Two Young Entrepreneurs Turning Agricultural Waste Into Modern, Sophisticated Planters
When Alex Pinto and Brandon Wong joined forces, their entrepreneurial curiosity led them on a trip around the world to transform an idea into a tangible product. It was during the pandemic that Pinto and Wong realized they were craving mindfulness. The two spent over five years in Japan, where they both learned to slow down and carve out space for creativity and connection. The result? Kanso Design’s sustainable, contemporary planters.
Kanso is a Japanese principle that means “simplicity or elimination of clutter” and it’s this principle that has guided Kanso’s process and design. It’s also this principle and the team’s sustainable mindset that caught the attention of Molbak’s.
Kanso are planters with a purpose. Our team at Molbak’s is proud to announce the launch of Kanso eco-containers in-store. Learn more here.
Crafted from repurposed agricultural byproducts, the wheat husk, coffee bean husk, rice husk and bamboo fiber give Kanso’s collection of planters a contemporary, earthen feel.
As Molbak’s indoor and tropical plant enthusiast, I had the opportunity to meet up with Kanso Co-Founder, Alex Pinto. We chatted about the future of Kanso, how the industry is shifting to fit the demands of eco-conscious consumers and how mindfulness is penetrating the thoughts and attitudes of young entrepreneurs.
Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from? Were your family and friends surprised that you started Kanso?
Alex Pinto: My mother has been an incredible role model for me, not only as a parent but also as an entrepreneur. She has a deep connection with the natural world around her and spent a lot of time in her garden nurturing its fruits and vegetables. She has always been passionate about the cultivation process, which I feel she passed down to me.
I’ve talked to her about making planters, but I didn’t show her our brand until nine months after Mother’s Day. She has always been a fan of Marie Kondo, loves her TV series and shares the same values of a tidy and joyful household.
I reached out to Marie Kondo and through a couple of emails we were able to collaborate with them on a sustainable planter set. I named it after my mother’s middle name “Kyomi” which means “pure and beautiful.” Safe to say, she was pretty surprised and hopefully proud of us.
You mention “mindfulness” on your site. “The more mindful we were about the things we bought, the relationships we formed, the more meaningful the experiences became.” Why is mindfulness such an important tenet of the Kanso philosophy?
The pandemic was difficult for all of us and when it hit, we used that time and those circumstances as an opportunity to slow down and become more mindful in our lives. We launched Kanso in 2020 with that same goal in mind: to create meaningful relationships and space where those connections can be nurtured.
Of course plants also had to be part of it. They bring us peace while continually reminding us what can grow when given time and care! Through caring and tending to them over time, we saw plants as a guide for Kanso to create an environment that truly reflects who you are - one with meaning, mindfulness and love.
Do you see Kanso as setting a new industry standard in the repurposing of agricultural byproducts? What is your hope for the nursery and greenhouse industry moving forward?
This is an industry with endless potential. As new technologies emerge, it's becoming more accessible to develop sustainable solutions from repurposed byproducts and turn ideas into tangible products.
By developing systems which reduce waste, use renewable resources and ensure good quality output, businesses can collectively move toward a better future together. We hope more local companies can develop manufacturing capabilities that support these kinds of upcycled materials so that we can start seeing the benefits even closer to home.
What inspired your team to look to repurposing waste as a business venture?
Living in Japan taught me the art of efficiency, both with space and materials. I made sure to streamline my living situation by using furniture that had dual uses, making optimal use of limited square-footage while avoiding clutter. Plus, incorporating upcycled items into my space was a great way to reuse what was already there — without sacrificing aesthetics.
Our design concepts were drawn from the humbleness of traditional Japanese rooms and a contemporary outlook on maximizing living space. Moreover, we took inspiration from Japan's deep-rooted philosophy that encourages us to honor all objects with respect, recognizing their place in history, purposeful use and care for them accordingly.
What is the future of Kanso? Will you turn to other materials to make planters or other gardening tools or decor?
We are constantly looking for inventive ways to make products locally, to reduce our carbon footprint and discover materials with multiple purposes. For example, we are looking into investing into mushroom styrofoam that uses mushroom spores to create interesting shapes, textures and packaging materials.
There are always new technologies and materials being discovered, so being thoughtful and purposeful about the materials we use will always be top of mind.
Do you have any personal sustainability tips for indoor plant enthusiasts?
There are an endless array of sustainability tips on YouTube that can fit your lifestyle but I feel the most important tips that we can provide is adopting the mindsets behind them.
- First is to reduce overconsumption. Look at reducing what you buy to only the essentials. Think twice before making purchases and ask yourself if it's something you really need or simply just want, especially when buying food, products and trendy fashion items.
- Employ an “upcycle first mindset.” When it comes to being mindful of our resources, nature has become a role model for us all. Let's shift away from the 'throw-away' mentality and move towards an upcycled mindset and think outside the box when considering what we can do with items beyond simply disposing of them. Repurposing containers, repairing clothing that is still wearable and donating whenever possible; these options help minimize waste while keeping products in circulation!
- Long-term self care. Taking care of yourself is the first step to creating positive change in your life and for those around you. When we prioritize our own well-being, mental health and physical needs it gives us the clarity needed to focus on how best we can help others and our world. Doing this gives us the mental clarity needed to move forward thoughtfully and take our plant caregiving mindset out into the world around us. This is something we can be proud of.