In What It Takes we take a closer look at what goes into our products + business—the labor, ingredients, and effort to find low-waste packaging and natural formulations that can change the beauty industry for the better.
When we went looking for plastic-free deodorant packaging, it felt like every available option was just another variant on bad. So you can imagine our delight when we finally found the EcoPush—a tube that is totally biodegradable, made by hand, does not deplete forests AND supports reforestation.
The EcoPush is a paperboard package made from up to 90% recycled materials (80% post-consumer content) with absolutely no plastic or metal. We use non-toxic soy and vegetable inks to print drawings of a cat surfing on a whale and a snake working out on the tubes.
When you’re done with your deodorant, you can toss the tube in your compost bin or bury it in your backyard, where it will biodegrade in only one year. They can also be easily recycled without disassembling the container.
Like the deodorant itself, the EcoPush tubes are made from plants. We want our packaging to support healthy and resilient ecosystems instead of depleting natural resources. We talk a lot about this on our production team and often say “a lot of plants gave their lives for these products,” as a way to remind ourselves not to waste.
Trees and forests are particularly vital to the health of our planet. They are natural havens where 80% of the world’s biodiversity resides, and they cool the planet by taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and putting it in the soil. The paperboard that makes up our tubes meets SFI standards, and for the month of November we will donate $1 for every tube purchased to One Tree Planted, a nonprofit that plants trees in collaboration with local communities. As we discuss in our blog Why We Give & Who Gets Our Funds, supporting initiatives that align with our values is an important part of the MMT business.
THE HANDS BEHIND THE TUBES
“The true cost of producing the sticks is 100% reflective of the labor and the quality of ingredients and materials that we use.” – Jeff Kurosaki, Co-Founder of Meow Meow Tweet
Unlike plastic deodorant sticks, the production process for our paper tubes cannot yet be mechanized. Each of the tubes is hand constructed one at a time at Chicago Paper Tube, where all of their manufacturing processes are certified so they don’t release pollutants into the air, water or waste stream.
Once they are rolled, glued and given a top and bottom disc, the paperboard tubes are sent to MMT HQ in upstate New York. Here, one of our production workers hand pours each stick. They are poured in batches of 70 before being capped and sealed one by one (by hand, not machine), before being packed in a case and added to our inventory.
Our team makes 5 batches in one day. This comes out to 350 tubes per day, which is a very small amount compared to conventional deodorants in plastic casing.
The production time for each unit of deodorant—from pouring to finished product—is about 10 minutes. Contrast that with the 30 seconds typically needed for one conventional, plastic-tubed deodorant.
We pay our workers above minimum wage and the labor cost for each deodorant stick is about $3.50, not including the cost of materials or business overhead.
We could have found a facility in China to produce the paper tube housing for a fraction of what we currently pay, but we wanted to continue supporting a Chicago-based business. If more companies started using paperboard tubes, and more customers demanded biodegradable packaging, the costs involved with production would go down, because manufacturers would develop the techniques and machinery needed to streamline the process.
HOW TO USE THE DEODORANT & WHAT TO DO WITH THE TUBE WHEN YOU’RE DONE
We don’t mind when people ask questions about our deodorant tubes because we know it takes time to change habits and influence the way businesses operate. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of the paper tubes, it will become second nature, and you’ll wonder why you ever wasted your time on clunky plastic bad-for-the-earth deodorants in the first place.
Here are some blog posts to help you get used to this eco-friendly deo:
Since these sticks are made from 100% whole plants and minerals with no stabilizers, fillers, or airtight plastic packaging, they should be used within 3 months. We used to offer a 3 oz size, but when we found that most customers couldn’t go through the entire stick before its freshness was compromised, we decided to only offer the 1.8 oz size. This is much easier for customers to use in the recommended time, and it’s convenient for taking on the go.
We love hearing from our customers about our deodorant sticks because it’s a product that we feel speaks to our values as a company. We’ve chosen to produce these the hard way because we want to show others in our industry that there are workable, creative alternatives to plastic.
Enjoy your tubes, and remember: each time you buy one during the month of November, we’ll plant a tree.
Written by Faye Lessler, a California-born, Brooklyn-based freelance writer and founder of lifestyle blog, Sustaining Life. She loves to write mission-driven content while sipping black tea in a beam of sunshine.