By Katie Pohlman
We all clean our houses, but not always with environmentally friendly products.
Noelle Morris wants to change that. She is president and founder of Environmental Products for Important Causes, Inc. — or EPIC for short.
Morris created a line of biodegradable, cruelty- and petroleum-free cleaning products in 2005 when she was living in San Diego, CA. When she moved to Kansas City, she brought her products to the area, and they are now sold in Whole Foods, The Sundry and Natural Grocers. All the profits are donated to non-profit environmental organizations, including Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, KS and Bridging The Gap, where she is the programs director. Bridging The Gap works to make the Kansas City region more sustainable by educating residents and taking action, including planting trees, restoring prairies and recycling.
The idea for EPIC was sparked after Morris attended an ocean policy conference in Washington, D.C., where one of the main topics discussed among attendees was the lack of funding for environmental science and ocean conservation.
“One night, it occurred to me that we need to develop a long-term source of funding (for environmental science and ocean conservation), so why not develop a product that will fund it?” she said.
After some planning, and a little help from her friends, Morris started EPIC, which produces dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, toilet cleaner, furniture polish and much more.
“It just started as a bunch of favors and people believing in my company,” she said.
She enlisted a graphic design-savvy friend to create her logo and an attorney to help with the legal side of starting her business. She also worked with a natural chemist to develop the recipes for her products. They worked together for six months developing the formulas, she said.
Morris ensures that none of her products contained chlorine bleach, parabens, heavy metals, skin sensitizers or dyes, 2-Butoxyethanol, phthalates, phosphates, synthetic fragrances, ammonia, formaldehyde, isopropanol or petroleum distillates.
The chemist also put her in touch with a fragrance lab to develop recognizable, natural scents like lavender, citrus and ginger.
“I wanted fragrances that people would get addicted to,” Morris said.
But EPIC’s commitment to the environment doesn’t end with its products. The company also has green practices, including:
- All fragrances are naturally derived, so to not harm the marine environments.
- EPIC ships all products with UPS Carbon Neutral shipping.
- EPIC manufactures, warehouses and ships all products from one location directly to the customer. EPIC closed its San Diego warehouse in 2008, reducing its carbon footprint.
- EPIC plants trees every year to help offset the company’s office energy use.
- As the company grows, EPIC plans to use solar panels and wind power to offset all manufacturing and distribution.
EPIC also received champion status, the highest level of recognition, in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative.
Morris said she hopes her company acts as a model for others.
“There are so many companies that are started every day, but I feel like we have an important duty to our environment,” she said. “If you’re producing natural products, you should also be supporting the groups that try to protect and conserve the environment.”
In the near future, Morris said she would like to expand to more retail outlets and get Kansas City businesses to use a local, natural product in their break rooms.
This story is the fourth installment in our current series featuring small, local businesses that are pioneering sustainability.
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