The following article is reprinted from the March/April issue of Town Vibe.
Green Awards Winner: Yumi-Eco Solutions: cleaning up housewares
BY GEOFFREY MORRIS
Virginia P’an has a very simple mission for YumiEco Solutions: to replace plastics with sustainable natural products. “Plastics account for 25 percent of all solid waste in our landfills,” says P’an, who started this houseware and tabletop-products business in 2010.
Working with partners in China, P’an became aware of new natural materials that were being developed for the consumer marketplace. At first, she took these materials to the corporate world. She pitched Weight Watchers and Oreo, for example, to replace their plastic food trays that slide inside the packaging with YumiEco’s starch-based products.
“They couldn’t make a decision,” P’an says. “They wanted to test it and test it and test it.” Finally, with the help of a grant from the state of Connecticut, P’an and her team created their own consumer products to demonstrate the viability of these new innovative materials.
Now, six years later, YumiEco Solutions has two main products that are sold in more than a thousand retail stores across the county. The Return product line is a replacement for paper and plastic tableware – the plates and other items you might use for picnics or barbecues, then toss. Return products are made from a natural starch.
“They are produced using non-GMO corn and starch, they are microwave safe, durable, biodegradable, compostable, renewable, sustainable. It’s the throwaway that goes away,” she says. “They are affordable and made with exceptional quality.”
Yumi Nature+ and Yumi Art+ products are made from 100-percent natural bamboo. This line of serving pieces is dur-able, sustainable, biodegradable, melamine-free, and petroleum-free. “This is a revolutionary and stylish bamboo product line. It’s made from all-natural materials that are renewable and farmed,” she says. “Bamboo grows like a weed and is very abundant.”
In March 2015, Yumi had ten of its bamboo fiber products featured in the Hall of Global Innovation, Going Green exhibit at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago. “This highlighted to thousands of the attendees there how green products could be high-quality, colorful, functional, and attractively designed,” she says.
The International Home and Housewares show featured 2,100 exhibitors across 13 miles of floor space from 45 countries. Yumi was the only company at the show to exclusively sell innovative green and eco-friendly home and tableware products. Yumi was nominated as a Tech Company to Watch at the Connecticut Innovation Summit in Hartford last year.
“YumiEco Solutions is creating a new market and pushing forward with innovative technologies that will potentially have a positive, global impact,” says Daphne Dixon, a 2015 Green Award winner, 2016 Green Awards judge, and founder of Live Green CT!
Prior to launching the YumiEco Solutions sustainable eco-products company, P’an was creating financial products at American Express, she was a senior advisor to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and she was the first woman to manage investment portfolios, which were in excess of $7 billion, for the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.
P’an’s next step was investing in this new business with her husband, launching Yumi in 2010. “This could easily become a billion-dollar business and the first in this space,” says P’an. “YumiEco Solutions is a young company that plans on replacing plastic with bio-materials in new and innovative ways.”