Wanna waste less? Vancouver-based Better Basics can help with its innovative collection of eco-friendly, sustainable refill products delivered right to your door. We chatted with founders Samantha Rayner and Caitlin Rushton about their mission to make going plastic-free easy as one, two, three. —Vita Daily
Hi Samantha and Caitlin! Please tell us a bit about yourselves to start.
We’ve been friends for over 10 years, and we’ve been fortunate to spend countless hours together in nature, pondering goals and vision for the future. We are both equally inspired by our hometown of Vancouver and preserving the wild and diverse natural world we like to explore. We also both like to dream big. We fill our days with new adventures, challenges, and motivating each other to accomplish our goals in work and in life. A few fond memories include running a few half marathons together, early mornings doing the grind, weekly pottery classes. This all led us to start dreaming up Better Basics. Sam’s background is in consumer marketing and branding, having worked for lululemon, Saje and AG Hair. Caitlin has been a leader in SaaS technology, growth and sales with Slack and Vision Critical. Together, we thought we could combine these skills and apply them to creating a business with a conscious mission at the core.
When and why did you launch Better Basics? What products/services do you offer?
Better Basics was founded in April 2020. We both had independently been thinking about the plastic waste problem and were both keen to start out on our own. It wasn’t until a coffee connect one morning in January 2020 that we decided this was the year to do it! Little did we know that a pandemic was on the horizon. We started Better Basics to fulfil a need that we were experiencing ourselves. We were both working to reduce our environmental impact and plastic consumption at home, but couldn’t find an easy solution to support the transition. We dreamed up the idea of an at-home refill system that was a simple swap for people. All natural cleaning products, packed in more environmentally friendly packaging, and paired with an everyday bottle you’d actually want to leave on your counter. We thought about the places where single-use plastics like to sneak their way into our lives. We thought that if we could create a better grocery bag, a better coffee mug, and reusable kitchen and bathroom products, then maybe it would remind us (and everyone) to use it more often.
What does going “zero waste” mean to you?
It’s funny, even though it’s common in our industry, we actually don’t consider ourselves or our company to be “zero” waste, we like to call it waste-less. One of the challenges we felt about the zero waste message is that it is so hard to obtain in the modern world that we live in. It can leave you feeling defeated and overwhelmed. We wanted to make the concept of reducing plastic waste accessible for everyone. So for us, waste-less means eliminating the things that you really don’t need like single-use plastics. Often we choose plastic out of convenience. We designed the Better Basics line to make it easy to choose a reusable option that would replace all of those plastic worst offenders, like water bottles, coffee cups and plastic soap bottles.
Tell us about the problems with packaging and how you are aiming to solve this with Better Basics.
Our philosophy on packaging is to switch to reusable, biodegradable or highly recyclable materials. We did extensive research into materials and found that steel was infinitely recyclable, often already recycled and durable. That’s why we chose it for all of our containers: the soap and cleaning bottles, coffee mug, water bottle and lunch jar. Our reusable bags are made out of GOTS certified organic cotton because it reduces water and carbon in the production process. As well being a natural fibre it is biodegradable. This is the same for with our bamboo brushes, bamboo is both regenerative and biodegradable. The refills were a bigger challenge. We wanted to provide products that were equivalent to all of the favourites that we use today. Starting with hand & body soap, cleaning spray, dish soap in liquid form, there were only so many options available to keep it from leaking. After some research into compostable bioplastics, we learned that they are often not composted, and if left in a landfill they take hundreds of years to break down just like plastic. They require a special composting facility with specific sorting that is rare in North America. If they end up in the regular plastic recycling stream they will contaminate the whole batch. We found a 1.5L jug made out of recycled paper with a thin plastic liner; it’s large enough to reduce 4 plastic soap pumps. This container reduces the amount of plastic material by 80 per cent and allows us to get the products to our customers, without them having to take any additional steps.
What role do ingredients play in going zero waste, and what are some examples of innovatively sustainable ingredients you use in your products?
The ingredients in the bottle are extremely important to us. We chose ingredients that are natural, vegan, and cruelty-free; ensuring they are safe for you and the environment. All of our ingredients rank safe by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database; we are transparent and include all of the ingredients on our labels and website. Many cleaning and beauty products use petrochemical by-products in their formula, which have a high carbon footprint and are not good for our skin or the environment. We don’t use any petrochemicals or potentially toxic ingredients like SLS, parabens, PABA, DEA, etc. Artificial colours and fragrances are packed with unknown chemicals that can be highly detrimental to your skin and the natural ecosystem. We chose essential oils due to their natural fragrance and extra germ and cleansing properties. Palm oil is the number 1 used ingredient in soaps. The issue with palm oil is that it has been over-produced and as a result precious rain forests are being clear cut to make way for palm oil farms. We chose coconut oil as our cleansing agent for its ability to clean naturally and its lower impact on the environment.
What are your top three tips for anyone out there to take the first steps toward zero waste in their life/home?
Start with making one small change a month. It might be just remembering to pack your reusable bag or coffee mug with you every day. Choosing the un-bagged lettuce and carrots and using your reusable produce bags at the grocery store. Using beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap. Composting all your food waste. Once you’re in the hang of making these small behavioural changes, you can start to really evaluate the types of products you’re purchasing. Consider where they are coming from, what they are made from and how much packaging they are encompassed in. What you’ll find is that there are lots of alternative options out there, and often they are better for you, and the environment.
What are your can’t-live-without Better Basics products?!
Sam: My Ever Dispenser in Natural with Simple Suds Peppermint Rosemary (I just love how it’s such an upgrade from the plastic bottle I had in my bathroom and this soap smells so refreshing to me), and the Ever Mug in Natural (I take this with me everywhere and even use it at home to keep my tea hot all day!).
Caitlin: Our grocery kit—it’s great for big and small shops. Having the variety of the big grocerer bag for heavier items, the marche sac for softer lighter items, and the produce bags ensures that I don’t take any plastic bags home with me. Our Citrus Spritz all-purpose cleaning spray paired with the Ever Mister is such a great combo. Cleaning now smells better and the container sure looks nicer in my kitchen.
Win! A $188 Better Basics Prize Pack!
Congrats Chiantelle R. of Vancouver, B.C., who will receive a $188 Better Basics prize pack, including a Better Grocery Kit and a Simple Suds Refill Starter Kit + Citrus Spritz Refill Starter Kit! Please note: if you are the winner, you will receive a DM (direct message) in Instagram directly from @vitadaily.ca. Please be wary of fake accounts, which often use similar handles with an extra or missing letter, number or symbol. We will never ask for a payment or for your credit card number, and we will never ask you to click through a link. If you are unsure whether you have been contacted, via Instagram, by us or a fake account, email us before responding.