Grōni is a sustainable painting and decorating business, based in Yorkshire. Founded by Matus Marek in 2020, it offers customers a greener way to decorate their home, office or café. The old Germanic word ‘Grōni’ is the root for the English word ‘green’.

Mat (pictured above right with his business partner Kobi Tetteh) and the Grōni team use ecological and non-toxic paints to minimise exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. They use 100% compostable, vegetable-based dust sheets and bin bags to avoid single-use plastic materials.

Leftover paint is offered to other clients or a client’s friends or family for free, helping to reduce waste and form a community of customers who ‘paint it forward’.

Grōni has also pioneered a ‘pedal and paint’ scheme which sees the team cycle to as many jobs as possible. The scheme is being piloted in York. If they have to drive, they track their mileage and calculate emissions, which they often offset through the technology platform Ecologi. In addition, Grōni arranges for the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust to plant one tree for each completed project, for example a newly painted living room.

Mat (left), Kobi (right) and the rest of the team cycle to each job, where possible

“It’s all about the minute details and being accountable for the way we operate,” says Mat, 33. “After each project, we give the client a summary of how much waste we produced and how much we recycled. We started doing this recently to further improve transparency and to motivate us to keep looking for ways to get better.”

Grōni manages its business finances with Starling, a branchless bank that offers customers debit cards made from recycled plastic. Starling runs its three UK offices on renewable energy and in 2021, began offsetting carbon emissions through investments into a number of environmental projects.

Sustainable decoration

“The idea for an ecological decorating company came to me in May 2020 when people started talking about dolphins returning to Venice and we got a glimpse of what the world could look like when we let it breathe,” says Mat.

He became trained as a decorator in 2014, after selling his organic vegetable box company and moving from Slovakia to the UK. “I enjoy working with my hands,” he says.

Mat launched Grōni in August 2020 and now heads up a team of three. “We’re a young company. We can only do so much and our funds can only stretch so far. But we have big plans for the future,” he says. “We want to inspire other tradesmen to switch from vans to cargo bikes or electric bikes and change the default.”

He also plans to create his own ecological painting and decorating products. “A lot of ecological ranges have started because the founder couldn’t find what they were looking for. We’re in a similar position.”

Sustainable finance

When Mat went travelling with his partner in 2019, he opened a Starling personal account to manage his money. “I wanted to avoid fees when travelling in Vietnam,” he says. Starling doesn’t charge customers for withdrawing cash or using their card abroad.

“I had everything I needed and the app worked really well, so we decided to go with Starling for the business account.”

One of his favourite features is Saving Spaces, which allows customers to ring-fence money from their main balance. “I use Spaces for my taxes and to save for particular things, such as cargo bikes for the business. I also take pictures of receipts and add notes to transactions so that when I come to do my finances, I know what a payment was for. You know where you are with Starling.”

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