TAPPI Over The Wire Paper 360
Past Issues | Printer Friendly | TAPPI.org | Advertise | Buyers Guide | Travels with Larry Archive FacebookTwitterLinkedIn
       

Company Stores Lipstick in FSC-certified Paper Packaging

Print Print this Article | Send to Colleague

 
At the base of the Rockies (photo below), Karina Birch and her husband Cam Baty run Rocky Mountain Soap Co., a natural beauty brand in Canada. They bought it more than 15 years ago. Sales were at about $80,000 a year then. Now, they’re at $11 million. Despite the numbers, Birch and Baty are more excited about their latest innovations in making the company as green as possible--given that their business is situated near two of Canada’s most majestic national parks, Banff and Jasper in Alberta.
 
 

Birch and Baty jumped into natural beauty by accident. Baty gifted Birch (his then girlfriend) soaps and natural products from Rocky Mountain Soap Company, then a small Canmore-based shop. She loved the gifts. Coincidentally, at the time, the owner of the business was looking for a buyer. Birch jumped on the opportunity, leaving behind a career in HR.

More than a decade since their launch, the couple's enthusiasm for a mission-driven brand, focused on health and the environment, hasn’t waned. Birch offers a tour of their eco-friendly offices: recycled materials from offices in Toronto are scattered throughout the open space, LED lights are used to light up the building, recycled carpets, reclaimed wood, solar power, and furnishings made with natural materials, namely wood, give character to the structure, situated in an industrial corner of Canmore. Their retail shops across Canada also follow a similar approach--furnished with leftovers, recycled bits, and lit with LEDs.

"We really try to think through every nuance of the business," Birch says. "We make natural products for a reason, and we've decided to stay here in Canmore because it adds to the ethos of the brand. It's about the outdoors, nature. So it makes sense to think about our impact as a whole, not just the impact of the product."

However, she gets quite enthused by a small, yet important innovation at the company: recycled packaging.

The beauty industry uses primarily plastic tubes, sticks, and containers to house their products. It has to withstand temperature changes, TSA checks, and everyday use. Plastic is easier, cheaper, and lighter to ship than glass. Since 2011, TerraCycle has collected 2.8 million pieces of waste from personal care products.

That’s why Birch has spent the last few years, researching another glass alternative: paper. Paper and liquids presumably don’t gel. Birch pulls out a lip color pot. "It’s completely biodegradable," she said.

"Think about it. You may use a lipstick for three months. But that plastic tube will last for hundreds of years. That’s really awful. So I wanted to see if something can be done about it."

Working with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition in the U.S. and a supplier in Chicago, Ill., Birch settled on a paper-based pot that can handle waxy substances. After months of testing to ensure it wouldn’t break, leak, tear, or fall apart, she decided to pilot her first biodegradable packaging as lip color pots.

But there is one caveat. The paper packing is more expensive than plastic. "We can do it, though, because we’re a small player. We’re not a publicly traded company and don’t have to answer to so many people."

The experiment is paying off. Birch plans on including more FSC-certified paper packaging in 2017. They’ve also abandoned other wasteful bits such as shipping peanuts, traditionally made of styrofoam. Theirs are made of cornstarch and are edible.

"It just makes sense.  We work hard to make sure that our product is clean, 10 ingredients or less, that our stores and offices are eco-friendly. It’s only natural that we try to limit our impact in the packaging department as well," she said.

Because of its activism, the company has joined local groups such as Fair-trade Calgary and REAP, a community of eco-driven enterprises. And they’re welcoming people into their offices. In the lunch room, where we speak, a group of 20 are making bath salts and scrubs. The offices are open to visitors for workshops.

"We want people to learn, feel, see, and experience the brand, either as a tourist or a local. It’s a far more effective way of branding and easier to do than digital. Here they’re in our world and not competing with a dozen other emails, promotions, or Instagram posts," she added.

And as for sharing their developments in recycling, she's keen to share her R&D experiments with other brands. "We would love to see more industry players adopt this kind of packaging. That's why we're involved in local and national-level organizations."
 

Back to TAPPI: Over The Wire

Share Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn