VOICE 129 – Life UNpacked

Mitchell Steinke, CEO at Life UNpacked 

“Local plastic-free bathroom products. Eliminate plastic today!”

Everyday, people across Canada use traditional bathroom products wrapped in unnecessary plastic and packaging that destroy our planet. Life UNpacked is a local small business that offers a simple solution to zero-waste bathroom products to Canadians.

Life UNpacked’s current vision to eliminate plastic started when Mitchell (CEO of Life UNpacked) was traveling through West Africa, in places many humans never venture – like the Bijagos islands where the 2nd largest sea turtle nesting happens. While traveling he ran dozens of waste-management workshops with schools & communities to educate people about the 5 R’s of waste management; Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, Recycle. (Note: Recycling is the last and least impactful solution to waste management.) Before stepping up as CEO of Life UNpacked, Mitchell helped launch the business as the company’s marketing consultant. As COVID changed the business landscape, tensions within the business rose. Eventually Mitchell offered to keep the vision alive and purchase Life Unpacked – Canada’s only one stop shop for zero-waste bathroom products.

VOICE(V): “That is an interesting journey. Can you tell us how you have shaped the brand, Life UNpacked, after you took over as CEO?”

Mitchell(M): “Plastic waste has always been our main focus. We are striving to eliminate as much plastic from everyday bathroom products. People use bathroom products everyday, and every single time when you pick up a plastic product, that decision comes with consequences.
Beyond our vision to eliminate plastic, Life UNpacked is about something more than profit. We are passionate about protecting our planet, and have pledge to take direct action. Many companies are ‘eco-friendly’, but Life UNpacked is going to extra mile.  Although we may not have all the glorious certifications of ‘big brands’, Life UNpacked is truly dedicated to a triple bottom line that prioritizes our people, our planet, then profits. We know in our heart providing zero-waste bathroom products will provide jobs to Canadians in a field that means something to them. Getting more of our products to more people’s hands is our mission.”

V: “Why bathroom products and what kind of items do you offer?”

M: “We specialize in bathroom products because those are essential products that all Canadians use at the start of the day and the end of the day. We offer a whole range of personal care items including zero-waste oral care products like bamboo toothbrush made of mao-bamboo, biodegradable corn dental floss (vegan) and silk dental floss, and tooth powder refills in sachets or containers that contain no plastic packaging. All our products are refillable. We also do eco-friendly bamboo shaving razor, reusable bamboo rounds as makeup remover pads as well as shampoo bars, shave bars and soap bars.
We also carbon offset everything that is shipped by planting trees with the Eden Reforestation Projects. The box and its shipping label are made from 100% recycled content and both are compostable!”

V: “Have you always been so passionate about sustainability and plastic-free initiatives?”

M: “I started to recognize the waste humans create more and more as I travelled. I have travelled to over 30 countries. Seeing the consumption of plastic and waste on the beaches across the world disturbed me. It was something out in the open and there was trash everywhere. When I came back home, I realized that we are just as bad… or worse. We are educated in elementary schools to put trash in the garbage bins, out of our sight and out of our mind. That is the only difference. Through my business I would like to provide a simpler solution to this pollution we create. I just want to make our world a better place.”

As Mitchell got more and more engaged and educated about what the Recycle BC program does, the unfortunate truth is that everything recyclable isn’t necessarily recycled. Most of us when we make a choice to purchase a product in plastic package, we assume that we can put it in a blue bin at home or in a park and it gets recycled. The harsh reality is if items are unclean or contaminated, they will most likely end up in landfill.

M: “We are not an anti-plastic business. But we should ONLY use plastic when there are no alternatives. Today there are so many plastic-free alternatives everywhere. There is a time and a place for a plastic and it is not in a bathroom! So we start by reducing it. It is the first R of ‘ Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, and Recycle’. Recycle is actually the last and final stage of waste management. Let’s just cut it out!  Make a simple decision today that has a very long impact.”

V: “How is your zero-waste business different from others?”

M: “We are focused on something that actually makes a difference. Every single day when our customers buy something from our store or our brand, they are making a decision that is saving the plastic from being put into a waste stream for 400 years. Canada hasn’t even  been a country for 400 years! Our products help the planet in so many different settings and in so many indirect ways versus other ‘eco-friendly’ brands that simply make their products slightly better to appeal to consumer guilt.
Another unique aspect of our business is that we walk the talk. I have been actively engaged in environmental activism since I purchased the business, because I realized that we have got to change not just in business, but politically as well. I have been involved with the Fairy Creek Blockade since August 2019, when I personally delivered flyers around Victoria. Then, we started paying money to covering the story, promoting the story, hiring journalists and employing media content creators for Fairy Creek to get the message out there to more Canadians. That is the kind of stuff we do with the money we make.”

V: “What do you find challenges as a CEO?”

M: “The hardest part is change doesn’t come fast enough! People need to realize it is 2021. The bomb is ticking, today is the best day to go plastic-free!”

V: “What are the future visions for Life UNpacked?”

M: “I envision more Canadians using plastic-free bathroom products than traditional plastic bathroom products by partnering with more local companies, and getting our simple message out there. I also envision our brand to be a platform that protects our planet beyond the bathroom. For example, I have taken on an executive producer role for Fairy Creek documentary film along with a Canadian filmmaker, Mark Achbar and a video journalist, Jen Muranetz, to tell a story of what is actually happening at Fairy Creek and inspire people to protect our planet. It will be called ‘Standing with the Ancients’ and it will be released in summer 2022.”

V: “Where would you travel the next chance you get?”

M: “I would have to go to Argentina because we just ran a back-to-school campaign a few weeks ago. For every razor we sold during this campaign, we are giving a zero waste razor to a university student in Argentina and educating them about simple solutions to plastic pollution. My only purpose for traveling now is to help educate and spread our vision.”

Life UNpacked products have eliminated over 210,000 pieces of plastic from Canadian landfills. You can find their products online or over 50 locations across Canada, providing green grooming solution to Canadian’s everyday bathroom experience. We highly recommend you eliminate plastic today, and protect of planet tomorrow.