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ʻŌpio Spotlight: R Planet

“Together we’re making a difference”

If there is one thing Raina and Rhema Wong, co-owners (and twin sisters) of R Planet, would like people to know is that together, we can help create and sustain a healthy environment. In 2019, Raina and Rhema, just high school students at the time, were beginning their sustainability journey. Emboldened by their passion for the environment and their desire to find more solutions to the environmental crisis, they launched R Planet, a (now online) marketplace offering a range of goods, from reusable produce bags to bamboo utensil kits to toothpaste tablets. Today, Earth Day, is the second anniversary of their business. They’ve only just begun. Opening a one-stop shop with reusable products is only the first phase of the impact R planet will have on the world.

“We wanted to be a resource for people to learn more about environmentalism,” says Rhema. It’s important to provide sustainable products for people, but it’s equally important to assist others by educating them and helping them to start their own sustainability journeys. “We thought ‘we’re doing all this’,” she says, “We should be sharing this. This might be helpful to some people.” This, of course, means becoming aware of the many environmental issues that plague our planet, take plastic pollution or our carbon footprint for example, and make different lifestyle choices every day to create a positive impact rather than a negative one.

Environmentalism and sustainability have always been a concern for many people, but I’ve noticed that recently more and more people have adopted intentional attitudes about the environment. I can only assume that as this awareness grows, that R Planet will grow as well. Currently, all of the products in the shop, if not made by themselves, are sourced from businesses, either within the USA or local, that have ethically made products, are available to ship plastic free, and whose business values align with R Planet’s values. When I ask where they see their business in the future, Raina responds that they hope to increase their production and wholesale products like lip balm, lotion sticks, laundry detergent powder, and dish soap bars. They make these products themselves and aim to have these available in more local stores.

“I’m obsessed with our dish soap bar just because it’s a multi-purpose thing,” Raina explains. “It’s made of super clean ingredients, only three ingredients, and we make it ourselves. It feels good to make it and understand what’s in it and where it comes from.” She then explains that the same bar of dish soap can have so many uses – hand soap, pet shampoo, even a stain remover. “It really represents what [the] zero-waste movement is about.” Getting creative with one product and seeing how many different ways you can use it is the epitome of mindful living, using what you have to its fullest extent rather than being wasteful.

Rhema says that “my favorite [products] are bathroom products.” They offer a Zero Waste Bathroom Kit on their website that includes things like shampoo and conditioner bars, a loofah sponge, and a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush. “These are products that you’re definitely using everyday.” Raina chimes in about how clean it feels. “Not having to use a trash can in the bathroom is an amazing feeling,” Rhema says. I nod in agreement. Having one less trash can to empty every few days would definitely make me feel better. I mention that one of my favorite items is the beeswax wraps. “Our beeswax wraps are sourced from a business in Haleiwa,” Rhema says. “Stuff like the body soaps and sunscreen are also local.” It goes to show that amazing products don’t need to be from large brands, they can be found right in your own communities.

“It’s weird to think about our lives before the business,” Raina says. I ask her what she means, what’s changed. “The biggest difference is the connection to the community.” They both nod, small smiles on their faces that reflect their gratefulness. “It’s easier to do this together…[knowing] there are other people that want to do this to.” She pauses. “It can feel hard to do it on your own but knowing that there’s other people who are also passionate and willing to make changes in their own lives, it makes it easier, it makes you feel like you are doing something important.” Rhema adds her own take, saying “We’re always taking input from the community…we can lean on each other for growth and inspiration.”

The relationship between R Planet and the community has greatly helped them operate during the pandemic. “We were stoked to see the community was still supporting us,” Raina says. “[It] pushed us in the direction of going online, something we never thought we would do,” Rhema says. They’ve introduced new services to their business thanks to the community’s input: Local Delivery and Package Free Orders. “I had a friend that asked me if she could give me the boxes from her order back,” says Rhema. She thought instead, “why don’t I just give you this without the box?” Thus, Package Free Orders began. If you make an order and reside on Oahu, Raina will literally drive to your house to drop it off, maybe leave it in your mailbox if you ask. “[The service] has slowly grown, from maybe two deliveries to having a set delivery day”, Rhema says. A part of me is amused at the image of Raina scrambling across the island to get all of her deliveries done, but the larger part of me is in awe at the unique service and the dedication to their business. It’s obvious that, despite their thriving online business and slow return to pop-up shops, these local deliveries maintain the relationship R Planet has with their customers, allowing them the opportunity to meet and talk, and build even stronger connections than before.

Raina and Rhema are young role models, young leaders of our generation. I ask what they would say to another young person with a passion for the environment. How should they start?

They pause and choose their words carefully. “Focus on progress over perfection,” Rhema finally says. She mentions ‘environmental grief’, the psychological response to the loss of ecosystems, naturally or man-made. This grief is the unexplainable emotion people feel when they hear yet another species has been declared extinct, when they’re reminded that global warming is irreversible in our lifetimes. This grief causes people in our generation to constantly ask questions about what we can do, what we can change. It also causes hopelessness. It feels like a weight on our shoulders, and it’s a heavy feeling, but Rhema wants to try to turn that grief around into a positive attitude. “Overtime we’ve learned how to lift a little bit of that weight off of ourselves, as individuals. Focus on what you can do, where you are right now.” It’s unrealistic to expect a transition of lifestyle overnight, or to be the perfect example of sustainable living at the get go, especially considering the different cultural, social, and economic backgrounds of people. “Remind yourself that what you’re doing is a selfless thing to do. It’s good to acknowledge that you’ve taken that first step.” Young individuals often feel the need to take on the responsibility of going out there and saving the world. Start with yourself instead. Even the smallest acts of good are still acts of good.

Raina is concerned with the overall health of people, mental and physical. “These swaps are not only healthier for the environment, but they are also healthier for us. These habits help us to be more conscious, more aware, in finding gratitude and connection toward our land.” A hand over her chest, I hear the sincerity in her voice and the desire to help. “Being raised on an island and being so intertwined with nature, we’ve been able to grow a deeper appreciation and value for it,” Rhema says. She makes a good point. I’m born and raised in Hawaii. I’ve seen the way the beaches and indigenous plants that I once loved have disappeared. I can see the problem right in front of me. There are people who aren’t as lucky to live so close to nature. It’s not as easy for them to feel connected to the environment, and it’s unlikely that they will feel the responsibility to take care of it as well. Understanding this relationship between human and nature is crucial to shifting attitudes and behaviors. There’s a lot of good to be felt when you understand your relationship to the environment, when you begin to take care of the land that has taken care of you. “We are a part of the planet. We’re a part of nature. Working to take care of ourselves in order to take care of the environment is [what’s] important.”

“In every online order that we pack we hand write a little note,” Rhema says. This is where the initial quote comes from. “Together We’re Making A Difference.” Raina and Rhema’s passion for environmentalism is only rivaled by their love for their community. The ecological crisis is too large to tackle on their own, and they hope to get more people invested in finding solutions as much as they are, starting by encouraging people to make small switches in the products they use every day and continuing to educate and inspire them to live healthy, sustainable lives. Rhema’s parting words are delivered with a grand smile on her face. “The people that support us are the backbone of everything we do… and it’s really cool to see the collective difference that we’ve been able to make.”

To check out the zero-waste products available for yourself, visit R Planet or visit their Instagram @rplanet.co

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