If there’s one thing on which everybody can agree, it’s that we need to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world. We launched Truman’s earlier this year not because we’re obsessed with cleaning, though we kind of are, but because we wanted to make a dent in the global plastic problem and found the perfect opportunity.
We saw a giant industry — household cleaning — that still relied on single-use plastic containers for its ever-increasing, unnecessarily cluttered array of products. At the same time, we saw an industry in no hurry to upset its status quo of shipping 5 billion pounds of single-use plastic each year, despite its adverse impact on the world. To us, this was an open invitation to engage in some environmentally friendly disruption.
The result? A simplified line of safe, multi-purpose household cleaners that not only generate far less plastic waste than traditional cleaning products but utilize fewer resources getting them from the point of manufacture into customers’ hands. Thanks to our slim, lighter packaging and a direct-to-consumer business model, we’ve streamlined delivery and eliminated several links in the supply chain.
Refill ’er up
For decades, home cleaners have come in ready-to-spray, use-it-then-lose-it bottles that contain 98% water. That may have seemed fine back when “throwaway living” was celebrated as the carefree wave of the future, but these days, shipping bulky, water-filled bottles is recognized to be incredibly wasteful.
Commercial establishments have been wise to this fact for years. You don’t see your favorite corner coffee shop or drugstore purchasing bottle after bottle of spray cleaner; they rely instead on concentrates and tap water, and refill the same bottle, over and over again. If this routine works for businesses, we thought, why shouldn’t it work for everyone? We set to work creating a fun, family-friendly, no-mess product line that would inspire people to change virtually everything about the way they clean.
Truman’s four simple, non-toxic household cleaners come in small concentrate cartridges. Users fill and refill the same bottles with tap water and additional cartridges; the cartridges’ auto-dispensing mechanism eliminates hand-mixing, so there’s never any mess. By shipping tiny cartridges instead of pre-filled bottles, we’re able to dramatically reduce plastic waste.
To give a sense of the environmental savings, it takes 30 semi-trucks to ship the equivalent number of ready-to-use cleaning bottles as it does one semi-truck of Truman’s refill cartridges.
Taking a Direct Approach
When we started planning Truman’s, we knew we wanted to avoid the overcrowded retail shelf and its rental fees. Instead, we adopted a subscription e-commerce model similar to those successfully used to sell everything from razors to meals. This both keeps costs down and gives us direct and immediate contact with customers, which is essential when you’re trying to change lifelong habits. (“Big Cleaning,” by contrast, has been slow to take advantage of e-commerce, partly as a result of its bulky, waterlogged ways.)
After a customer orders a Truman’s Starter Kit of four cleaners, they then sign up for regular refill kits — never fewer than four cartridges at a time — which are sent to their house at their convenience. By being mindful of packaging and the number of shipments we make, a Truman’s subscription results not just in significantly less plastic waste but less overall environmental impact because we bypass the traditional retail supply-chain. Truman’s cleaners are easier on the environment than traditional home cleaners from the moment of manufacture to the day they arrive at consumers’ doorsteps.
Break the Chain
Products sold at traditional retail outlets follow essentially the same route to get there: After assembly, they’re put in boxes, which are loaded onto pallets or into crates, which are then transferred onto trucks by a forklift. The pallets or crates are then driven to a distribution center/warehouse, where they’re unloaded and moved into their assigned position. There they sit, consuming overhead costs, until they’re put onto another truck to travel to the retail store. At the store, they’re unloaded in the stocking area, where some of them wait, while a few are plucked from their boxes and put on the shelf. Depending on how much their manufacturers have paid, some get front-row seating while others are assigned the nosebleed sections. And there they remain, consuming overhead costs, until they’re plucked from the shelf by a consumer who has probably driven miles to shop, most likely in their pickup or SUV.
Truman’s, by contrast, follows a totally different “demand chain” route that uses less packaging, involves fewer overhead costs, and results in lower overall energy consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions. Thanks to our direct contact with customers, we’re able to keep close tabs on demand. We manufacture and ship only the number of products that have been ordered, and we deliver them straight to the door, carefully packaged to minimize waste. A six-month supply of four refill cartridges easily fits in a standard mailbox.
An added benefit? Customers are spared having to enter the heavily scented cleaning products aisle and spared the ordeal of deciding among the mind-boggling number of wastefully packaged products.
Change Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
The growth of e-commerce has dramatically changed the retail landscape in the last decade. However, the cleaning industry, burdened by fear of change, has been slow to adapt. At Truman’s, we’re proving that people can change their habits and forgo single-use plastics in favor of concentrates. By making the customer experience as easy as possible, we can slowly but surely change the way people clean, and, more importantly, reduce the amount of plastic piling up in our landfills and oceans.