For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Anna from UpCircle, a British beauty brand using rescued ingredients. Anna talks us through the journey they have taken, their amazing achievements and how the future is looking.
My name is Anna Brightman and I am the co-founder of UpCircle Beauty, which I launched alongside my brother William in 2016. At UpCircle, we take ingredients which would otherwise be discarded and repurpose them into sustainable skincare products. We rescue and reuse ingredients from the argan, tea, juice, date, olive, coffee and wood industries. The only limit to by-product beauty is a lack of imagination! In the past four years we've grown the brand into a household name in the world of sustainable skincare. I would loosely describes my role within the brand as "The Story-Teller".
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.
How or why did you get started?
It all started four years ago. One morning on his way to work at his previous job, William asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste coffee and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much that they had to pay the council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites.
William decided it was a great starting point for a business idea, but wasn't sure what that idea was – that's where I came in. Throughout my teenage years I wanted to be a makeup artist so always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. I knew that coffee had loads of great skincare benefits, so... that was our lightbulb moment! Why not repurpose the coffee into sustainable circular skincare products? We began our journey collecting coffee grounds from one coffee shop, we now collect from hundreds of coffee houses across London – our list is always growing!
What is your favourite thing about the materials that you work with?
Our products are natural, organic, vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil-free. They're kind to the planet and kind to your skin. Every ingredient has different skincare benefits, but every single ingredient is chosen with care – nothing is in any given formulation for the sake of it. Our products are made by people instead of machines using simple methods such as melting, blending, whisking and pouring by hand. We do use some machines for filling and labelling larger volumes, but the bulk of our products are still simply made by real people. This enables us to monitor the process closely to ensure that the end result is skincare of the finest quality. All of our production happens in the UK.
You can buy our products on our website at www.upcirclebeauty.com or online at Ocado, Beauty Bay or Feel Unique. In stores you can find us in Sainsbury's and Holland & Barrett.
What are you most proud of?
Last year I won a live pitching event to Sainsbury's buyers which led to our range being launched in their stores nationwide... that was a pretty amazing moment for me as I used to be so terrified of public speaking. This year we launched our range into over 800 stores with one retail partner in America – that was a pretty big deal too!
But if I'm completely honest I cherish the little things even more. When customers take the time to email or even send letters, showing before and afters of their skin and letting us know how much they love UpCircle – those sorts of things are what I value more than anything and them make me feel so proud of the brand we've created.
What are your plans for the future?
UpCircle have bold ambitions for the years to come! I want UpCircle known as the brand who brought the circular economy to the beauty industry. It's also super important that our products are accessible to all – we do not want price point to be a barrier towards making sustainable choices or supporting a sustainable brand. Sustainability shouldn't be an elite privilege.
We now repurpose ten different ingredients into our formulations. I look forward to growing this list and continuing to source varied by-products to rescue and transform!
Can you recommend any other makers or businesses that work in an ethical or sustainable way?
There are some incredible brands out there, all you need to do is look. If you'd like some upcycling inspo check out the likes of Dash, Rubies in the Rubble, Nibs Etc. Toast Ale, Elvis & Cresse, Wyatt & Jack, Retrospecced, By Rotation.. the list goes on!
Do you have any advice for people trying to shop more ethically?
Keep in mind that it will be a gradual process. Resist the urge to empty your cupboards and start all over again at once. There is no point in creating waste in an attempt to try to minimise waste! Use up what you have, and then next time, think about what improvements you can make in each of your purchasing decisions. Or even better, think about whether you actually need to buy each thing you've previously owned at all! Quality over quantity.
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
When it comes to the environment we are constantly bombarded with intimidating doom and gloom headlines. The scale of the problem can feel so daunting that it's all too easy to give up before you've even begun. I wish more people could see that if we all do a little, then together that makes a lot. We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly!!
Photographs by @upcirclebeauty