We featured Unearth Malee's all-natural Thai Lime Sage deodorant in our Spring 2020 box and had a chance to sit down with the founder Marie to learn how she got started.
Q: What is the inspiration for starting Unearth Malee?
A: We started Unearth Malee in 2008, after my first daughter had severe allergies to every kind of soap and lotion. I had already started making soaps for my family for a couple years prior to starting my business. I just fell in love with the soapmaking aspect, working through the challenge of creating palm oil free recipes, and using herbs found in my Thai household. I gave a lot away, as I had surplus of soap, and my friends became happy soap addicts. It wasn’t until they pushed and motivated me to start a business, that I had considered starting a side business. I was a stay at home Mom at that point, my daughters had just started kindergarten and 2nd grade, and I started Unearth Malee in our small garage. Over 10 years later, we are still going strong. With two teens, and a toddler later, my family keeps me busy and inspired to continue doing what I love.
Q:What are your eco credentials?
A: We are a palm oil free, vegan company, registered with PETA as also Cruelty Free. We are moving forward with Palm Oil Alliance to be also be a certified Palm Oil Free company.
Q: What is one thing you would be willing to or have already given up for the health of the planet and why?
A: I believe it is in the smallest of choices that we make everyday that makes the biggest difference. It’s not necessarily one thing you do, it’s all the small changes we make that creates impact.
As a business, and personally, the biggest impact we have made is reducing plastic consumption. Based on an average use of 6 bottles of body wash per year per person (not including shampoo and conditioner), we dispose 1.4 billion bottles of plastic every year! Before plastic pollution awareness, we have promote reducing plastic bottle use by going solid (bar soap, bar shampoo, lotion bars). We aim to reduce that staggering number by encouraging others to make the switch.
Again, it’s better to make an effort in the small choices, than to try to make huge lifestyle changes...sooner than later you will realize you have made an impact because all the small things add up.
Q: What’s a sustainability myth you’d like to debunk?
A: There’s actually a few, especially working in the body care industry, I have learned a lot through the years. We place a lot of emphasis on reading the labels, but many labels are misleading. We must remain diligent in reading in between the lines and understanding what exactly those labels mean. There remains little regulation on the body care industry when it comes to the safety of the ingredients.
Another important myth is the existence of truly sustainable palm oil. This is yet another label that needs to be regulated and researched thoroughly. Please contact sources that claim their palm oil is certified sustainable, and question their farming practices, ensuring labor is not exploited, and wildlife left unharmed. Though when it comes to deforestation, research has found there is no significant difference between a certified and non-certified palm oil plantation.
Q: What advice do you have for people wanting to live a more natural, eco-friendly lifestyle?
A: It’s the everyday small choices that makes an impact on the environment, from switching to reusable coffee cups, straws, reusable grocery bags, reducing meat consumption, supporting organic farmers, local businesses, reducing your consumption, minimizing your belongings, purchasing second hand clothes when you can, and so forth..
Q: What’s your favourite natural place to visit?
A: Living in Southern California, there are so many choices – desert, mountains, beaches. For me, it’s the water. I love the sound of the waves, the smell of salt in the air, curling my toes in the sand, waves crashing..it’s quiet and loud in the best way.
Q: What do you do to relieve stress?
A: Nothing beats sitting in the garden with a cup of hot herbal tea, watching my toddler laugh and play, add my two teenage daughters into the mix, and it’s a happy chaotic bliss.
Q: Why is it important to use palm oil free products?
A: Where do I start....
Palm oil is in almost all of our everyday essentials, like shampoos, soaps, snacks, etc. The demand for production of palm oil is so high, that we have destroyed the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia, the top producing countries of palm oil in the world. In the path of deforestation, are the endangered animals like Sumatran Tigers, Elephants, Rhinos, Orangutans, and more that are rapidly decreasing in numbers.
The exploitation of farmers, the land, how it effects climate change, destroying the natural habitat of rainforest animals and their lives, the list goes on...we must be conscious of how we can create change, demand for the industry to take responsibility and do better. We can be the ones, making the small choices, and creating the change we need in this world.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or go-to saying?
A: Love is Everything. It’s my driving force for what gets me up in the morning, to how I end my night.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Earthlovers?
A: We Love Love. It’s how we start the day, in gratitude, and loving what we do.