Tammy Nguyen of IvyMay: 5 Things We Must Do To Inspire The Next Generation About Sustainability And The Environment
An Interview With Martita Mestey
Teach them to love plants — This sounds silly but caring for a plant and catering to its individual needs makes you realize that they are very much alive. The connection to the plants outside will resonate when kids understand their growth as living things and what we can do to sustain the planet.
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammy Nguyen.
Tammy Nguyen is Co-Founder & CEO of IvyMay & Co., a houseplant product company that offers two innovative potting mixes for tropical, cactus, & succulent houseplants. The potting mixes are ready-to-use, infused with essential oils, 100% peat-free & soil-free, and each bag purchased plants a tree into the Redwood Forest through non-profit One Tree Planted. IvyMay & Co. also offers a refill program with their retailers in an effort to reduce single-use packaging.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
For much of my childhood, I lived with 8+ adults under one roof. My mom and dad’s parents and siblings lived with us after they came to the states from Vietnam. Having grown up in poverty, my family never allowed anything to go to waste and they showed me how to get the most out of any item I was using. In addition, my grandma especially had a love and respect for all living things. From a very young age, I was taught to nurture animals and plants from her belief that all things are connected, so our actions impact the environment and our planet.
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
I’ve always had a love for all living things ever since I was a child, which I got from my grandma. In 2021, I went through what I would call a spiritual awakening, where I started to learn how intricately intertwined and connected everything is in our universe. Every form of creation matters — from humans, to animals, plants, art… With our new product and business model, the team and I wanted to put this at the forefront. Whatever we do, we hope to contribute and give back more than we take.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
I think at some point, if a young person goes through a spiritual awakening like I did, they start to realize two very important things. The first one being that anything that they desire in this lifetime or hope to achieve is possible — through their thoughts, attention, and intention. Work towards it and do your best, but the most important thing is that you are enjoying it while you’re doing it. The second is that everything is connected, so every action of every person matters. This can be the point where someone develops or realizes a passion for the environment and our part in it as humanity.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
IvyMay started as a houseplant delivery business during the pandemic. Naturally, our team shares a love of plants. As we spent more time gaining experience and insight into the gardening industry, we noticed a lack of sustainability in the market, primarily in the soil/potting mix category. When we picked our first product to scale, a potting mix, we partnered with soil experts to formulate a peat-free and soil-free potting mix with triple ground redwood bark as the main ingredient. The redwood bark comes from sustainably managed forests, meaning that the trees harvested were planted specifically for commercial use. Every bag purchased also plants a tree into the ancient Redwood Forest through the non-profit One Tree Planted. We also hand-pour each bag and use minimal electricity at our fulfillment center.
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
Bringing reusable bags to the grocery store to help reduce the number of plastic bags being used is something that is cost effective but has a big impact. Using products that are refillable is one my favorite ways to be more sustainable — Not only are you helping eliminate single-use packaging, but you often receive a discount, which is a win-win! Thrifting is a fun way to discover items from the past that may be making its way back around without buying a brand-new product. Thrifted products have so much character and they make you wonder what story it has to tell.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth-led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion, what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
- Take kids outdoors so they appreciate nature early on — especially in places that take our breath away such as the mountains, the forest, the desert, so that they develop a love for the earth as they grow up.
- Recycle, recycle, recycle — of course, recycling in the household will become a habit for them if that’s all they know!
- Reuse — if there’s a chance to consume products that have a refill option, that will teach them to eliminate single use packaging.
- Teach them to love plants — This sounds silly but caring for a plant and catering to its individual needs makes you realize that they are very much alive. The connection to the plants outside will resonate when kids understand their growth as living things and what we can do to sustain the planet.
- Volunteer — Local clean ups in the community will go a long way in teaching kids to care for the earth. You can make it a fun competitive activity with their friends!
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
It’s important for businesses to educate themselves on sustainability and why it’s important — so that our planet is inhabitable for future generations. By infusing sustainable practices in your business, it shows that you care about people, and not just the ones that are here today. Even small changes can make a big difference, and we need to get ourselves to a position where we can be both sustainable and profitable — we can all start somewhere and slowly incorporate more of these practices as we go. Offering quality sustainable products and services is not just a trend, but a serious solution to our modern problems and this is something that people ultimately want.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I can’t think of a single person, but I have three business partners who push and inspire me every day. Without my co-founder, Cody, I never would have had the courage to become an entrepreneur, and he has stuck with me through some of my hardest times. We’ve added two partners since we started, both of whom were loyal customers of ours early on in our business. Thaimae was a graduate student obtaining her double masters in English and Education and was a huge part of the plant community. She used IvyMay as a case study for one of her classes and her work was so amazing, we decided to add her on as a partner. Anna, our fourth partner, proposed a digital art collaboration for plant care cards. Nearly a year after collaborating, we are incredibly blessed to work alongside her as an owner and Art Director of IvyMay.
Without their talents and love for the brand and our mission, we wouldn’t be who we are and where we are today. Being so new in business still, we’ve tried our hand at a few things trying to decide what we enjoy most and what will work for us in the long term. Through many changes in our business models, my partners have been able to shift gears and get momentum going no matter what we take on.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to add in a spiritual/motivational arm to IvyMay — to help wake people up to how important and talented each and every single one of us are. Everyone has it in them to pursue exactly what they want to achieve in life, but due to cultural conditions and trauma we experience as children, many of us take a route that doesn’t fulfill us. Once I was able to step off of this path and go my own way, doors started opening and opportunities started flowing and I realized that everything is connected — our thoughts create our reality. The more people realize this, the better off all of us will be if we’re living out our dreams. There’s a very specific practice that I’ve learned during the course of IvyMay and I’d love to share that with the world one day.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“Telling yourself “I get to do this” instead of “I have to do this” is the easiest way to change your life.”
I think most entrepreneurs can relate that when times get TOUGH, we can sometimes dread heading to the unknown because as my friend says, we are walking blind. But especially for me and the brand that IvyMay is becoming, it’s an extension of us and everything that we love. We don’t HAVE to do anything; we are blessed that we GET to do the things we love every day. This business has taught us the art of living and we get to spend our days doing what makes us happy.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
We are most active on Instagram: www.instagram.com/ivymay.co. You can find plant tips, plant humor and a look behind the scenes of our business on there!
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!