A Look Into cleancult: Sustainable Household Products Designed in Puerto Rico

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A report by Guisell Gómez for Be Latina.

One of the hot topics at the moment seems to surround cleanliness. Well, how can it not be? Our entire society has surrendered to a reality that should’ve been adapted a long time ago; one where personal hygiene and cleanliness was of the utmost importance. Regardless of how long it has taken some people to understand the significance of a clean environment for their wellbeing, it is imperative for everyone to stay dedicated to their health more than ever. By doing this, we can implement what’s needed to survive this lawless pandemic. Thankfully, there are plenty of products out there ready to stand with us on the frontlines to attack this invisible foe. I’m talking about cleaning products, but not the ones we were brought up with (sorry Fabuloso!). Instead, I’m talking about sustainable cleaning products, such as those created and distributed by cleancult. Using these types of products can help us remain as healthy as possible during these trying times, while protecting the one who is constantly suffering — planet Earth.

CleanCult Founders BELatina

cleancult is a company that was founded by two ambitious millennials, Ryan Lupberger and Zachary Bedrosian. Their goal was to make a conscious effort to focus on natural products that were responsibly designed to promote sustainability. Fortunately, they were able to accomplish this. They are now a recurring shipment service that delivers sustainable, non-toxic cleaning products, such as all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent, and bar soap, directly to their customer’s doors. cleancult now employs people in the United States and in Puerto Rico.

Their cleaning products are manufactured in the United States, while the products are designed by their employees in Puerto Rico.

In order to achieve their initial vision to change the cleaning product market, they made sure their methods were different. They were able to create zero-waste packaging by using glass bottles and milk cartons through their unconventional thinking.

cleancult sends its customers glass dispensers filled with their eco-friendly cleaning products, made of REAL ingredients, with their first purchase. After that, their customers are able to refill these glass bottles (which are now theirs forever). The best part is that they send you the refills in a milk carton, making them the first company to ever adapt this strategy. By the way, everything that cleancult provides their customers is recyclable. Therefore, their dedication to the environment, without a doubt, is evident throughout every step of the way.

Aside from their packaging, they’ve placed plenty of emphasis on the quality of their items. All of their products are made with coconut-based ingredients, more specifically, saponified coconut oil. The reason this ingredient works so well for them is because the fatty acids within this oil are known to have antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. They use it as a base to fight off germs, dirt, grit, and grime, while also busting the myth that people need toxic chemicals to clean.

I want to place emphasis on the fact that their products actually work because that’s not usually the norm for other companies. Though the cleaning product industry has a lot of products to choose from, not all of them clean as effectively. Sadly, many companies nowadays use despicable “greenwashing” tactics to sell products that simply don’t work. This is why choosing products made by the likes of cleancult can benefit our cleaning routines.

As if they couldn’t be more impactful, they’ve also enforced carbon-neutral shipping methods within their company. This has allowed them to reduce their carbon footprint in the world which is yet another way we can see how extraordinary cleancult’s values are.

They also showcase their values by expressing their loyalty to the people who have been with them since day one. For instance, one of their most admirable actions was making a mindful decision not to remove cleancult from Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit. Despite the hardships that came from this natural disaster, their advocacy to the people of Puerto Rico remained strong. Years later, cleancult has continued to show up for Puerto Rico. The most recent demonstration of their devotion was in response to the earthquakes that hit southern Puerto Rico a couple of months ago.

CleanCult Puerto Rico BELatina

Puerto Rico’s cleancult team went to some communities in Ponce and Yauco to provide them with groceries, cold treats, and a $500 donation to specific families with special needs. Aside from that, they supplied some families with tents, mattresses, drinking water, battery-operated fans, and pillows. With actions such as these, it is clear that their fidelity for Puerto Rico is ever-present.

Considering that Nielsen previously reported that 73 percent of global consumers are willing to change their consumption habits to products that minimally impact the environment, it is safe to say that sustainable products are the future. As a matter of fact, the last several years have seen a steady increase in the market for sustainable products, while conventional products are on a decline. People, especially millennials, are starting to pay attention to things that weren’t thought about years ago and to be honest, it was about time.

Since BELatina was so captivated with cleancult’s mission, we decided to have a chat with them. The following is a brief interview we had with cleancult’s co-founder, Ryan Lupberger. Please read below to learn more about this sensational company.

What were people’s initial reactions when you and Zachary first told them about starting this eco-friendly brand? 

Initially, I think the first or main question was, “How were we really different?” We had great support in Puerto Rico, but the main pushback was people asking how we, as young guys, figure out how to enter this industry. So, that was the main issue. But after a period of two years, we came up with putting soap in milk cartons. We actually figured out that we were the only company in the world to put soap inside milk cartons.

How did you and Zachary maneuver this industry despite the concerns you both must’ve received for being so young?

I think, first, it was the truly talented people around us. This is where the whole Latino culture plays a role here. There are phenomenal scientists in Puerto Rico. We are talking about PhDs in biology and chemical engineering. So, it helped us truly put together a really talented team of people who were talented in the marketing, branding, and chemical side. I think that was the first thing that started putting people at rest.

The second thing was truly getting the right investors on board. We sort of have had the blessing to be based in New York and in Puerto Rico. Because of that, we’ve had access to some really talented founders. The last thing, I think, we call it basically endurance and optimization. We’ve been at this for almost three and a half years now. People are constantly seeing that you’re going to get to the perfect market fit and perfect solution and continue to build your team.

What has made cleancult stay so loyal to Puerto Rico, even after the difficulties it has experienced in the last couple of years? 

For us, it was mainly two things. It always comes back to talent as well as infrastructure. So we very much got introduced to Puerto Rico not through conventional means. We basically had no idea about the island until just three or four years ago. But then we got accepted into Parallel 18’s accelerator program on the island, which gave us a fair amount of grant-funding. The main reason we stay is because of the talent. There’s truly some of the most talented chemical engineers and scientists in the world on the island. They used to work for pharmaceutical companies that left the island about 15-20 years ago. That’s basically the main reason.

The second is infrastructure. There’s actually a very robust infrastructure. There’s the National Science Foundation that has backed cleancult as well as the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust. They also have Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company. With that, [Puerto Rico] supports companies even better than most of the agencies here in the United States. Due to that, we continue to stay and we will continue to grow in Puerto Rico.

cleancult’s website states that every time somebody purchases your products, it donates some of its cleaning products to a family in need in Puerto Rico. So, for better understanding, how does cleancult choose the family receiving the cleaning products?

So, we surround disasters specifically. It’s not necessarily one for one. We specifically organize it. In the last hurricane, we donated over a hundred thousand loads of laundry for families most in need directly after the disaster. In the most recent disasters, we’ve made a fairly substantial donation to agencies. It’s not usually a one-to-one family, it’s more after a disaster. After these tragic events, we make sure people have what’s often lacking in their relief plan, which is cleaning products and personal care products.

I saw that cleancult has been reported as a carbon-neutral company. It is also said that cleancult has partnered with environmental agencies to undo any shipping carbon it emits. So, I must ask: About how many trees have been planted so far for the sake of this wonderful and earth-conscious initiative?

We partnered with an agency called carbonfund.org. Basically, when we started the company, we wanted to be truly clean. From the packaging, to the formula, and ultimately, the shipping. We didn’t just think of just making natural cleaners, we wanted to clean up everything. So, we partnered with carbonfund, and essentially it’s for every shipment we make, they plant about one tree. This is equivalent to the amount of the carbon in the atmosphere created by a shipment. They invest in carbon reduction products all around the world. As of now, we’ve shipped roughly 140,000 units, so I’d say around 100,000 trees. That will go up and down depending on the project, though. It’s usually not based on the tree count, instead it’s usually based on a carbon-level count.

Are these products child-friendly in the sense that if children mistakenly ingest them, they’ll be okay? 

All of our products are baby-safe. This is soap at the end of the day.  It is a non-toxic, natural formula. We don’t recommend drinking it. We also use shatter-resistant glass containers, but we do suggest keeping them out of children’s reach. But yes, they are safe for families to use.

Even though it’s  known that the milk cartons used for the product’s refills are eco-friendly, are they also biodegradable and compostable? 

The paper in our carton packaging is biodegradable and compostable. As for the aluminum and plastic lining, they’re recyclable. The way it works is that you’ll send the cartons to what’s called a cycle line to get it sorted. That line will separate the paper, the aluminum, and that thin, plastic lining. Essentially, all that paper will ideally go into the recyclables or into the biodegradable and compostable materials. So, that’s how we kind of track it.

So, what are the next steps for cleancult?

We have big goals for 2020 and 2021. One is expansion. We want to bring in four cents per product to make sure we really can take everyone’s needs. We are also launching new products like liquid laundry detergent as well as the bar soap. [Before year’s end], we’ll be launching body and personal care products too. We’re really excited about that introduction in general. We are looking forward to taking over people’s homes with our products. Our second mission is retail. Right now we are about 90 percent online and we are going into nationwide retailers. The last thing then is to continue to grow the team.

cleancult currently only ships to the United States and Puerto Rico. However, their plan is to ship internationally at some point. But please don’t hesitate to visit cleancult’s website to order some products for yourself. You can now also find cleancult products in your nearest Kohl’s. 

Taking into account what’s happening in the world at the moment, it is crucial you stay as informed as you can, especially when it comes to cleaning products. Even though cleancult’s products have very effective ingredients that are considered antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal, it is important to understand that they do not use conventional antibacterial agents or disinfectants due to the fact that they’re a natural company. Nonetheless, their products will definitely help you stay as clean and healthy if you follow the CDC’s current guidelines. 

Founders Statement Belatina CleanCult

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