As curtain falls on 2018, Lorna Rutto, Founder and Director, EcoPost Limited, is beaming with pride for her outstanding achievements in environmental conservation.
Lorna runs EcoPost – a company that manufactures durable fencing posts using plastic waste, an environmentally friendly alternative to timber. What started as an errand for her father inspired the beginning of a venture that would positively transform her life.
“As a landlord’s daughter, I would on some occasions be sent to collect rent and that’s how I came close to poverty. As much as the simple houses were not so costly, but still, many could not afford the rent and their living conditions really bothered me,” Lorna says.
Born in Kaptembwa Slums, Nakuru County, her childhood experience was that of poverty, rotting waste in her surrounding, clogged sewers, criminal activities and unemployment. And as a hobby, she would melt plastic litter in school, make ornaments and sell to other pupils for little money.
This turned out to be something she loved doing and she developed a strong passion for it. Even after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from African Nazarene University and consequently working in a number of banks, Lorna did not get a sense of fulfillment.
“I resigned in 2010 because I wanted to do something that would see me help the community,” she says.
So far, EcoPost has directly employed 40 people and 500 others who work indirectly. They hope to create an additional 1,000 job opportunities before the end of next year (2015). They process posts for fencing, sign posts, building and construction materials and lumber which can make tables and ceilings. Lumber is timber sawed into boards or planks of specified length.
“We want to prevent the cutting of trees. That is why we are making lumber which is a long lasting product that does not rot,” she says. Their clientele include farmers, home owners, wildlife institutions, sign companies among others. EcoPost generates over Sh10.8 million in revenue in a year and has saved over 250 acres of forests and withdrawn over 1,000,000 kilograms of plastic waste from the environment.
Her passion and leadership skills has accelerated EcoPost into success. This year, she won the Green Award by the Transform Kenya Awards, a joint initiative of the Standard Group and Deloitte in recognition of her work. She previously won the World Wildlife Fund’s Nature Award, 2010 SEED Award, the 2009 Enablis Business Award, the 2010 Bid Network Nature Challenge Award and the 2011 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award.
“All these awards couldn’t have come by if I gave up along the way to make Ecopost what it is now. It took a lot of patience and passion…passion for the environment,” says Lorna.
She has also developed a community engagement program where she works with marginalised youth and women groups and hopes to create over 100,000 jobs in the next 15 years. For her, frequent power outages and the high cost of energy has been a setback they had had to cope with. The main factory is situated in Ruaraka and plans are underway to open another plant in Cabanas along Mombasa road.