Fifty Shades Greener educates businesses and people who want to fully realise their green vision and reduce carbon emissions.
Fifty Shades Greener is a leading educational company that teaches businesses and people how to measure, monitor and reduce their carbon emissions, from stabilizing their current environmental impact to reducing this impact by embedding small actions into their daily routines.
The business educates people on how to change their own behaviour around the use of energy and water and production of waste, so they can measure, manage, and reduce their use of utilities to achieve a lower carbon footprint lifestyle or workplace environment.
“We are a company that works for the benefit of people and the planet, a company that works for the people that work in it, and the students that engage with us”
“We give people the knowledge and skills they need to manage their own carbon emissions in order to create a society that is more aware of their own environmental impact,” explained founder Raquel Noboa.
“Up until this year we have worked with the hospitality industry and secondary schools mainly, but we have just completed development of our climate awareness programme as an adult education piece that will serve to upskill adults on how to reduce the environmental impact of their lives and workplaces in any industry.
“Our mission is to ensure sustainability, environmental education and in particular carbon emissions management is part of all education curriculums, from primary schools to third level education. We want to demystify climate action and give people the tools and knowledge they need to be able to reduce their environmental impact so that society can assist our NetZero targets.
“We are a company that works for the benefit of people and the planet, a company that works for the people that work in it, and the students that engage with us.”
What gets measured gets managed
The Fifty Shades Greener team
“We see environmental education as a must for all citizens in the world”
Noboa said that Fifty Shades Greener is continually developing educational programmes every year to serve different segments of society, from communities to young people and adult education.
“To achieve maximum impact, we connect and work with governments as we firmly believe environmental education should be free and accessible to all.
“It is difficult to define the size of our target market as we are now providing programes for all levels of education, from secondary schools, the FET sector, hospitality and university programmes. We see environmental education as a must for all citizens in the world.
A force multiplier
The company’s core products are educational programmes which can be sold and delivered fully online, supported by the Fifty Shades Greener team, or can be teacher-led (through schools, colleges & training centres) with its programme toolkit for educators.
“We generate revenue with two different business models B2B (business-to-business) with the sale of our educational online programmes directly to businesses around the world mainly in the hospitality sector at the moment
“We work with global partners to gain visibility and trust in new markets and we partner with other educational companies like universities, colleges and training centres to become resellers of our programmes.
“Our second route to market is working with governments assisting them on their NetZero targets by funding our training programmes, allowing them to support environmental education within their own jurisdictions. At the moment we have a National contract for the Hospitality industry in Ireland, a Regional contract for Secondary schools in Oreland and a local authority programme in London for Hospitality.
“We have just developed a qualification on the Ofqual framework of education, a Level 4 UK Certificate (Level 6 in Ireland) for environmental sustainability management in Hospitality that will allow us to work with Hospitality colleges around the world, and we are on the process of developing a Level 7 qualification for sustainable development with GMIT.
Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity, and green skills will be required in all industries worldwide, making our students more employable in the future marketplace, as well as raising awareness to protect the environment.”
The founder of Fifty Shades Greener Raquel Noboa worked in the hospitality industry most of her life. “But I never knew much about sustainability or climate change up until 2012. I was working in the Maldives in 2004 when the boxing day tsunami stroke in the Indian Ocean. I suffered eco-anxiety from that day on, but I did not know what to do about it or have to speak to others about it.
“In 2012 I was working at Hotel Doolin in Ireland when I was appointed as the hotel’s green manager. I had no idea what that meant or what to do to run a green hotel so I attended workshops, I read blogs and upskill myself. The real change happened when I learned how to calculate our hotel’s carbon emissions.
“Up until then, I thought carbon emissions management was something only scientists and governments would worry about. But when I learnt my life and my workplace also created carbon emissions, and that if I measured them I could manage, it became my life’s mission to learn more about environmental sustainability. I also realised my eco anxiety improved and nearly disappear, as I felt empowered by my new knowledge, and I wanted to teach others how to turn fear into action.”
Within two years of the start of the green programme in Hotel Doolin, the business had reduced energy use by 30%, waste by 40% and water by 25%, which in turn reduced emissions but also saved a lot of money from utility bills.
“This was my light bulb moment ‘Why isn’t everyone doing this?’ In 2017 I finally took the plunge and a founded Fifty Shades Greener. Hotel Doolin went on to become the first carbon neutral hotel in Ireland.
One stop shop for entrepreneurs
Noboa said that while Ireland has plenty of resources for entrepreneurs, they need to be better sign-posted.
“I feel there is a bit of a communication issue between all the agencies that support start-ups. A one stop shop website that guides you through all the possible support across Ireland would be very valuable to other start-ups. At the beginning of my journey I was supported by Clare Local Development Company, which allowed me to create educational projects in county Clare funded by the LEADER rural development. In 2019 I joined the Female High Flyers Cycle 10 with the DCU Ryan Academy funded by Enterprise Ireland which was very valuable to my own development, however it meant I had to travel to Dublin for 3 months every week, and been based in Co.Clare it was a huge financial effort for me at the time.
“In 2020 I met WestBic, another agency supporting start ups and founders, but at that stage I did not need any funding as the business was already generating revenue, they have however been great supporters of my work.
“Setting up a new company in rural Ireland came with many challenges and I feel clear communication about the support available needs to be improved.
The company has generated profits since 2020. “We are lucky to be able to deliver large educational contracts with a small team as our content is online. The company has grown by 300% every year since 2019 and we are set to grow by another 300% this year. It has always been my intention not to raise funding but to have a company that stands on its own two feet.
“This allows me to run the business the way I want, my number one priority are our employees and not our profit. We offer fantastic employment opportunities with a four-day week (32 hours), flexible working times to ensure a life/work balance and eventually we will make our team share holders of the company. I want to create a company that works for the people that work in it, and not the other way around, this would not always be possible if investors came into the picture.”
The biggest lesson Noboa has learnt in the past last year was to invest in more people to join the team and take some financial risks to do so.
“My biggest concern is to ensure we can retain all of our employees and that their wages are secured for a long period of time. This means that I ended up working myself all possible hours while still having a large profit at the end of 2021. If I had to re-do 2021 I would have hired two more people to help me on the journey. I have now rectified this issue and as of January 2022, three new people where added to the team, allowing me more time to develop new content.”
Her advice to fellow founders is just begin. “If you have a business dream START TODAY. I waited too many years to have the courage to start my own business, fear of failure and insecurity about my own capability where the main reasons.
“We must always remember also that having a great idea or product does not make a business. Always keep learning, identify your strengths and weaknesses and upskill yourself in any area you need to. Surround yourself with good people you trust, and I don’t mean employees but family, friends and advisors that you trust. Listen and learn from everyone you come across.”