Did you know that when I chose to name my company The Green Goddess over ten years ago, it was because I envisioned creating a skincare company that was as "green" as possible? While it is true that my initial desire was to simply create a natural skincare range, I knew in my heart that I wanted to communicate my commitment to the Earth loud and clear, and thus, the name for my business was born.
To this day, my top priorities remain: I want to create safe and natural skincare products for my community, but just as importantly, behind the scenes, I also want to minimize the impact my business has on our only home - this beautiful blue dot that we call Earth. It's safe to say that being conscious of how my company might negatively affect the environment weighs very heavily on me!
By now, if you are a follower of mine, you will know I both adore and am frustrated by my industry. I am so passionate about what I do, and I love creating products that bring value to your lives. I honestly can't imagine doing anything else! That said, somedays there is one thing that makes me want to quit my job...
It's the thought of putting so much packaging into the world.
Let's reverse roles here. Imagine that you are a creator of a tangible product, and you know exactly how much of that product you have made and sold in the ten years you have been in business. As your business grows and you begin to put more product into the world, does it bother you to wonder where that packaging ends up that you put your product in?
When the consumer finishes with it, do you wonder if your perfectly reusable packaging is: ideally being reused, perhaps being recycled - or worse yet - tossed in the trash? Does it stress you out thinking that you might be contributing to one of the many burdens already imposed on the Earth? Does it keep you up at night questioning whether your company and even your industry are sustainable in the truest sense of the word?
These thoughts are enough to drive me mad some days.
But wait! There's more. We're just getting started.
Do you question every single ingredient that you source to make your products? Are they created in a way that aligns with your values? Are you making purchases that negatively affect the Earth? Are any of your ingredients: promoting slave labour, destroying precious rainforests (or any other forest for that matter) and habitats, causing animal cruelty, supporting unsustainable practices, promoting overuse for the sake of greed, depleting non-renewable resources, contributing to toxicity in our environment, etc.?
All of these questions weigh on me.
As I gain more experience in my industry and life itself, I have uncovered many disturbing things that don't sit right with me. But the positive is that over the years, I have also learned a valuable tool that helps me fast-track my research to get to the heart of the matter and discover the truths I seek.
As I wrote this blog post, I realized that this skill is naturally inherent in our young children, but it seems the older we get, we forget about this "secret weapon." What is this, you ask? It's simply the ability to:
Have a curious mind and question everything.
(it helps to be stubborn about it!)
Getting in touch with my inner toddler and asking questions like "Why?" or "How is that made?" or "Where does that come from?" and "Who made this?" leads me to discover many fascinating (and disturbing!) truths about my industry, which then empowers me to make better and more informed decisions. Having one question answered leads me to the next logical question, and so on, until you get to the heart of the matter.
Never stop asking questions until you feel fully informed!
I point this out because there is so much information purposely hidden from consumers.
And I feel that it is our responsibility as good stewards to the Earth to uncover this information!
This strikes at the heart of what it is I am trying to achieve with The Green Goddess. I want to take the guesswork out of the equation for you so that when you make purchases through us, you already know we have done our due diligence and asked the hard questions on your behalf. (However, I always encourage you to challenge me on that and ask questions, too!)
I can not tell you how many times I have wanted to purchase a particular ingredient for The Green Goddess, knowing that specific "thing" would make my life easier, improve my product, or simply create something totally new and fabulous! And truth be told, I don't want to "dig" because I have learned from experience that it usually ends in disappointment! But I do it anyway, and low and behold, after I apply my questions, I am left unable to commit to purchasing that ingredient because it goes against my values in some way.
This process has left me with a simple and straightforward product line, which I have finally come to peace with over the years. Sometimes the best recipes are those that we let the key ingredients shine through, anyways, right?
This good detective work, in my opinion, has been so worth it, though, because shining the light on these (often uncomfortable) truths gives us the knowledge and the power to do better.
And this, in my opinion, is what the world so desperately needs.
We need people to stand up for the Earth and its inhabitants and care enough to ask these simple questions. And while we are at it, we must never forget that we need to have the courage to ask ourselves the hard questions, too. You know - point that finger back at yourself!
This leads me to the point of this blog post.
In the spirit of honouring Earth Day this year, I thought it was high time to turn the finger at me and take a good, hard look at my "green" company to see if it is standing up to its title.
I want to share with you what (I hope) we are doing right and also what we could improve upon to determine if our founding claim of being a green company is genuine. Scary but empowering! I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, so please don't hesitate to challenge me on anything after you take a read!
Let's start with what I hope to think is what we are doing right.
- In our attempt to minimize the use of plastic, most of our products are packaged in glass. Glass has its cons, but we felt it made the right choice for our small company (as described below).
- Considering that our primary source of income comes from the surrounding local community, we implemented a Loyalty Program that encourages customers to return their used (clean) glass jars and bottles to us. This allows us to sterilize and reuse the packaging again. Every jar/bottle returned to us earns the customer a stamp on their Loyalty Card. When it's complete, they are rewarded with a free lip balm or discount off a future purchase - a win/win for everyone.
- We are eliminating the remaining plastic packaging we have in our product line. Compostable cardboard push tubes are replacing lip balms and lip tints that were previously packaged in plastic. Cocoa butter bars and bath melts will be eliminated from our product line until we can find suitable, non-plastic packaging.
- As plastic is generally the only viable option for caps and closures, when possible, we purchase plastic lids for our products from recycled tires and other plastics destined for landfills. You will find these lids on our body butters, sugar scrubs, bath salts, and some of our 100ml jars. We continue to look for affordable and environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic for our caps and closures.
- We salvage all packaging material from shipments we receive from our suppliers and reuse it to package our online orders. We encourage you to do the same when you receive a shipment from us (or anyone else, for that matter).
- Our shopping bags are made from 100% post-consumer waste, and our computer paper, along with the majority of other paper products we use, are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified.
- We source our ingredients almost exclusively with organic farming practices in mind. We believe that harmful chemicals should have no place on Earth, in our food, nor our skincare.
- We are becoming increasingly aware of both ethical and sustainability issues in our industry. This awareness results in us conducting excessive research before committing to purchase our key ingredients to ensure they align with our values. We continue to work hard in this endeavour, albeit an overwhelming task.
- We are looking into offering more bulk and refillable items in earth-friendly options so that once you make an original purchase of your favourite product in glass, you can easily refill it and minimize dependency on purchasing smaller packaging.
- We offer workshops to the public, teaching consumers how to create natural skincare products while identifying environmental, ethical, and safety concerns in the beauty industry. We also offer "weed" workshops to identify local plants and how they can be used to support our health and wellbeing. We want our community to understand they can make a lot of their own products, and where they can't or have no desire, they will be better informed to make healthier consumer choices.
- Although this is still in its "dreaming" phase, we plan to convert our acreage into a haven for birds, bees, and butterflies by planting many gardens that will benefit these creatures. Future medicinal herb gardens will also benefit the health of our family and community through the products we plan to make with such unique local plants! We are working hard behind the scenes to be good stewards of this land we call home.
Here are a few things on our radar for improving in the future:
- In the spirit of minimizing our ecological footprint, we are considering removing some ingredients from our product line that are sourced from afar. While this is not 100% feasible due to our remote northern location, we hope to feature more local ingredients in our formulas, or better yet, grow some of them ourselves in future medicinal herb gardens we plan to have on our acreage.
- Many caps and closures we use are not environmentally friendly to our knowledge, and we would like to have our entire product range reflect our earth-loving attitude.
- So far, we have found it impossible to find a printing company that can offer us eco-friendly labels complete with non-toxic printer ink that is waterproof and will allow our labels to last as long as the product does, which is required by Cosmetics Regulations.
- We also struggle with sourcing the "little" things like eco-friendly tape, packaging tape, stickers, tissue paper, tea bags, and shipping supplies (especially locally!). However, we know that the market continues to provide more options, and we must keep the search alive!
- Although all of our packaging suppliers are from North America, they still source their supplies from overseas. We would prefer to purchase all of our packaging needs from within our continent to minimize our ecological footprint. We want to find and support North American manufacturers and reduce our dependency on overseas purchases.
- We struggle with the idea of whether we want to remain a small company that serves our local community, or if possible, extend our reach far and beyond if the opportunity presented itself. Where do we draw the line? What is the environmental impact of shipping our products across Canada? The USA? The globe? These are questions we have yet to determine our stance on 100%, although our thoughts are that serving Canada should be our limit.
- Although we try very hard, it's impossible to know the complete history of every ingredient we have ever purchased (which makes me grumpy!). If we can't trace back everything we are buying, we are surely inadvertently supporting something we would rather not.
- The sustainability of many ingredients, including Essential Oils, is a grave concern that I have not yet had a chance to explore fully. I want to be sure that we are not purchasing any unsustainable raw materials just because they are "trendy" or in high demand.
- As our world's population grows, the pressure on our wildcrafted plants increases, too. Our company needs to determine our (firm) stance on what plants we are comfortable using from the wild and what plants should be cultivated (grown on a farm instead of the wild) to not put any additional pressure on Mother Earth.
- It has recently come to our attention that coloured glass is not always recyclable in many areas, including locally, which was a devastating oversight on our company's behalf when we committed to purchasing them. We assumed (something you should never do!) that our customers would be able to recycle their jars if the need arose. Although we have tried to rectify this with our Loyalty/Returns Program, we know that many of our jars must end up in a landfill. Highly upsetting!
- At this stage, we do not understand the true carbon footprint of our company. To accomplish this enormous task we need to take full responsibility and trace every single ingredient and element that is necessary to run our business: from sourcing ingredients, to manufacturing our product, to shipping and distribution, and eventually, how our product is disposed of.
So that concludes our finger-pointing session (we think)! Transparency never felt so good. And now I'm handing you the mic so that you can tell me if I missed anything. What do you think we are doing right? Where could we improve? Tell me in the comments below.
Also, I feel it would be irresponsible if I did not motivate you to turn that finger back on yourself (it's not as scary as it first seems, I promise!). Where are you doing some good for the Earth, and where do you know you could make improvements?
I encourage you to take a peaceful moment out of your busy day, make a cup of tea, and sit down to ponder. If you aren't sure where to start, get in touch with your "inner toddler" and let those questions flow! Look at your home, habits, lifestyle, and frequent purchases with new eyes and a curious mind! Start asking simple questions, and you will find it leads you to some answers.
Wishing you abundant green blessings on this beautiful blue planet,
Happy Earth Day!