OK, those pictures of dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice were faked, but the pandemic did some good for the environment. “People have extra time, and this has given the opportunity to rethink and be thoughtful about their choices: where their dollars go, and what they’re supporting,” says Jayme Jenkins, co-founder and chief brand officer of Everist, a zero-waste hair-care brand that was conceived before COVID and born at the beginning of this year. “It’s only accelerated the change in what customers wanted—they’re educated and they’re looking for sustainability, refills and zero waste.”
And Canadian entrepreneurs are ready—innovating in almost every lifestyle area, from children’s clothing to makeup to household cleaning. The overarching goal? To make things so great you’ll use them till the very last drop or wear them forever, then dispose of the packaging in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Here are five brands to watch (plus, a chance to win a grand prize containing earthly goodies from them all). —Aileen Lalor
Clean Crate Company
This B.C.-based company was established in April 2020 as a quarterly subscription box for eco-friendly cleaning essentials: the things that we go through in high volume, such as laundry detergent, dish soap, hand soap, dishwasher tablets and all-purpose cleaner. “The idea is to help Canadian families easily transition to non-toxic cleaning products,” explains Clean Crate Company co-founder Candice Kincaid. “Having the subscription box adds a bit of fun to the everyday as people explore things they’ve never tried before, and we can also support independent Canadian brands that people might not usually encounter, especially at the moment when it’s harder to get to the natural food stores where they’re often available.”
The brand sources products from labels like AspenClean, Biovert and Attitude, which stick to biodegradable ingredients such as olive oil, white vinegar and baking soda to get your home sparkling. Packaging is minimal and recyclable, and there are other thoughtful eco-friendly measures, like laundry detergents only sold in strips, not huge bottles. Most of all, it’s about quality. “We test everything ourselves, so we know it’s going to work. That’s the best way to ensure products won’t get wasted.” The quarterly box costs $99 including shipping (a saving of $10 on the products, and you also get samples thrown in). Plus, you can shop ad-hoc add-ons from the online store.
This brand-new Vancouver company is also determined to make your home more eco-friendly. Launched in December, it specializes in starter kits with reusable household items like dispensers, totes and beeswax wraps, plus refills of hand soap, dish soap and cleaning spray. Get set up with a starter kit, then buy refills in recyclable packaging when you need them—or save money by subscribing at the frequency you need.
“The average household throws away 60 plastic cleaning bottles, 150 water bottles and 1,500 plastic bags a year,” says co-founder Samantha Rayner. “Everything within the Better Basics collection was designed to be refilled and reused again and again.” To that end, refillable containers are made from recycled stainless steel and organic cotton totes are produced using 88 per cent less water and 62 per cent less energy than standard cotton. The refills themselves come in compostable paper jugs, lined with recyclable plastic.
“Making the shift to eco-conscious in today’s complex world and knowing where to start was intimidating. We knew we weren’t the only ones feeling that way and that there must be an easier, better way for people to shift to more sustainable habits,” Rayner explains.
Jayme Jenkins and Jessica Stevenson rejected a lot of ideas before they landed on Everist. “We started with the vision: how do we do beauty without single-use plastic,” explains Jenkins. “We looked at a few different concepts, but our goal was really to bring eco to the mainstream—something better than the mainstream. Yes, more environmentally friendly, but also high performing and clean.”
They eventually came up with Everist: water-free shampoo and conditioner. Product comes in aluminium tubes that are infinitely recyclable and, because they’re water free, are smaller and lighter to ship (a 100ml tube is the equivalent of a 300ml bottle). Water means that formulas can be breeding grounds for bacteria, necessitating preservatives, but these plant-based products are free from preservatives, silicon and sulfates. Each tube comes with a key that you turn to dispense the right amount of product, which has a creamy paste texture. You’ll need half an inch for short hair, up to 1.5 inches for long and thick tresses. Rub it in your wet hands for five seconds, and then lather on your hair as normal.
The craft-paper packaging and metal tubes can be recycled in your curbside bin; plastic caps can be returned to the company’s headquarters in Ontario for recycling there. “The cap is yellow because we wanted it to stand out, to remind us that it is plastic and we can do better. We wanted to do bamboo, we wanted to do other things, and we just couldn’t find a way to make it work,” Stevenson says.
Next up for the brand will be more hair products such as masks and curl cream, and potentially body wash as skin care, all with that same aim of making environmental friendliness accessible. “It’s not aimed at the perfect zero-waster, it’s for people like us who want to make small changes,” says Stevenson. “It’s open, inclusive of all genders and hair types. And it’s designled so you get that luxury experience in the shower, too.”
Most know now how polluting the beauty industry is, but it doesn’t stop people wanting to buy products. “Beauty and self-expression are here to stay,” points out Béatrice Seguin, co-founder of Toronto-based makeup brand MOB Beauty. “We could point fingers and complain, but that isn’t being part of a solution. As ecooptimists, we feel a deep obligation to show ourselves and the world that beauty can be done in a responsible way.”
The company takes a multipronged approach to sustainability. Packaging is made from at least 50 per cent recycled materials and is refillable, reusable and customizable; you add only the shadows, bronzers, blushers or lip shades you want. Formulations don’t contain anything that doesn’t biodegrade, and the refills will all be recyclable (details coming).
Brands have tried to do refillable packaging before and it’s never really taken off. Why does Seguin think MOB Beauty will be different? “The tide has been turning for some time,” she says. “The pandemic only accelerated the inevitable realization that we need to do better by ourselves and the planet. We believe our consumer is not only more ready for refillable packaging—they are demanding it!”
Seguin, who has a PhD in pharmaceutical science, has three co-founders, all industry veterans: Alisha Gallagher, ex of Cover FX and Laura Mercier, Steve Blanchet, who owned one of Canada’s largest cosmetic manufacturers, and Victor Casale, the original scientist behind MAC Cosmetics and a founder of Cover FX. It means that innovation is in the company’s DNA. Material and ingredient choices and product types will all evolve as the company establishes itself. There’s also the desire to create a community around the brand—Seguin calls them the MOBnation—in order to educate consumers and learn from them, too.
Montreal-based founder Jad Robitaille was passionate about the environment and knew she wanted to make a career in it, but couldn’t quite figure out what she wanted to do. “I knew that the fashion industry was very detrimental to the environment, and I knew it was not essential as such—adults don’t need to change our wardrobes every year— except when it comes to kids’ clothing. Kids grow up so fast so people buy cheap clothing and there’s no residual value unless it is unworn,” Robitaille explains. So she hit upon the idea of Mini-Cycle, a retailer of high-quality, durable children’s duds that can be sold back to the brand when they’re outgrown. Depending on the condition of the clothes, they can be laundered, patched, embroidered or altered (long pants with worn-out knees become cute shorts) and sold on again.
“Clothing that is made locally from natural fabrics, if you pay the ethical price, it’s $50 and not everyone can afford that,” Robitaille says. “So with Mini-Cycle, you can get good pieces that hold the road without spending too much.” The concept hearkens back to a time when everyone could make do and mend—a skill that many of us don’t have these days.
Robitaille started the business in October 2018, turning her former nursery into the office (reduce, reuse, recycle!) and it expanded into its own premises a year later. It’s just moved again to larger offices. Now the challenge is scaling up even further. “It takes a lot of effort to restore those clothes and so it will be a longer road to expand.”
However, she’s full of ideas, from building out the community further to running workshops and creating blog content about how to do everything. “For clothing, the way we care for our clothes is one of the biggest footprints; studies say that 80 per cent of the impact comes from how we care for clothing,” Robitaille says. “Wash your clothes cold and avoid the dryer because that will help pieces last longer. Use natural detergent and no fabric softener, no scent. Use a microfibre catching laundry bag. And learn to sew, mend and refurbish your stuff. Consume better.”
Win! A $510 Earth Day Prize Pack!
One lucky Canadian winner will receive the ultimate Earth Day prize pack, including eco-friendly goodies from all of the brands mentioned above:
A Signature Clean Crate from @cleancratecompany ($110)
A Simple Swaps Kit from @betterbasicsco ($95)
A Waterless Haircare Concentrates Starter Kit from @helloeverist ($54)
A 4+ Palette & Lipstick from @themobbeauty ($150)
A $100 Gift Card from @boutiqueminicycle
To enter, visit @vitadaily.ca on Instagram and follow the entry rules on our corresponding contest post. Contest opens April 2nd, 2021, and closes April 23rd, 2021. Rules and regulations here. 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.