Seven Questions with Suresh Vukki and Manny Sek, Co-Founders of Leafware

From by Lani Furbank
Seven Questions with Suresh Vukki and Manny Sek, Co-Founders of Leafware

Food Tank, in partnership with American University, is hosting the 2nd Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. on April 20–21, 2016. 

This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more. 

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Suresh Vukki and Manny Sek, the Co-Founders of Leafware. Leafware is one of the sponsors of the summit.

Food Tank (FT): What initiatives have you launched recently, or are planning to launch, that will further your company’s sustainability efforts?

Suresh Vukki and Manny Sek (SV & MS): Well, being a proud sponsor of Food Tank is a good start! In all seriousness, we are planning on expanding our social outreach and helping organizations that also make it their goal to increase the wellbeing of our planet. We do not want to go too much into detail, but 2016 is just the start for what Leafware plans to offer. As a company, we are dedicated to advancing the idea of sustainability and are always on the lookout for companies who also share the same ideals. 

FT: What drives you and your company to push for sustainability?

SV & MS: Our driving force can be summed up by looking at what Leafware is built upon. We are built upon a simple philosophy that was once spoken by Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is with this philosophy in mind that we have made it our mission to provide sustainable, natural products for the benefit of our planet. We believe in offering choices that reduce society’s impact on air, water, and soil now and for future generations. 

FT: What is the biggest food related issue facing our planet right now? How is your company working to solve that problem?

SV & MS: Right now, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, is an island-sized patch of trash that is roughly the size of Texas and only getting bigger. This “island” is often referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Within this patch is a HUGE assortment of different plastic, foam, and non-biodegradable products that are just left to float in the middle of the sea. Now, we understand that this pollution problem is not directly a food-related issue, but it is most certainly one that is only enhanced by the food industry. It is with this awareness that we have made it our goal not to be a part of a problem but rather a solution. By moving away from the industry standards of plastic dinnerware and bags, we are giving the world a better solution that will not contribute to an already huge problem.

FT: Do you have any enlightening stories to share of collaboration between your business and other businesses or organizations that have changed your business practices?

SV & MS: As far as dealing with a certain business that has changed our business practices, we have not had any as of yet. With that said, who’s to say we never will? We are always keeping a lookout for how businesses are doing things differently and often looking in the direction of being greener. Certain organizations are also carving the way for better ways of doing business and our ears are always up, listening for cool and new ideas.

FT: What changes would you like to see from the United States government to support sustainability in the food system?

SV & MS: We would like to see more support for ecosystem services (such as soil production, coastal protection, etc). There are still pieces in the food system that do not do their part in making sure their actions do not harm the environment. As a whole, we have to realize that it is within our ecosystems, that most of what we take for granted is created or gathered (food, fuel, fish, raw materials). If we start supporting the ecosystems as a living, breathing entity, we can truly start to see what innovation comes from it. This is one of the main reasons we make it 100-percent clear that our dinnerware is from fallen palm leaves. We do not harm the tree or soil in the manufacturing of our products. We are built on the platform of repurposing the undesirables into something that is useful. 

FT: What was a turning point in your company and why?

SV & MS: We haven’t had a “turning point” as of yet. Each and every day, we make small advancements towards our goal of making the world a greener place while lessening our own eco-footprint. What we are finding is that once the consumer knows of this cool, new eco-friendly alternative, they are interested in learning more about it.

FT: What three things do you want your customers to know about your company?

SV & MS: The three most important things we want our customers to know is that:
1) We have the highest quality natural dinnerware on the market. All of our products go through a strenuous QA assessment to ensure that every customer receives the cleanest and most durable product. We are FDA- and USDA-certified to fully ensure our products are food safe.
2) Leafware has the largest selection of palm leaf dinnerware on the market. We are dedicated to enhancing the idea of repurposing in the dinnerware market. We want the world to know that plastic and paper does not have to be the only option for disposables; there are much more eco-friendly options available.
3) We are dedicated to our customers and keep them in mind in everything we do. We want the buying experience to be as painless as possible and want our customers to feel satisfied with every transaction. We are here to help educate the customer about the cool, new eco-friendly alternatives and love doing so. It is our job as an innovator to help educate the consumer while also decreasing our carbon footprint.

To find out more about the event, see the full list of speakers, and purchase tickets, please click HERE. Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the livestream HERE.

To join us at Food Tank's São Paulo, Brazil Summit in September 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Sacramento, CA Summit on September 22–23, 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Chicago, IL Summit on November 16–17, 2016, please click HERE

Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Want to suggest a speaker for one of the Summits? Please click HERE

Want to watch videos from last year's Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. include: Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Chaia DC, Chipotle, Clif Bar, D.C. Government, Driscoll's, Edible DC, Elevation Burger, Fair Trade USA, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Global Environmental Politics Program of the School of International Service, Greener Media, Inter Press Service, Leafware, Niman Ranch, Organic Valley, Panera Bread, and VegFund. 

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