Mark Jennings’ day job is in North Toronto where he’s production manager for a personal care products manufacturer. Most of the products are sold to health clubs across North America. It’s a niche market.
For 17 years Mark has been working for this company, first as a compounder (that’s the person who follows the chemist’s ‘menu’ to produce specific items), and then through the ranks to purchasing, managing and overseeing production and shipping.
Mark and his massage-therapist-wife were attending Bradford’s Carrot Festival recently and ran into Cheri Buxton. In her full time life, Cheri is a compliance technologist for water and waste-water in York Region.
But Mark and Cheri have part-time lives, too and both of them are making a significant impact in the ‘greening’ of our world.
Cheri owns The Organic Closet, a home-based (for now) business that sources and sells environmentally friendly clothing. She was looking for a personal care product line and as Mark visited her booth at the Carrot Festival, their mutual concern for our world brought them into a joint venture. Mark is taking his knowledge of organic product to produce Cheri’s first personal care product, a skin lotion.
“You know something, people ask, there’s a need, you develop a sample, it starts,” says Mark simply. “In my industry there’s not a lot of call for organic, natural product. I’d hear about new products available from the rainforest but there’s never an applicataion for them in my industry.”
But the concepts stay stored in Mark’s memory bank and he’s bringing them out now to apply to his first product for Cheri. He’s working on a stabilizing agent and is impressed with Cheri’s knowledge and determination that her products be the best possible… best for farmers, best for manufacturers, best for the end user.
Biggest challenge has been the container. Neither Mark nor Cheri want to use a petroleum based bottle and they’ve been trying to source a biodegradable container, or similar organic vessel. For now they’re using recyclable polyethylene.
“I’m confident we’ll come up with a pretty nice addition for her product line. She’ll pick what she likes best and we’ll go ahead with it,” says Mark.
This fits right into Mark’s lifestyle and interests. He and his family have a sizeable garden and grow only organic produce which they preserve for year round eating. They are committed to using organic products wherever possible, personal care, cleaning, furniture etc. “We have young kids and we feel it’s best for our bodies’ health.”
Mark wasn’t aware of organic clothing until he visited Cheri’s booth at the festival and he’s bought his first shirt and is won over. “I was surprised at how soft they are. I bought a bamboo shirt and it’s beautiful, beautiful!”
Bamboo? Yes. And soy. “Bamboo and soy are basically weeds and naturally resistant to pests so growers don’t use pesticides on them. They are so soft they feel like cashmere. Soy clothing is manufactured from the dreads left over from making tofu… dreads that used to go into landfill are now being spun into a durable, organic, soft fabric.”
Cheri is sourcing certified organic clothing made from cotton and hemp as well as soy and bamboo. She says that cotton growers are responsible for using 25% of the pesticides sprayed agriculturally today, though the product is a miniscule portion of a country’s gnp. To source truly organic cotton means it must be certified by a specific agency.
She looks for fair trade products where those working to produce fibres are treated and paid fairly for the economy iin which they live. She tries to source as close to home as possible. For instance, her cotton products are actually produced in Barrie from cotton bought from an organic farm in India and woven in Toronto.
Cheri’s initial clothing offerings include sweaters, vneck short and long sleeves shirts, capris and shorts. She offers classy, dressy options, too. And socks.
She’s currently filling an order for 800 shirts for a festival event and another corporation has ordered sweaters and mockk zipups.
“If I don’t have something, I seek it out. People should have the option to wear healthy clothes,” says Cheri.
She sells through house party and private sales and finds her business growing much more quickly than she anticipated. Adding Mark’s lotion and (hopefully) lip balm to her line is just another step on the ladder.
Thanks, Mark. Thanks, Cheri. Hats off to both of you… for your vision and your commitment.
The Organic Closet