The Cost of Accessibility


Sustainable products sound pricey and meant for a rare splurge. Here are two companies that are paving the way for sustainable goods and services that anyone can keep handy.

Way of Being Co., based in Oregon, has on deck beauty, home, grocery and outdoor products available in store or online. Buyers can select from companies owned by women, BIPOC, LGBQT, or minorities that Way of Being collaborates with while promoting reusable items. Way of Being Co. aims to be plastic-free, sells upcycled goods, and uses recycled and recyclable packaging. $16 for four oz of soy based nail polish remover sounds pricey by eliminating the acetone commonly found in nail polish removers but think about how research has shown that acetone dries out skin, causes nails to become brittle, and emits a noxious odor.


MORE Magazine caught up with Way of Being Co founders, Alex and Lindsay this spring:


What does access to sustainability look like to you?

There’s a perception that access to sustainability is reserved for the privileged, the wealthy, the young, the white, the hipster, and the urbanite amongst us. Or that it should strictly be the domain of the big and bad, the corporations and government entities with all the power to wield and messes to clean up. And all of that is partly true, but it’s only part.

Sustainability is about taking actions today that produce outcomes that make it possible for us to live and thrive in the long-term, as opposed to the kind of actions that make life easy and convenient and profitable in the short-term to our long-term detriment. Well, what do those actions look like? It requires major shifts on a massive scale that, yes, will depend on the decision makers at the very top of our government and markets who can choose to eradicate the burning of fossil fuels and create alternative systems that prevent our atmosphere from continuing to warm.


But it also matters what we do on an individual scale. And there’s a lot more to do than buying things with the word “green” or “sustainable” plastered on them. It actually means buying less. It means preventing unnecessary waste. Reusing things over and over and borrowing from a friend or buying secondhand before you buy new. Eating healthier, simpler foods like fruits and vegetables from the produce aisle and grains from the bulk section instead of buying the processed, packaged stuff.


Some of these things aren’t accessible for everyone. Some people don’t have easy access to grocery stores with fresh produce and bulk sections. Some people can’t afford to buy the more expensive, reusable alternative to something cheaper and disposable because they’re living paycheck to paycheck. Some people just have no idea what they can do because their culture or environment doesn’t expose them to ideas around sustainable living. But truly everyone can do something.


How do you feel your brand contributes to the accessibility of living a conscious/sustainable life?

A big part of our mission is trying to spread the word that there are so many little ways that people can live more sustainably, regardless of where you live, how much money you make, what your culture or background is, or how old you are. So we try to share tips on the micro-level as well as remind people why it matters and inspire them on that larger, collective, macro-level.


We also offer a wide range of products to help people live more sustainable and intentional lives that hit different price points, but also different preferences, lifestyles, and personal aesthetics. Not everything sustainable needs to be green or black and white. A lot of it is at surprisingly accessible price points, but we also offer stuff that’s a little more indulgent because that’s what others of us are looking for. Everyone has different needs and tastes, so we want to be as inclusive as possible, and make sure that there’s something for everyone.

In addition to carrying products that help people live a less wasteful and more sustainable lifestyle, we also prioritize supporting vendors from historically marginalized communities and give our customers the opportunity to support businesses that align with their values. There’s so much impact we can all have if we take every opportunity to be intentional with all of the big and little things we do every day. That’s what Way of Being is all about.



EcoEnclose operates out of Colorado, selling mailers, boxes, inside fillers notecards, sealers, stickers that have been recycled, can be recycled and biodegrade. EcoEnclose has partnered with Living Ink, a company that sells algae ink. This special ink uses algae cells to add color to paper based materials. Algae ink is fade resistant and printed on paper products is still recyclable. Algae uses the sun, water, and carbon dioxide, which are all renewable resources. Traditional ink is based on petroleum oil. There is no need to purchase a special printer for algae ink; a traditional one is fine. Create a custom brand for your event or business with EcoEnclose, sending the message that you care about the Earth’s resources.


MORE Magazine recently interviewed Saloni Doshi of EcoEnclose, asking how they planned on growing their businesses’ level of accessibility, to which EcoEnclose responded that they plan on making solutions available at small enough quantities and reasonable prices, so small to medium companies can take advantage of them for their shipping.

How do you feel your brand contributes to accessibility to sustainable solutions for small and large businesses?

Though EcoEnclose serves many of the world’s leading sustainable brands, we have always been committed to the small to medium sized company. In fact, we got our start seven years ago largely by working with online shops that were run by a single person, often as a side hustle. From the very beginning, we’ve offered our packaging in bundle quantities - as low as 10 mailers. We’ve worked hard to offer eco-friendly custom branded packaging even at low volumes. And, perhaps most importantly, we have an incredible customer experience team that is passionate about working with companies of all sizes, and takes particular pride in helping 1-2 person businesses who have the least amount of time and resources to figure things out. We love nothing more than getting on the phone with these businesses and helping them think through their packaging options, sustainability tradeoffs and their functional needs - even if the company is still an idea in an entrepreneur’s mind! These are the very situations we got into business for! We are located in Colorado where many of our packaging options are manufactured and printed, and we always welcome our customers to visit for in-person consults when it makes sense.


Finally, I think one of the biggest roadblocks to “access” to sustainability is actually related to the complexity of information. People don’t always know what is more sustainable, and it is easy to get confused or sucked in by the rampant greenwashing out there. I hope companies of all sizes find our website to be a helpful resource in navigating these decisions. Even if you never buy packaging for us, if you read an article on our site and it helps you make a choice that is better for your business and the planet, I’d consider that a major win!


What do you think contributes to the mindset of not being able to afford greener solutions?

I think the main driver of people thinking “sustainable” means “unaffordable” is the fact that we live in a world where - in any product category (from fashion to jewelry to makeup to furniture) - there are an abundance of dirt cheap options out there. While sustainable and ethical don’t necessarily mean that items will be very expensive, it would be VERY difficult to develop and sell an item that is eco-conscious and people-conscious, and have that item be sold at bottom level, Amazon-style pricing. I think the world of sustainable brands and sustainable providers like EcoEnclose need to be less apologetic for the fact that our goods cost an appropriate amount - because this is the only way we can all source verified sustainable raw materials and pay people respectable wages along the way.


That said, it is also true that running your business in a sustainable way does not mean that you have to spend more money in total. In fact, you may end up spending less in total! You just may find that you are spending more money per unit, but - through creativity and thoughtfulness - are buying less stuff. For example, a brand might develop a shipping strategy in which they reuse as much of their inbound packaging as possible, before purchasing new recycled packaging for their orders. This may cut the total number of packages they have to buy by 20%, though they may have to spend 10% more on the packaging they do buy (if they are prioritizing recycled, recyclable options). This same logic applies to everything from raw source material to office and kitchen supplies.

Consumers argue that they are uninterested in buying that large of an order at once to avoid shipping costs or will go to a website or store where they can purchase items outside of cleaning products (ie grocery, medications, etc). Folks might balk at Way of Being Co carrying a $25 price tag for 32 ounces of laundry powder. However, the more popular sustainable companies become, the easier it will be for them to pop up in brick and mortar stores, passing the savings on to the consumers. Sustainable products are more expensive than traditional products because it is still a relatively new concept and demand is low. Increasing demand for sustainable products will eventually lower the price as the demand for toxic products declines.


Eco-friendly companies are more likely to have fair trade certifications that are hard to obtain and can take up to a year to acquire. The focus is to protect workers’ rights, human dignity, promote diversity and women’s economic advancement. Way of Being Co sources brands that are owned mainly by women. Although the brands owned by people that identify as LGBTQ run less than 10% of the brands they collaborate with, Way of Being is aiming to increase those numbers. Their compostable loofah sponge set of six for $20 comes from a Mayan family farm in Guatemala. These companies urge you to ask what was the origin of the product you are bringing into your home, work or gifting a friend as a responsible consumer.


Small actions today can help create a more profound effect for tomorrow. Resources are finite. Cleaning up the oceans swimming with plastic costs money. Using renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power are realistic. Let us change the attitude of “not my problem,” “someone else will handle it,” or “one small action will make little or no difference.” Perfection at all times when it comes to reducing waste is unrealistic. EcoEnclose and Way of Being Co. dispel all or nothing beliefs about environmentalism. If you are curious about sustainability but are indifferent in helping with changing your spending habits, leave your own seed in the dirt by promoting these companies or any others focused on sustainable practices on social media.

 

Alex + Lindsay of Way of Being Co. and Saloni Doshi of EcoEnclose interviewed and article written by Nanaz Khosrowshahi. Images courtesy of Way of Being Co. Instagram and EcoEnclose.

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