Siblings Brandon and Kaleena Morrison started United & Free in 2016, with the goal of creating skin and haircare products that were vegan, cruelty-free, inclusive and effective. Then they took a closer look at waste in the beauty industry, which generates more than 120 billion units of mostly non-recyclable packaging each year, according to a tally by international campaign Zero Waste Week. “As we grew and listened to our customers’ feedback as well, we really felt that we could dig into the sustainability side of things,” Kaleena says.
For its outer packaging, Surrey-based United & Free recently switched to cardboard made from bagasse, compostable sugar-cane waste. The company’s lids are 50-percent post-consumer recycled plastic, and the next run will be 100-percent PCR.
United & Free also makes a comb out of bioplastic derived from cellulose fibre. While traditional plastic can take centuries to break down, the comb will last about nine years unless treated by seawater and ultraviolet light, Brandon explains. “We had to give it a long enough life,” he says of the accessory, whose pouch is made from Forest Stewardship Council–certified cardstock. “But obviously, we don’t want it to leave a big footprint on the Earth.”
The same goes for the company’s formulations, which use all-natural ingredients. United & Free is looking at alternatives to palm oil as an emulsifier, Brandon says. But for now, the Morrisons only source product certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
It also helps that in contrast to the beauty industry at large, United & Free’s small selection of offerings are multipurpose, which reduces waste and overconsumption. “We don’t want to be a brand that has 100 products,” Kaleena says. “So we’re very strategic in how we launch our products and what the benefit to the consumer is.”