"Access to education and learning is society’s greatest opportunity right now. With the internet and access to information, we have a great opportunity to educate people across the world regardless of their backgrounds and I think that is a very powerful tool."
You run oodaalolly, a small batch chocolate company using cacao beans grown in the Philippines with Swiss production techniques. It seems that you do not only have a sustainable foundation for your company, but also a global view. Where do you find your inspiration? Where did you grow up?
I was Born in the Philippines, moved to Switzerland, then Canada, Long Island New York and then an hour outside of Philadelphia where I completed High School (with a small stint back in Switzerland).
I then moved to Boston for university, San Francisco for the dot bomb, Philadelphia for graduate school then Connecticut, Zurich, Sydney, and finally back to the Bay Area. You can say I am a bit of a nomad.
Family is what drew me to the Bay Area. My wife is from Southern California but her immediate family all moved here. When she was pregnant with our second child, we decided we wanted our kids to grow up near family to have that experience.
Along with that, the Bay Area is an exciting place to live. We love the diversity, the culture, the community and of course being a business owner, the opportunities.
How do you spend most of your days?
I spend most of my days thinking about how to grow my business in a sustainable way, taking actions to make that happen, playing with my kids, chilling with my wife, and still grinding at my 9 to 5 (the Bay Area is expensive!).
My passions in life are learning new things, gaining new experiences, building and creating. When those 3 things merge into one, that’s my happy place.
I dream of having a Northern Hemisphere / Southern Hemisphere lifestyle where I could choose which season I want to experience.
Like maybe this year I will just do Spring and Summer then next year just Autumn and Winter. If I could pull that off, that would be amazing.
What, in your view, is society’s greatest challenge and what can we as individuals do to address it?
Climate change is obviously the greatest challenge that humanity is facing at the moment, as well as mindless consumption.
I think there are a number of things that we can do to combat this; get involved in the political process and choose / vote for leaders that are considerate and have a one-hundred or two-hundred year view of what the world should look like.
On a day-to-day basis I think ultimately, we need to confront our spending habits and what we choose to consume especially in the modernized world. I think we just need to make conscious decisions and consider all of the impact of what we are bringing into our world.
Access to education and learning is society’s greatest opportunity right now.
With the internet and access to information, we have a great opportunity to educate people across the world regardless of their backgrounds and I think that is a very powerful tool.
My company, oodaalolly small batch chocolate specializes in making Swiss style chocolate with cacao which we source directly from the Philippines ourselves. Essentially, I learned about chocolate and chocolate making by working with my father who is a Swiss-born and trained baker, pastry chef, and chocolatier.
However what’s interesting is that many other amazing chocolatiers learned how to make chocolate by reading a blog called Chocolate Alchemy.
I am just amazed that a skill or craft which to some seems so far away could be learned, honed, and developed simply by reading some online blogs.
This is just a simple example that’s close to home for me, but there are countless examples out there which are more impactful, one is the story captured in the Netflix-movie The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.
Have you seen any climate-related impacts on nature where you live?
Yes, I mean Northern California is literally burning. We’ve had multiple high-impact wildfires sweep through areas just north of where we live and the impact has been devastating to many communities and people that live there.
In order to prevent fires, the local utility has implemented what they call Public Safety Power Shut Offs where they essentially turn off peoples electricity for an indefinite amount of time.
This past weekend, this meant that we had my sister in-laws family stay with us for a few days. It was a nice bonding experience for our family and the kids but it made me think of all the people who were forced to evacuate with nowhere to go.
Amazon Prime is probably the worst thing for consumption because it makes it so easy to order things you don’t need and return things you never wanted. It’s cheap and efficient.
Now there’s an entire after-market to resell returned Amazon goods because it’s cheaper for Amazon to auction off the returned goods at a discount by pallet loads, than it is to sort the returned goods.
Do you think that there is a way we can work together to change society’s current consumption into being more conscious?
Yes, it can be done with the right systems, incentives, and buy-in from consumers. When I lived in Zurich where all trash is sorted: glass, cardboard, oils, plastic, etc. and where each plastic bag costs several francs instead of a few cents like here in the US and you could potentially get fined for incorrect waste disposal.
You can really see a different view on the world as far as waste goes.
What in your mind signifies “A Good Community”?
My idea of a good community is one where there’s a strong sense of altruism and the good of others and not just ourselves.
I chose to be a part of A Good Community as I like the mission towards conscious consumption. I think this is a value that should be more prevalent in our society.
What, if anything, could the world benefit from more people getting engaged in things like A Good Community?
A greater awareness of the products we use and consume and their impact across the entire value chain down the line. There’s this phrase which people use when talking about eating poorly – “a moment on the lips forever on the hips”.
I wish there was an equivalent phrase for unsustainable products.
My wife and I have recently invested in a number of alternatives to single-use disposable items. Some examples include dryer balls instead of sheets, wax paper instead of plastic wrap, reusable silicone pouches instead of plastic bags.
These are small changes but it’s remarkable to see how much waste you avoid with small changes.