What it means to be sustainable is evolving as quickly as green biotech can move. Brand founders like Chase Polan, of the award-winning clean beauty brand KYPRIS, are taking the lead on packaging standards, production innovation, and product development from farm to bottle—sometimes before consumers even know what it is we’re asking for.
When it comes to a brand’s communication around sustainable practices, there can be a lot of confusion for consumers! According to Chase, whose own brand is a certified B-Corp, these are some of the most important keywords of note for the future of sustainable brands…
Coined by the Harvard naturalist, Dr. Edward O. Wilson, the term Biophilia describes what he observed as humanity’s “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes,” and to have a visceral affinity, even an urge, to be among nature and living beings. In the context of sustainability, attending to our tendencies of biophilia create experiences of wellness and even healing.
The most popular and well-studied example is the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. This practice of venturing into the forest for rest and renewal has positive effects on our physiology including reducing stress and showing improved biomarkers such as decreased blood pressure and an elevation of natural killer immune cells (which may indicate reduced stress and a better functioning immune system).
KYPRIS works with biophilia as a concept in both product creation and spa treatment rituals. One example of how we weave the magic of biophilia into our offerings can be found in the Deep Forest Clay mask, which features an algae extract and sea salt blend that wets montmorillonite clay laced with the essential oils from roots, bark, and leaves to deliver not only a clarifying mask, but a mini dose of the compounds that make forest bathing so beneficial. When you apply the clay, you’re cocooning yourself in a little cloud of compounds called terpenes, which for the trees, are the means by which they communicate with one another and for us, are attributed to the aromatherapeutic benefits of forest bathing.
Implementing sustainable and regenerative practices in all aspects of life, from personal care products to farming to energy production and transportation is extremely important. Sustainable choices and interventions can be expensive and challenging to implement because these are new ways of doing things. In kind, companies have recognized that touting these efforts is appealing to customers. Too often in the name of promoting a product to seem as though it has a more gentle footprint, dishonest and misleading claims are made.
Some examples may be “chemical-free,” “synthetic-free,” “preservative-free,” and often the term “natural.” Air and water are chemicals, so there isn’t a product on the planet that is “chemical-free.” There are ingredients in personal care products that work as a chemical reaction or a physical barrier such as different forms of SPF and exfoliants, but even when a physical SPF or exfoliant is used, there are chemicals present, and that is not a bad thing. It’s nature.
Seemingly, there is a cultural draw towards something that is more natural as an answer to the petrochemical-derived ingredients and plastics in products, however, the joke goes—poison ivy is natural, Netflix is man-made, I know which one I want. Maybe we can even blame our biophilia; however, natural isn’t always the best, most sustainable choice. We aren’t going to conserve our way out of the climate and ecological challenges we face, we must smartly and conscientiously innovate and implement. So, synthetics that do not create harm to the environment or end-user and are made with processing agents that are safe for the environment and end-user, are going to be some of the most important materials today and in the future. Some examples of this might be hydroponically grown botanicals from berries to herbs, engineered mycelium leather, engineered yeasts that create bioidentical antioxidants and peptides, the propagation of plant stem cells, and many, many more. We don’t want to lose sight of the science and the realities we face in preference for nonsensical marketing or political dogma.
“Preservative-free” is another greenwashing tactic that makes products, and people, less safe. For anything that is going to sit on your shelf for more than 5 days, some kind of preservation strategy is required. If it’s a balm or oil that is anhydrous, or free from all water, then perhaps all that is needed is an antioxidant to ensure shelf stability. However, if a product contains any concentration of water, even a fraction of a percent, it requires a proper preservative system and strategy. Because of advancements in green chemistry, there are an array of preservatives that are both gentle on the environment, your microbiome, and skin while also being effective. They are more expensive than common preservatives, which may be one reason why they are used less frequently, however they are available and necessary.
In pursuit of our sustainable, regenerative future, we must communicate with integrity and not create confusion or thwart nuance. Intentionally misinforming and creating confusion is, by definition, not sustainable and the underpinning of Green Washing.
For KYPRIS, we view sustainability with three key relationships: ecological sustainability assesses whether the ingredients and packaging we use are as gentle on the environment as possible, and social sustainability, which considers the people within our supply chains as well as how we communicate with our community and patrons. We are extremely respectful of each person’s relationship to their sense of self and beauty and in kind, you will notice KYPRIS does not make any outlandish claims and we certainly do not employ misinformation, mislabeling, or scare tactics as a means of trying to convert people into customers. We simply believe we make the absolute best formulas and that someone who is properly educated on the matter will easily choose KYPRIS products to care for their most precious body and being.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by governments and nonprofits alone. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: a positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment.
B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good. The values and aspirations of the B Corp community are embedded in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.
I’m so proud that my own company, KYPRIS Beauty is Certified B Corporation. Here’s what we and other B Corps believe:
+ That we must be the change we seek in the world.
+ That all business ought to be conducted in alignment with the truth that people and place matters.
+ That, through our products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
+ To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon one another and thus responsible for each other and to each other and future generations.
Almost all of the certifications found in the Beauty Industry are focused on land stewardship—certified organic, Oregon Tilth, ECOCERT, COSMOS, Demeter, Biodynamic, and others. These certifications are important, yet they do not address social and labor concerns. Fair Trade does address living wages for a limited selection of crops, but it doesn’t address land stewardship.
Yet, fostering both healthy people and places in all we do are vital. While the vast majority of the ingredients KYPRIS uses are certified with at least one sustainability certification, we deeply value being a Certified B Corporation because of its holistic assessment of ecological and sociological impacts.
Given our view that sustainability and regenerative practices are both social and ecological imperatives, we found our home at B Corp’s BLab. This rigorous assessment directly vets your complete business operation—from how we function as a company with our employees and contractors to our supply chains to our products’ life cycle.
I believe that what we do to ourselves, we do to our planet—so our products must not increase the burden of toxic load on our bodies, or the Earth. This means for each KYPRIS offering, from ingredients to packaging, we consider how each and every choice we make impacts the Earth.
In action this looks like:
+ Ingredients from an array of sustainable, certified sources
+ 100% Post Consumer Recycled unit cartons and gift boxes, etc
+ Glass primary packaging that is recyclable, doesn’t leech into products or into the environment.
+ Joining Pact Collective to be responsible for packaging components that are more difficult to recycle.
We have an obligation to ensure to the best of our abilities that our supply chain is free from enslavement and exploitation of people and animals. Exploited people exploit beings and places – and ingredients that result in the exploitation of places and beings are rampant in the Beauty industry. The means are the end. And while men and women are both at risk of enslavement, too often exploitation of women and girls is normalized. Commonly used terms like “unpaid work” or “free work” and “child marriage” are glossed terms that actually mean slavery.
Keeping our supply chain free of the exploitation of people looks like:
+ We require transparency from our sources and do our best to vote with our dollars to purchase materials that come from sources with a clear mission to treat labor fairly and land well.
+ We consider the geopolitical concerns of the area, labor standards of the farm or group we are sourcing a material from, and any other qualifications like UN Global Compact participation that ensures we are sourcing responsibly both ecologically and socially.
+ We support women-owned farms. There is not a country in the world where legally and culturally, women have equal rights to men – not even in the USA. So while ending modern slavery is the ethical thing to do, it’s also important to recognize how it can feed itself with girls and women insufficiently protected or respected culturally and legally.
As a general framework, sustainable choices are ones that do not harm people or places. Regenerative choices are ones that have a net positive impact to the health of people, the environment, and living beings—even microbiota.
When environmentalists start to see a lack of diversity of the microbiota in soil or an ecosystem, other systems begin to break down and the ecosystem is at high risk for collapse. Making decisions that do not harm even the smallest living critters among us such as healthy microbiomes and insects (including pollinators) must be foundational to what propels regenerative practices.
And yet, according to environmentalist Paul Hawken, regenerative practices require attention to be paid to people, in addition to all living beings and the environment. Exploited people tend to exploit others and their environment. In unsustainable situations, unsustainable decisions are often made. Some examples of this might be the over-tapping of frankincense trees or over-harvesting of sandalwood or palo santo.
However, unsafe situations are not always the cause of unsustainable decisions. For example, Hawken cites the deforestation of the ancient boreal forests to make toilet paper.
For us to repair our planet, people, all beings, and our Earth must be considered.
From a material inputs perspective, one of KYPRIS’s bacillus extract sources conducts academic research of the ocean off the coast of the Mauritius, cataloging its microbiome From this work, an extract was discovered to have radiance-inducing beauty benefits to skin. This extract, though collected from the open ocean, is propagated in a lab to deliver gorgeous hydration and luminosity. You can find it in our Ad Astra Nighttime Eye Creme Emulsion and Puff of Love Nurturing Anytime Moisturizer.
From a socially regenerative perspective, we source our Shea from a UN Global Compact project that functions similarly to a Small Business Administration you might find in the US. Local field offices teach women farmers fundamental business skills like opening a checking account for their business and support their farming education to deliver and sell the gorgeous Shea butters, oils, and extracts. Over the last decade, more than 363,000 women farmers have joined the initiative creating a sustainable, transparent, traceable shea supply chain and strengthening women’s roles as economic actors within their communities.
According to the Biodynamic Association, biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition. Rooted in the work of philosopher and scientist, Dr. Rudolf Stiener, whose 1924 lectures to farmers opened a new way to integrate scientific understanding with a recognition of spirit and nature.
Through collaboration between farmers and researchers, biodynamics has continued to develop and evolve. The principles and practices of biodynamics can be applied anywhere food is grown, with thoughtful adaptation to scale, climate, landscape, and culture.
A biodynamic farm (visit one here) is considered a living organism. The practice generates on-farm fertility, bringing plants and animals together. Biodynamics cultivates biodiversity and works in rhythm with earth and the cosmos. Biodynamics approaches pests and diseases holistically using biodynamic tinctures and sprays to enhance soil and plant health. In turn, compost is enlivened with biodynamic preparations.
While there are a number of requirements for a farm to technically be considered biodynamic, there are several practices from the philosophy that can be applied even when a farm is not technically biodynamic. For example, biodynamic agriculture specifically requires cattle to be present on the farm. However, the same practices may work and still enrich a farm when llamas, goats, or sheep are present, though precluding the operation from technically being biodynamic.
The biodynamic wisdom of interdependence and focus on soil health can be successfully reapplied in myriad contexts. The rose essential oil found in the KYPRIS Beauty Elixir I: 1000 Roses formula is grown with biodynamic practices. This is important because conventional rose agriculture, like all crops when not well managed, can deplete the soil and have long term negative effects. The rose essential oil we use is grown on a woman-owned farm who grows a variety of herbs including wormwood which can be distilled into a tincture to ward off aphids and other common rose predators. The resulting essential oil is voluptuous and spicy without a single trace of pesticide, farmland that flourishes, and people who harvest the flowers as well as the water table are not exposed to questionable chemicals.
According to Cambridge University, upcycling is defined as “the activity of making new furniture, objects, etc. out of used things or waste material.”
In the context of skincare and beauty, upcycling can be used to make packaging or ingredients. Credo famously uses 100% biodegradable, plastic-like containers made in part from green tea production for their sampling program.
Rice bran oil is another popular example of a commonly upcycled material. KYPRIS uses soothing rice bran wax in our Lip Elixir Balm. This golden oil is pressed from the nutrient-dense byproducts of harvesting rice, not a single extra grain of rice needs to be grown to create this beautiful ingredient. With limited arable soil on the planet, exploding population growth, soil depletion, and soil erosion being major concerns within our climate crisis, it is vital that we collectively become better users of these valuable, nutrient-dense agricultural byproducts.
We use several upcycled ingredients, however my favorite includes the wild harvested prickly pear seed oil from Arizona. The source for our prickly pear seed oil comes from a woman-lead wild crafting group who harvests prickly pear for juice, dye, and cattle fodder. The team used to pay to have the seeds removed. Now, those seeds are crushed to create an exquisite golden oil wealthy in vitamin E. You can find this ingredient all throughout our offerings—namely in the Beauty Elixirs and Pot of Shade.
Another example of upcycled materials is the pomegranate enzymes in our Glow Philtre mask, an enzymatic exfoliation mask for vibrant luminosity and hydration. The pith of the pomegranate is separated from the pomegranate seeds which are reserved for comestible goods like pomegranate juice and seeds. The pith is fermented with lactobacillus to concentrate the naturally occurring enzymes. The combination is pressed and filtered to create the gentle exfoliating enzyme in Glow Philtre.
In both of these examples, the Prickly Pear Seed Oil and the Pomegranate Enzymes, the ingredients are upcycled from byproducts of food production. With over 10% of US households experiencing food insecurity, being in the practice of not using comestible ingredients in skin care is one way to not strain food supply chains driving up prices and increase the demand to grow and harvest a greater diversity of nutrient-dense crops like pomegranate and prickly pear.
According to the University of Pennsylvania’s School Of Engineering And Applied Sciences, biotechnology “in its broadest definition, is the use of advances in molecular biology for applications in human and animal health, agriculture, environment, and specialty biochemical manufacturing.”
Discoveries in bacteria, yeast, and even fruit flies have been translated into important therapeutic possibilities. As a field of study, biotechnology is an interdisciplinary field among biology, engineering, medicine, and plant science.
Green Biotechnology specifically leverages the findings within this exciting field of research and commercialization to create useful therapies and therapeutic outputs that lessen the alternative environmental and/or sociological impact. Everything from antioxidants, peptides, and fragrance molecules can be made with green biotechnology.
More recently, a green biotechnology innovation called cellular agriculture has been touted for its unique ability to create an array of valuable cosmetic ingredients. Microalgae are organically farmed and then “milked” to create a consistent, sustainable supply of everything from cosmetic emulsifiers to antioxidants and more, removing the reliance on other common, problematic inputs like carcinogenic solvents.
From feedstock to processing agents to end result, green biotechnology leverages new discoveries, techniques, and processes to deliver innovation and important materials for nutrition and beauty.
Implementing discoveries from the realm of green biotechnology is core to my mission. Each product we make uses one or more ingredient created by the interdisciplinary brilliance of biotechnology. Our Beauty Elixirs, for example, deliver a high concentration of bio-identical CoQ10 that is molecularly identical to the CoQ10 our bodies create! It is one of the most studied forms of antioxidants by the National Institute of Health, and it can be found in cardiology and oncology protocols. Cosmetically, we leverage the bio-identical CoQ10 to diminish the appearance of sun overexposure both old and new.
Another interesting ingredient from green biotechnology is in our award-winning formulas, Ad Astra Nighttime Eye Creme Emulsion and Puff of Love Nurturing Anytime Moisturizer, called ectoin. In extreme environments like polar ice caps and volcanoes and geysers and deserts, exist microbes that can thrive by generating metabolites called extremolytes. Ectoin is a lab-created leveraging green biotechnology to deliver ectoin, an active with soothing, antioxidant-like properties that care for the well-being and beauty of skin in the presence of stress, pollution, and other common environmental assaults.
Want to learn more about where clean beauty and wellness tech are headed next? Read this year’s trend report and catch up on blood sugar monitor advances here.