This newsletter is the whole package
(The eco-friendly kind.)
A newsletter about branding, startups, and mission-driven companies aiming to make the world a better place.
👋 Welcome to For The Love, so happy to have you all here!
Today we’ll be discussing:
The third and final topic in our sustainability series — packaging
A roundup of new launches this week, including a tasty, stylish, and non-alcoholic release for your Insta-ready picnic
In case you’re still looking for a Mother’s Day gift...
If you were forwarded this by a friend, join over 2,500 other DTC enthusiasts by subscribing here!
✌ For The Love of Doing Good
While we might like to think that throwing away that empty shampoo bottle in the blue bin means it will be turned into new plastic products, that’s not always the case. (In 2018, 14.5 million tons of plastic packaging was thrown away, only around 29% of which was recycled.)
But guess what? Most companies are perfectly happy letting us believe that it will be.
Take the rise of paper bottles — you’ve surely seen them filled with water, cleaning supplies, or beauty products, being touted as a more eco-friendly alternative to plastic packaging, but did you know that most of them have a thin layer of plastic inside? That means they’re usually only recyclable if the consumer separates the layers and recycles them separately.
Not exactly effortless, and it’s what companies have been practicing for a long time — putting the responsibility on consumers to recycle properly, instead of investing in more eco-friendly and user-friendly solutions.
Not to mention the recent controversy around Innisfree with the, let’s just say... misleading packaging.
Luckily there are some new brands that are taking the responsibility back, and packaging products responsibly for eco-friendly and easy disposal.
As Cary Lin, co-founder of Common Heir, a sustainable skincare brand, explained of past packaging practices:
“It forces a lot of the onus onto the consumer, which is what the old petroleum companies and old CPG companies did — made that idea popular that it's on you, individually. And where we think the role of the brand is actually by responding to consumer demand for something that is both premium and luxurious, but also innovative and plastic-free.”
She was inspired to create a plastic-free beauty brand after encountering washed up lotion bottles on the beach covered in barnacles and algae.
“It just occurred to me in that moment that I had no idea where everything I'd had a hand in creating, where it had ended up. The beauty industry is reliant on plastic. So after that moment I became really inspired to think about...can we develop products with an ethos that really considers where things come from, and where they actually will go versus where people hope things will go?’”
“The reason why we named the brand Common Heir is because we really believe that we inherit our skin, the way that we inherit the earth, and it's ours to take care of and to pass on.”
Their first product is a Vitamin C serum packaged in biodegradable capsules. Vitamin C becomes less effective when exposed to air so usually requires pumps aka plastic that can’t be recycled (unless you remove the springs from them).
“That's part of why plastic is so prevalent in the beauty industry because there's this trend towards active-based skincare, but all of those needs stabilization. So we decided to consider the fact that vitamins, the ones that we eat, also have Vitamin C. And so we looked at that technology and came to this plant-based seaweed-derived encapsulation method that not only is different and cool but also serves the function of preserving a very highly potent and efficacious Vitamin C formula.”
And, importantly, it’s easy to dispose of:
“It will dissolve in boiling hot water, but also because it's entirely plant-based, it's biodegradable, and is more similar to an apple core than the biodegradability of the plastic, which takes about 500 to 1000 years.”
It’s not just the capsules that are easy to dispose of — they went the extra mile to make sure the rest of their packaging could be recycled as well, as Common Heir co-founder Angela Ubias explained of their packaging:
“We were really intentional when we went through creating it because it's a custom tube so it created a longer development timeline for us, but it paid off because we made sure that we were sourcing craft paper that was going to be recyclable, and that we were using correct inks like soy ink or FSC certified inks and avoiding any coatings that would have any plastic in them, that would impact recyclability. So the tube, we hope that you repurpose it, but should you choose not to, you can absolutely put it in recycling and it is actually recyclable.”
Of course, we couldn’t talk about plastic packaging without touching on household essentials, like cleaning products. While brands like Seventh Generation have pioneered eco-friendly ingredients, when it comes to their packaging — not quite as eco-friendly. Their single-use plastic bottles often end up in landfills just like their less eco-conscious counterparts.
Blueland, on the other hand, has committed to making all of their packaging reusable.
Blueland is a line of eco-friendly cleaning products that is Cradle to Cradle certified, EPA Safer Choice, EWG verified, Leaping Bunny certified, Climate Neutral certified, USDA BioPreferred, and B Corp certified. (TLDR they’ve backed up their claims.)
“We've worked really hard in developing our products to make sure that it's easy for people to live in this low waste lifestyle, by also ensuring that our packaging is reusable,” Sam Isaacs, Brand Marketing Manager explained.
While they started with only spray cleaners, they now have a range of products, each with its own set of packaging challenges.
Glass is a more sustainable material than plastic, however, as Sam told me, it wasn’t as consumer-friendly for that particular product because they’d be walking around the bottle to clean:
“In our research, we found that a majority of our families preferred shatterproof material for this use case...The hand soap is actually made from glass and that was selected again from consumer behavior research because it is stationary on the countertop and they wanted it to have some weight to it...but ultimately they're both reusable and have that refillable design.”
So they chose a very durable plastic, one that won’t shatter and will last for a lifetime of refills.
“Our reusable bottles are made from a Triton plastic and which is a really durable material. So when it comes to what's included in say your starter kit for example — you are receiving the recyclable shipping materials and our reusable forever bottles.”
It is important to note the nozzles are not recyclable but they are working on a take-back program so we can be responsible for end of life/create a closed-loop lifecycle for them. Again, trying to make the best choices for each case balancing sustainability and usability.
Another priority for Blueland is making sure customers understand all the ways their products and packaging can be used and reused.
“We posted an Instagram Reel around five ways to reuse the inserts that are inside of our packaging, holding the bottles in place. I think that's a really great example of how we, not only make sure that the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable, but also, how else you can adopt the philosophy of reuse with our packaging.”
Also, importantly, making sure consumers fully understand the impact their purchasing decisions can have.
“Ultimately, we know that our innovative products can divert more than 100 million single-use plastic cleaning bottles in the United States alone so we really want to make sure that we share with our customer that only not only are you saving money, you're also saving space, and you're also helping to save the planet, which is a really convincing three-prong strategy that does help a consumer who may not be a user of the just add water method...it helps to convince customers to make the switch from the single-use plastic model in the cleaning industry that has been so prevalent for the last couple of decades.”
While these brands are eco-friendly, it’s just as crucial that they are user-friendly — taking the onus of the consumer and allowing them to make sustainable choices effortlessly.
As Common Heir’s Cary Lin told me:
“We’re trying to make it easy on [customers] — to say we've done all that homework, we went to extra lengths to do testing...in fact, I think it can be quite demoralizing to be like, ‘oh, I've been recycling for so long. So basically nothing I've actually done mattered.’ We didn't want people to feel that, we wanted to give them a solution.”
🔥 For The Love of Newness
Sandland is a new line of all-natural products to help you fall asleep and stay asleep, which, let’s be honest, we could all probably use.
And to help you Dream (or Groove, or Flow) there’s newly launched Steep & Mellow — adaptogenic and nootropic teas.
Or if CBD is your sleep-friendly weapon of choice, there’s Enjjoy gummies and tinctures, “turning raw hemp into pure bliss.”
Petaluma is a new line of dog food that’s “formulated to care for the planet as well as you care for your dog.”
Figlia is the newest entrant into the non-alcoholic aperitif space that “bottles the lushness of Italian gardens and the energy of sidewalk dinners in New York City.”
Speaking of non-alcoholic aperitifs, Ghia now comes in Spritz (and portable can) form — just in time for picnic season.
DTC swimwear favorite Andie is now making bras and underwear.
And Instagram’s favorite underwear brand (aka Parade) just added bras.
🔍 For The Love of the Details
For the person who does it all…
Because nothing really says, “You used to be a bright light — a shining star of infinite possibility, youthful exuberance and curious adventure… but now after pushing another human through your birth canal, you’re the human equivalent of jogging pants,” like soup.
“Happy Mother’s Day! Have some soup.”
Thank you for being part of For The Love!
A few more things...
Is there a topic you think I should cover? Or a funny ad I can dissect? I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, respond to this email, or drop it in the comments ⬇
Know someone who’d enjoy this newsletter?
Was this newsletter forwarded to you?
Written by Aja Singer, a brand and creative strategy consultant interested in all things startup, mission-driven, and community. Born in Canada. Based in Brooklyn. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.