This article is brought to you in collaboration with Leleki.
Earth Collective’s ‘Interviews with the Collective’ series is a collection of interviews with likeminded souls from around the globe, who are working towards a better future for the planet and people in it. Today, we chat with Ania Levina PhD, the Founder and CEO of Leleki. In a world of greenwashing and clever, but confusing, marketing tactics, Leleki provides an evidence-based marketplace and resource that puts transparency at the forefront for parents.
What was your catalyst to diving into the world of sustainability?
For me it was doing more research into the baby products. Given my scientific background (PhD in Organic Chemistry), I like to make sure that any claims I see are supported by facts and evidence and am in general skeptical of marketing speak. As I started doing research for Leleki and digging deeper into what it means for materials or products to be sustainable, I came across quite a bit of “greenwashing” (at least in the US market), which I find infuriating. Words such as “organic”, “sustainable”, “eco-friendly”, “non-toxic” are used very freely and often without any basis to support such claims.
In response, Leleki thrives to be as science-backed and transparent as possible. We make sure to explain how we assign conscious values to products (e.g., if something is labelled “organic” on Leleki, consumers can rest assured that the item is certified-organic by a respected certification agency). We help parents cut through the noise.
Tell us about your business journey so far.
Leleki is just getting started. We launched our first version of the website in August this year and have been working on growing our brand partnerships and audience since. We are extremely excited to get to know our first customers and continue developing Leleki!
What has been your proudest achievement to date for Leleki?
All the wonderful partnerships we have been so fortunate to build. I love our brand partners – it’s so wonderful to work with so many like-minded people and highlight their amazing products for our customers.
What do you think is the biggest threat to our planet and the people in it today?
There is still so much mistrust and hesitancy when it comes to climate science and the impact humans are having on our planet.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Nothing – I am soooo not a morning person!
On a more serious note, it’s my family and an opportunity to work on something I care about so much!
Who/what has been the biggest influence in your life?
I think the most pivotal point in my life has been coming to the US to study. I was born and raised in Ukraine, but was determined to seek opportunities for myself beyond what was available back home. I won a full scholarship to study at St. Mark’s School (a prestigious boarding prep school in MA) and I jumped on the opportunity. This opened the doors for me to continue my education at MIT and Harvard, and helped me set up the rest of my career. I am forever grateful to St. Mark’s School for taking a chance on a kid from Ukraine.
What book(s) are you reading and/or podcast(s) are you listening to right now?
I am all about Emily Oster’s books at the moment – love her data-driven approach to pregnancy and parenting. Her work is definitely an inspiration for Leleki!
What does the word ‘community’ mean to you?
To me “community” always meant a group of people who are taking into account how their words and actions effect others. In my opinion it is not possible to form a true community if everyone is solely focused on their own success and achievements.
What are your top tips for new parents who are worried about the lack of transparency when it comes to baby products, what should they look out for to make sure they are buying quality and safe products?
This is definitely a challenge for parents and there is way too much unsubstantiated marketing speak. A couple of things I would suggest are:
- Question the marketing. Don’t be afraid to reach out to brands and ask for more details on the ingredients or safety testing.
- Look for reputable certifications that back claims. For example, if baby clothes are labeled as organic, check if they come with any certifications that would support that claim (eg, GOTS).
Of course, parents can always come to Leleki website or email our support, since we have already done the work for them.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
We love hearing from parents! Please reach out to us via email or DM on Instagram and let us know what questions and topics are on your mind and what we can help with.
Ania is the Founder and CEO of Leleki (www.leleki.com), the marketplace and resource for conscious parents. Ania holds an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from MIT and a Doctorate degree in Organic Chemistry from Harvard University. Using her research skills, Ania digs deep into ingredients, safety, and conscious values of every product she curates for Leleki. You can connect with Ania and Leleki through www.leleki.com, Facebook or Instagram.