“Is It Really Sustainable?” A Conversation with Isabel Aagaard
This Women’s History Month, we’re shining a spotlight on the women behind some of the biggest brands in the beauty and wellness industries. Today, we’re sitting down with Isabel Aagaard, the founder behind LastObject, to learn more about the true meaning of sustainability, and how we can better protect the planet for future generations.
"To be truly sustainable you have to make mistakes but keep changing for the better and not just do business as usual."
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what drew you to living an eco-conscious lifestyle?
I didn’t grow up in a zero-waste environment and I’m always trying to do better in my quest. That’s why we started LastObject: we need alternatives that make the switch easier. For me, the to-go coffee cup habit was really hard to break. Right now I’m on the journey of implementing the reusable diaper at home and this has not been easy!
When were you inspired to start LastObject? What did that journey look like?
Me and my two co-founders wanted to work together to create something with a purpose. The idea for LastSwab came to us when we were researching which single-use items were the most harmful for our planet, and the cotton swab was surprisingly quite high on this list.
We found that one of the biggest issues was that people didn’t discard them properly, mainly because they are so small. If flushed down the toilet, they often don’t get caught by filtration systems and are dumped directly into the ocean, and later end up in the stomachs of sea creatures. We felt that by solving this problem, we would create an impact on marine life as well as single-use pollution.
I think our “aha moment” was in the design process. We prototype a lot. The product, the packaging, the content — everything is made and edited hundreds of times while constantly being tested. We try to get our designs in our hands even though most of our work is on a computer. When we had the final version in our hands and it actually worked, this was when we thought “this could really be big.”
“Sustainable” can be thrown around as a buzzword quite often, but LastObject is truly committed to an eco-conscious way of life. The standard you set for your products is that they must have at least 10x real environmental impact vs. the traditional single-use products they replace. Can you speak more to this and what this means for you and your brand?
“Is this really sustainable?” That’s the question that guides us in all aspects of our business. From the materials we use in our products to automating essential aspects of our business. We want to create a sustainable company that’s healthy all the way around. By making sure it grows organically and by automating processes, we can create a company that can live for centuries and really make a difference on the planet.
When thinking about our materials, durability is our biggest focus. If our products don't last, our mission doesn't make sense. When looking at the subject of sustainability, people often get too caught up in what it’s made of and how it can be disposed of, which are valid questions, but don’t consider length of use. Sustainability is very much about quality. So our materials are chosen with durability in mind first.
As a mother, do you see any parallels between motherhood and caring for the earth in this way?
Definitely. I was not a mother when we started the company, but a lot of changes in my own lifestyle have been inspired by the question “what will I pass on to the future generations?”
Becoming a mom has only made that question more important to me.
Some people might look at the threat of climate change and wonder what their small changes can really do, but LastObject is here to prove that those adjustments matter and add up to significant impact. What are some other shifts individuals can make to care for the planet in their daily lives?
Where you can make a difference really depends on your lifestyle — some people love their to-go coffee, others use a lot of makeup wipes. So it's really about taking a good look at the things you bring into your home and throw out, and replacing or eliminating one thing at a time. You can aim to replace one thing a month so you get 30 days to get used to this new habit.
What are some myths you see about sustainably?
Sometimes something will look more sustainable than it really is, for example a paper bag. Even though it's made from natural materials, it weighs much more than a plastic bag, which gives it a larger footprint. And yes, if your trash ends up in a landfill or in nature the paper bag is better but if it's incinerated the plastic bag is better, especially if you use it a couple of times. Don't judge a book by its cover.
What are the challenges in running a sustainable business?
Sustainability is very complex, and it's not a black and white world out there. Working in the sustainability space you have to constantly ask yourself “is this sustainable” and there are often multiple answers. And then there is also the fine line of growing your business, from building a brand that can reach the masses but still be the grassroot fight against climate change. To be truly sustainable you have to make mistakes but keep changing for the better and not just do business as usual.
What’s next for LastObject?
Our newest product is LastPad, a reusable sanitary pad which is launching in April. With this I really wanted to create a hygienic alternative to the single-use pad that felt luxurious, was innovative and well-designed, and that actually would make a huge difference for the environment. I’m really excited about what we came up with.
What changes would you like to see in the wellness and personal care industries to better support the environment?
I hope we will be part of the shift from single-use hygienic products to reusable alternatives. There is a shift right now where we are thinking more about our own health and the environment, LastPad will cater to both of these very important focuses. People are done with chemicals, imbalance, and waste in our world and our bodies.
Finally, can you tell us a little bit about a woman who inspires you this Women’s History Month?
I'm going to be really cheesy and mention my mother. She is the most amazing woman I know, and it’s been such a journey to become an adult next to her. I admire how she carries my family and supports us in her own way through happy and tough patches. And now experiencing becoming a mother next to her, a whole new array of admiration and love has blossomed. She is a huge reason why I am who I am today.