A trip to the Amazon rainforest planted the seed. There, Hava Horowitz learned that Big Ag was ripping apart wild land, and replacing it with pasture and cattle. She decided to become a vegan for the sake of the environment.
The seed sprouted. Hava’s ethos of environmental veganism rooted and spread. But as she rejected products made from animals, she discovered that her quotient of certain dietary vitamins and minerals had diminished.
She turned to supplements, and quickly began to resent them.
For one thing, she could not find a single multivatimin geared towards vegans. As a result, she bought separate containers of different pills.
“It was wasteful,” says Hava. “I didn’t feel good throwing away all of these plastic bottles. I had gone vegan to be more sustainable.”
Lightbulb moment brightens path to new business
In January of last year Hava says she had her “lightbulb moment” — she still has the text she sent her mom, saying she was quitting her job in Boulder, CO and devoting herself to creating a single multivitamin that would satisfy vegans’ needs. At the same time, she refused to introduce to the world yet another plastic bottle of pills. She desired compostable packaging, which leaves a negligible environmental footprint.
After a little more than a year of intense R&D, Hava and co-founder Maria Cebrian formally launched Earthseed Multivitamin, a product for vegans that, naturally, is also vegan.
Earthseed vitamins contain Omega 3s from algae oil (rather than fish), D3 from reindeer lichen (rather than sheeps’ wool), iodine from kelp, vitamin C from gooseberry fruit and other vitamins and minerals. Most capsules rely upon gelatin for their casing, but Earthseed leverages chlorophyll. For now, Earthseed vitamins are available only through subscription, but Hava says that could change. She also anticipates introducing new vitamins.
Designing compostable packaging for pills a big challenge
I’m not a devout vegan, but I do steer clear of most meat, and stick with shellfish (the most sustainable form of seafood). My cheese consumption has dropped. My milk and ice cream comes from nuts. Butter in pastries and cookies is not a problem. I have been taking Earthseed vitamins for a few weeks, and appreciate them. During afternoons I do feel a bit more energetic. In the evening, sleep arrives with haste, which is unusual for me, and settles in with more ease.
But what excites me more than the capsules is the packaging. Earthseed Multivitamins arrive in compostable bottles. Hava says it represents the first compostable bottle packaging in the supplement world.
“The truth was, if it were just the multivitamins, we could have had the product ready in four months. We worked with leading experts on the formula,” she says. “The hard work was designing the fully compostable pill bottle. Everything has to be compostable. The ink. The organic cotton balls inside. The supplement facts labels. Our mailers. The tamper-proof aspects of the bottles. Labels on envelopes. We are trying to shift what a pill bottle looks like.”
A vitamin or compostable packaging company?
Hava, who worked in product and software development prior to starting Earthseed, credits a diversity of partners for Earthseed’s packaging triumph. Among other things, she said creating Earthseed in Boulder, with its density of people involved with the natural foods industry, was extremely helpful.
The team’s toil paid off. In October, Earthseed Multivitamin won “Best New Environmentally Responsible Packaging” during the annual Natural Products Expo, the leading trade show for the natural foods industry.
I asked Hava if Earthseed is a vitamin or a packaging company. She answered “both.” For now, the compostable bottles are reserved just for Earthseed products. But given their dramatically diminished burden on the environment, Hava says she would like other companies to use Earthseed bottles.
The plastic problem one we can solve
“We waste 2.5 billion plastic supplements bottles every year,” she says. “Eighty percent of Americans take supplements. What’s crazy is the myth around plastic, that it normally gets recycled. But 90 percent of plastic put into recycling bins is not recycled. It gets sold to countries like Malaysia, where it is burned and ends up as microplastic pollution. It ends up in our water sources.”
Packaging stands as a tough problem for many companies, especially those that sell food. It’s one thing to find compostable packaging for a deck of cards, a blender or a book: maintaining shelf-stability does not matter.
But freshness is vital for things like crackers, chips, ice cream sandwiches, cashew creamer and multivitamins. Few packaging solutions maintain freshness like petroleum-based plastic, which is not compostable, never mind recyclable.
Earthseed includes a pleasing little lagniappe with each delivery, a card that spells out how the entire package is compostable. It mentions that the pills taste “a bit like the ocean,” which they do (in a good way) due to the algae oil.
The back of the card invites people to “craft a love letter to the earth, and let your intentions blossom.”
And then it suggests people bury the card in dirt. The compostable card contains seeds that will sprout into flowers beloved by bees.