Not filling the Earth with unnecessary stuff: Mona Isotupa (Hetkinen; FI)

Zero waste has been defined in various ways. Some say that zero waste starts by refusing things. For some it means reducing waste. Some, including Mona who believes that in the future all cosmetics will be vegan, invites us to say yes to sustainable practices that will lead to a kind and gentle life. 


Mona, how do you define yourself? 

I am a mother of two children, feminist, vegetarian, animal and nature-lover. I am an activist, especially in the protection of forests. I am against clear cutting, and I would like to protect even more mature trees, particularly in urban milieu. Animal law needs a lot of improvements. In my opinion, tiestall cattle barns, gestation crates, and fur farms should be banned. In addition, I am in favor of reducing subsidies for intensive animal production and increasing organic production, where animals can significantly improve their special life. The gap between production and pet treatment is enormous and there is no rationale for it.            Our family has two cats and a dog.

What is vegetarianism for you? 

I’ve been a vegetarian for 10 years. In my earlier work, I drove a lot, saw too much animal transports, I felt really sick when I thought about the animals in the car and where they were going. I always remember its harsh smell. The only purpose of animals in life is to get on a man’s plate, it is so wrong. I was a vegan for a year but I couldn’t find a balanced diet for myself. Now I consider to become vegan again, definitely. Vegetarianism has changed my life so that I am much more energetic. I  am telling all the animals that I do not eat them. I can look at the mirror every day with a good conscience. My daughters have been able to decide on their own diet at school, but at our home only a vegetarian food is eaten.

What types of social and political movements are important to you?

All movements that improve animal conditions and protect nature. The fight against climate change must be fought harder and it requires work from every one of us. After a workday, I am happy to go home and tell my daughters that I am trying to make the world a better place with my own choices and setting an example.

What were your reasons being establishing the brand Hetkinen? What does the Hetkinen do? 

The HETKINEN Cosmetics Brand was born for two different reasons. Many of us know (at least when it comes to women) how much plastic rubbish comes from basic hygiene products. And all this plastic can’t even be recycled. Micro-plastic is also used as a raw material for cosmetics and is not even prohibited by law. There was no ecological packaging material alternative on the market. The second reason was to develop basic good hygiene products with minimal and sustainable raw materials. This concept was also completely missing from the market. To create products that are good for both nature and oneself. Products that would remind us about clean forests in Finland. A product line with a low threshold that would suit everyone regardless of skin type or gender.

Your Pine Lip Balm concept won the FDS Award design competition, organised by online store Finnish Design Shop in 2017. What did this award meant to you? 

The victory of the Finnish Design Shop design competition meant me a lot. I knew immediately that there is a market for non-plastic products and wood cosmetics. It was great to note that people believed in my idea and also wanted more sustainable material options for daily life. I was not alone. 


The wooden jars are manufactured from Finnish pine heartwood. Why do you prefer to use the heartwood? How sustainable is the process of making the jars? 

HETKINEN wood jars are milled from Finnish pine heartwood. The reason why we use heartwood in cosmetic jars is due to the good rot resistance of the heartwood and it does not get out of the liquid in the same way as any other wood material. In addition, the heartwood is inherently antibacterial. Pine begins to produce heartwood only at the age of 40 years. We use wood very sparingly in the production process, we do not separate the knots or the stains caused by the blue stain fungi from the cans. Trees are not felled just because of our cans. The jars are made industrially, wasted sawdust comes from wood milling. This sawdust is utilised as a litter for nearby farms. We really appreciate the material and try to make the most of it.

What does sustainability mean to you (also in your daily life)? 

In my own consumption, I prefer sustainable choices. Local production, organic and genuine materials lead me in my daily choices. The products of the HETKINEN give the consumer an option to choose a plastic-free cosmetic product. In addition, cosmetics products do not contain any water and are really long-lasting in use. We have also thought about the refill concept around the product line, so that the wood jar could be used almost endlessly and filled if necessary.

What are the grand challenges in producing environmentally and socially responsible design?

The biggest challenge in producing responsible and sustainable products is the final price of the product. Plastic is almost free and natural sustainable materials cost more. A good example is that we don`t use any plastic in the packaging materials of our online store. We use a paper tape instead of a plastic tape, and a papery equivalent product replaces the bubble wrap. These non-plastic packaging materials cost three times the amount of plastic materials. Totally absurd. I think plastic and non-ecological materials should be taxed. 

What are the main ways to be(come) more sustainable, in design and in daily life?

Main means to become more sustainable in design and everyday life are natural local sustainable raw materials and local production. Products must be complete and respond to the company’s own value base. I think companies have a big responsibility when new products are introduced to the market. If a company advertise their products as ecological, this should also be the case. Unfortunately, this is half the truth. For example, colored cosmetic glass jars are made of glue glass which should not be placed in glass recycle cans. They end up in burning waste. It’s just crazy. Then, if there is still a bamboo cap in the package and a plastic lid seal inside it. Is this really ecological? Plastic would be a better option at this point. Everyone knows that this company is in no way responsible and customers are underestimated. In addition, many cosmetic stores use endangered essential oils such as sandalwood and rosewood. I once sent an email to one big cosmetics company and asked why they use the raw materials that the strain has dropped sharply. In response I got that customers want these products, and they can’t remove these raw materials from their products, because they would get immediately feedback from the customers. But wouldn’t the company be obliged to tell the customers that they cannot use these endangered raw materials and replace them with another? I don’t think all consumers are so aware of this. I still emphasise – companies have a really big responsibility.

You have said: “We use as few ingredients as possible. We don´t “fancy up” our products with endless lists of posh ingredients. Instead, we remove everything extra and keep our products as minimalistic as possible, whithout compromising the desired effects.” Why do you prefer minimalistic approach?

In all HETKINEN activities, stands less is more thinking. We strive to make all things as transparent and simple as possible. Our cosmetic jar is wood, it has no treatment. The label is paper. There is no separate box because it would be junk. In our cosmetic products, we have carefully considered a few organic vegetable oils, vitamins, waxes and essential oils that preserve the product giving it a wonderful smell. It’s so simple and the product still has everything your skin needs. I believe that cosmetics stores have also misled consumers by the length of International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient lists. Does the consumer see a long list on the bottom of the can and think what all these ingredients are? Does the skin need all of these? Is the long list work as a guarantee of credibility and skills?

How does one become a successful designer in the field of sustainable design? 

Being a successful designer in the field of sustainable development is possible when designing something completely new, a new insight into what the market has not yet seen. The product must also have a need and must respond to a problem. A good pioneer in Finland is Alvar Aalto, who invented plywood bending. I see that HETKINEN is a bold little pioneer in the field of cosmetics, which challenges all the plastic jars with its wooden jars. We have started the battle.

How does one become a successful sustainable designer in the field of design? 

The feature of a sustainable designer are the ability to say no when their own values ​​do not meet with the company’s. Choose sustainable materials, think about the design of the product so that the raw material is wasted as little as possible and the working method is ecological. Whenever a new product is developed, it is necessary to consider whether there is a need for it on the market. A responsible designer does not fill the Earth with unnecessary stuff.

You have said: “We oppose clear cutting forest and stand up for animal rights.” Can you elaborate on that?

The wood material we use is PECF certified. So with this certificate, the tree can be traced back to its growth site. The certification is only for the sustainable forest, which is reasonable thinned. We are opposed to clear cutting, and we have written a citizens’ initiative to stop clear cutting in Finland. In clearcut forests, the forest landscape loses its original look and lasts for decades before the landscape returns. Wild animals and birds as well as plants are also affected by clear cutting. If the Finnish state learned enough to appreciate the diversity, recreation, and cultural values ​​associated with forests, then it would certainly be justifiable to cut down plenty of clear cutting. But when it comes to purely wood production and the money it generates, forest owners still prefer clearcutting in 2019. This must end and we will fight for the matter to Parliament. We support the Finnish Forest Protection Association, which protects the primeval forests and we also want to plant trees in various campaigns. When we use wood in cosmetic jars, we also want to plant new trees. When you take it, give it also back. Forests are carbon sinks that need to be protected.

Kristina Dryža, an international trend forecaster and futurist, has said: “Every design ought to be sustainable design, meaning something people refuse to trash.” How would you comment on that? 

I fully agree with Kristina Dryža. I am glad I have noticed that our customers are using HETKINEN’s jars after emptying cosmetics in jewelery cases, spice jars etc. And I emphasise that we work furiously to enable jars refill.

What creative activists, sustainable designers, bloggers, etc would you say have influenced you the most, and why?

I follow the fashion designer Stella McCartney. McCartney does not use fur or leather in her clothes, and her cosmetics and perfumes are untested in animals and made from raw materials made from natural methods. McCartney is also known for her collaboration with PETA, an animal rights advocate.

What are your hopes and dreams both regarding sustainability and the Hetkinen? 

Topmost, I feel that I have created more than just a product or product line. I’ve got people to discuss the environmental-friendliness and ethics of the field of cosmetics by introducing a completely new concept in the market. With wood jars, I replace the dominant plastic material and use only sustainable ingredients in the cosmetics content. I would like to encourage other actors in the industry to promote the use of sustainable materials and to question unnecessary packaging materials. Everyone has the power to make changes. Every choice has an effect.

I want to build a cosmetics brand that makes astonishingly effective and beautifully designed products for a wide range of people around the world. I offer products that are unique, different and give you a good feeling. My products do not strain nature and do not harm animals. Our team enjoys active attitude and is proud of all the accomplishments. Positive feedback on the products across borders has encouraged us to continue, invest in new products and exceed customer expectations every day!

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