I’ve always tried to use natural products whenever possible, while simultaneously valuing efficiency, effectiveness, and design/ease of use. We switched to Method products for our home years ago and I hadn’t given them a second thought until Goop sent out this home detox guide… and I realized that (according to the EWG) most of my favorite Method items weren’t actually that clean. I started to research new cleaners and was instantly overwhelmed… but then in a happy, fortuitous coincidence, I received an email introduction to Common Good that very day!
Common Good is a line of 100 percent biodegradable household cleaners in glass and plastic bottles, candles and gift sets that are made in the US and completely eco-friendly. Prior to founding Common Good, Sacha Dunn and her husband, Edmund Levine, were prop stylists living in Brooklyn, NY with two little ones. They started the line after a trip to Sydney, Australia to visit Sacha’s parents. Their two kids were traveling with them, so they were doing tons of laundry. And in Australia, almost everyone refills their laundry detergent bottles with refill pouches or milk carton refills. They thought it would be a great thing to start in the US since they couldn’t find anyone locally doing it.
We have been using Common Good products in our home and at The COMN for the last few months and I am in love. The products are gorgeous but simple (it’s so nice not to have neon colored soap in every bathroom!) and they really work. I was a little nervous about switching because I’m fairly particular and have a sensitive sense of smell, but everything is amazing… my only suggestion would be that I wish the plastic laundry detergent had a pump, because we put the detergent into the top of our machine, and I’m short (and weak!)… but that’s an incredibly minor issue!
Common Good is available at West Elm, online, and shops across the country… I didn’t realize it before, but we actually have a refill station down the street from The COMN! (which is awesome, because we go through a lot of dish soap around here…)
Sacha took some time to answer a few questions about her experiences building Common Good. It’s such a great story and example… I can’t wait to see what comes next from Common Good!
I LOVE THAT YOU WERE INSPIRED TO START THE BUSINESS AFTER TRAVELING – AND DOING LAUNDRY – IN AUSTRALIA. WE’VE ALL HAD IDEAS FOR BUSINESSES INSPIRED BY OUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES – WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO ACTUALLY ACT ON THIS ONE? (I’m so happy that you did!)
I guess it’s in our nature! We seem to be risk takers, although I never would have thought that of myself before. We’ve both had long freelance careers, so we’re not afraid of working for ourselves. We’ve done crazy things before, like moving to a new country and starting from scratch. So this was a pretty easy move. Also, we had that lightbulb moment where we just knew we were onto something. The more research we did, the more excited we were to give it a go. (I’m so happy that we did too!)
HOW DOES YOUR BACKGROUND IN STYLING IMPACT COMMON GOOD?
Part of the reason we started Common Good was because we felt there was room for a modern brand of safe, green household cleaners. I wanted the design to be simple and attractive enough to leave out on the counter. It was a very similar process to styling except that in the end, we had a permanent product rather than a photo.
WERE YOU AWARE OF THE LACK OF TRANSPARENCY IN THE NATURAL PRODUCTS INDUSTRY BEFORE YOU STARTED? HOW DID YOU DETERMINE WHAT YOU COULD (AND SHOULD!) USE?
No! I had no idea how unregulated products in the US were until starting Common Good! From the start, we chose to transparent about what’s in our products. We worked with great, green chemists to develop formulations that we were happy with. We put all the ingredient names on our labels even though it’s not required by law. Even now, plenty of brands use euphemisms which is just adding to the confusion about what’s safe. We have a page on our website that goes through each ingredient to explain what it is, and why we use it, in plain English. I look forward to a time when chemical ingredients have to be proven safe before they’re allowed on the market, instead of the EPA having to prove they’re not.
YOUR PRODUCTS NECESSITATE A CHANGE IN HABITS FOR MANY AMERICAN CONSUMERS – HOW DO YOU INSPIRE THIS CHANGE? HOW DO YOU EDUCATE YOUR CUSTOMER?
We started with the idea that there were enough people like us who would be naturally drawn to refilling. Then we designed the bottles we wanted to see in our home. We had a feeling that if we make a bottle that people want, they’ll change their behavior to get it. Design drove the demand, and we made a hippie idea cool.
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY IF YOU KNOW THEN WHAT YOU KNOW NOW?
Oh my goodness! Done an MBA?! Most of Common Good came about instinctively, but we’ve had to work out a lot of stuff along the way. I wouldn’t change anything about the brand or our products, but I would have loved to know more about manufacturing and business before we started.
HOW HAS LAUNCHING COMMON GOOD CHANGED YOUR PERSONAL CONSUMPTION HABITS?
Happily, we can refill our bottles! And that was the whole point from the start. I think there has been a lot of change in the country’s consumption habits since we launched Common Good. CSAs are more common, people use reusable shopping bags more than ever, and shoppers are learning more about what’s truly good or bad. I’m definitely more discerning than I used to be, and I think the upside is that whether food or chemicals, consumers are demanding change. The more we all know, the better.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER MAKERS/ENTREPRENEURS?
Don’t listen to the naysayers. If you believe in your idea and think you have what it takes to get it done, go for it! But be prepared because once you launch, your business is your baby – it’s wonderful, but it will take everything you have.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR COMMON GOOD? WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?
I’m very excited about our new linen water spray which will be out in the fall. It’s a great way to freshen clothes without dry cleaning or you can a little scent to bedding without using chemical dryer sheets. We’re also about to do a baby range because our friends all have babies and are forcing us!
Photos by Johnny Miller c/o Common Good
Disclosure: Common Good sent me products and we conducted this interview after I’d tried the products in my home and studio. I only feature brands that I will use, recommend, and love.
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