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Guest blog from endorsed brand Optiat

Anna Brightman, co-founder of Optiat – an innovative sibling-run skincare brand from London, discusses how the idea of repurposing ingredients into sustainable skincare came about.

Where It All Began

My brother William, the co-founder of Optiat, was bought a cafetiere for Christmas. He began making his own morning coffee and was alarmed at how many coffee grounds he alone was producing each day. Living in central London, with no garden on which he could use the waste grounds, he was simply throwing them away. This got us thinking about the coffee industry as a whole. What was everyone else doing with all of their coffee once they were done brewing it? It soon became clear that the vast majority of coffee is being sent to landfill where it rots and produces methane. Suddenly, the coffee grounds are not so harmless after all! We all love a cup of coffee, and the coffee industry is huge, but unfortunately, it’s pretty wasteful too. There is a common misconception that coffee waste is not an issue because it is a material that naturally biodegrades. However, in the quantities in which we are producing coffee and the ways in which we are disposing it, this is simply not the case and so coffee waste is a big problem. This was a problem we wanted to change.

In a world where we are bombarded with negative headlines about climate change, pollution and our overuse of scarce resources, we wanted to start a company committed to minimising the impact we humans have on our wider environment. We are a company that promotes a circular economy by keeping the limited resources we have in use for as long as possible by extracting their maximum value and then regenerating them at the end of their service life. A company who provides an alternative to our current “take, make, dispose” world and a company who pride themselves on being the nature-friendly skincare company.

Not Just A Coffee Scrub Company

Having decided that we would tackle our problem by turning coffee waste into natural sustainable exfoliating coffee scrubs, we released our range ‘For the Love of Scrub’ in November 2016. After their immediate popularity it was clear we were on to something. But coffee isn’t the only skin-loving natural ingredient which is going to waste and we wanted to create a full skincare range, so we soon began researching and sourcing the next ingredients which we wanted to rescue!

Relatively known as a superfood, hemp is a holistic ingredient used for a variety of purposes including for fuel, protein, fibre and medicine. The husks of the seed are a by-product, but are also an excellent source of minerals and a rare source of insoluble fibre. When used topically, the hemp husks act as a gentle exfoliator to lightly buff away dead skin cells and cleanse your skin for a glowing complexion. This was the birth of our next range, The Hemp Collection, comprising three certified organic face masks, made from hemp husks which we collect from an organic farm in Oxfordshire.

Beauty With A Conscience

In recent times there has been a real increase of interest in all things health and wellness. This started with fitness, then moved on to food, supplements and protein and is now approaching beauty and cosmetics too. We are not happy to put food laden with chemicals in to our bodies, so why would we be willing to put products laden with chemicals on to our bodies? If you look at an ingredients list for a food item and can’t understand what it says, then you would think twice about consuming it, and now we are applying the same critical, questioning eye to our consumption of beauty and skincare products. Our products encourage consumers to experiment with the burgeoning trend of food as cosmetics. 

Consumers are increasingly looking into the provenance of the ingredients of products they are choosing to buy. This is exactly why organisations like The Naturewatch Foundation and the Compassionate Shopping Guide are so important and so much in demand. We are all starting to shop in a much more conscious and critical way. For example, the focus on using less disposable plastic shopping bags has had a huge effect on the way supermarkets operate.

We encourage our customers to ask us what has gone into the making of our products: what is the process? What are the ingredients? Where are they from? Increased transparency and knowledge for the customer about a product and its ingredients empowers the consumer to make the best decisions: it allows the customer to make more informed choices about the brands they choose to buy from and the products they choose to use. We stand for beauty with a conscience.

What Makes Optiat Optiat?

The primary benefit of using ingredients that are by-products or considered waste products is that we save large quantities of high-quality skin-loving ingredients from being discarded. We promote a circular economy whereby each item is kept in use for as long as reasonably possible. 

The world has finite resources, and we as humans produce a significant amount of waste. For example, more than 9 million tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfill every year. 500,000 tonnes are disposed of by the UK alone! This has significant consequences as the coffee grounds decompose to produce methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times worse than carbon dioxide! Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

The ingredients that we repurpose into our products retain their quality. Coffee, for example, has been shown to be higher in antioxidants once it has been brewed than beforehand, so the used coffee grounds that make up our scrubs are just as good (if not better) for your skin! The fact that it is collected from artisanal coffee shops and restaurants also means that it is the highest-quality Arabica coffee, as opposed to the lower-grade, cheaper Robusta coffee found in most coffee scrubs.

Shaking Things Up

I don’t think we would’ve even attempted to create a new brand unless we knew we were doing something totally unique. Our ethos is to use ingredients that would otherwise be discarded and we aim to show people that these ingredients still have a huge amount to offer us. If we can produce high quality, effective skincare products by promoting sustainability as our core message, our hope is to demonstrate that we can all be more resourceful, that we can promote a circular economy and to inspire the beauty industry as a whole to be less wasteful.

The feedback that we have received from retailers about our story has been very positive. There is a greater focus on both sustainability, but also on natural and organic cosmetic products. Retailers appreciate the fact that our products are unique. We are trying to do something different by promoting a more environmentally conscious objective, and retailers (and consumers) are really buying into that vision.

What Next?

For those who don’t know, our brand name Optiat is an acronym for “One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure”. It is our focus on sustainability and making something out of nothing that we feel really sets us apart from the rest – and so this is what we will continue to do! We aim to show people that these unloved ingredients still have a huge amount to offer us. We will never compromise on our ethics and we will never compromise on the quality of our products. So what you can expect from Optiat is for us to continue to source and rescue skin loving natural ingredients. We will take these ingredients which were destined for the trash heap and breathe new life into them! 

Written by Anna Brightman, co-founder of Optiat

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