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Sojo app founder Josephine Philips
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta, Illustration: Tim Easly

Meet the eco-innovators making our city greener

From the inventors of flushable wet wipes to the creators of a game-changing reuseable water bottle, we chat to the Londoners at the cutting edge of sustainability

Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

Flushable wet wipes that won’t ruin our city’s rivers? You better believe it. That’s the kind of innovation happening right here in London. We speak to the people whose boundary-pushing ideas are helping to make London a greener city. 

The Deliveroo for clothes repairs

In January this year Josephine Philips (above) launched Sojo, an app to connect people to local seamster services with delivery by bike

It started with a ridiculous attempt at me trying to sew. I’d found an amazing secondhand pinstripe suit, but it wasn’t at all my size. I tried to alter it and it was disastrous.

I wanted to make tailoring easy and convenient for Gen Z. Surely I wasn’t the only one with this problem? I did market research and found it was an issue. I came up with Sojo as a solution.

Your clothes are back to you within three to five days. You type in your postcode and book what you need. A cyclist picks up the item along with another item that fits you already to get the right sizing, and drops it to your local seamster.

The day the app launched, I couldn’t stop crying. It felt so momentous. When more than 1,000 people downloaded it in the first 24 hours, I thought: Is this real?

I was the first Sojo cyclist. Ten miles in, I was being sick by the side of the road. I hadn’t exercised since I played netball at 16, but I thought that cycling 14 miles would be fine.

It’s about fitting your clothes to you instead of the other way around. Repairing and tailoring items helps to keep clothes out of landfill, which I’m incredibly passionate about.

The future of sustainable fashion is going back to how our grandparents lived – having a circular relationship with what we wear. It will be a beautiful amalgamation of rental, secondhand, swapping, repairing, tailoring and upcycling.

I’m hopeful about the fashion industry. But there’s still a market for fast fashion. There’s a lot of climate anxiety, so if I wasn’t hopeful, it would be a dark place. With all the innovation, surely the industry will be flipped on its head. 


Twipes founders Alborz Bozorgi and Ellenor McIntosh
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta, Illustration: Tim Easly

The wet wipes that won’t ruin the Thames

After five years of research, Alborz Bozorgi and Ellenor McIntosh created Twipes: flushable wipes

It started when one of our friends said they’d blocked their toilet three times in one year. Along with hundreds of other Londoners, he’d been flushing wet wipes – something that causes more harm than just blocking the loo. We looked for a solution.

It took us five years of research. Once we had a product, we had to work out if it was flushable. By December 2019, we had a finished product: Twipes. They’re made out of wood pulp and start to break down when they’re submerged in water.

Our wet wipes completely dissolve in three hours, which is less time than it takes for flushed waste to enter the Thames Estuary. A woman once asked if she could drink the dissolved water. You can, but we don’t recommend it.

We’re saying you don’t have to change your behaviour. If you want to keep using wet wipes, that’s fine. But switch to the flushable, eco-friendly ones.

Twipes are a single-use product, but we want to make sure it’s the best possible single-use product you can have. No one’s saying don’t carry a flannel around with you if that’s how you want to live, but the majority of people don’t want that.

There’s a lot of greenwashing and there’s a lot to the word ‘biodegradable’. A bag that claims to be biodegradable can still take 100 years to break down. We invite people to look at our credentials and find out if our product actually does what it says.

If all wet wipes became biodegradable overnight, the impact would be huge. The goal is to take our biotech and stick it on other products, even if it’s not our branding.

We’re not little kids anymore, screaming at our parents to put their tins in the right bin. We’ve got the purchasing power to make a difference, so we can inspire the younger generation.


Chilly's founders James Butterfield and Tim Bouscarle
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta, Illustration: Tim Easly

The game-changing water bottle

How Chilly’s founders James Butterfield and Tim Bouscarle created the now ubiquitous bottle

James: The idea came from a love of cold water. Back in 2010, I’d carry around a single-use plastic bottle of water that I’d refill each day. I started thinking: Wouldn’t it be good to have cold water without having to buy a new bottle each time?

I came up with a design that I thought my friends would like and ordered 500 bottles to my parents’ house. They were shocked. I filled my whole bedroom from top to bottom and hand-tested each bottle, sitting in the bathroom with water spraying all over me because about 100 of the first ones leaked.

I started selling them at Camden Market and remember the rats crawling all around the site. No one really got what I was doing. It was slow going until I met Tim while working at a digital agency in London. He saw the environmental benefits, and in 2012 we set up a crowdfunding campaign.

James and Tim: Getting into shops like Whole Foods felt like the biggest thing in the world. But it really took off when we started selling online. At Christmas 2016 we quit our jobs and in 2018 we hired our first employee.

Then the whole anti-plastic movement took off, with straws and cutlery. From 2018 to 2020, Chilly’s went utterly insane. We’ve saved hundreds of millions of plastic bottles.

Everyone was like: ‘What’s this new technology?’ But it’s just a thermos flask redesigned: two walls of stainless steel with a vacuum in the middle. It keeps water cold for 24 hours which, at the time, was a new thing.

Recycling isn’t the best way forward – not using those single-use products in the first place is better.

It never gets old seeing the bottles in the wild. People use them in their day-to-day life. It’s a big change in habits that didn’t exist 11 years ago.


Loma founder Joseph Undaloc
Photograph: Gobinder Jhitta, Illustration: Tim Easly

The search engine for secondhand shopping

In May, Joseph Undaloc set up Loma, a search engine that aims to make the circular economy easier to navigate

When I moved to the UK from the Philippines, I found everything was five times more expensive. It was 2012 and I was a broke student, so I was buying secondhand out of necessity. I remember trawling through Gumtree for ages.

I wanted to make it less complicated for buyers to find what they were looking for. So two years ago, I came up with Loma, a Skyscanner for secondhand goods. My university gave me a bit of coaching and I soft-launched the site in May.

I couldn’t afford a developer, so it took me about four months to build the site myself. I’ve known how to code since I was 12, but it was hard because the technology changes so fast. Sometimes I thought: I could quit right now, but I knew it could help people and the planet.

There’s a lot of moving parts to Loma – it’s like assembling a complicated piece of IKEA furniture. It pools seven sites, from clothes to electronics and furniture. [All the tech] is off the shelf and if one piece is missing, it won’t work.

When ‘Bake Off’ started, there was a spike in searches for secondhand KitchenAids. The search patterns are really interesting. When it got colder, there were a lot of searches for books, and when lockdown was lifted, there was a spike in summer dresses.

I want Loma to have the same approach to secondhand shopping that Amazon has to convenience. We need to apply that same obsession to items already made.

It’s not just Y2K tops or vintage tees – everything can be bought secondhand. I found a green Chesterfield couch, which is usually around £2,500, for just £250 on Loma. I always find something weirdly underpriced.

Keen to do your bit? Here’s how London restaurants are becoming more eco-friendly.

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