Elate Cosmetics has an ethical supply chain, minimal packaging, and great products.
Published January 25, 2021 01:41PM EST
Elate Cosmetics is a company whose name has been mentioned numerous times on Treehugger, but it hasn’t had the in-depth overview it deserves. Elate is, hands down, my favorite cosmetics company, and has been for years. The fact that it’s Canadian (like me) may have something to do with it, but mostly it’s because Elate takes its commitment to plastic reduction and natural, fair-trade ingredients more seriously than any other cosmetics company I know. It never gets complacent and is always striving to make itself better.
I reached out to founder and CEO Melodie Reynolds to learn more about what makes Elate Cosmetics unique and worthy of Treehugger readers’ attention. Reynolds, who once worked in the corporate beauty world, explained that she left her former career because she was “tired of being told it was impossible to have exceptional production practices, sustainable packaging, and ethical marketing.” Now at the helm of Elate, she is proving it’s all possible.
“I had always viewed myself as a good environmental citizen, but back in 2010 I had an experience where I bought a lipstick product on a whim and, when I got home and unwrapped it, I realized that I had created a small pile of garbage from one product that in the end I didn’t really want anyway. This realization led me to know I could make a difference, and Elate was born.”
That battle against superfluous packaging is at the heart of Elate’s work. It sells palettes made from bamboo (the supplier uses a water-based treatment process so it will eventually biodegrade without contaminating soil) and aluminum-encased magnetic refills of eye colors, pressed foundations, powders, and brow balms that fit into the palettes. The refills come in thin envelopes made of plantable non-invasive seed paper.
Eyeliner and lip color pencils are made of wood harvested from sustainably managed forests with corn-based bioplastic lids. Lip balm comes in glass jars with bamboo lids, and mascara and lip gloss in a bamboo tube with plastic lining that can be separated and recycled after washing.
The company’s packaging is currently 75% waste-free, with a goal to become entirely waste- and plastic-free in the long-term. It has a line called Perfectly Imperfect that sells palettes and and compacts with minor flaws at a discount. These “may include some discoloration of bamboo, dents, scratches, and missing mirrors, varying from piece to piece,” but they still work well. Obviously it’s better for them to be used than discarded, but many companies are afraid to sell anything that doesn’t meet perfect aesthetic standards.
As Reynolds told Treehugger, “We are constantly improving our packaging according to our evolving sustainability mandate as we continue to educate ourselves on what the best choices are for our business and the planet.”
Ingredients are vegan, gluten-free, and 75% organic. Elate states on its website that, when forced to choose between fair-trade or organic certifications, it will always go with fair-trade. Reynolds elaborated on this, explaining that each new addition to the ethical supply chain has to fill out a detailed survey and, when possible, is visited in person.
“When I sent through the survey, which asked questions about things like worker PPE, their wages, and rights, I realized that, even though the ingredient was certified organic, the people that were harvesting the ingredient were being treated poorly. This made me realize that just because an ingredient is organic doesn’t make it better. We are always looking to put people and the planet first. And sometimes it means choosing people over an organic certification.”
Refreshing, too, is Elate’s emphasis on building a capsule beauty kit. Following the model of the capsule wardrobe, which reduces one’s clothing to a minimum while focusing on versatility and quality, it’s possible to do the same with makeup. “Creating a sustainable beauty bag can reduce impulse purchasing that may lead to more waste and buyer’s remorse.” It also makes the application process more enjoyable, when you love everything in your makeup bag and don’t have to sort through all kinds of unwanted products to find what you need.
Demand for sustainable, ethical cosmetics is higher than ever. “Today’s consumer is conscious about the choices that they make,” Reynolds said, “and recognizes that the products that we use every day are … where we have the most opportunity to improve.”
It’s even easier when a brand like Elate Cosmetics shares that consciousness and makes beautiful products that tick all the boxes for ethical production. I’m excited to see where this company goes in years to come.