This is probably one of the most truly innovative products I’ve seen in the past 5 years. With that being said, you can tell that it’s still being developed and improved. Online reviews are generally positive, but many people have complained about the plastic nozzles breaking too easily because of an ill-placed seam, some are allergic to the fragrance, and others say the soap takes way too long to dissolve in the bottle. If I’m going to purchase from Blueland, I want to do so knowing that it will be a permanent shift away from plastic soap bottles. If I’m just going to throw it out because of little miscellaneous problems, that wouldn’t be too sustainable. So personally, I’m all on board for the idea but I’ll wait a bit until Blueland’s product and process is more transparent and polished.
Pros: small business, innovative, POC-owned, low-waste
Cons: no information about production process, bottle nozzle issues
The Blueland Hand Soap Starter Set comes with 1 Signature Glass Forever Bottle and 3 Soap Tablets in the scents Iris Agave, Perrine Lemon and Lavender Eucalyptus. Like other soaps, the tablets are made of a collection of chemicals. Blueland is pretty transparent about this, as they list all the chemicals they use. All of the chemicals they use are non-toxic, non-gmo, vegan, and cruelty-free. They even have a Platinum Material Health Certificate from Cradle to Cradle, the highest level of certification from the organization. Cradle to Cradle judges a product based on 5 categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. This alone says volumes about the high quality of the materials and Blueland’s management. There are, however, some ingredients that I would be wary of if you have sensitive skin. A possible red flag for many people is their use of fragrance. Fragrance is known to be irritating and can cause breakouts and rashes and rather than using all natural fragrances, Blueland uses a natural/synthetic blend. Another red flag is their use of sodium coco-sulfate (SCS) as one of their main detergents. If you haven’t heard of SCS before, maybe you’ve heard of sodium lauryl sulfate, a known skin-irritant and environmental toxin whose main function is to create lots of bubble/foam. Many companies have sworn off using SLS entirely. Turns out, up to 66% of SCS is made up of SLS. Companies usually use SCS as a sly way of incorporating SLS without having to list it as an ingredient. Similar indie soap brands like Native, Humankind, and Love Beauty and Planet, are all sulfate-free, so it's disappointing and even surprising that Blueland isn't as well.
The Forever Bottle included in the set is made of glass, which is always made from natural materials, non-toxic, and recyclable. The nozzle is made of a thick, durable plastic that can also be recycled by shipping back to Blueland if need be.
All of their packaging is either recyclable or compostable and their refill tablets are shipped in paper padded mailers made of 77% recycled fiber. That alone is great, but also think about how much space and weight is being saved by shipping tablets rather than full bottles of soap. A tablet is 300 times lighter and 200 times smaller than a regular soap bottle. That’s saving a lot of carbon emissions in transport. It would be monumental if all soaps and cleaning products can be reduced this much in size and weight.
While there’s transparency about their packaging, it’s strange to me that there’s little to no information about their production process. I feel this especially because they’re working with a number of synthetic chemicals in addition to their natural ones, and the glass making process can be environmentally taxing (the extraction and use of sand, if fossil fuels are used to heat the furnaces).
Something that made me instantly interested in this brand is its founder, Sarah Paiji Yoo. It’s not often that you see a truly industry-disrupting startup incepted, founded, and run by an Asian-American mother. Her mission was simple: she wanted to reduce her plastic consumption and saw that buying cleaning supplies can be extremely wasteful (especially when you have a kid to clean up after). They’re based in New York City and are more transparent than most soap companies. They offer Safety Data Sheets for every soap product, laying out the chemical ingredients and their possible side effects. In general, they’re a company that I really want to root for. They’re innovative, committed to sustainability, and POC-owned. However, they’re a young company and there’s definitely more work to be done on their part. I would especially want to see them create a fragrance-free soap and become sulfate-free. The $16 hand soap starter kit is definitely expensive for what it is as well. But the less than $10 difference between a regular 3 bottles of soap and this kit is something most people could afford, especially when considering how you’re also paying for a more sustainable and innovative product from a small business. Tablets (1 makes 1 bottle of soap) are $2 each, which is about the same price as a regular 9 oz. bottle of soap.