Female Disruptors: Nova Covington is shaking up the skincare industry
“Just trust yourself. Paul Repetto, one of the founders of Horizon Organics, told me I should stop asking for other people’s opinions and stop hiring consultants. I should just trust myself. This is harder than it sounds to implement, but it has been the most helpful advice I’ve received along the way.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nova Covington, activist, mother, CEO and founder of Goddess Garden, an organic skincare company. She is launching a foundation called Protect Our Mother, dedicated to protecting ocean mammal habitats and coral reefs. Nova Covington was most recently involved in helping to get a ban on the use and sale of chemical sunscreens passed in Hawaii.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where I grew a deep appreciation for nature and the wilderness. As an activist at heart, I’m driven to protect the things I love. It’s the reason I started my company. I needed to protect my baby daughter who had severe skin allergies. She was the inspiration for creating cleaner products that are better for us and the Earth. As I learned about synthetic chemicals, I could see the need to help save our reefs and our beautiful oceans.
Why did you found your company?
I was inspired to create Goddess Garden when my first daughter had reactions to synthetic chemicals, especially those in her sunscreen and bodycare products. I started making my own products, replacing the harsh chemicals with organic plant-based ingredients that were highly effective, yet safe for her sensitive skin. I gave them to friends and family and started selling them at festivals and farmers markets. After selling out of mineral sunscreen at our first festival, I realized people were desperate for better options and Goddess Garden’s mineral sunscreens were born.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We’ve worked hard to create better alternatives to traditional chemical sun protection. When we learned that Mexico was banning chemical sunscreens in marine sanctuaries and ecological areas, we were inspired to research how chemical sunscreens effect coral reefs. We worked with CU Boulder to gather the research. For the past few years, we’ve handed out hundreds of thousands of toxicity cards educating the public on these chemicals. We’ve offered mineral sunscreen samples all over the country and conducted sunscreen swaps so people could trade in their chemicals sunscreens for one of our mineral sunscreens.
When I heard legislators in Hawaii were trying to ban the use and sale of oxybenzone and octinoxate, two common chemical sunscreens, I knew we had to help. We provided testimony, wrote to legislative leaders and participated in awareness campaigns. Goddess Garden provided monetary donations and free reef-safe sunscreen. We supplied studies when the opposition said there wasn’t enough research. When the argument switched to a lack of available options, we provided product distribution reports (showing where Goddess Garden sunscreens are being sold in 25,000 stores), to counter it. After the bill passed and it was on Governor Ige’s desk to sign it into law, I started a petition with Care2 to give everyone a chance to be heard. We gathered nearly 55,000 signatures and sent them to the governor, urging him to sign it.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
My grandma is really one of my mentors. She was an herbalist and encouraged me to understand the power of plants, but the thing that had the largest influence was her leadership skills. She was a strong natural leader. She was the mayor of the town where my parents grew up and went on to be the editor of the town’s newspaper. She even wrote a book. I was — and still am — inspired by her. I lead today by her example.
How are you going to shake things up next?
Hawaii’s ground-breaking law was an amazing first start, but these chemicals need to be banned everywhere for the sake of our reefs and for human health. The island of Bonaire already implemented a similar ban, and I’ve heard rumors of other states, including California, Florida and Colorado, talking about similar legislation. I’m going to do everything I can to spread the word and get these chemicals banned to keep them off people and out of the oceans.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Just trust yourself. Paul Repetto, one of the founders of Horizon Organics, told me I should stop asking for other people’s opinions and stop hiring consultants. I should just trust myself. This is harder than it sounds to implement, but it has been the most helpful advice I’ve received along the way.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
I would say a book that deeply impacted my activism was Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. The book was written in the ’60s and first brought to light the impact of chemicals like DDT on the environment. To see that what we are doing is making such an impact on the Earth was powerful and moving. I remember going with my family in the Pacific Northwest to see the latest clear cut. One minute stands a lush forest, the next, an ugly scar upon the Earth. Choices like these rest in the hands of every person with everything we do every day. If each person could read Silent Spring and think about their environmental impact, they would realize that we all have an impact and the choice is ours on whether it is positive or not. We would all likely make some big changes.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Mark Zuckerberg. He is known for his philanthropic efforts and his desire to protect the environment. He has the financial means to make a real difference for the world’s oceans and the life within them. He gave the commencement speech to Harvard graduates last year and said, “The challenge for our generation is to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.” I’d love to have lunch with him to see where our collective purpose could take us.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find us @goddessgarden on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!