About five years ago we had the crazy idea that a business model could be regenerative – that it could leave the earth a little better than we found it.
We also had a hunch that native plants and regenerative agriculture could make effective natural skincare products and help us actually build such a company.
We’re still growing and learning (yes, we’ve made a few mistakes here and there).
But we’re proud to be leading the way in tandem with other companies like Patagonia, Prana, Guayaki, and initiatives like the Regenerative Organic Certification (we’ll hear from its Executive Director later in this blog).
By employing the principles and practices of regenerative farming, we produce the most potent natural ingredients while also improving our farmlands, the lives of farmers, and even playing a role in reversing climate change.
Not as convinced as we are about this whole regenerative thing? Here are three reasons why we think you should care.
Part of growing natural ingredients that are actually effective means getting down and dirty with the science of soil. Yes, before our plants even get to the lab for processing or into our formulas for testing, we give them their best chance for "potent-ness" by making sure their natural environment is, well, natural.
By using regenerative farming techniques we improve soil health. For example, by ensuring there is sufficient plant cover to protect soil from overexposure to the elements (which depletes nutrients and causes erosion), soil nutrients can then accumulate and thrive, making plants also nutrient rich.
In all, we closely track more than 15 soil health indicators and with improvement across those areas we also see improvement in the quality of the ingredients we produce (we test that, too).
Because we know that the more nutritious the plant, the more effective are our formulas, and the more healthy and resilient is your skin.
Ethnobotanists have shown that conventional (e.g. industrial) farming leads to severe soil degradation compared to the soil health and production found in nature’s natural plant cycles.
With the level of degraded land around the world at dangerously high levels, using regenerative agriculture to reverse this trend is becoming a much more urgent issue.
In a conversation with Elizabeth Whitlow, Executive Director of Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC), she shed a bit more light on how we got here and where we need to go:
The reason all the big companies have gotten into these organic, sustainable and regenerative products is because that is where all the growth is happening. We can’t let them take over and weaken this movement by applying the same principles that got us here in the first place -- applying industrial principles to production of food in ways that don’t account for the true costs to the society, ecosystem and communities where they are produced.
Currently, 75% of earth’s land is degraded and if we continue on our current pace that number will be 95% by the year 2050. Scary numbers. Because in addition to making that land unsuitable for food production, it increases the likelihood of flooding and loss of livelihood for local communities.
Now for more inspiring data, the Rodale Institute tells us that if we collectively can spread the regenerative agricultural practices worldwide it could help sequester “more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions.” That’s because, globally, soil actually stores an enormous amount of carbon. At least, it should. Degradation causes that carbon to be released.
We believe in organic agriculture as the most fundamental basic practice and then we build on those principles with regenerative practices that build healthy soil. Regenerative organic practices have this pretty remarkable ability to sequester carbon into the ground along with a long list of other benefits. Paul Hawken lists regenerative organic as one of the most cost-effective ways we can draw down carbon.
So our regenerative techniques also help suck carbon out of the atmosphere (if you want to get nerdy about carbon sequestration benefits, click here). By taking a regenerative approach to our soil (and the rest of our business) we can help reverse climate change and reverse these dangerous soil trends.
With the benefits of healthy soil comes a larger ecosystem that also thrives. As you can see from the image above, our farms look more like forests.
We have tracked biodiversity levels since we began and as of our last measurement on our main plot of land we’re at nearly 96% on the Simpson Index (the closer to 100%, the higher the diversity).
Plants (and animals) are really happy being there, a sign of a whole ecosystem celebrating our regenerative approach to growing plants for powerful natural skincare.
In our conversation, Whitlow highlighted the ecosystem benefits that their certification also looks to verify:
The Regenerative Organic Certified standard addresses next-level soil health and also adds in requirements for animal welfare and farm labor. Consumers will know that they are buying a product that addresses the full suite of supply chain responsibility concerns from environment and animal treatment to fair and safe working conditions for farmers and farm workers. Also, since regenerative farming practices will enhance carbon sequestration, they will also be supporting the fight to mitigate climate change.
The key message here is that regenerative agriculture is one of the most powerful ways we can think globally and act locally.
As with most businesses, we started locally with just a couple farmers on half an acre in Costa Rica. We’ve got 15 acres now, are working with dozens of farming families, and have our eyes set going global so that we bring regenerative agriculture to tens of thousands of acres of regeneratively farmed land in Latin America and beyond.
Some of our farmer partners in Costa Rica
We specifically target areas that have that degraded soil we talked about above, reintroducing native plants with a healthy dose of regenerative practices.
With biodiversity improvement year after year we are transforming damaged and degraded farmland (and surrounding areas) into healthy and resilient ecosystems for our plants and other native species.
As we grow, that means we create not just a lot of healthy farmland, but a whole lot of healthy land that is also helping to combat climate change.
The Future of Business
As regenerative leaders we have to think like nature does: through a lens that sees how things are interconnected. And act accordingly.
A regenerative supply of ingredients is where we started in order to build a regenerative business that could live up to our leave it better commitment.
We know we must treat the soil right, so that it does the same for the plants. Because that chain of nutrition travels all the way to the skin on your face in the form of potent plant-powered skincare.
If our farms are healthy, along with the surrounding land, we help drive a small (but growing) reversal in global climate trends. It’s a steadfast, and powerful, approach to an urgent issue.
As Earth Day approaches, you can play a part by supporting businesses that use regenerative practices in their operations, whether that is Thrive or allies of the Regenerative Organic Certification.
As a regenerative business grows, so do the ripples it sends out. With every harvest and then every purchase, together we make the world a little better.
Whitlow sums it up nicely, “Earth is not a commodity. We have the privilege of stewardship. Let’s think of the earth as our host and behave like wonderful and gracious guests again.”
Natural skincare that actually works? Treat your skin and support a regenerative future.
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We didn’t start out to just make a sunscreen. We wanted a daily moisturizer that also delivered strong sun protection. It was a “let’s make fewer products, but more solutions” type of approach.
A moisturizer that also SPFs. And helps heal hard-working skin.
Thrive's got some adventurous goals of our own this year. We don’t expect to change the world in one trip around the sun. But we want to make sure the stepping stones are ambitious so that each trip is even better than the last.