Kyle LaFond of American Provenance: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable
Talk about it — Kids have access to more information than ever before. However, access does not equate to understanding. Parents need to be open to having real conversations about what is going on in the World.
As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle LaFond, Founder of American Provenance.
Kyle LaFond is the Founder of American Provenance. Kyle started his career as a wildlife biologist but later transitioned into teaching middle school science. During his years as an educator he became passionate about encouraging his students to use safe, natural personal care products. This led to the launch of American Provenance from a renovated machine shed on his family’s 4th generation dairy farm.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m a firm believer in the notion that all paths lead together. I started my career as a wildlife biologist with the intention of working on conservation issues to improve the management of our shared natural resources. This included spending lots of time in schools talking with kids about the importance of both preservation and conservation as these two theories relate to wildlife and wildlands. I enjoyed my time in the classroom so much that I actually obtained an additional degree in broadfield science education, enabling me to teach any science curriculum to kids aged 10–21. Once I started my teaching career, I realized that middle school boys stink! Honestly, they smell awful! Unfortunately, many of my students would try to mask their own BO using very popular commercial body sprays. These sprays contain all kinds of noxious chemicals that can impact the health of not only those using them, but also people in close proximity. I used to get pounding headaches throughout the course of my day but never really put things together until I walked through what I can only describe as a “chemical fog” outside of my classroom. I looked at the back panel of one of these canisters and was horrified to realize that even with multiple science degrees, I could only accurately identify about ⅓ of the ingredients in that product. This inspired me to create a project where I modeled for my students how to make their own personal care and cosmetic products without harsh chemicals. After a few years, I took the lessons learned and shared in the classroom and launched American Provenance from an updated machine shed on my 4th generation family farm.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Our mission is very simple. We want to make safe, effective and affordable natural personal care products available to everyone.
We believe in formulations using minimal ingredients that all of us are familiar with. When you take a look at the ingredient panels on our products you won’t find anything that you can’t easily identify.
We want to return to basics and get away from our reliance on cosmetic products filled with harsh synthetic chemicals and questionable ingredients.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
We were among the very first companies to offer bio-tubes. These are plastic alternatives made of coated cardboard used for our deodorants. Unfortunately, these are very expensive compared to their plastic counterparts often coming in at 10x the cost. We wanted to lead and show that this could be done hoping that other companies would follow suit. It’s one thing for smaller companies to take these initiatives, but another thing entirely for a global corporation to do the right and responsible thing. We’re hoping that we get the attention of some of our much larger competitors and encourage them to explore these greener alternatives.
We’ve also partnered with TerraCycle to reduce, reuse and recycle single use plastics. We encourage our customers to send us not only our own tubes, but those of any other deodorant company for recycling. We love what the folks at Terracycle are doing and are excited to be a partner.
We’re also members of 1% for the Planet. This is a consortium of like-minded organizations leading efforts to commit financial resources to simply save our planet. We’re very proud of this association and are excited to be a part of the next big thing.
Lastly, we just launched a partnership with Cleanhub to become more plastic neutral. We are aware of the plastics that we still use, and while we are still searching for better alternatives that give you the same ease of application, we are taking more steps to become plastic neutral and lessen our impact on this planet. We will be working with Cleanhub to retrieve plastics that currently pollute our planet and pay to recycle them.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Great question. Honestly, I think the best way for a company to grow through their environmental platform is to be outspoken about their participation. Consumers need to know what the companies that they support stand for. Brands need to be active, engaged, and vocal about their positions and what they are doing to stem global climate change. The more consumers know, the more likely they will be to support companies that have the same values. We use our social media channels, email blasts and blog posts to share what we are working on and involved with.
The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
As a former teacher, I can share what I did in the classroom and what I encouraged parents to do with their children to increase awareness and inspire activism…
- Talk about it — Kids have access to more information than ever before. However, access does not equate to understanding. Parents need to be open to having real conversations about what is going on in the World.
- Attend an event — Parents need to show their kids that this matters to them personally. Involving their kids early and often will breed a whole generation of concerned and informed people.
- Make a sign — It may seem trivial, but the act of making a sign is empowering. Parents need to encourage their kids to not only be informed, but also to be creative and seen.
- Advocate — It doesn’t matter how, just do something. Parents can volunteer for all kinds of activities and take their kids with them.
- Write — Jot down a note or send an email to your local newspaper, politicians, or civic leaders. Parents should encourage their kids to collect and share their thoughts in constructive ways to bring about change.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
“It’s never too early and it’s never too late.” — I love this quote. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your life, it’s never going to be the right time unless you make it the right time.
“Big things are never accomplished by small people.” — Skip the negativity. Stay positive. Stay focused. Aim high.
“There is no substitute for hard work.” — Anything worth accomplishing will take effort. Period. Shortcuts never lead anywhere.
“Kindness matters.” — Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
“There is an element of luck involved in every success.”- No one can accomplish anything on their own. It takes much more than individual effort.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are way too many people to mention that have helped me along the way. I realize that I am very fortunate to have had the life and opportunities that I’ve had.
My grandparents were wonderful role models and environmental stewards. They loved the land they farmed and all of the animals under their care. I was fortunate to bear witness to how they lived and the values they projected.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Be compassionate. The World lacks empathy and understanding right now. Care for your neighbor just as much as you care for yourself regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or belief.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
Never believe anyone who tells you what they are. Let their actions prove it.
Words can be cheap and misused. What a person does is far more important than what they say.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
American Provenance and Kyle LaFond on social channels.
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!