Half a Century of Green Ideas
LEARNING FROM A PIONEER IN SUSTAINABILITY
SUSTAINABLE FROM THE START
“Sustainable from the start” is one of the many criteria we check for when looking to include companies in our suggestions. To find out more, click on the “Reasons Why” the next time your plugin shows you sustainable alternatives.
And if you haven’t yet, download the askBelynda Google Chrome Extension. It’s free to download and use and it makes your online shopping on Amazon as sustainable as possible.
A lot of long-established companies have jumped on the sustainability bandwagon in the past years. While that is a welcome shift in the right direction, we love introducing you to companies founded on sustainability. Therefore, many of the products suggested by the askBelynda plugin come from green start-ups and companies founded by young, eco-conscious entrepreneurs.
Tom’s of Maine is a pioneer of the first generation. The company was founded in 1970 by a young couple who couldn’t find the natural and environmentally responsible products they wanted to use for their family. After their first product - a phosphate-free laundry detergent – they moved into the personal care niche. Today their offering includes toothpaste, deodorants, and soaps, and they still thrive on the idea of making the world a better place.
Sustainable Shopping Made Simple
THE BASICS: INGREDIENTS, PRODUCTION, PACKAGING
Having more than half a century of experience (and the passion to drive constant improvements) gives a company the time to tweak all aspects of running a business. If you have the time to go into the inspiring details, I highly recommend Tom’s of Maine’s “2022 Goodness Report”. For this post however, I’ll just pick a few aspects that I loved:
All the ingredients are naturally derived. That is a great starting point, but what if you want to know more about the ingredients in your favorite products? On the Tom’s of Maine website, you can find background information on every single ingredient they use. Learn what it does, how it’s made, if there are alternatives, and if it’s the right choice for you. I’ve never seen such an extensive collection of transparent data on ingredients before!
The main production facility in Maine has ambitious goals for minimizing its impact on the environment. Apart from obvious aspects like energy management, this also meant that they had to find a solution for toothpaste residues from the production. In 2019, they made a huge step towards zero waste by figuring out how to compost toothpaste on a large scale.
Avoiding waste from the packaging was a concern from the start. When the two young entrepreneurs sold their first detergent in reusable containers in the early 70s, they were surprised to see how many consumers took them up on the request to mail them back. Rumor has it that the post office was not thrilled to receive a flood of empty bottles… Today, the focus has shifted to packaging more products in paper and cardboard, increasing the recyclability of plastic packaging (they introduced the first fully recyclable toothpaste tube), and partnering up with TerraCycle for hard-to-recycle materials.
THE BONUS: COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY
Tom’s of Maine was an impact brand before this term even existed. They started their business believing that they could make the world a better place – not only by creating better products but through all their policies. One value that is engrained in the company's DNA is giving back to the community:
“Giving for Goodness is our corporate giving program in which we donate 10% of Tom’s profits each year in the form of product donations and funding to non-profit organizations that work in the areas of climate change and the environment, health and well-being, and disaster relief.”
From the 2022 Goodness Report
But they do more than give money. Tom’s encourages their employees to use up to 5% of their paid work time to volunteer for causes that are important to them. This is just one of the many steps this company takes to make working there a great experience for both the employees and the larger community. When I looked up the available benefits, I came across a few unusual ones. For example, Tom’s of Maine financially supports employees in buying more sustainable vehicles. And since the summers in Maine are beautiful but short, there are special “summer working hours” that allow workers to make the most of that season with long weekends and shorter workdays.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
As inspiring as this company is, maybe the best takeaway for our personal life is this: All this didn’t happen overnight. They took a step in the right direction. And then another one. And another one.
Let’s keep that in mind as we examine our actions toward a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s great to move in the right direction, a little at a time. When we do it for long enough, it makes a huge difference!
If you're on the sustainable living path, using the askBelynda plugin could be one of those steps. Every time you buy on Amazon, you get offered the most sustainable alternatives. Thoroughly vetted by real people who share your passion for sustainability, right there on Amazon, and totally free of charge.
Jennifer Scales is a photo artist and train travel enthusiast. When she is not vetting companies for askBelynda, she spreads her love for sustainable travel by capturing the beauty of nature seen through the train window.
Check out her website Landscape in Motion and follow Jennifer Scales | Fine Art on Instagram to see her artwork.