Environment

These Philly-Area Companies Are Trying to Help You Use Less Plastic

Do your part to live more sustainably with tips and products from these local brands.


use less plastic

Local companies like Ola Beauty are trying to help you use less plastic in daily life. / Photograph by Carina Romano

More people are starting to reckon with the fact that climate change is having an irrevocable effect on the world. In October, UN issued its terrifying reminder that we need to drastically change our lifestyles in order to reduce global warming. In February, the Australian government recognized a small rodent as extinct, and it was dubbed the first to disappear from our planet as a result of climate change (although more species could fall under that category that haven’t been closely studied). Currently, the Bahamas are being devastated by Hurricane Dorian, a symptom of the fact that, as one climate scientist says, “Human-caused climate change is visibly intensifying hurricanes and increasing the damage they are doing.”

And that’s gotten us to talk about Earth’s future and how we as humans impact it in a way that’s not just viewing reality as a far-off doomsday scenario. But now that our society is so dependent on cars and those ubiquitous plastic bags, it often seems like a near-impossible task to extricate ourselves from the planet-warming mess we’ve created.

But local companies aren’t ready to give up yet. A few have come up with ways to reduce our use of that fossil-fuel-sucking foe, plastic. (Many plastic products are made using a byproduct of fossil fuel fracking.)

Let’s start with Dropps, a Philly company that thinks about laundry from a sustainable perspective. Having already created laundry detergent pods (think: the little cleaning packets you put in your dishwasher but for your clothes instead of your dishes) to conserve water and implemented compostable packaging, Dropps just launched a partnership with ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana to raise awareness of the plastic problem. It’s a mix of education (example: running an online infographic of the life cycle of a family dinner table and how plastic’s involved) and actionable tips for how to cut down on plastic consumption. For instance, Dropps and Oceana will provide suggestions for one thing to eliminate at a time, like supermarket bags or straws, and shopping lists that provide plastic-free alternatives to common household products, such as toothpaste and Ziploc bags.

“We as a society have SAD — sustainability anxiety disorder,” says Dropps CEO Jonathan Propper. “We get this stuff, and we don’t know what to do with it — ‘Does it go in this pile or that pile?’ We’re trying to give consumers the most convenient way of being sustainable, so they don’t have to think about it.”

Or take Ola Beauty, a new shop from former Best of Philly makeup artist Aleksandra Ambrozy that exclusively carries makeup and skincare lines with low to no plastic. While shelf life and natural ingredients are certainly key factors in selecting her products, Ambrozy’s time spent in Hawaii, where she witnessed plastic pollution in the ocean and on the beach, compelled her to double down when it came to plastic usage specifically. “[The plastic] is just part of the environment there now,” Ambrozy says regarding Hawaii. “It really freaked me out, so I tried to go as plastic-free as possible. I’m using the store to show other people that they can do that, too.”

One of her favorite lines right now is Elate Cosmetics, a Canada-based line of foundations, blush, eye makeup, and lipsticks that uses non-toxic, organic ingredients and refillable, compostable compacts.  Another is Honua Hawaiian Skincare, which hails from, you guessed it, Hawaii; Ola Beauty carries their reef-safe mineral sunscreens.

Ambrozy also hopes to add recycling bins from Trenton-based TerraCycle, which collects items that your standard city recycling unit doesn’t allow (many of them plastic) and partners with other companies to get them turned into new products.