why?
My mother! My parents always worked together in their business. Since 1973, they had a business in the fashion industry in Toronto where I grew up. My mother always seemed to achieve an incredible balance between being a very present, intentional mother of three who was always there for my siblings and me but was also there for the business, and the day-long line reviews and lunch meetings, and was always there for my dad and their partners – meanwhile, she also ran her own yoga studio on the side!
PlantPaper stickers printed and produced by KacePack
What do you dream of achieving with PlantPaper?
I wish for PlantPaper to be recognized for what it is—simply a better toilet paper option than any conventional or tree-free toilet paper on the market. Not a trade-off, but a trade-up. There are currently several tree-free toilet paper companies (most still bleach their product in one way or another) but no one has gone to the lengths we have to ensure the absolute, highest quality, both from a performance- and environmental standpoint. Of course, I’m biased, but I’d be in a tough situation if PlantPaper didn’t exist—I don’t know what toilet paper I could use after using solely PlantPaper for several years now! It’s hard to even look at bleached, white toilet paper anymore and our rolls are the perfect combination of soft and textured to get the job done. There also isn’t a brand on the market that speaks to me in the way PlantPaper does in terms of brand aesthetic, packaging, and voice. All that to say is: imagine people used the term PlantPaper in their vocabulary like we do ‘Kleenex’ for facial tissue?! I dream to be the go-to brand for toilet paper across the US and Canada.