Helen Tintse runs Veganshop, which is the only fully vegan and cruelty free cosmetics shop in Estonia. [Veganshop offers also cleaning products and some lifestyle products, but mostly cosmetics.] Helen reflects, among other things, on what is veganism for her, what were the reasons opening their first shop this winter, and what does their slogan “Shop ´til you drop but keep it cruelty free!” mean.
Helen, how do you define yourself?
I have never thought of myself as an activist. But when I recall that I’ve been working for free for Veganshop for three years and putting my money down there, then, I guess, it could be considered as some kind of activism. I’ve never been the type to go to demonstrations, I’ve preferred to be in the background. At the same time, I very much respect those who have the courage to organise demonstrations and to put themselves in the forefront. A deep bow to the good young people who do this in Estonia!
What is veganism for you?
I gave up meat overnight and it happened as a result of my own reasoning. I remember thinking I could never hurt an animal, and I could never watch it. And then I realised that I’m paying every day for someone to do hurt animals for me. I didn’t eat any meat the next day. This happened six years ago, when vegan food choices in diners practically lacked. I remember it clearly that the next day I ate only buckwheat for lunch as there was nothing else to eat. I became a vegan a year later as the logical continuation of things.
Being a vegan for me means that I don’t cause suffering to anyone with my consumption choices. There have been many changes. I feel healthier and I’m in better shape than ever, better shape than I was at my twenties before the birth of four children. This is because of my healthy vegan lifestyle, of course, not just being a vegan. Because one can be a vegan eating only sweet rolls with sugar, but this doesn’t bring health.
And of course the creation of Veganshop has brought a huge change to my life, it has provided a bigger goal for my life — Veganshop makes my eyes shine!
What types of social and political movements are important to you?
For me, the issues that matter are nature, animals, and equality. We need to understand, as human beings, that without nature, we don’t exist. We need to understand that animals have the same rights as human beings do. We need to understand that women have the same rights as men, etc. It’s a long way for humanity to go. But I am positively minded because, in fact, major changes have taken place, e.g. over the last ten years the development of veganism has been huge.
What were your reasons being establishing the brand Veganshop?
In one vegan cosmetics group I noticed how people were in trouble finding vegan products. I wanted to create an environment to bring all vegan products together, so that it would be easier for people to be(come) vegan, especially for vegan beginners.
Most importantly, Veganshop creates opportunities, normalises the vegan lifestyle, and conduces to the growth of veganism.
The most difficult thing has been time planning. Because, in addition to starting Veganshop, I also started full-time job and went to study to the Tallinn University of Technology.
The most empowering is when Veganshop receives positive feedback and I feel that Veganshop is needed.
Veganshop has also its physical shop. What were the reasons to open your shop?
The reason for creating a real shop was the need. I had so long been involved with Veganshop alone, but I didn’t feel that way anymore. Because there was no spare time, and the home had turned into a warehouse. Luckily, at that point, I found Kristina, who became a partner at VeganShop, and who today helps me with everything. Also, the real shop lets you realise a lot of ideas that you couldn’t do before. For example, the reception of used packaging, the sale of home cleaning products in bulk, the creation of a means of testing products, which is particularly important for cosmetic products.
Veganshop values environmental friendliness. Can you elaborate on this?
From the beginning, I have done everything in a way not to cause unnecessary garbage by my actions. We do not use film or other non-biodegradable materials for packaging. As packaging material, we use compostable starch-produced granules. We use paper packing tape, and the packaging materials are mostly been reused. When one orders from our e-shop, one has the opportunity to tell us whether reused package is OK — 90% of our customers are happy to do so.
In choosing brands, eco-products are always preferred, but in our store not all products have an eco-certificate. It has not been our aim as it would further restricts choices of vegan products. But we have the products nicely labelled, so one can make one’s own choices.
What does environmental friendliness mean to you in your daily life?
I’m trying to live as package free as possible. I’m happy to find more and more options, buy things with no packaging, and buy as few things as possible. I make my food from pure raw ingredients and hardly use semi-fabricates at all, which already significantly reduces the amount of packaging that arrives in the household. I make also fresh juices and vegetable milk for myself. In addition, I grow food in my home garden, compost all the food waste and use compost as fertiliser in the garden. But the biggest step is probably being vegan.
What does slogan “Shop ´til you drop but keep it cruelty free!” mean to you?
This slogan was given to VeganShop by Sevil Shukjurova, a vegan make-up artist, and I am immensely grateful to her for helping me in the beginning with her knowledge and ideas.
This slogan means to me that as a person I need different things for life every day and there is nothing wrong with acquiring these things when we think about how these products have been made, and make ethical choices. With our wallet we can vote every day for the world we wish to live in.
How do you evaluate whether a product will actually provide a green benefit?
It is important to me that a product, whether cosmetic or packaging, is biodegradable. And especially good if the product is also reusable. That’s what we’re trying to follow with the VeganShop brand Zik-Zak. Reuseable products made from eco textile minimise the burden on nature of the production process and, at the same time, as low waste they are not an environmental burden.
Does sustainable consumption save the Earth?
In fact, it’s not about saving the Earth, it’s about saving humanity. The question is whether we can maintain a suitable living environment for ourselves. Right now, we are seeing a worsening of the living environment. There are areas where this is very noticeable, e.g. what is happening in our forests is very worrying, and there is nothing to be seen in this area for the better.
What’s next up for you?
There’s a lot of ideas, mostly about how to make everything better. The plan is to bring in shampoos, conditioners, etc. in addition to home cleaning products sold in bulk. We also would like to start organising events such as makeup trainings, information evenings, and theme nights. And as regards the development of the Zik-Zak brand. There are also several ideas regards the development of the Zik-Zak brand on how to make the products better and more user-friendly.