“I’m definitely more of a JOMO than a FOMO kind of girl.”
Name: Amber Urquiaga Wood
Place of birth: Dorset, England
Do: Founder of eco-friendly online store Coco Isla
What’s one area in which the environmentally conscious should practice more of what they preach?
Cigarette butts are made of plastic and they are a big problem. They litter the beaches, pavements and roads. Most environmentally conscious people are at least aware and are trying. Those who don’t think it’s their responsibility to make changes are the people who scare me.
What inspired you to start Coco Isla?
The idea was something I had been thinking about for a long time. Living here and spending so much time at the beach I could see first hand the effect of plastic pollution. I would play a game with myself to clear the sand around my spot in the beach from microplastic and cigarette butts. I’m sure people watching me would think I was nuts, but it would really upset me. In January we went to Thailand on honeymoon; we were island hopping between Koh Kood, Koh Mak & Koh Chang. These islands are picture perfect tropical paradises. We had beach hut accommodation directly on the shoreline, but swimming in the sea was like swimming in a bin. You could scoop your hands in the water and collect full handfuls of plastic rubbish. It was heartbreaking. I spent hours cleaning up what I could. My husband just wanted me to relax, but it bothered me so much that this could be reality. I had to do what I could, when I could. Our daughter was on honeymoon with us and to think her future would be to swim amongst rubbish just infuriated me. That trip confirmed to me I had to do more.
What’s been the most challenging thing about setting up an environmentally aware business?
Many things. Logistics and our carbon footprint are the first that come to mind. I have spent a lot of time researching products and I’m constantly looking for new items. I try hard to stock products that are made or manufactured in Europe. There are so many amazing new businesses producing great products. My suppliers are mainly UK based or come through a Spanish distributor. The main goal of this business is to supply Ibiza with the products but we also ship across Europe. I’m conscious about the contradiction of having items delivered to me on Ibiza, only to send them back to the UK. So we are working on a website for the UK market that can satisfy our demand there. It means our website needs to be much more sophisticated which is a further challenge.
You also give 5% of your proceeds to the Ibiza Preservation Foundation
Yes. The main core values of the business is to provide Ibiza with plastic free alternatives to help protect our local environment; to reduce the amount of plastic waste on the island and to protect the island and it’s surrounding waters. This kind of business is about the local environment and community coming together to helping and support each other to make changes. It seems right to give back to the island; I knew I wanted the business to connect with the island on a deeper level. In the summer In the early stages of planning I met with Sandra and Vanda at the IPF. What they are doing is incredible; they are heavily invested in the island and it’s community in many ways. The IPF has four keys initiatives that they work on to help Ibiza. Two are land-based–focused on farming and local produce–and two are based on the waters surrounding Ibiza and Formentera. Plastic Free Ibiza is one of these water based projects. It seemed an obvious choice to me to direct a percentage of my profits to this initiate as plastic-free is such a fundamental part of Coco Isla.
What are some environmentally friendly things which are so easy to do that people have no excuse not to do them?
There are so many. Sorting your household rubbish is so easy to do and should be second nature now to all of us. When ordering from cafes and restaurants, refuse straws; plastic stirrers; individually-wrapped condiment sachets; plastic sugar sachets. Take time to drink your coffee in a cafe in a mug or refuse the lid on take-away drinks. Don’t be shy to refuse single plastic items. Doing this will help to encourage change much quicker.
How does an introvert cope with the extroverted nature of Ibiza?
I don’t need to tell anyone that Ibiza has such a one-sided reputation. Yes, there are all the clubs and parties and this attracts more extroverted characters. But there are many more layers to this island. As an introvert I need time alone to recharge my batteries and thankfully even in the height of summer there are still beaches, walks, parks and even hotel pools that are chilled and low-key. I love an early night. I have a very young daughter, so I have a great excuse to stay in. I’m definitely more of a JOMO than a FOMO kind of girl.
Ibiza fashion designer Lucy Pettigrew described leopard-print as being “classy, expensive and a bit Bet Lynch.” What does leopard print mean to you?
Animal print, especially leopard is such a staple in my wardrobe, teamed with all black. I love it! I don’t shop for clothes that much, I don’t enjoy it. But when I do it’s either for something black or leopard-print. Any situation day or night it just works for me. I wore leopard-print platforms for my wedding.
What’s the thing in Ibiza that causes you the most anxiety?
I get major major social anxiety. One-on-one or with two people I’m OK, but more than that something weird happens. I think my inner-voice takes over. All my insecurities surface. I just retract into myself and let others take over the conversation. I get so nervous before going to events, imagining the worst situations. I just feel nothing I say is very interesting and no one would want to hear it. I’m not very good holding peoples attention in groups. One-on-one I HAVE to talk and the other person has to listen to me! Ha! Poor them
There isn’t anything specific in Ibiza that gives me anxiety. Except for bumping into someone I know on that Ibiza to London City flight and getting stuck in a conversation about what I’ve been up to. It’s such a small plane and I know everyone is listening – CRINGE! So it’s a case of shades-on, headphones-in and hope that I don’t see anyone.
What does the average day look like for a Mum with a young daughter in the first year of running an online business?
It’s not easy, especially as I’m solo-parenting the majority of the time as my husband works overseas for 9 months of the year. My daughter needs all my attention when I’m looking after her. It’s a privilege to have this time with her and I know it’s going to fly by. An average day is getting her fed, dressed and out the door by 8:30am. Then I have a few hours to focus on the business. I blink and that time is up. Then it’s back to collect my daughter, lunch, siesta and then I take her to swimming lessons twice a week. We play in the park, then it’s home for the evening routine and bed. I have all the intentions of working at night when she’s asleep, but I’m spent by then.
How does being a mother change how you see the world?
Having my daughter was the catalyst to me starting Coco Isla and not just sitting on another idea. Seeing how much the world is suffocating under all this plastic, I knew I had to do something. My daughter is brilliant, funny, fearless and she loves animals. She forces me to go to places and see things with her that I otherwise might shy away from if I was alone, but I don’t want her to miss out so we go together. I think she may be teaching me and helping me through my anxieties in a way.
Ibiza summer or winter?
Why choose? Summer is amazing for weather, beaches, restaurants and having friends over on holiday. Winter is magic. I can be a hermit and completely relax. I feel I make much healthier relationships in the winter. It’s a real chance to connect with the island and the people here. Everyone has more time for one another. Instead of meeting and getting pissed, they meet for a coffee, beach walk or yoga lesson. It’s much more genuine. And the sunsets! The sky’s are on fire in the winter evenings.
Where in Ibiza provides you with the most inspiration?
There isn’t one place. Anywhere that is open, quiet and peaceful, allowing my mind the space to wander and at the same time be still. Sometimes it’s the beach, the campo or my balcony. The cliffs by Destino are magic too; the rocks have a wonderful colour and the view across to Formentera is pure life!
Did you really get a tattoo whilst on a first date?
I did. Two actually.
Big groups of friends vs one-on-ones – which do you prefer?
Ha! What do you think?