According to National Geographic, only about 9% of the plastic produced in the world is recycled: a concerning, but not surprising statistic. In 2020, PAPR emerged as a possible champion in the shift away from single-use plastic, wielding a biodegradable paper and cornstarch coating. The Coastal Forests deodorant uses cold-pressed essential oils of Spanish Cyprus, Cedarwood, and Italian Bergamot to create the aroma of walking through a dewey forest in the morning sunlight. This refreshing imagery is probably the most detailed PAPR gets about its product. After reviewing the company website, I was left with many questions. Where are these ingredients sourced from? How does PAPR treat its employees? How do we know PAPR relies on solar energy and truly fulfills its carbon-neutral status? These unanswered questions turned my relaxing walk beneath a forest canopy into a quest for answers in an informational desert.
PAPR’s Coastal Forests Deodorant is made with coconut oil, baking soda, tapioca starch, shea butter, castor oil, stearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, silica, jojoba esters, jojoba seed oil, cypress oil, cedarwood oil, Bergamot essential oil, coco-caprylate, sunflower seed oil, mowrah butter, and Vitamin C Palmitate. Whew! That was a mouthful, considering PAPR strives to lessen the number of ingredients in its deodorants. In comparison, Dove’s Advanced Care Antiperspirant uses 15 ingredients and Old Spice’s Swagger deodorant uses 8 ingredients. However, quality prevails quantity, and the Coastal Forest Deodorant is vegan, biodegradable, aluminum-free, paraben-free, silicone-free, sulfate-free, and animal-cruelty free. PAPR is very clear on the health benefits of its ingredients: coconut oil eliminates bacteria, jojoba ester contains iodine which helps fight fungi, and castor oil is antimicrobial and has anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, all ingredients scored a 1 or 2 on EWG’s Skin Deep ingredient hazard scale, meaning that all ingredients are low hazard based on irritation, allergens, developmental and reproductive toxicity, among other concerns. But what about the environmental impacts of these ingredients? Coconut oil is often overshadowed by its notorious big brother palm oil. However, coconut oil is said to have similar environmental concerns. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), coconut threatens 20.2 species per million metric tonnes of oil produced. In fact, coconut cultivation has directly contributed to the extinction of species including the Marianne white-eye of Marianne Island in Seychelles, and the Solomon Islands’ Ontong Java flying fox. This great threat to biodiversity is because coconuts are primarily grown on tropical islands, which possess remarkable numbers of species found nowhere else in the world. One upside to coconut oil is that coconut farms, grown primarily by smallholders, are mixed with crops like banana, cacao, and coffee, as opposed to the harmful monocrops where palm oil is grown.
I was quite disappointed with the lack of information PAPR provides regarding its supply chain and energy processes. PAPR proclaims, “We are proudly made in sunny Southern California. Our deodorants are filled using 100% solar energy.” I love sunny Southern California as much as the next person, but I’m not moved by the coastal, breezy landscape PAPR tries to paint in the consumer’s mind. There is zero information on PAPR’s website, or elsewhere, that gives insights into where its ingredients are sourced from. Part of the PAPR deodorant’s appeal is its biodegradable and recyclable outer shell, made out of 99.8% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and .02% cornstarch. At first glance, this is a wonderful perk, considering most deodorants are shelled in single-use plastic. However, the FSC has been in hot water for shoddy certifications and irresponsible suppliers. In a 2014 report, Greenpeace, an FSC member, condemned the organization for standing by as FSC-certified loggers destroyed the Russian taiga. In 2016, investigators determined that more than 90% of Peruvian FSC timber bound to the U.S. and Mexico was of illegal origin. Countless other questionable practices led to the creation of FSC Watch, a website formed by FSC supporters and members who are very concerned about the constant and serious erosion of the FSC’s reliability and credibility. FSC Watch writes, “We feel that unless drastic action is taken, the FSC is doomed to failure.” PAPR also parades its carbon-neutral status and urges the customer to learn more about Fokus Zukunft, the organization that certified PAPR as a carbon-neutral company. Unless the consumer is fluent in German, it’s almost impossible to gain insight into the certification process. Pointing to a fully German website leads the consumer to an unfair dead end to avoid the responsibility of explaining how PAPR is carbon neutral.
PAPR was founded in March 2020 by Daniel Roescheisen and Kim Eberle, two entrepreneurs with past experience in the beauty industry. This Los Angeles-based company’s mission is to create conscious beauty products that work, but don’t last forever. PAPR donates 1% of its revenue to the Ancient Tree Archive, an organization that looks to protect and restore old-growth forests. In addition, PAPR tries to reduce its carbon footprint with a home office, zero production overseas, and the shortest possible transport routes for its products. While the first two claims may be legit, I was skeptical of PAPR’s transport route statement. PAPR deodorant is also sold by Amazon, which determines their own transport routes. Amazon’s expedited delivery times often send trucks that aren’t fully loaded, thus releasing unnecessary carbon emissions. According to the UPS, carbon emissions can be as much as 35 times greater than they would be with a one delivery drip than for a fully-loaded delivery.
One bold proclamation stood out to me on its website: “We are not perfect. But we strive for better.” Finally, a company that isn’t afraid to admit its shortcomings. However, PAPR merely admits that it isn’t perfect and refrains to state the areas where improvement is needed. This is only the first step in accountability. In order to fulfill its commitment to the planet and to its people, PAPR needs to be transparent about its supply chain, look into better certification standards for its paper, and go more in-depth about its carbon neutral status and energy use. For the concerned consumer who’s trying to avoid single-use plastic (and sweaty armpits), PAPR is a new and small company who would most likely welcome your questions and concerns. If you’re frustrated with the lack of transparency, shoot them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and get the answers you deserve.