WORDS: KATE WEINER
IMAGES: THE SIMPLY CO.
When I first started living a trash-light life, I was humbled to realize just how much I already had—and how much I didn't need. Sorting through the clutter in my cupboards awakened me to the ways in which we scribble in the empty spaces in our lives with stuff.
Founded by Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers, The Simply Co. is an antidote to the culture of stuff. It's a return to the idea that less is more as well as a celebration of the power of simplicity to generate lasting environmental change. The Simply Co. creates 3-ingredient detergents sustainably packaged in beautiful (and reusable!) glass jars. Because we really don't need all that much to live well and in wonder—and we definitely don't need the thousand and one chemicals that taint the most common household cleaning products in our homes, in our bodies, and in our environments.
I recently connected with Lauren over the phone to talk about transparency in the cleaning product industry, merging environmentalism and entrepreneurialism, and how to curate a chemical-free home. Her wise advice will empower you to start making simple swaps this very day. Living with less truly is the key to living better.
KATE WEINER: The Simply Co. crafts toxin-free and sustainable detergents. What inspired you to focus on creating change in the realm of home products?
LAUREN SINGER: I started this company because I had been making my own products for years and then started getting e-mails from people about how they loved the products that I was making but that they didn't have time to create their own. They would ask me What do you suggest that I can buy in stores that has the same qualities [as homemade goods]? So I went searching. Although I found some beauty products that were just as natural [as the products that I made], the same wasn't true for cleaning products. There are over 85,000 industrial chemicals used in the cleaning product industry. And on top of that, chemical companies aren't even legally required to be transparent about that. As a basic human right, we deserve to know what's going into our homes and into our bodies!
KW: What kind of challenges have you faced in growing your own business and how have you worked through them?
LS: [The biggest challenges that I face exist at] the intersection between having all these ideas for how to run and to scale a zero waste company and getting other companies on board with that vision. There are so many things that I want to accomplish through this company but some stores aren't ready yet. I want to get bulk to be a mainstream resource but most people don't yet utilize bulk in ways that are necessary to sustaining a bulk model.
I'm not currently taking investors so I am growing at a more sustainable pace. It's been good and bad, because I can't just hire a million people all at once [to spread the word about The Simply Co.] but at the same time, I know exactly what's happening in my company, I have complete control over the quality of my products, and I know my vendors personally. This will give me sustainability in the long-run.
KW: The Simply Co. product line isn't just functional—it's also a thing of beauty! Do you see this celebration of aesthetics and simplicity as part of your approach to environmental activism? "The Beauty Way" is something we talk a lot about at Loam so I would love to hear your perspective on that.
LS: Totally! Inherently, more sustainable products are more beautiful. Within the cleaning product industry, good design is an afterthought. That's why I wanted this product to feel luxurious, even though it's detergent, because it imposes more value on the product and helps consumers realize [that quality] is something that they should be paying attention to. I only have three ingredients [and the simplicity of the design calls attention to that]. Typical products have 20+ ingredients so I hope that The Simply Co. drives the conversation on how simplicity and design can create sustainable living choices.
KW: How do you envision growing The Simply Co. in the coming year?
LS: I'm coming out with a new box that will hold more laundry detergent. [Using boxes] will allow us to lower the price point and to enter markets that won't accept glass products. Anytime someone makes the decision to use my products, they're not supporting something that is potentially damaging and dangerous to their own bodies, their own homes, and the environment.
KW: In addition to founding The Simply Co., you're at the helm of Trash is For Tossers, a zero waste lifestyle blog. How do you merge environmental activism and entrepreneurialism?
LS: I don't think that they are different. What I'm doing is completely a form of activism. I saw a problem—an enormous amount of toxic chemicals in the cleaning product industry—and a government that's not mandating transparency. My work is providing a solution to that problem that I hope creates a standard that all companies should be held to.
KW: What characteristics do you think are important to cultivate as an activist and as an entrepreneur?
LS: Consistency. If I say I'm going to be a certain way, I'm going to be that way. Don't give yourself a box unless you can stay in it. Live your values. What you do might change but be intentional about it. It's important to believe in what you do and not care what other people think. And not imposing your values on other people is also really important!
Oftentimes, our first reaction to people who believe or who act differently than us is to push them away. If there's someone who doesn't understand what I do or think it's stupid, I want to invite them into my world and show them how [I live zero waste]. My goal is to be inviting and not repelling.
KW: What are your favorite tips for curating a chemical-free home?
LS: I use so few things! One of the first things I like to tell people [who are making the transition toward trash-light living is that] if you're in the process of reducing your waste, be sure to use up what you have first and recycle the containers.
To clean, I use The Simply Co. laundry detergent, liquid castile soap for dishes and scrubbing, baking soda for when things are sticky, and white vinegar infused with essential oils as an all-purpose cleaner.
And that's kind of it. I've realized you don't need anything else!
Love The Simply Co.? Check out the following video to learn how to live lighter. And be sure to use the discount code SIMPLYLOVESLOAM to order a luxurious detergent of your own.