Interview with Kyle LaFond, founder of American Provenance
American Provenance makes safe and effective personal care products by hand using all-natural ingredients. The brand was inspired by founder Kyle LaFond’s time spent as a high school science teacher in the US. It originated from Kyle's concern over the questionable ingredients in the hygiene products used by his students. Frustrated by the chemical clouds of product infiltrating the school hallways, Kyle challenged his students to create their own personal care items without harsh chemicals. After years of experiments and improvements to his own formulas, he launched American Provenance from his family farm.
How did you come up with the idea to let your students produce their own hygiene products in your class?
One of the things that they never taught me at any one of my teacher education programs is just the simple fact that kids when they go through puberty, stink, they smell really, really bad. (laughs)
And one of the things that their parents do once they realize that these kids are starting to sweat is they buy them products to cover that up. Unfortunately, a lot of these conventional products contain all kinds of harsh chemicals. And while I was teaching, I used to get these severe headaches towards the end of the day. And for years, I really didn't think much of it. I thought it was just due to the stress of being in the classroom and being around 30 kids day in and day out, dealing with other teachers and administrators, and parents. But when I really thought about it, it was because my kids were exposing me to so many chemicals. I grabbed a very popular brand’s body spray, and with multiple science degrees in years I could identify a handful of ingredients. And I thought, well, that's really, really scary.
Sustainability clearly was not something that anyone needed to explain to you. How do you live sustainability within American Providence?
I equate sustainability to legacy. I think the term sustainability has become a little overused and a little misused, especially by larger corporations that are trying to say they're sustainable because maybe they have done one little project a year. That may mean something to them, but in the big picture, it doesn't mean anything. I think about how I want folks to view not only myself, but also our company. Not only right now, but long-term, so I want to leave a lasting memory and have folks think about us as industry leaders, folks that came out and did the right thing and tried to make our world better. Not only by providing high-quality products but by doing the right thing in terms of packaging and global climate.
I really want American Provenance to be known as the industry leader in terms of our efforts to mitigate our environmental damage.
How did you decide to work towards becoming plastic neutral?
I thought about how can we deliver value, some type of intrinsic value to our customers. And that's where you guys came in. That's where 1% for the planet came in, that's where TerraCycle came in and I'm very proud to share that our very next order of deodorant tubes, will be made of 60% PCR (post-consumer resin). So that's a huge step for us. I don't know of any other company out there that's made that commitment. Of course, I'm looking towards 100% PCR because I want to get there right now, but, you know, this is better than anybody. Those options are extremely cost-prohibitive. We need to encourage larger companies to jump on the bandwagon and to do the same thing that we're doing. And our commitment to reducing our reliance on plastics and trying to recycle as much as possible.
What triggered the decision to work with us?
It was a no-brainer. We're seeing the result of human impact almost every single day. And we're trying to do everything we can here onsite, but we needed the things that influence folks the world over. And that includes moving well beyond our own borders. And for us stumbling upon you guys was absolutely awesome because you're so aligned with what we want to do. We realized that by the very nature of our products, that we're using plastics for them, and unfortunately there really isn't any good way around that. At this point, you know, we tried glass receptacles, but our retail partners had issues with that because those would break. Ever since we launched this company, I've been on a hunt for plastic alternatives like bamboo, like banana, like whatever, anything that's out there I'm looking into. Unfortunately, a lot of these alternatives are very cost prohibited at this point. So it's just a matter of us making that commitment and diving in and educating our consumers and having them understand that: Hey, if we really want to have high-quality products that are delivered in sustainable packaging, it's going to cost. And I think younger people especially understand that. Young people buy based on their values, so hopefully, we can be aligned with those folks in terms of their values, our values, and how we want to create the world for the future.
What is your wish for 2030 as a business owner and a global citizen?
The biggest thing is renewable, 100% recycled plastics, the world over. Hopefully, most folks can agree upon that the way we use plastics right now is not sustainable. There's just too much damage, too much environmental degradation. The next 10 years are going to be the turning page. Hopefully, we will have packaging options that don't do nearly as much harm as the current options we have out there. And I'm really excited because I think we have some brilliant young minds now who are engaged towards renewable plastics and that wasn't the case 20 or 25 years ago. 20, 25 years ago, folks were just trying to make plastics as hard or as durable as they could. I strongly believe that if we focus on the solutions and are not listening to the noise left and right of people telling us that things are not possible, there's so much that we can achieve. I think about our scientific minds out there. I think about some of my former students. They're going to change the world. So, I'm very, very optimistic.
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