Finding a dog treat company that is plastic free AND sustainable is rrruff! (did you say that in your best dog voice?) Luckily there's a handful of inspired individuals that are making it a priority to make this a reality, like my new friend Ash from The Conscious Canine. I thought I'd ask about her new business and pose the big question, "What the heck is coffee wood?"
But first things first, what kind of dogs are Harriet and Wilson?
Harriet and Wilson are both mixed breed dogs, mutts! They are Irish Wolfhound cross Scottish Deerhound. You can follow their adventures on Instagram @harrietandwilson.
Where are your favourite spots to take your dogs and are they beach lovers? If so, what is their/your favourite beach spot?
Yes, they LOVE the beach. Harriet especially. The dogs spent their first years of life living 500m from the beach in Glenelg, South Australia. In August, we moved to the beautiful Clare Valley for my work (TCC is our side hustle) so we no longer have the beach a short walk away unfortunately. They love every beach or body of water and have spent a lot of time at the river too. My favourite place to take them is definitely somewhere away from the city and all the hustle and bustle where we can camp, swim and have the place to ourselves. We are super lucky to have the Yorke Peninsular right on our doorstep now and I can't wait to spend our summer there this year.
Why have you chosen to create a brand that puts sustainability as such a high priority, and what challenges do you face keeping your business ethos?
I grew up on a farm and for as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with animals and the outdoors. When I grew old enough I decided I didn't want to eat meat and the more I looked into the effects that animal agriculture had on the earth and the environment, the more I knew I needed to make a change in every aspect of my life.
By having this conscious awareness I naturally started looking into things like cutting out single use plastics, not supporting fast fashion and using natural household and cosmetic items. When I got Harriet and entered the dog world on Instagram, my mind was blown by the amount of plastic and fast fashion I was seeing promoted - why did we talk about this MASSIVE issue when it came to human demand but people were still supporting it though their dogs? It just didn't sit well with me.
I decided I wanted to do something about it, I didn't want to be a consumer who supported so much ending up in landfill and with the support of my partner Tim, The Conscious Canine was created to give other consumers that option too. Our biggest challenge is by far the hurdles we need to jump to eliminate single use plastic. Everything would be much easier, cheaper and less time consuming if we just put our treats in plastic bags but we have had to think outside of the box and come up with alternative solutions. For example, we pack and weigh every order as we get it and we aren't able to bulk package weighed treats like other treat companies are.
What is coffee wood and why did you decide that it was the kind of product that you wanted to sell?
Old Coffee Wood is a by-product of coffee production. During coffee production, trees are seasonally pruned to promote growth and trees of 20 years of age or more are removed from the ground as they no longer produce fruit. These branches are then collected, cut to shape, lightly sanded and dried to create our popular Old Coffee Wood long lasting dog chew.
I stumbled across it being advertised in Europe one night and I hadn't seen it before. The more I looked into it, the more I knew I needed to try it for our boy Wilson, who was going through a horrible puppy phase and was chewing our wooden furniture. I stayed up so late that night, researching and trying to find how I could get my hands on it. I think we had just launched The Conscious Canine and it just seemed perfect to add this to our store – it’s a by-product of human consumption and it was tried, tested and loved by our dogs. It is very much our signature product now.
The dog treats market is such a highly saturated market. What makes your brand different and why should more people jump on board with brands that are keeping it small and sustainable?
The Conscious Canine is different for a number of reasons. Firstly and most obviously is our packaging, it is plastic free, so it is all recyclable and compostable.
All of our products are by-products of human consumption so we don't contribute to demand on the agriculture and fishing industries and instead we take what would otherwise be left behind. We are involved in a number of tree planting initiatives and we will be donating a percentage of all profits to charities and organisations that our customers will help us choose.
I think being sustainable and making more conscious decisions is the only way we and future generations are going to have a future. I think too often people think they are too small to make an impact and that we need to leave it up to governments and larger organisations to make changes. But the reality is, as consumers we have SO MUCH power. If the demand runs out, these organisations will no longer be able to supply. If we want a future on planet earth, we need to stop supporting companies who aren’t doing their part to protect it.
What is the most rewarding thing about starting your own business and what advice would you give other small Aussie brands that want to take the next step in starting their own ecommerce store?
The most rewarding thing for me is seeing what we achieve without it costing the earth. Seeing so many dogs, a huge variety of breeds from all over Australia, with our sustainable products. I love seeing their smiles when they have their Old Coffee Wood in their mouth and them licking their lips when their humans are handing them our treats.
I love that our products make dogs so happy, I wish I could make every dog on earth this happy. To new start-ups, my biggest piece of advice is to just do it! Stop waiting for the right time and for all for all of the things to fall into place and just do it. Take the risk, there will never be a perfect time. If it wasn't for my partner encouraging me I would probably still be waiting for the perfect time to launch TCC.
What will we see in the future for The Conscious Canine?
Lots, we are so busy behind the scenes! With a new season comes new seasonal produce so we hope to get our hands on some new treats for you all and we have some local deer antlers coming soon too.
We are currently working on a new plastic free packaging solution that we are so excited about. We hope to have this up and running by 2023. We have recently attended some really great local markets and are planning to attend more, including some closer to the Adelaide CBD so that we can meet more of our loyal customers in Adelaide. We will keep you up to date with all of our market dates and everything else on our Instagram.