13 Jan Starting at the Source with Sudsource
Looking around your house, your kitchen, your bathroom, it’s easy to see our lives have become overrun by plastic. Every product and cleaner is nine times out of ten going to be packaged in plastic, and once we run out, we’ll go buy another plastic bottle to replace that one, and so it goes, forever and ever. To break the cycle, Sudsource Founder Kathleen O’Clock devised a plan to buy just one more bottle and be done with it.
In 2010, Kathleen became a mother and while on maternity leave, spent more time than usual at home. One day, while rummaging through her bathroom, she realized the overabundance of plastic bottles surrounding her.
“I had the thought, ‘This is so stupid, why do we use all of these plastic bottles, when, especially with liquid, you could just reuse the same container? Why isn’t anyone doing that?’” said Kathleen O’Clock.
She began researching the subject and discovered few solutions to this problem. Driven by the desire to minimize plastic in her world, and for the sake of her child’s future, she spent the next two years developing Sudsource: a company that sells sustainably-crafted body products housed in refillable glass and aluminum containers, to be returned and refilled over and over again.
Sudsource officially launched in March of 2015, run solely by Kathleen and her passion to resolve the plastics problem. With an unrelated background in theater and film, years of research and her growing frustration have fueled her mission from the start.
“Luckily, everybody’s kind of waking up. This consumerism is just not sustainable and a lot of people are coming up with different ways to solve that, so we don’t continue to destroy our environment,” said Kathleen. “Now that I’m doing this, I look around and see all the different things that need to be addressed. Every time I walk into a store, all I see is eventual garbage. It’s kind of depressing, but every item that we make, whether we buy it or not, is going to a landfill… Everything you have has a life cycle. It’s going somewhere, and once you start seeing the world that way, it will invariably change your consumption habits. You won’t be as quick to buy something that you just throw away.”
Although plastic product containers are often recyclable, Kathleen discovered through her research that only about one third of all recyclables are actually recycled. If not recycled, these containers are incinerated, releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, or end up in the landfill, littering our environment and waterways. To avoid any confusion, and determined to steer clear of plastic entirely, Kathleen uses solely glass and aluminum containers for her products, both of which are materials with a 100% recycling rate. But even so, it’s nearly impossible to remain plastic-free.
“My business is to reduce packaging waste and plastic waste, but there are plastic elements in everything. It’s not 100% plastic-free. I mean, a dip tube in a bottle is plastic. I’m always looking for companies innovating an alternative to those pieces. There are always people working on those things,” said Kathleen.
All Sudsource products themselves are unscented, or scented with natural oils, and are free of perfumes, synthetics, preservatives or harmful chemicals. Once out of a product, you simply order a refill to either be delivered directly by Sudsource to your door, or, if you’re not in the Los Angeles area, you can order a refill through the mail.
“For shipping, we use the milkman model. I fill the new bottle then they send their empty back and we wash and reuse the bottle… I ship priority flat rate anywhere in the United States, and the customer is supposed to send back their bottle in the same box and I’ll reuse it until it falls apart,” said Kathleen.
From product to packaging, Kathleen is always working to minimize waste and develop products her customers want and need.
“I’m always working on new products, listening to what my customers want. I’m working on a deodorant right now. A lot of people want deodorant and they want one that works,” said Kathleen.
It’s Kathleen’s desire to grow Sudsource to incorporate more products, further develop her packaging to be entirely plastic-free and to grow a team to spread her message to a larger audience.
“I see us as a collective, working together to try to inspire people to give a new way a try and realize it’s not going to be that painful and they’re going to feel really good about what they’re doing,” said Kathleen. “I think it would be difficult to persuade somebody that isn’t already seeing the problem, but I do believe that most people see the problem, and they understand that not only is it unsustainable, but we’re going to destroy everything. It’s not just polluting, it’s killing wildlife and our planet.”
Ultimately, to Kathleen, it’s a large problem with a simple solution. It’s her mission to simplify the system, to make it as simple as going to the store, if not easier.
“I think the most important thing right now is just to start changing our habits anywhere…Everybody just needs to look around their life and think about what they need and is there a more sustainable way they could be doing something,” said Kathleen.
It’s her hope, that one refill at a time, she can change the minds of consumers to make the shift, and minimize the presence of plastics in our world.
“We don’t need a million people doing zero waste, we just need a million people trying,” emphasized Kathleen.