For our third supplier profile, we met with Titta Jones of Ireland’s favourite eco cleaning brand, Lilly’s Eco Clean.
For the past 20 years, Lilly’s have been spreading the word about the importance of using environmentally friendly cleaning products. They have been supplying to the co-op since the very start & we are proud to be part of this journey which started in Dublin before making a round trip back in 2013 via the Beara peninsula before finally settling at the current base in Connemara 3 years ago.
“Customers don’t have to feel guilty. Lilly’s can help those looking to taking little steps to help heal the planet”
Founder of Lilly's Eco Clean
So what drives oneself to setup an eco-cleaning brand you may ask? Titta admits that one of the initial reasons was from a literal feeling of being unwell as a result of cleaning. With many cleaning products using chemicals & unnecessary components such as ammonia, bleach & phthalates, this makes it unfortunately common to feel nauseas when using these products. For example, a bathroom can be a very small space when unintentionally consuming these unhealthy particles in the air.
Some of the bigger eco brands like Ecover started out by taking out an unhealthy component from the original product such as phthalates which may have being polluting a waterway. Quite often, the other components were left as is. Lilly’s wanted to start the product from scratch. Titta is not a chemist but from research, she figured out what the common ingredients should be. She wanted to understand how effective the product could be by being chemical free. It was at this stage that they came up with their motto, which is something which has been at their core since the very beginning. “Health, Home, Planet”
Titta believes that these words are now more important than ever, even 20 years later as it describes what they are about. It’s a product which should be good for the planet but can also clean and break down dirt. They wanted to create a product which cleans but does not leave any pollution behind. Which brings us to the topic of pollution. Many of us will already realise that many cleaning products contain many harmful pollutants both for our health but also for the environment we live in.
So just how harmful are some of these pollutants? If we think about indoor air, we all have defense mechanisms such as our digestive system which is very good at protecting us, and has been doing since we were born. When we breath in, we become vulnerable as our neuro system is exposed. The smell of pollutants can often go unnoticed which can be dangerous leading to headaches, nausea etc. These things can often happen without us realizing why. Lilly’s want to create a product which offers the same function as other cleaning products but without this hazard. Even though there is a small amount of chemicals still used, they are much more easy going such as plant based chemicals or minerals which are commonly used in food.
So where to start for Lilly’s with all this knowledge at hand? They started with a range of surface cleaners. No-one else was in this space at the time so they were very proud to use vinegar as the primary ingredient in producing an impactful product. They then started the washing up liquid and laundry products which they developed all by themselves. Part of the ethos is to provide everyday products which are sustainable, effective, nice and within an acceptable price range. No frills.
The variety of fragrances is evident in Lilly’s products with tea tree oil for the toilet cleaner coming from Australia with citrus fruits coming from closer to home in Spain, France & Italy. Titta is currently growing Lavender and Rosemary plants at home so this is an area worth exploring in the future to grow some of the raw materials in Connemara.
Zero waste is at the core of Lilly’s ethos. They still do refills, so they drive all over the country to refill the containers at all the shops who provide this option – including the co-op. Refills are available in all products. The take up for this has been hugely encouraging particularly at the co-op. Lilly’s want the refilling opportunity to be available for everyone. The topic of supermarkets is an interesting one. Big chains have been a challenge up to this point as they find it difficult to make the change to zero waste. Titta believes that if they could convince one big supermarket chain to swap over, some of the others may follow. Lilly’s can do the logistics. But with issues around spillage, this needs a lot of engineering which is not very easy to do. There could also be potential to introduce technology to make the refills digital. So hopefully more to hear on this space in the future!
On a more positive note, there are approx. 15 zero waste stockists all over the country where Lilly’s travel when the containers are ready to be refilled. This helps Lilly’s tell the story of how much carbon is being saved as a result of this process as well as how many plastic bottles are not needed. The standard refill container is 25 litres which saves the need for 60 bottles being produced. Lilly’s do provide to international countries such as Holland and Sweden which has gone well. The zero waste option is not yet available internationally but Titta understands how this can be done.
Like many who have come before them, Lilly’s have endured plenty knockdowns over the years but they’re still here 20 years later. Resources can be challenging. But they’re never given up. Now they have a sustainable product which has been going for 20 years, They always have more products than they can supply which is a good problem to have. They don’t have a problem of having too much stock which isn’t moving anywhere.
With regard to cost, Lilly’s have managed to keep the price of the products at a reasonable rate. Which has been challenging. They’re aware that consumers are less likely to make the change if the product is too expensive so they’ve worked hard to keep the price acceptable. They’ve now been using 100% recycled bottles for past 10 years. This is an interesting topic as Titta explains that the price of recycled bottles is increasing due to an increase in demand. The bottles have always been that bit more expensive than virgin plastic anyway so Lilly’s were always taking a hit for trying to be more sustainable. Lilly’s ethos is to be accessible and at an affordable price to help people make the change to be more sustainable.
Lilly’s ethos is evident for all of us to see on the labels for all their products. Health Home Planet. An Irish made product which is aiming to help customers heal the planet.
Donal Lyons - Co-op Volunteer