Local activists bring eco-friendly, “funk-free” body care to Santa Cruz
By J.D. Ramey
At age 9, Santa Cruz’s Eva Pollard found herself at the house of a friend, reading the ingredients of some body care products that belonged to her friend’s mother.
“We hand-wrote these letters to companies, thanking them for not testing on animals and for using clean ingredients in their products,” the 28-year-old activist recalls.
Around the same age, when she was 8, Ohio’s Tatiana Burdiak wrote a letter to the editor of her local newspaper, saying there was too much litter on the streets of Medina, the suburb of Cleveland where she lived. “It was published, and I felt super-proud of that moment,” says Burdiak, now 34.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Burdiak and Pollard’s paths finally converged. By that time, Burdiak had relocated to Santa Cruz, and both women had deepened their commitment to what they call a “circular lifestyle”—a mindset based on openness and the discovery of one’s relationship with the earth. In an effort to reduce their trash footprints and their plastic use, they had each brought their own jars and bags to New Leaf Community Market to fill with produce and bulk foods. They began talking about plastic pollution and toxic chemicals in cosmetics, and a friendship was born.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before Pollard and Burdiak decided to start a business based on their shared views on health and ecology. With their new Circular Living Co., they’re offering all-natural body care products of their own. The company’s main items are four different kinds of “funk-free” deodorant: Mint to Be, Main Squeeze, Mellow Magnesium and Totally Unscented. In contrast to the multitude of synthetic, chemical-laden deodorants on the market, all of Circular Living’s goods are handmade from fair-trade ingredients that are all-organic, except in the case of materials that can’t be certified organic, such as baking soda and candelilla wax.
By using shea butter, Burdiak and Pollard not only help support the women and families from a village in Northern Ghana who make this ingredient, but also keep their deodorants palm-oil free. “Palm oil is in a lot of body care products, cleaning products and snack foods,” Pollard explains. “It’s cultivated primarily in Southeast Asia, and it’s the main driver [there] of species extinction, habitat loss and deforestation.”
For people just getting their feet wet in health and wellness, a high-quality deodorant might serve as a catalyst for other lifestyle changes. “Natural body care products kind of have a bad rap: ‘Oh, they don’t work. I stink!’” Burdiak offers. “So we wanted to start with deodorant, because if it worked for people, [it might encourage them to think,] ‘Well, what else am I using that also has a bunch of toxic chemicals that I might reconsider?’”
Circular Living Co.’s packaging is 100 percent plastic-free, right down to its compostable labels. By packaging their products in this way, the business owners hope to call attention to the vast amount of plastic that even many all-natural companies use. “Even if you go into a natural food store and buy a green product, the ingredients might be safe, but it’s packaged in plastic,” Pollard points out.
Keeping things all the more circular, this business donates 5 percent of its quarterly net profits to nonprofit organizations that are in line with their mission. At the moment, the recipient of these donations is Gravity Water, a local organization that provides safe drinking water in developing countries.
Circular living is a full-time pursuit for these women. Along with raising environmental awareness via her website The Kind Planet, Pollard runs the Green Team at New Leaf, where she influences corporate waste management strategies to reduce waste within the store and change the culture there to protect what she calls “our beautiful backyard ocean.” Burdiak has spoken in front of the County Board of Supervisors and Santa Cruz City Council for the banning of plastic to-go ware, volunteered for Save Our Shores and spearheaded initiatives like I Go Topless, which brings attention to the harm of plastic coffee lids. Pollard and Burdiak are also founding members of ReCruz, which encourages Santa Cruzans to bring their own cups to local events.
Serious as they are about their conservationism, the two business partners clearly enjoy their work. As Pollard puts it, they try to “keep it light, simple and nonjudgmental.”
“And get the funk out!” Burdiak adds.
Find Circular Living Co. products at New Leaf Community Markets and other local locations listed at circularlivingco.com/pages/stocklist.