Sustainability is becoming more top-of-mind for companies and consumers as the threat of climate change becomes more of a reality. But what does it truly mean to be “sustainable”? And what is going to have a lasting impact?
To Luna Volta, sustainability means honoring nature and its plants in their purest form. It means doing our best to not only leave no trace but to leave our planet better than we found it, in a regenerative state, a net positive loop for generations to come. To us, sustainability means regenerate first, sustain second.
As the founder of Luna Volta, my journey into regeneration began with my own personal a-ha moment on a summer trip across America. I spent the summer of 2017 camping, hiking, and exploring my way through nine states and twelve of America’s National Parks. From the world's longest slot canyon in the deserts of Utah to the giant old-growth trees in the Pacific Northwest to the rocky cliffs of California, it was here that I reconnected to the land, to the beauty found in solitude with nature, and to the healing properties of regenerative agriculture and hemp.
Kayla Clements, Founder & CEO of Luna Volta, across America’s National Parks.
The trip gave me many first-hand glimpses at some of the impacts of climate change we are already facing today. For example, glacial ice is one of the largest reservoirs of freshwater on Earth. Glaciers store water as ice during the colder seasons and release it later as it melts downstream into our rivers and lakes during warmer seasons. This water source is especially important for plants, animals, and human use. We rely on this freshwater to have year-round, and if there is not enough ice, there is not enough water. Witnessing the shrinking glaciers first-hand and reading the stats about climate change felt deeply paralyzing for me. I felt helpless to make a difference.
Left: The top of Grinnell Glacier in Montana. Right: A shot downstream of three of the lakes this glacier’s melting ice feeds.
When I returned home from my trip, however, I became much more aware of my day-to-day personal impact and began making small conscious swaps, from bringing my own shopping bags to the market, getting a set of reusable produce bags, shifting to a plant-based diet, and considering my health and wellness more than ever before. I even began running and signed up for my first 5k during this time. Simultaneously to building Luna Volta, these swaps were shifting the way I personally lived. Because they deeply mattered to me, they naturally became embedded into the brand’s core values, but not without struggle. Trying to optimize a supply chain while keeping it as eco-conscious as possible, is not only expensive, but takes a considerable amount of time.
Eco-positive solutions are absolutely out there but it takes a lot of digging and pushback to discover them, because they aren’t the fastest, nor the cheapest option.
The second thing that kept coming up in my research was that the majority of talk around sustainability centered around this idea of corporations doing “less bad,” championing terms like “zero waste” or “carbon neutral.” And while these are absolutely steps in the right direction, I became frustrated that very rarely was the conversation about making a net positive, regenerative contribution.
It became my mission to learn how to contribute to a brighter future, and through my studies into Cannabis Science with Sativa Science Club, Corporate Sustainability with NYU, and Regenerative Sourcing & Supply with Kiss the Ground, what I discovered was that regeneration IS possible.
If you think about the word “sustainability,” it literally means to “sustain” or keep the status quo. If we look around at the state of the planet today, including the degenerated land and tons of plastic waste with nowhere to go, the concept of “sustaining” us at this stage is not something we as a species can accept. Instead, I offer a new frame of thinking towards “regeneration” first. Regeneration of our lands is possible if we take a whole-systems approach, not only to our supply chains and our food systems, but to our thinking. It will first take a paradigm shift in our collective consciousness to conceptualize this idea before we can restructure our systems to make significant change.
If we look at our food system specifically, this begins with the soil and championing regenerative agriculture methods. According to the data presented in the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by environmentalist and Erewhon founder Paul Hawken, “No other mechanism known to humankind is as effective in addressing global warming as capturing carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis. When converted to sugars with help from the sun, carbon produces plants and food. It feeds humankind, and, through the use of regenerative agriculture, it feeds the life of the soil.” Terra Genesis International defines regenerative agriculture as, “A system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services.” By prioritizing capturing soil carbon, we can create more clean water, higher drought resistance, chemical-free abundant food, and true farmer prosperity with higher yields and lower inputs. Net positive results.
We are excited about hemp contributing positively to this regenerative approach because hemp grows fast without pesticides, and can be used as an annual cycle crop where nearly all parts of the plant can be used. An important thing to note about hemp is that it acts as a bioaccumulator, meaning it can pull toxins out the soil (great for cleaning up soil, but not so great to consume).
The long, strong fibers from industrial hemp’s stalks can be used to make textiles, paper, carpets, and canvas. The hemp hurd can be used to make fiberboard, and even hempcrete, used to build homes, and parts of the plant can even be used to make hemp bioplastics and biofuel. Craft hemp, hemp grown for its compounds (like CBD), should be grown using organic, and in our case, regenerative, practices to ensure clean products, draw down carbon and ensure a healthy long soil life of the land it is grown on. Hemp seeds can be used in food, beauty products and supplements, and of course, its flowers (and more specifically the trichomes that grow on the flowers, stalks, and stems of the plant) can be used to extract cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for human (and pet) uses.
Sourcing ingredients is the first stage but then comes sourcing materials for packaging. According to National Geographic, “The largest market for plastics today is for packaging materials. That trash now accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste generated globally; most of it never gets recycled or incinerated.” For Luna Volta’s first product, NOVA, we considered each element we were using and how we could find an earth-conscious alternative. For bottles, we use PRE-cycled glass bottles that are collected as unused surplus goods that are then re-distributed back into the supply chain. We screen print our bottles using UV-cured inks that result in easy-to-recycle again glass. Our boxes are handmade from 100% post-consumer waste <10mi from our San Diego headquarters. They are 100% biodegradable, printed with soy-based inks, and are naturally colored with earth pigments. Even the water used to make the 100% recycled handmade paper is reclaimed and recycled back into the next batch. Each sheet is then embedded with wildflower seeds, beneficial to the declining bee population. Plant our boxes in 1/4” soil, water daily, give positive affirmations, and watch wildflowers grow. Using our packaging to create a closed loop, regenerative system is part of our interpretation of a net positive outcome.
Bath bombs are incredibly tricky to package because traditionally they are wrapped in a plastic shrink wrap to ensure freshness and protect the bomb from damage. We tested for months with a variety of alternative packaging solutions, none of which held up in shipping until we discovered NatureFlexTM. NatureFlexTM is an at-home certified (EN13432 and ASTM D6400) compostable material made from renewable wood pulp that is sustainably harvested from FSC managed forests and is food safe. NatureFlexTM is fully biodegradable and can decompose in less than 45 days. Each of our bombs is sealed in this plastic alternative and then nestled in a fully biodegradable hexagon-shaped box made from hemp paper (again <10mi from our HQ!). The shape is inspired by the abundant hexagons found throughout nature (think beehives and turtle shells).
We believe these decisions have propelled us in the right direction and we are continuously making improvements as we grow. Consumers can use their purchasing power to help push larger companies towards biodegradable packaging, which will continue to force innovation and affordability in this space.
Left: Plantable packaging for Luna Volta’s premium wellness hemp oil, NOVA. Photo via SVN Space. Right: Compostable and biodegradable hemp packaging for Luna Volta’s microgravity bath bombs, the PLANETS.
Why should companies consider moving towards this type of whole systems thinking and truly integrating regenerative practices into their foundation? Not only is it the “right” thing to do but according to the book Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability into Billion-Dollar Businesses by E. Freya Williams, there are at least 54 reports that prove a positive impact of sustainability on business outcomes. “Among them is a 2007 report from Goldman Sachs that found that companies that are the leaders in sustainable, social, and good governance policies have 25 percent higher stock value than their less sustainable competitors. Most recently, a report by CDP (formerly called the Carbon Disclosure Project), released in September 2014, showed that companies that outperform on sustainability metrics are more profitable and return better dividends to their shareholders than those that don’t.”
While those numbers prove the financial benefits, I always love to counter the question of the business case for sustainability with the opposition. As Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface, originally posed: “What’s the business case for ending life on Earth?”
Written by: Kayla Clements, Founder & CEO of Luna Volta, certified in Cannabis Science, Corporate Sustainability, and Regenerative Sourcing & Supply, 2018 Forbes Fellow, Soil Advocate, author of Daytripper: 60 Days on the Road Exploring America’s National Parks.
All photos via Luna Volta unless otherwise noted.
Kiss the Ground, a 501(c)(3) non-profit inspiring participation in global regeneration, starting with soil.
Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability into Billion-Dollar Businesses by E. Freya Williams
Daytripper: 60 Days on the Road Exploring America’s National Parks by Kayla Clements