Singapore’s lifestyle brand, Pass It Onis committed to making sustainable urban living a necessity. Its mission is to pass on a sense of consciousness in our daily choices, big or small, through its range of home and living products.
Founder Michelle Chow first had a revelation during a trip to Lady Elliot Island — the southernmost island of the Great Barrier Reef — which kickstarted her journey in sustainability.
“I saw the contrast between healthy, thriving corals, and bleached corals. It then dawned on me that my then four-year-old niece might not be able to see the breathtaking reefs when she’s of age to dive,” says Michelle.
This sparked the idea of a sustainable venture, now known as Pass It On. Stemming from a long and successful career in fashion, marketing and events, her career transition surprised many.
In fact, her stint in fashion played a role in her decision to champion climate action. She saw firsthand how fashion could be polluting — with research proving that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world after the oil industry — so she wanted to make a difference.
Inspired by half-finished candles
Pass It On first started out as a side project. Reading up on climate change encouraged Michelle to start a fundraising project on Kickstarter to plant trees in 2020.
The project raised five times the funding goal, further prompting her to start Pass It On in 2019, a brand that would continue to give back.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit soon after its launch. This was why Michelle continued pursuing Pass It On as a mere side project, while consulting for brands and advertising agencies at the same time.
It was only in April 2021 when she turned the sustainable brand into a full-time project.
Pass It On soon became recognised for its plantable candlesa best-seller and a product unique to the brand. This idea first came to her when she brainstormed ideas to further fuel the tree-planting fundraiser.
I looked around my house and saw multiple candles lying around half-finished. I started taking classes on how to make my own. When it came to deciding what vessel to use for the candles, I saw the half-finished candles in my home and thought: what if the vessels could be given a second life?
– Michelle Chow, founder of Pass It On
Building on the idea of a second-life candle, Michelle jumped into the design process, with an aim to make the end product as low-waste as possible.
A business model of eco-friendly practices
Although the pandemic might have put a damper in the brand’s expansion plans, it did not faze Michelle.
Instead of opening a permanent physical store, she pivoted and launched a pop-up store instead, as well as pushed to distribute Pass It On’s products across various brick-and-mortar stores in Singapore.
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable with change, especially for a business that really grew during the COVID-19 period. Our brand mission is focused around making sustainable living a necessity in people’s lives.
Though we remain focused on the bigger goal, there are countless ways to be creative about the process and the approach. We grow, with the flow.
– Michelle Chow, founder of Pass It On
Michelle’s passion for sustainability reflects clearly within her business practices. On the business front, the Pass It On team pushes out social media content on various environmental issues. She also taps on her team’s interest and background for them to run certain projects.
“We had an intern who was from the National University of Singapore (NUS)’s Environmental Studies faculty. She had a wealth of knowledge on our natural environment. Together, we kickstarted a series of Conscious Tours where we brought people on local nature walks at Clementi and MacRitchie forest.”
Michelle also acknowledges that over-packaging is one of the biggest problems when it comes to consumer goods. The brand calls for new packaging seasonally, but Michelle has found a creative way to get around this issue.
“When we wanted to make a special gift wrap for Christmas, we opted for upcycled fabric Furoshiki wraps. We also created gift box sleeves that double up as greeting cards to minimise the use of paper and tape,” shares Michelle.
“At all our pop-ups and events, we reuse paper bags given to us by our community. It doesn’t matter that we forewent a branding opportunity on our shopping bags. Instead, we repurposed 545 bags through this exercise.”
Passion for educating and advocating
Aside from being an entrepreneur, Michelle knows the best way to make a mark is to lead by example and keep the eco-conscious habits going — be it at work or at home.
At home, she sorts her waste into categories for recycling and food scraps for compost. Michelle also uses eco-friendly cleaning tablets, upcycles all her cleaning spray bottles, and recommends recyclable tissue paper. Her household also utilises solar-powered electricity.
Her passion to educate and make a mark on sustainability is ignited by various factors: the existence of fast fashion, overproduction and consumption, recent findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, and the debate on whether to remove the Great Barrier Reef from UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.
Although Pass It On is a growing work-in-progress that is continuously developing and innovating, Michelle says that the brand will persist in three focal areas.
Firstly, Pass It on aims to be an innovator, where they further design their own products, such as the plantable candles. Secondly, as a retailer, they have the ability to source and curate like-minded brands from different parts of the world and sell them on their platforms.
Lastly, Pass It On serves as an advocator, where they conduct events, talks, and workshops with corporate clients and hold their own flagship events.
For instance, Pass It On is hosting its first immersive physical and digital retail experience for sustainable home and lifestyle brands from 23 to 24 July 2022.
Called ‘GREEN-HOUSE’, the event is a way for attendees to discover other local businesses who prioritise sustainability and positive social impact in the way they operate. Participating local businesses include homegrown coffee technology company Morning, Furniche+, Re-store, and textile artist Natalia Weaves, just to name a few.
Guests can also learn how to upcycle, compost, mend and create useful items in line with a low-carbon-footprint lifestyle during the event workshops. In addition, GREEN-HOUSE will contribute one planted tree to Pass It On’s long-term NGO partner for every attendee.
Sustainability efforts for the future
Pass It On’s plans for the future include continuing its collaboration with the Eden Reforestation Projectwith an aim to hit the goal of planting one million trees.
With every purchase of a Pass It On candle, a donation is made to the Eden Reforestation Project, allowing for the planting of 10 trees. Since 2020, Pass It On has contributed to 132,967 planted trees, with an aim to reach 250,000 by the end of this year.
“Instead of splitting its energy and resources across different beneficiaries, we’ve chosen to focus on the Eden Reforestation Project so we can channel all our energy and resources to this mission and meet our goal,” says Michelle.
Featured Image Credit: Pass It On