No Tox Life is one of the many emerging companies looking to make toxic-free and plastic-free lifestyles an attainable goal. The vegan dish block was created to prevent bulky, single-use dish detergent bottles from ending up in landfills. Rather than using conventional liquid dish soap, simply rub a sponge or brush on the block to formulate the suds needed to clean dirty dishes. Despite No Tox Life’s innovative solution to combat single-use plastics, there is too much missing information for me to give the Olivia stamp of approval. I really do want to reward No Tox Life for its creativity and commitment towards a better Earth, but I can’t do that when I don’t know what ingredients go into the dish block, where these ingredients are sourced from, how the product is made, and how employees are treated. For what feels like the millionth time, transparency is one of the most important building blocks of sustainability. For generations, society has pondered: if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, I now pose the question: if a product is sustainable and there’s no proof to back it, is it really sustainable?
The No Tox Life vegan dish block is phosphate-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, gluten-free and cruelty-free. It seems as if No Tox Life is paying homage to the famous Kanye West lyric: “Everything I’m not made me everything I am.” However, this kind of abstract lyricism shouldn’t be the model framework for No Tox Life’s ingredient information. In fact, there isn’t even an ingredient list for the vegan dish block. All the company says is that the product is made with biodegradable, vegan ingredients. While the long list of everything the vegan dish block doesn’t contain can serve as useful information for the consumer, the product information section should contain, if not start with, what actually goes into the product. Before assuming this gaping hole of information was the norm for No Tox Life’s products, I looked around the website and realized that the vegan dish block was one of the only products without an ingredients list. In fact, No Tox Life goes into fairly good detail about some of its other product ingredients and their benefits. So what’s the deal? If nonexistent ingredient lists aren’t a thing across the board, this makes me feel like No Tox Life has something to hide about its vegan dish block. In addition to the ethical concerns of not including an ingredients list, this poses a safety risk as well. For example, triclosan is a common active ingredient in dish detergent, a chemical aimed to stop the growth of bacteria, mildew and fungi. Triclosan has a EWG score of 7 (with 1 being the best, 10 being the worst) with some notable concerns including its bioaccumulation in wildlife, endocrine disrupting properties, and ability to cause allergic reactions. This antibacterial isn’t a phosphate, sulfate, paraben, fragrance, or gluten, meaning it could reside in the vegan dish block. Despite No Tox Life’s positive intentions, it’s extremely hard to give the company the benefit of the doubt when its product description is so vague.
After encountering an extreme lack of transparency regarding the vegan dish soap’s ingredients, I wasn’t super hopeful that I would find much about No Tox Life’s production practices. It turns out that my initial skepticism was well founded. In past reviews when a company doesn’t disclose where its ingredients are sourced from, I would at least be able to find where specific ingredients are usually sourced by using external industry data. However, without a robust ingredients list, it made it even more impossible to find out where No Tox Life sources its ingredients. The second problem is a common setback encountered when investigating innovative spins on everyday products. While rethinking how to combat single-use plastics like dish detergent bottles is a necessary design practice for a sustainable future, this means that there isn’t a precedent to fall back on when researching how these products are manufactured. Luckily, I was able to find where No Tox Life creates its products through a company blog post. No Tox Life’s first manufacturing and distribution facility is located in the Los Angeles area. In 2020, No Tox Life built a second manufacturing and distribution facility right outside of Austin, Texas. No Tox Life writes, “We researched MANY options over the past 12 months and found a beautiful new solar-powered facility nestled in the rolling hills of the greater Austin area.” Hey what a coincidence! I’ve researched MANY blog posts and interviews over the past 4 hours and haven’t found anything confirming that the Austin facility relies on 100% solar energy. When it comes to renewable energy, numerical values are an extremely important factor when evaluating the efficacy of these energy sources. No Tox Life’s new facility could be using 1% solar energy or 99% solar energy. Without that crucial specification, I simply can’t trust that No Tox Life’s manufacturing processes are as clean as the company makes them out to be.
No Tox Life was founded in 2014 by Sandee Freeman and her daughter Callie Milford, two Los Angeles natives. Freeman was inspired to create the company after a visit to the shampoo aisle of her grocery store: “After heading to her local grocery store one day and reading the "natural" shampoo ingredients, she realized that it was full of harsh, drying detergents that were causing her scalp issues. The idea of No Tox Life was born - helping people switch to a truly non-toxic lifestyle.” On top of being a woman-owned small family business, another aspect I admire about No Tox Life is that it often spotlights other small businesses on its blog. No Tox Life features local pottery shops, facemask producers, and even competing sustainable lifestyle brands that the company respects. One area that No Tox Life could improve on is showing its commitment to its workers. Besides the typical, “we’re keeping our employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic” spiel we’ve seen from basically every company imaginable, No Tox Life has little to say about the wellbeing of its employees. While I completely understand the financial struggles of small businesses, I was also disappointed to see that No Tox Life doesn’t engage in philanthropic activities. Even without pledging monetary contributions, No Tox Life could partner with like-minded nonprofits remediating toxic waste to get the word out and drive donations from its customer base.