Generation Conscious is an environmental justice startup developing plastic-free refill stations that distribute toxic-free, hypoallergenic and biodegradable laundry detergent sheets inside college residence halls. Our closed-loop system allows students inside residence halls (aka dorms) to enjoy affordable hygiene products that are package-free, plastic-free and therefore zero-waste (LCA), and require 97% less water and 95% less carbon to produce and distribute!
Generation Conscious has collaborated with student-leaders across college campuses to ensure that their administrations finance the costs of laundry detergent sheets for all low-income students. Through these efforts, each university promotes the physical and emotional well-being of its students who may have difficulty providing these basic products for themselves. By ensuring hygiene security to its low-income students inside residence halls (or dorms), universities create an institutional environment where students experience greater comfort and support knowing they do not need to worry about such essential things like affording laundry detergent while balancing the demands of being a full-time student!
Hygiene products, because of their frequent use have most often been packaged and produced in single-use plastics making them a large generator of waste, waste that can not be regenerated for future use.
Eco-conscious behaviors and products are typically not as accessible to lower income communities and persons, often requiring higher levels of financial investment. Examples of sustainable designs and products like central heating/cooling systems, electric vehicles, organic produce and products, installing solar panels require additional income, since they are often sold at a higher price point—perpetuating eco-classism and making it inaccessible to participate in climate solutions without high levels of capital. Generation Conscious has made their designs and products specifically to combat this eco-classism in sustainability, creating products well-below the price point of other sustainable brands and products.
Our recycling system in the U.S. and throughout the globe is practically non-operational due to a lack of infrastructure and companies committing to using recycled material for production. Thus, in order to resurrect the natural cycles of regenerative systems in society and on Earth—a step in that direction is greatly decreasing our plastic consumption and using products that work with our planet, not against it.
By investing in products and companies that are prioritizing the environment and communities in their designs, we are investing in a future reality we want to create.
At the same time though, the intention behind our choices and consumption choices must go deeper than that. It isn’t just about minimizing our own individual footprint, but rather minimizing the negative effects our society has on the planet and one another. We have to make choices that don’t just make us feel less guilty or responsible but also choices that directly contribute to systems change. We have to be building and modeling our own personal world by making purchasing choices that are not only just zero-waste in our own households, but also affirm the progression of a society becoming zero-waste as well, a society that is balanced with the natural cycles of decay and rebirth.
We install our laundry detergent sheet refill stations inside University residence halls that distribute toxic-free, hypoallergenic, and biodegradable laundry products. Our closed-loop system that allows all people to enjoy affordable hygiene products that are sustainable, requiring 97% less water and 95% less carbon to produce and distribute, and that are package, plastic-free and therefore zero-waste!
These products and their system of distribution will benefit all people by allowing an accessible access point to sustainable, eco-conscious behaviors—promoting hygiene security and supporting environmental justice communities by reducing waste! Our work will promote the health and well-being of not only the people but also will provide our communities with the opportunity to promote sustainability and environmental justice within our institutions and surrounding communities.
The University is a living laboratory
This proposed effort perfectly aligns with many University goals! One of the goals this project will address is increasing the extent to which the institutional environment promotes well-being for all members by integrating zero-waste, closed-loop infrastructure into the institutional environment, allowing all students easy access to affordable, sustainable, non-toxic hygiene products! By providing low-income students with a free year-long supply of laundry detergent, the university will be promoting the well-being of it’s students who may have difficulty providing these basic products for themselves. By providing hygiene security to it’s low-income students through this initiative, the University will be supporting the physical and emotional well-being of it’s students and creating an institutional environment where students can experience greater comfort and support knowing they do not need to worry about such essential things like affording laundry detergent while balancing the demands of being a full-time student.
By alleviating hygiene insecurity and the emotional distress student’s might experience when lacking an ability to maintain their hygiene while attending an elite institution, and having to be among their wealthy peers that have the resources to present themselves at a high-standard of personal care—this initiative will also address the University’s goals to promote equity in health and well-being for all campus community members.
Other goals this project aligns with are increasing students’ engagement, meaning, and purpose as well as increasing students’ skills, and mindsets to enhance positive coping and resilience. The project will address these goals by inspiring a conscious generation through providing students with the opportunity to participate in a tangible, affordable and convenient climate and environmental justice solution. Through the ability to make simple purchasing choices that disrupt the cycle of perpetual waste, students will feel more empowered to propose and act upon climate solutions, knowing that there are real tangible ways and access points for them to disengage from the destructive cycles of environmental degradation and injustice.
The multi-dimensional nature of Generation Conscious’ product designs and mission encourages interdisciplinary collaboration and conversation by integrating the necessities of sustainability with attention to racial justice.
The fundamental purpose of Generation Conscious is to create sustained change by radically rejecting the systems and structures perpetuating racial and economic injustice; carbon, plastic, water-waste and pollution—replacing these infrastructures and their consequences with systems and structures that generate true sustainability, equity and accessibility! Generation Conscious’ laundry detergent sheets use 97% less water, and produce 95% less CO2 during production and transportation than leading pod detergents. Since these laundry detergent sheets can conveniently be acquired without the use of single-use plastics or packaging by using a refill station on campus they create the accessible reality of a closed-loop, circular system of consumption inspired by nature. Our work can help end the disposal of billions of containers to landfills and incinerators while simultaneously breaking down a system of extractive and polluting behavior that is poisoning indigineous and minority communities throughout the world—creating a new world of sustainable and regenerative consumption that works with the natural systems of the planet.
By partnering with Generation Conscious, Universities and it’s students will be collaborating with a company thinking on a systems level, committed to including ecosystems and the planet as equal stakeholders while designing products. Biodegradable and waste-free, Generation Conscious’ laundry detergent sheets follow a similar vein as other sustainable and regenerative practices like composting which promote environments rather than degrading them.
Our work also addresses invisible costs of waste predominately burdened onto black and brown communities. Current economic and waste management system hardly hold large institutions and high consumption households responsible for the total cost of waste they produce, financially or ethically. Our current waste management system equates to dumping waste and its various costs on the environment and health of racialized communities. The placement of waste facilities in black and brown communities globally is a historic and present-day trend contributing to devastating impacts on the well-being and prosperity of these communities. Minimizing waste and setting up new pathways of sustainability at Universities through partnership with Generation Conscious, will reduce the impact communities face from the mainstream production and waste management systems in place today, as well as increase access to sustainable practices and environmental justice on campus and in the larger communities we are connected to.
Generation Conscious serves underserved populations such as low-income, first gen and minority students by providing them with free hygiene products as well as economic opportunity to be employed by Generation Conscious through their Workforce Development Program. Our program consists of hiring 5 to 8 FGLI (first-gen, low-income) and DACA students; teaching them about circular economic practices; how to maintain and service the refill stations, for which they will be paid a fair wage of $20 – $25/hour. Generation Conscious currently employs 61 FGLI and DACA recipients at other partnering schools, and this same network of opportunity will extend to financially vulnerable students at other Universities. The ability to maintain hygiene and wash one’s clothes is essential for the emotional wellbeing and academic success of students, and the University shouldn’t allow hygiene insecurity to be a barrier to the success of their students. The provision of free laundry detergent sheets will be a critical step towards greater equity on campus. The University will also be serving the call for climate justice by decreasing waste and pollution produced on campus, supporting communities largely ignored by governments.
Through education and convenient access to engagement with sustainable products and practices —our organization will act as a widespread access point through which a lasting impact of eco-conscious behavior on a large population of students can occur, having long-lasting positive impacts on environments and communities at home and abroad. By partnering with on-campus organizations like the eco-reps, and paid student representatives and facilitators—the educational aspect and effectiveness of our organization will have a far reach by integrating the student body into a re-imagined world where the choice to produce less waste and dis-engage from unjust systems is made a reality through convenience and affordability.
By providing information on and access to regenerative and sustainable consumer behavior through partnership with Generation Conscious—our organization provides skills to our student body that will inspire a new generation of conscious adults who make ecologically-minded decisions that support their health, their future and the ecosystem at large! While many students are aware of climate injustices, and the pollution they create—they are not given many opportunities to act upon their knowledge, exercising the purchasing power they do have, however limited, to invest in the future they imagine. This project will educate students on the negative impacts of waste while also affording them the opportunity to apply this knowledge through direct action. We believe this opportunity to directly practice a climate solution will have incredible benefits to the mental well-being of students and inspire true hope.
There are thousands of student-customers who have never thought about the intersectionality of climate change. Generation Conscious is providing the infrastructure to build sustainable behaviors from an early age (behavioral change) while providing students (who are new to the environmental space) with an inroad to thinking about environmental problems.
Our work is highly innovative since the philosophies underpinning Generation Conscious’ product designs completely re-imagine consumption practices and the relationship between consumers and their environment—realizing a reality whereby mimicking the cycles of ecological systems, humans can also participate in regenerative consumption practices without compromising convenience or affordability.
Because Generation Conscious provides full support in the rollout—including the refill station and detergent sheets; the back end operational management system; and the employment of First Gen Low Income students to augment utilization on campus—this work is guaranteed to be successful in all of its objectives.
Many previous initiatives on college campuses pertaining to sustainable products only consisted of personal distribution; their presence on campus was short-lived due to a lack of infrastructure and foundation.
Compared to these prior efforts, Generation Conscious stands out because it focuses on the integration of zero-waste infrastructure on campus which will guarantee long-lasting engagement and influence well beyond its pilot period.
This project differs vastly from past proposals due to the core attitude within it, which is to change the culture on a University’s campus into one that has greater concern for well-being: well-being towards the environment and how much waste we produce, well-being of economically vulnerable classmates and communities—and most importantly become a culture that acts on their concerns, generating an equitable and healthy world for all life. It is not just about being eco-friendly—this project truly has justice as its central tenet; providing affordable and free access to eco-conscious products; challenging extractive, wasteful modes of production; providing a new alternatives to consumption for students at your University; creating new pathways for sustainability, generating less waste, less pollution, and ultimately promoting environmental justice and well-being! Changing the language and attitude students have towards waste, in a way that simultaneously offers them a new path, a new solution, as conveniently and affordably as possible, making the participation in zero-waste, closed-loop systems become second-nature to students— promoting them to incorporate more sustainable practices into their lives and most importantly changing their attitude towards climate change from a pessimistic one to a hopeful one, knowing that solutions are here and they can choose them.
The Workforce Development Program that Generation Conscious provides, is a unique professional development opportunity for students interested in working on future pathways for our post-fossil fuel economy. Being a part of a revolutionary project, while also gaining a professional and economic opportunity—has the potential to empower students interested in a career in climate solutions to continue in this direction. This opportunity is for students that are low-income and first-gen, who may feel pressure to go for traditional career paths they may not feel passionate about, but which are glorified as the most dependable pathways to economic security and mobility for themselves and their families. Showing students they do not need to compromise their vision or passion in order to gain financial security is an essential component of this program, which allows students to envision career paths solving environmental and justice issues plaguing their communities, while simultaneously generating economic freedom for themselves and their families. Programs like this are essential for building a community of post-graduates who are working on solutions to the pressing issues of our times!