Meet Naked Ape Apparel, a Calgary-based online boutique and our first official Plastic-Free YYC sponsor. Fueled by friends Sheila and Monika, Naked Ape Apparel offers stunning handcrafted bracelets made of semi precious gemstones. Several designs are even adorned with lava rocks which can absorb your favourite essential oil!
Naked Ape Apparel began out of a love of gemstone bracelets and their desire to give back to the community. Their “Bracelet by Cause” program donates a portion of their proceeds to nonprofits that support Animals, People, or the Environment. Plastic-Free YYC is proud to be Naked Ape’s featured non-profit for June 1 to August 31.
Read more about Naked Ape below and be sure to check our their wears on their website here.
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your products and how your company came about?
As friends, we both have a love of gemstone bracelets and a desire to give back to the community. The name “APE” came to be from our passions: Animals, People, and the Environment – it was a perfect fit! We donate a portion of our proceeds to non-profits that support Animals, People, and the Environment – so far, we have featured Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society, Pet Access League Society, Women in Need Society, ARTS Senior Animal Rescue, and Plastic-Free YYC. As of now, we offer gemstone bracelets and necklaces but we are planning to expand our product lines into other wearables and products that show you (our customers) care about certain causes.
What is your biggest driver for being sustainable?
Both of us became vegetarian four years ago and are on the journey to living a no-harm lifestyle. After researching how animals are treated and how badly animal farming affects the environment, we knew that this small change for us can improve the lives of everyone on the planet now and for the future. It was important for us to keep this view and to do everything we could to be sustainable with our own business.
How have you managed to embed sustainable thinking within your company?
It’s at the very core of our name and values – we make buying decisions that have as little environmental impact as possible. We knew as soon as we started that our packaging had to be sustainable too, and right now everything we use is recycled and recyclable. We have plans to partner with other companies to see how we can make our packaging even better for the environment.
What are the biggest sustainability challenges you face personally and professionally?
Professionally, one of the biggest issue we faced initially was when we desired to expand, and wanted to find sustainable, organic Canadian made goods to be the key in that expansion. It was challenging to source products that were not too cost-prohibitive that still fit with our branding, especially as a self-funded startup.
Personally, the biggest challenge in being sustainable has been trying to encourage others to do follow our lead. We want to lead by example, but change is slower than we’d like. It has been so great to see how much of an impact Plastic-Free YYC has had – the little things, such as not using straws and bringing reusable bags, make a huge impact. We struggle when people we interact with have a “it doesn’t affect me personally so I’m not going to change” mentality.
What is one thing you have done at your company to drive sustainability that other businesses could replicate as best practice?
We focus on local handmade products. If we can’t make the whole pieces ourselves then we do as much as we can. We ensure that all of our packaging (even our business cards!) are made from recycled paper and can be recycled. When we go to markets, we only provide paper bags and we ask each customer if they even need a bag – more often than not, they simply want to wear their new bracelet right away!
What have you done outside of work to live a more sustainable life?
Going plant based (see below!) was a huge one. Other things we do to be more sustainable include; using reusable bags, recycling, composting, riding a bike or walking to work or for groceries, making our own products such as hand and face wash, using reusable containers, and shopping locally. It’s also the little things, remembering to order every drink without a straw! For us it’s about small incremental changes that make the most impact.
Which sustainable action or change you’ve made in your life are you most proud of?
Going vegetarian! There were a few reasons for our life choice: one was compassion for all beings and our dislike seeing where our food came from; another reason was for health and how good we felt after we stopped eating animal products; and the last was for the huge environmental impact factory farms have on the environment.
What is your “guilty” habit that just isn’t very sustainable? How do you plan to change it if you could?
Ordering takeout/delivery. I am so frustrated when I order delivery and it comes in Styrofoam of all things! A lot of restaurants are switching to more environmentally friendly containers, but since Styrofoam is still allowed in Calgary and is inexpensive, it is still very popular. I also don’t like that takeout or delivery tends to come in a plastic bag and you don’t really have an option otherwise. I know the solution is to cook at home or go pick up food yourself but sometimes that is hard to do (I find especially when it is -30 and you just don’t want to leave the house). I am trying to lessen my takeout/delivery and note which restaurants are more conscious with their packaging.
In one phrase, what does sustainability mean to you?
Changing our impact on animals, people and the environment.
Can you provide three top tips for others trying to lead more sustainable lives and reduce their waste?
Top three tips:
- Menu plan. This has been so helpful. Every weekend, I sit down and plan my dinners and lunches for the week. I base this off of what food I already have, and make a short grocery list of what I need. This has cut down significantly on food going bad in the fridge and stops me from over-buying (especially with things that are bad for you). This way I can also plan and try to buy things that are local, have less packaging, or are in bulk. You can be even more sustainable if you cut down your meat consumption.
- Make your own products. You can buy a large container of Castile Soap (we love Green Beaver which is Canadian) and use this to make your own face wash, hand soap, cleaning products, laundry detergent, etc. There are so many perks to doing this – you get to make your own customized scents using essential oils, you reduce your waste greatly by using reusable containers, and it saves a lot of money. It’s a lot easier to do than you likely think! Making a big jug of laundry detergent probably takes me about 5 minutes every few months.
- Train yourself and change your habits to bring reusable bags, straws, coffee cups, etc with you every day. This gets easier if you just always have any items you may need ready to go in your purse or backpack. We both made ourselves learn the hard way – if we went to the store without a bag, we would make ourselves carry everything in our hands (it gets tricky when you have a few things!) and eventually you learn your lesson.
Bonus: Share the love – Which businesses besides your wonderful company would you recommend to help people reduce their waste?
Some Canadian products we love and use include:
Abeego – beeswax cotton wraps to replace plastic wrap
Green Beaver Castile Soap – all purpose soap! We use this to make our own face wash, hand soap, cleaning products, etc
Karma Cultures Kombucha Kit – For brewing your own kombucha at home! Saves money and waste of buying individual bottles at the store all the time.
YYC Growers Box – a collection of local produce that you pick up every week/every two weeks. Even in the winter you can get fresh local produce!
The essence of Naked Ape Apparel is beautiful and showcases a great example of how businesses can truly give back and be profitable. Make sure to visit their website TODAY and support our cause by purchasing yourself or your loved ones these stunning gemstone bracelets before September 1st.
This post is part of a segment on our blog that features amazing, sustainable businesses and the eco-warriors behind them. Through this segment we strive to introduce you to new plastic-free alternatives and share new, attainable ways to reduce your plastic consumption and help the environment.
If you are a business interested in being featured in one of our Spotlights, please contact us for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.