“I actually think cleaning is really satisfying and fun,” says Sarah Paiji Yoo. As the founder of Blueland’s hit home products, she tests all her sprays and scrubs personally, and says, “I swear, it’s a form of wellness for me.”
Sarah’s products are also a form of wellness for the planet—their ingredients are responsible, their packaging is entirely reusable and / or biodegradable, and their brand is a certified B Corp, which means all their supply chains are ethical, too.
Here’s what Sarah wants you to know about what’s in your cleaning products, how to deal with greenwashing, and what she’s learned from sharks. (Everything, obviously.)
What’s your Wild Element?I want to say water, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s fire. I’m quite calm, which has served me well in launching a business, but you need fire to get things done.
You mentioned that cleaning is like therapy to you.It is!
Well, the pandemic definitely reconnected me with the joy of deep cleaning. During that time, I was cleaning every crevice of my home, and I know I wasn’t alone. First, it gave us back some small amount of control over our surroundings. Second, because it’s physical and repetitive, it becomes a ritual, right? It became a type of meditation.
What should we know about picking earth-safe home products?They have to work, otherwise it doesn’t matter how “natural” they are! [Laughing.] There’s nothing less sustainable than something in the trash.
What else?Sometimes, a “pure” plant ingredient is actually less sustainable than you think. For instance, we have a rose scent in some of our products. But to use real, pure rose oil would be really harmful! It would take about 10,000 real roses for just one pound of the scent. Same with eucalyptus—pure eucalyptus is an irritant. You don’t want to rub it all over yourself. Something can be 100% natural and organic, and still not be the best choice for your body or the planet. You’ve still got to know your stuff.
What’s something you never thought you’d make?Body wash. I’m such a proponent of bar soap, and I love that you wrote about it on your site, because its carbon footprint is so much lower! But I also recognize that many people—my husband included—they just will not let their body wash go. So now we make one, but we do it our way.
You’ve been a pioneer in refillable and reusable packaging. Is it odd—Seeing big, toxic companies doing it, too? [Laughing.] Yes, it’s strange. But overall, we're really proud of the change that we've had in the industry.
So… you’re not mad?
I’m definitely frustrated at times! I think we'll have some hard decisions to make, because we do have an extensive set of patents, and people have infringed on them… But Blueland’s longer-term vision has always been, “How do we set a new standard of success for this industry? How do we make refillable products the norm?” More people talking about “reuse and refill” is a very good thing… It’s when 99% of a brand is toxic, and they say, “We did something good! We’re sustainable!” That stresses me out.
How do you use nature to help center yourself?I go for a grandma-walk-slash-jog in the morning, right after I take my son to school. I do it in a public park by our apartment building in New York City, and it’s pretty early, so it’s just me and a bunch of older folks using the trail. I’ll listen to a podcast like “How to Save a Planet” and zone out.
Please tell us an animal fact.Yesterday, I heard from my son that there’s a shark called a Greenland Shark, and it can live for 400 years. That’s twice as long as a tortoise!
At Wild Elements, our motto is Let Good Grow Wild. What does that mean to you?It resonates pretty deeply. It’s funny, because when I became pregnant with my first son—this is prior to Blueland—I thought, “Oh, this is when I become complete.” I feel like there’s a narrative for women that you become a mother, and sure you’ll work, but your family becomes your whole world. But I still felt like I wasn’t a whole person yet, because I hadn’t my bigger purpose, and figured out how it aligned with my work and my life. Blueland got me so passionate, excited, and charged up, and also optimistic about the future of our planet. So when I hear your tagline, I think about how your world can keep expanding, because there can always be more ways to let good grow through it.
See Sarah’s vision at Blueland.