Interview with co-founder - Tammy Alner.
Tell us about your business, what do you do and why?
White Pigeon Said is a leading Mornington Peninsula based natural skincare and lifestyle brand. We specialise in products that harness the power of nature and make toxin and waste free living that little bit easier…
Our business came about because of a range of health issues I experienced earlier in my life. I started to look into the products I was using at the time and researched the skincare lines that were dominating the market. I quickly realised most products are overloaded with toxins and decided I had to get away from all those nasty ingredients.
“We believe in simplicity, in going back to basics and simplifying what we use daily to rid the toxins from our bodies and our environment”.
I have a background in Biochemistry and Medical Research, so when I couldn’t find the toxin-and- waste-free products I was looking for, I started to make my own. Our business evolved from there. I wanted to help others access clean, effective yet affordable products, so I thought “why not get it out there!”.
“We founded ‘The White Pigeon Said’ to harness the power of nature and provide toxin-free yet effective products that are free from synthetics and all things nasty.”
Why ‘waste wise’? What does it mean to you and your business to be ‘waste wise’?
When we started our business, we didn’t just want to use the best ingredients, we also wanted to lead with sustainable packaging. As part of our early research we went to a major natural lifestyle expo. Wandering around with Sarah, my business partner, we looked at each other and said “OMG -- everything is packaged in plastic!!” From our perspective that’s just not good enough. What most businesses don’t realise is that the vast majority of plastics don’t get recycled at all. Most of it just goes to landfill. What’s more is that plastic leaches toxins that are damaging for our health -- and that goes completely against our philosophy.
We therefore made a commitment early on to aim for zero-waste, plastic-free products. We decided to lead the way by opting for the most sustainable packaging on the market -- ensuring our entire range, inside and out, is good for our planet and for our customers’ health. Many of our products’ packaging is home compostable which means it can go straight into your garden, compost or worm farm. Some items are packaged in glass or aluminum -- both of these materials don’t leach toxins and can be recycled indefinitely.
“Right from the outset, it was a no brainer that we had to find a plastic-free packaging solution. We wanted to bring a skincare range to the table that enables people to buy one less plastic bottle, every time they buy from us”.
Tell us a little about your ‘waste wise’ and sustainability journey to date.
As with everything, when you innovate, it can be challenging! That’s definitely been the case with our packaging. It took me a couple of years to test and refine our packaging. We were a little nervous when we started - we were trying materials that hadn’t been used in Australia before, so we weren’t sure if they would work for our type of product. For example, it was unknown whether our product would leak through. It could have cost us thousands if it would have gone wrong. But we were committed, so we just jumped in and had a go. I remember ringing around to businesses in America who had been using this material. There was a bit of trial and error but we’ve been able to successfully stick to our mission.
Over time, we’ve made a few changes, for example, changing some of our glass containers. Glass is heavy and often has plastic wadding inside the lid, so we changed some containers to aluminum. We’ve also increased the size of many of our products, so you don’t have to buy as often which reduces the amount of packaging and the carbon miles associated with transport.
“With Mother Nature being so overridden by plastic waste, we give our customers greener options by offering minimal, reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging”.
The bigger picture? What do you see as the biggest sustainability / environmental challenges facing us on the Peninsula?
The challenges we’re facing on the Peninsula are not unique to our region. They are everywhere! When it comes to waste, the whole planet is experiencing a landfill crisis and an ever increasing amount of plastic is filling up our oceans.
When you drive around the Peninsula, it doesn’t take long to see that waste is one of our biggest environmental challenges. It’s pretty magical down here and then you see litter everywhere… Litter is just the visual aspect, what’s more are the microplastics that are affecting our ecosystems and that have long lasting implications for human health.
It just can’t keep going like this. We need to transition away from single-use and reduce our reliance on fossil fuel based plastic. Part of that is not just moving to recycled plastic… we can’t recycle our way out of this mess. It’s really about behaviour change and holding big business to account.
Big businesses are currently making billions, and largely without taking responsibility for their wasteful packaging. Every business needs to think about the end of life when they first design their product and take responsibility for that step. This is where we need to bring in stricter government regulations and not just voluntary packaging targets. And where customers need to vote with their wallets by refusing to buy from those companies who don’t do the right thing.
We all need to take stock and collectively get on top of our waste and litter crisis. I think much of this comes down to education and government regulations. I have noticed that the Mornington Peninsula Shire are offering community environmental workshops to help residents live more sustainably. This really needs to be a focus of our whole country, in fact the whole planet. It’s great to see some states making a stand and banning single-use plastics, but does this go far enough?
Biggest Wins? What’s been your biggest success in your sustainable/green journey?)
Our biggest win is how our customers have embraced our brand. We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve. Being able to push through all the difficulties and successfully launching our skincare range has been amazing. And we’re very proud to lead by example by not contributing to the global plastic crisis.
Our biggest area for improvement is to work with some of our suppliers to help them keep improving as well. While we are committed to sourcing our ingredients locally whenever we can, that’s not always possible and we sometimes have to source our ingredients or packaging from overseas. We always request everything to be delivered without plastic. This can be a challenge and we’re committed to empowering others to do better.
I have been teaching for the past 10 years and love passing on my knowledge, so we’ll continue to expand our focus on educating others and helping them to join us on the toxin and waste free journey.
What we’d also love to support is the expansion of locally made sustainable packaging. With our upcoming waste export bans, we have an opportunity for our Government to help expand our local recycling capabilities. We’d love to see more affordable packaging, made with recycled materials right here in Australia. It really is a missed opportunity if we don’t address this.
We would also like to offer refills for some of our products. We do accept bottle returns and clean, sterilise and reuse where possible. It is not something we do on a large scale yet but it’s definitely on our radar.
Have you seen (any change in) demand from customers for sustainable / waste wise business over the past years?
We have definitely seen a positive shift in a group of consumers proactively looking for waste wise alternatives. Unfortunately, there is so much greenwashing out there that although people are wanting to do better for the planet, the truth of where certain packaging ends up is not made clear to them.
Do you have any advice for other businesses embarking on the sustainability / waste wise journey?
I think the prospect of making the switch to sustainable practices can seem quite daunting when wasteful ways can be so much more ‘convenient’. It’s really important to just do what you can. For businesses that just want to start to do better, making a list of all the improvements that can be made and just introducing them slowly is the way to go. Consumers do notice the positive changes you make and will support you for it.