How We Minimize Our Footprint and How YOU Can Help
August 21, 2019
By Allison, founder of Activist
If there’s one thing that keeps me up at night (aside from my cat or my toddler), it’s the future of our planet. It’s why I started Activist and I believe it’s my calling in life to do my part.
From decisions as mundane as what to do with an extra cardboard box to the things that define us, like our packaging, environmental impact is always a top consideration. So I wanted to let you know what we’re doing behind the scenes to minimize our footprint and what you can do to help.
First off, our packaging. It is our face to the world, and that’s why I wanted to include a message of empowerment that’s a call to action. The lady on our bottles doesn’t have a defined face because I want you to see yourself in her. You’re passionate, you’re powerful, and you’re ready to take action. Every time you open your medicine cabinet, I want you to be reminded that you are an important part of the environmental movement and your actions matter.
We opted to screen print our graphics instead of using labels for a few reasons, one of them being that it makes the bottles easier to recycle, and it makes the bottles more beautiful and more likely to be repurposed in creative ways.
Glass vs Plastic
Our bottles and jars are glass, not plastic. Yes, glass is heavier so it takes more fuel to ship, but over its lifetime, the carbon footprint of glass is less than that of plastic when you take into account how many more times it’s possible to recycle glass than plastic. Don’t be fooled that just because plastic is “recyclable,” that this erases its environmental impact. Plastic is a petroleum product which requires drilling, spurs international conflict and supports the most destructive corporations. And recycling plastic is a dirty, toxic process that doesn’t happen much in the US anymore (instead, we ship off our plastic to developing nations with bare-bones environmental and labor regulations). On the flip side, glass is more valuable as a raw material and 25% of glass produced in the United States is post-consumer content. (And it’s not going to end up in some poor animal’s stomach.)
Unfortunately, plastic is the best material currently available to companies of our size for parts like pumps and caps. It hurts to have to use this material but I promise you that as soon as something better is available to us, we’ll adopt it! I obsessively follow developments in this arena.
Reducing Shipping Waste
Next up, the trees. We don’t use outer boxes on our products to reduce the load on forests around the world (especially virgin forest like rainforests that are under extreme pressure from agriculture). And our cardboard shipping boxes, which we made rather petite to save resources, are 100% recycled content and sealed with compostable shipping tape. We use compostable unbleached paper shreds to protect your products on their way to you. Currently our shipping labels are not compostable, so please rip yours off the box if you plan to compost it. If you order a very small product such as a sample, it will most likely come in a padded envelope to further save resources.
I haven’t done a full analysis of this yet, but my hunch is that shipping via the US Postal Service (for orders in the US) is lower carbon because the postal service is already making a daily trip to every address in America anyway. That means that the UPS or FedEx truck isn’t going to make a special trip down your block to deliver your Activist order, which saves fuel, especially as much as those trucks sit idling while the package is walked up to your door!
When it comes to the boxes that we receive via shipments of our ingredients or other supplies, I either reuse them for shipments to our stockists or give them away to someone in my town who is moving. They’re always so thankful and I like to think it inspires them to take a new look at ways they could be a little more green in their own lives. (Try this with any large, sturdy boxes you get via online shopping — save them until you’ve got 10 or so, then post them on NextDoor, Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, etc.!)
As for ingredients, I’ve prioritized ensuring that our ingredients are all plant-derived, which means no petroleum derivatives and no animal products. We also avoid synthetic chemicals unless the natural extraction method for obtaining a particular chemical that occurs naturally in the body is more resource intensive than creating it synthetically. For example, our coenzyme Q10, which is an amazing antioxidant that occurs naturally in our bodies, is fermented by yeast in a lab instead of extracted from animal products. There are many natural chemicals that are actually more pure and readily available to our skin cells than if we used a whole plant source, since our skin doesn't have a digestive system to break down whole plants.
We do, however, still use whole plant ingredients such as botanical oils, which are beautiful ingredients that make our products feel luxurious! Many of them come from organic farming, although we have not undertaken any organic certification process as of yet. We avoid wild harvested ingredients because at this time, with our tiny staff, it’s too difficult to track down the exact source of each one to ensure that it’s not being taken from a sensitive ecosystem or endangered plant population. (For example, sandalwood is an ingredient we avoid for this reason.)
Another of our eco-sins is that we use a small amount of a palm oil derived ingredient in our cleansing balm and cleansing gel that I haven’t yet figured out a way to replace. It is sustainably sourced according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), but I doubt the stringency of this organization. That’s why I am actively testing replacement ingredients and will update the products as soon as possible.
This is where you come in
So how can you help? I have a few ideas. One is to always vote with your dollar. By purchasing any product, you’re funding the continuation of whatever practices its manufacturer and distributor have in place. Move your money from irresponsible to ethical companies and you’re quite literally helping create an economic shift.
When it comes to our products, I’d be so honored if you would look at our packaging not as a single-use vessel to hold a liquid/gel/powder but as a lovingly, intentionally created piece of practical art that can be repurposed in infinite ways. Some ingenious ideas on this are coming soon! In the meantime, check out these tips on how to properly clean your bottles for reuse (this takes you to another website).
If your product has a dropper that you don’t plan to use again, remove the glass from the dropper, then rinse and recycle it. The bulb and silver ring could make fun arts and crafts fodder, but if that’s not your style, they will need to head to the landfill. If your product has a pump that you don’t intend to reuse, pull apart the plastic pieces and determine if they are recyclable in your municipality. We’re working on wrapping a closed loop system for parts like these into a future iteration of our rewards program, so stay tuned for that.
Lastly, please consider making a mindset shift, if you haven’t already, that activism is not something that other people, somewhere else, do. It’s something that we can all be a part of. Start looking for opportunities for random acts of activism, however small. It’s the kindest thing we can do for our home planet, and in turn, for ourselves. And remember that taking proper care of yourself enables you to be the best activist you can be, so don’t feel one bit guilty in indulging in some “me” time – we hope you’ll make us part of it ;)