Theresa Harris, founder/CEO of Elemental Essentialz, presents her unique sustainability-driven insights Tues., June 18, from 1:00 - 2:45 p.m. as part of the EastPack seminar series. For more information or to register for the conference or the show, visit www.eastpackshow.com.
As a chemistry teacher and former developmental specialist, Theresa saw firsthand the increase in developmental delays and disorders. Along with research linking chemicals found in our homes to an increase in various health issues, she felt an obligation to take what she knew and formulate cleaners that were both safe and effective.
Additional research led her to the realization that her customers were also concerned with consumption levels and waste production. The rebel in her itched to upset the status quo, and she decided to take on both issues, making it her mission to "Improve Health & Waste Nothing."
Packaging Digest asked her to share insider information on her approach to business and packaging.
Q: What was your hobby and how was that propelled into a growing business?
A: Cake Pops (cake on a stick)! Unfortunately my teenage sons and I ate them faster than I could make them, and I realized I needed a hobby that nurtured my creativity, not my waistline. Around the same time I happened upon an article about the dangers of certain chemicals in cleaning products. I was shocked to learn the ingredients in household cleaners did not have to be listed in their entirety. I decided to make homemade cleaners that weren't dangerous for my family. In doing so, I had three priorities, that they needed to be safe, smell nice and be pretty.
I started with used wine bottles because they were beautiful and free! As an aside, it turned out that many high school teachers enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day. I was proud of my little sets of cleaners and started sharing them with friends and family. The response was amazing...and here we are!
Q: What are the essentials of your "waste nothing" approach?
A: Our approach is to bridge the gap between knowing what is right and being able to achieve it. Our customers want to consume and waste less. They do not want to negatively impact our planet. Current efforts to help make this happen, including improvements in packaging, are often "invisible" to consumers. That's not to say those efforts aren't admirable. The impact of these changes on our planet is positive and significant, but the customer doesn't get to "feel" they are making their own contribution. By packaging in refillable and reusable glass bottles, we make it easy for our customers to feel good about joining the mission to "Reuse for Zero Waste."
Q: Why has this resonated with retailers and consumers?
A: Ultimately, we are making it easy for our customers to feel better about how they are treating our planet. Our products are safe, beautiful and, simply by purchasing their first bottles, consumers can "waste nothing." The ambiguity over how, where or even if our bottles can be recycled is a non-issue and our customers never have to feel guilty about adding another empty household cleaner to our landfills or oceans. For retailers, I think they recognize the priority consumers are now placing on reducing waste. Providing a new and unique solution for their customers is an obvious win-win.
Q: What is one piece of advice you can share with consumer packaged goods companies?
A: I feel funny offering advice to an industry to which I am still so very new, especially since I feel much of our success came about almost accidently. By hard work, yes. But a brilliant and calculated packaging plan, no.
I'll explain why I think that's important. We chose wine bottles because they were pretty and, in the beginning, free. We started allowing our customers to refill them to save money—ours and theirs. Fast forward almost two years...our packaging approach is now considered by many to be sustainable and innovative. Thankfully, these are two good qualities to have these days.
Looking back, I just wanted to make something that was safe and beautiful and the package was always part of the product.
My advice would be, when considering a new package, treat it as part of the product, not separate from it, not something to be discarded. Ask yourself, is it safe? Is it beautiful? And will it always be? If the answer is no, I guess I would ask, what can be done to change that?