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EarthSuds, a social enterprise created at Laurier, has been named a finalist for the National Geographic Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge. The business was selected from a global pool of 291 candidates for their novel toiletry tablets that replace shampoo, conditioner and bodywash amenity bottles found in hotels.

The product is simple. First, crush the tablet, then lather and wash like any other liquid soap. Unlike traditional soaps, EarthSuds do not require a plastic encasing. For this reason, EarthSuds have the potential to eliminate the 5.7 billion amenity bottles sent to landfills every year in North America.

The only Canadian finalist in the competition, EarthSuds has already secured the $5000 prize and is looking ahead to the $100,000 grand prize awarded later this year to one of the finalists.

Having completed several unpaid pilots, the business secured its first customers this summer. The focus initially was on hotels, who are looking for ways to stock rooms with soaps and shampoos without using single use plastics. However, the business found that customers wanted the product in their own homes, which inspired the team to launch a consumer line which will be available in the coming months.

“I just wanted to do more cases, and get more experience, so during summer when I had a bit more free time, I was just looking around for online competitions that weren’t really with Laurier at all, and I found that one online competition, the circular design challenge,” said Marissa Vettoretti, the founder of EarthSuds.

Having completed several unpaid pilots, the business secured its first customers this summer. The focus initially was on hotels, who are looking for ways to stock rooms with soaps and shampoos without using single use plastics. However, the business found that customers wanted the product in their own homes, which inspired the team to launch a consumer line which will be available in the coming months.

“It was called the circular design challenge and it was run by a company called OpenIDEO. The actual case competition was about how to get products to people without producing plastic packaging. So, the competition gave us plenty of use cases for a lot of different types of plastic. They had like straws, bottle caps, and this is like way before anybody even knew that straws were an issue with the recycling process. So straws, bottle caps, coffee lids, stuff like that and one was for shampoo packets that you would get samples for and for some reason I just got drawn to that and I started thinking of ideas for that.”

While the competition did not end with a win for Vettoretti, her interest in the plastic problem did not subside. She approached a professor about her idea to replace amenity bottles with a solid form of shampoo. She was directed to Enactus, a club on campus that helps students launch social businesses. With Enactus, Vettoretti was able to create a product and pilot it at multiple hotels. The EarthSuds business is now supported by a core team of 15 volunteers along with the help of the 50 additional Enactus members.

“Laurier is all about connecting people and really caring about the effect that we have on each other and really encouraging that mindset. Enactus really does all of that… Enactus means entrepreneurial action for a better world for us all and that really is something that Laurier does embody,” Vettoretti said.

As the business transitions out of the pre-revenue stage, Vettoretti says she sees a lot of changes for the company in the next year. As the products expand into rooms of hotels, the team is simultaneously working on selling their product directly to consumers through their website.

“In the next few years, I could only hope for even more growth. The goal is always to eliminate all plastic bottles so hopefully we’ll be in a few big chains in the next few years and eliminating as much plastic bottles as possible or at least seeing a change in society which reduces our plastic use overall,” Vettoretti said.