By Melinda Taschetta-Millane
If it were not for the passion of the luminaries who have blazed the trails of the sustainability movement, “green” would not be the shade that it is today. These are the pioneers—a perfect blend of wise women, innovators, watchdogs, and indie trailblazers—who have set the bar for future generations to come. These stories of dedication and determination serve as inspiration to everyone.
Ulrike Klein was born in a little German village, and spent her childhood submersed in nature. “Very early in life, I developed a deep love for and a connection to nature,” she shares. “This innate connection motivated me to expand my knowledge for plants and to study horticulture. I especially enjoyed excursions into different areas of Germany, exploring the connection between different environments and habitats of plants.”
Getting introduced to anthroposophy—the ancient wisdom of life force, applied in biodynamic farming—was an important stepping- stone in Ulrike’s life, ultimately leading to the founding of natural skin-care company Jurlique, in 1985. “Jurlique was grounded in the principles of biodynamic farming, herbal medicine, and the process of transformation,” she states.
As a co-founder of Jurlique, Ulrike feels her purpose was to inspire people toward health and wellbeing. “It was about starting a wave of awareness for natural ingredients, about educating our customers to be discerning, and about connecting them to the healing energy of nature, the rhythm of nature, the seasons; about beauty from within, being radiant, confident and self-acceptant and self-loving,” she says.
“To live every day as the most precious, beautiful day of my life,” is what truly matters to Ulrike, adding that life is also about “having meaningful relationships; to be connected to nature and to live with the seasons.” It’s about being passionate, aware, alive, active, and free.
“Bio has become mainstream—it is no longer exclusive, but is accessible,” she relates, stating that bio goods can now be found alongside other, more common staples at supermarkets. “There is a non-dogmatic awareness, an offering of seasonal and local produce along with bio products.” She acknowledges that governance around labeling and claims of bio in farming and products—as well as awareness and education—has come a long way, but stresses that “there is still a long way to go when it comes to subsidies for conventional farmers in most parts of the world.”
Ulrike truly believes that life is the most precious gift we have. Her life focuses on “awareness, awe, gratitude, wholeness, connectedness, embracing the paradox of life, living in the present, and embracing my humanity.”
For more than 20 years, personal life and business life were one and the same for Intelligent Nutrients (IN) co-founder Kiran Stordalen, who is the widow of the legendary Horst Rechelbacher, founder of the Aveda Corporation and Intelligent Nutrients. “My life was centered on the relationship between beauty, excellence, wellness, and to do the best we possibly can from an environmental and social responsibility perspective,” she shares. “I was fortunate to connect with Horst many years ago, and we shared a commitment and appreciation of those values. At Aveda, I had the opportunity to work my way up the corporate ladder in a dynamic, entrepreneurial driven company with a big vision and an even bigger personality—Horst.” Kiran went from copywriter to product development to brand manager and everything in-between, to her final role serving as vice president of marketing and creative.
Stordalen explains that Intelligent Nutrients, which she continues to lead alongside partner and co-owner Nicole Rechelbacher, was launched during the couple’s Aveda years. “Aveda was about outer beauty, Intelligent Nutrients was intended to take it one step further—working from the inside out primarily through supplements,” she says. “Horst chose not to sell IN along with Aveda to Estée Lauder, he felt that the premise and promise of IN was the future.”
Kiran takes great pride in her accomplishments. “I began my career at Aveda as a model, appearing in media and salons worldwide,” she shares. “But for me, more importantly, I was the woman behind the scenes at Aveda translating vision and developing a mission-centric brand alongside Horst. He was my partner in business and life for many years and we weathered every entrepreneurial trial and tribulation imaginable. I am proud of much of what was created and the talented individuals who helped make it happen. Now, I’m most energized about the opportunities that lie ahead, coalescing my past with the present to inspire — as brand leader, spokesperson, and advocate for safe, pure non-toxic products.”
The H.M.R. Foundation, of which Kiran is a trustee, is dedicated to supporting environmental practices that restore natural surroundings and create healthy eco-systems. “Most recently we partnered with the University of Minnesota’s Bee Squad to develop a pollinator sanctuary in Osceola, Wisconsin—my former home —to study, educate, and sustain pollinators that are diminishing at an alarming rate,” she says. “Bees are the canary in the coal mine and they are our superstars.”
What matters most to Kiran is “our relationship to ourselves and the world around us. Respect yourself, body and mind, and in turn, respect the wild world around us—plants and animals. They make life beautiful. We’re deeply connected— wildlife, plant life, and people.” She believes we need to do whatever it takes to preserve it: think global, act local; buy green; walk, bike, dance to work. “Do it silently or broadcast it on social media—it all matters.”
Best Thing to Happen in Green
Accountability, says Kiran, is the best thing to happen in green, adding that we still has a long way to go. “It only takes a few drops of an ingredient to put the word ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ on a product label,” she cautions. “People want green, they want to feel as if they are making the right choices—we see it every day. They want authenticity and transparency—so we only use third-party certifications to ensure our own ingredient integrity. We’re at the beginning of a paradigm shift for green beauty where customers are really starting to think about what they are applying to themselves and they are savvy.” She adds that IN is encouraging all beauty brands to list ingredients for everyone’s sake.
Kiran shared two beautiful quotes that she lives by: “Everything we put in and on our bodies should be nutritious and safe,” and “Accept yourself, be kind, try to do some good in the world—and enjoy the ride.”
“We got formaldehyde out of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, for example. It makes me happy to know that fewer babies are exposed to a cancer-causing agent that certainly did not need to be in those products.”
Stacy Malkan, co-founder of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry grew up in a blue-collar town north of Boston. She explains that it was near the state’s largest waste incinerator and an oil refinery, “but nobody talked much about pollution back then.” After college, she worked as a reporter for many years, and then for an environmental health organization. “I worked with leading researchers to understand and communicate about the emerging science that is linking chemical pollution in our air, water, and household products—from plastic and furniture, to cosmetics and food—to chronic diseases and health problems that were rampant in my community and across the country.” Stacy stresses that she has always been a reporter, and sees it as her role to help bring this information to people in ways they can use to make better choices.
Stacy is most proud of co-founding the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and helping to lead the efforts to some of the largest corporations to remove cancer-causing chemicals and reproductive toxicants from baby products and other personal-care products. “We got formaldehyde out of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, for example,” she says. “It makes me happy to know that fewer babies are exposed to a cancer-causing agent that certainly did not need to be in those products.” Her book tells the inside story of how a small group of breast cancer activists and environmental health researchers were able to move a multi-billion-dollar industry to make safer products.
Giving young people the best possible chance to live their healthiest life to their highest potential is what matters most to her. “As a mom of a two-year-old, I think about this all the time,” she says. “I want all children to have the same opportunities.”
Stacy feels this is the rising consciousness of consumers and dramatic changes in the way people are deciding what to buy. “More and more women (who buy most of the food and consumer products) and young people want clean, pure, healthy food and safer products,” she relates. “They want to avoid pesticides and unnecessary toxic exposures. They want to know where their food and products are coming from, what’s in them, and how they are made. The companies that do well in the future will be the ones that embrace this—rather than resisting it—by cleaning up their products and being fully transparent in giving consumers the information they want.”
Stacy shares this strong message: “We create the world we want to live in through the choices we make every single day about how we spend our money and our lives.”
Chase Polan, founder of Kypris, says she just “kind of fell” into the green movement. “I am a feminist, a nature lover, and a coal miner’s daughter whose family were farmers, among other things,” she says. “I also grew up at the beach and among mountains and forests. It is impossible to be a feminist without considering one’s relationship to nature and the seemingly ubiquitous eco-grief that affects us all.”
Chase’s hallmark is her brand, Kypris. “I am most proud of how Kypris challenges the average concept of sustainability,” she relates. “I think when most people think about ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ they associate it with ‘less’ or ‘deprivation,’ when really it is about doing things more ethically and smarter.”
“Kindness, truth, beauty, integrity, pleasure, how well I love, and the positive impact Kypris has as a company and that I have personally is what matters most to me,” says Chase.
Without a doubt, Chase enthusiastically feels it is “how mainstream it’s becoming!”
Chase shares a favorite quote by the late Anita Roddick, human rights activist, environmental campaigner, and founder of The Body Shop: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”
Melinda Taschetta-Millane, the former editor in chief of Skin Inc. magazine, has specialized in the professional skin-care industry for 20 years. She is a contributing writer at InsidersGuidetoSpas.com.