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April 12, 2016

The business of sustainability: Green Life Online

Sustainability isn’t a new concept, but a personally curated online store for eco-friendly fashion accessories, based in Adelaide – that's a first.

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  • Words: Lauren Reid
  • Pictures: Lauren Bezzina

Matthew Devitt is first and foremost an eco-entrepreneur. Whilst running his solar panel business, Green Life Solar, the idea of starting an online venture kept niggling at him. Matt knew that he had a lot to learn but was excited by the learning curve ahead of him, and so Green Life Online was born.

“At the beginning it wasn’t very focused,” Matthew admits, “but the wooden watches – my favourite of our products – were getting a lot of attention so I started to look for brands either here in Australia or that I could import that would fit in with that fashion angle a bit more.”

Now the range has been expanded to include sunglasses, phone covers and wallets, with plenty more product lines from Australia and overseas still to come. Devitt takes the eco-credentials of his products seriously, and does extensive research on brands before he decides to stock them.

“I find with eco brands, the people who love them are pretty dedicated,” he says.

“I’m trying to find products that have mass appeal but are still sustainable and fit with what we do. I want people to know that when they buy from our site, everything has really good green credentials but also is just a really good product too.”

One particularly big struggle for eco-stores is to strike a balance between creating a profitable business and not just loading customers up with more stuff that will ultimately end up being thrown out anyway.

As well as ensuring his products will stand the test of time, Matthew also refuses to stock anything too kitschy or novelty-like. His approach is to encourage people not to buy better or buy less, but to try and do both.

“I don’t want to be selling things just for the sake of it. I’m aware that a wooden watch isn’t going to change the world or solve global warming – I’m not kidding myself,” he says.

“But if people are buying those things anyway, it can give an alternative and start people thinking or talking about sustainability, how their stuff is made, what its lifecycle is, all those important questions.”

For all the serious considerations and long hours that come with running your own business, Matthew still likes to keep a sense of humour about it all.

“I can’t believe how fun it is, running an online store. And – sort of for my own amusement – for every order we do a handwritten note and sometimes I just write silly jokes. Everyone who buys a Simpsons wallet now I try to include obscure Simpsons quotes. I don’t really ever get to see any pay-off for that but I hope it makes them laugh. It makes me happy, anyway.”

Matthew is already planning thew develop the e-commerce business, hoping it can grow to reach an international customer base whilst still keeping the integrity and personal touches that it began with.

“With an online store, obviously you don’t deal with your customers directly but for them to know that there’s still a real person packing it all up is really nice. No matter how big the business might grow, I’d like to keep that personal aspect to it wherever I can,” says Matthew.

And, he hopes to do it all from his current location.

“I just love Adelaide… I’m having a blast!,” he laughs.

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