Lauren Gropper is the founder and CEO of Repurpose, which produces plant-based tableware that fully break down. She founded the company in 2010 to extend the disposable lifespan of single-use products and reduce waste. Repurpose also happens to be the first tableware brand to address, eliminate, and replace PFAs (also known as “forever chemicals”) in their products.
Since it launched, Repurpose has established itself as a top brand in eco-tableware, growing faster than the leading legacy tableware brands (Dixie, Solo, Hefty). What’s more, the company’s efforts have kept 3,531,805 pounds (and counting) of waste out of landfills. Lauren is now looking beyond tableware, launching a range of plant-based single-use household products including toilet paper, paper towels, and saran wrap.
With all the hubbub around the new eco-friendly products, SEE Change thought it a good time to sit down with the social entrepreneur to discuss how it all began, the inspiration behind her social venture, what she accounts for its success, and her vision for the future.
Tell us about you, your background, and what brought you here
I have always been passionate about sustainability and environmental issues and started my career in the green building space. I studied environmental planning and design in grad school and spent several years building sustainable office buildings, hotels and airports. Eventually that led to work on sustainable set design for film and tv which indirectly led me to where we are today and the founding of Repurpose.
What is Repurpose, its mission, and what inspired you to found the company?
Repurpose is on a mission to replace disposable plastic products with plant-based, non-toxic, compostable alternatives. We’re creating a world where sustainable choices naturally fit into your modern lifestyle. I wanted to be part of the solution to the plastic problem – and I was super inspired to use sustainable design and the power of business to make an impact. This all started just over 10 years ago…so we were a little bit early to market, but it felt as though our products could revolutionize the way we thought about disposable plastics.
How were you able to find success in a very competitive marketplace, and (assuming) with premium prices? In other words, what did you do right?
We always had great products – this is first and foremost. Of course we had issues with certain products along the way, but we are constantly iterating to make sure we come out with the best products in the space. On top of that, we always made sure to be priced competitively. Those are the basic building blocks that we knew we couldn’t be successful without. And then, of course, we pay a ton of attention to the look and feel of our packaging, our messaging, and our social channels.
Along those lines, what were/are the challenges you face?
We have continued setbacks coming from all sides, from product, supply chain, logistics, finance, sales…you name it. It’s all about persistence and pushing through toward the shared vision. We communicate internally and with our customers constantly and let them know as early as possible when an issue comes up. I think one of the most important things is to make sure the team is solid, and that the right people are in the right positions and feel motivated to make it all happen against the odds!
You are launching additional products, tell us about them and what makes them unique
All of our new products are home compostable, which means they can degrade in a backyard environment within 12 months. This is a big step in our sustainability journey. Our new products include home compostable cling wrap, FSC-Certified bamboo toilet paper and paper towels, home compostable sandwich bags – essentially the modern family conveniences that are also super sustainable. We do believe in reusable products first – but there are always instances where you need a disposable option and Repurpose provides the best products at great prices.
What does the future of Repurpose look like, say in 5 years, or more?
You’ll find us everywhere! We’ll be your one-stop shop for everything compostable that you might need in your life