Zero-waste deodorant brand Human Essentials sticks it to industry conventions

Vancouver startup Human Essentials has created a peel-away paper canister that makes its deodorant fully biodegradable.

Credit: Human Essentials

The Vancouver startup has created a peel-away paper canister that makes its product fully biodegradable

When it comes to movement, there’s no such thing as the right direction. Damian Van Zyll De Jong, founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Human Essentials, built his brand to encourage conscious consumption and movement in everyday life.

“Everyone talks about food groups and vitamins and this and that, but no one ever says you’ve got to move a couple of hours a day just to keep your mental state,” says De Jong, who launched the company this year. “Regardless of how you want your superficial body to look, I think it’s deeper than that—it’s more about moving.” 

Movement means sweat and stink, and Human Essentials aims to eliminate the latter without getting rid of the former—by creating zero-waste deodorants that challenge industry conventions.  

“There was a moment where the company was going to be making just natural products, but then the focus shifted to the packaging, and it ended up being one of the most important things,” De Jong recalls. “That’s when I put my design cap on and started thinking, What if the packaging was different? And how could it be something that was not only a differentiator in a saturated market, but something that wasn’t asking the consumer to do too much more than the average plastic canister?”  

De Jong’s experience designing footwear—as founder of Native Shoes—translated well to the personal hygiene industry. Using its P.E.E.L (Performance Enhanced Earth Loving) technology, the startup patented a canister that can go straight into your paper recycling or even your vegetable garden.

“The last decade has been all about getting natural products into the CPG [consumer packaged goods] space and the body care space,” De Jong says. “I think the next 10 years is going to focus on packaging and eradicating plastic, and really getting into new ways of delivery systems to the end consumer.”  

As the deodorant wears down, the idea behind “P.E.E.L for the planet” is to tear away the biodegradable inner tubing one piece at a time to unveil more deo, which is made with natural ingredients like arrowroot, castor bean, shea butter and zinc ricinoleate. 

Who is this product for, you ask? Actually, it’s for a mindset, according to De Jong. “I see my friends’ kids that are seven or eight years old thinking like a 70- or 80-year-old,” he explains. “I opted to go for a mindset rather than an age demographic, which includes wanting different things, knowing that we need to change our ways, more eco-driven products, less plastic, and coming from a place where if you think about the planet first and you think about what’s good for the environment, chances are it’s usually good for you as well.”

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Fitness, personal hygiene and the Earth’s well-being are undeniably connected, and consumers seem to be aware of that reality. “Just to unveil it to the world and start to see people’s reactions was such a beautiful thing,” De Jong says of his new product. “The energy’s been so amazing—it’s been beyond positive—and the coolest thing is that the mindset of the person we wanted to talk to has been that person, which is such a great reward. That doesn’t really happen right away with a brand. Running culture, movement, athletes, mindset—all those things have been the kind of people that resonated with us.”