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Going Green: Happy Human


How this new company has created a refillable, "just-add-water" cleaning solution that helps reduce single-use plastic and carbon emissions.

As a country Australia goes through a lot of plastic – around 3.5 million tonnes per year according to a national report from 2018–19. And single-use plastic is still a big issue.

While plastic bags, straws or takeaway containers are easy targets, cleaning products can go under the radar when it comes to plastic.

But just think about this: how many bottles of hand sanitiser have you gone through since the start of the coronavirus pandemic? What about surface cleaners?

The packaging from these types of products can quickly add up. And even if it's recyclable, the more we use, the more impact it has on the environment – because even recycling uses energy.

Happy Human is a new company that's helping to address this with tablets that transform into hand wash and multi-purpose cleaner when you add water. It launched on Earth Day (22 April 2021) – and it offers delivery straight to your door.

Curious to find out more, we chatted with founder Vinnie Ong about how it all works.

Happy Human founder Vinnie Ong.

What does your company do and how is it green?

So with Happy Human our mission is to ban single-use plastic in all consumer products. And we do that by igniting this reuse-and-refill movement, starting with these cleaning products that you have at home.

If you think about, most of the household products you have – from your hand wash to your surface cleaner – they're made out of 80–90% water. And that's partly the reason why it's packaged in single-use plastic.

So with Happy Human, what we did was we kind of just remove the water…and make them into this fizzy tablet format – kind of like a Berocca for your hand wash and surface cleaner.

Because of that, we can also package it in paper and compostable materials instead of plastic. And that's how we achieve our mission of reducing single-use [plastic]…not to mention the carbon emissions that are saved by not transporting water around the world.

Throughout the whole process of making the products, we [wanted] everything to be timeless and minimal.”

Vinnie Ong

So the bottles are designed to be timeless and minimal, the packaging for a tablet is compostable and even the tape that we use to seal your box and ship it door to door is made of recyclable material.

With the tablets, our brief to a formulator is to be vegan, cruelty-free and plant-based as much as possible.

But when our first prototype came in, that's when COVID hit as well. So a lot of the testers were asking for anti-bacterial [products]. So that's not as natural, given the function that it is meant to perform.

But to the extent that we can, we use as much plant-based, and coconut-derived to be specific, in terms of our ingredients. So no palm oil and biodegradable – that's kind of how we approached coming up with not just the outside, but also inside of the products.

A Happy Human multi-purpose bottle and tablet.

What inspires you and your business to be green?

A lot of factors, to be honest. I think the key one that we talk about a lot is the fact that both my husband and I have been scuba divers, and over the years have seen the impact of single-use plastic and climate change on the ocean.

I was also born in Malaysia and it's a developing country where a lot of people kind of dump their plastic waste.

I think on top of that, it's a daily thing where you know that everything you make and consume is returned to the earth as either some sort of poison or food.”

Vinnie Ong

You know, even the toothbrush that you used when you were five is still on the planet somewhere. So kind of internalising that really makes us…want to spend our waking life contributing to the solution.

And Happy Human is one path for us to spend our energy, time and resources into contributing and building a cleaner planet.

Why is being green personally important to you?

It's really knowing that at the pace that we're going, if you just kept going there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

So the impact of everything [makes me think] we really just need to make better choices, particularly to reduce, refill and reuse, to really have a gentler impact and to start cleaning up the planet, essentially.

Could you describe one small step people could take towards being greener?

I think it's important to recognise that there's no perfect environmentalist. It's really about your individual impact. And there is power in individual impact, especially when you think about collective action.

So just simple stuff. You know, when you wake up, you have a bamboo toothbrush, you have your reusable cup, you replace your cling wrap with beeswax wraps, you try to buy second-hand. And also, Happy Human refillable products.

What is one resource that you think people should read/watch/consume to understand more about sustainability and going green?

If you want something that's very scientific and factual, I think Anatomy of Action by the [UN Environment Programme] is a really good resource.

It breaks down five facets of your life and small actions that you can take – very similar to the little steps that we talked about just now.

Otherwise, [on] the Happy Human social channels, we'll talk about like 10 movies you can watch, or our blog talks about like 7–8 books that you can read.

So these are resources that we try to collate and present in a very bite-size, fun fashion.

Going Green is an interview series that sheds light on companies, organisations and initiatives that have a focus on sustainability and ethics. We ask a representative from each company the same five questions so you can get a snapshot of the work they are doing to help protect the planet.

Want more info and tips for making greener choices? Check out the Finder Green homepage.

More from Finder Green

Image credits: Getty Images, Supplied (Happy Human)

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