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. This week, we hear from Pearl Chan, CEO of zero-waste cleaning brand, Resparkle.
What was your catalyst to diving into the world of sustainability?
My ‘lightbulb’ moment was discovering that cleaning products are made of 85% water and only 15% active ingredients. Learning this, I questioned why we’re transporting litres of water in so much plastic across the country when we are fortunate to have clean water from our taps.
After more research, I was horrified to learn that many cleaning products contained toxic ingredients, many of which are scientifically known to be detrimental to our health. It explained why growing up with a mum who loved to clean, I suffered severe asthma and sensitive skin.
Learning this, I knew this was an industry that was ripe for disruption and somewhere that I could make a difference. Consumers were increasingly becoming aware of the obscene number of single-use plastics entering landfill and looking for alternatives, but there was nothing out there for them. There was low awareness around the volume of water in cleaning products and the environmental impacts of this.
Tell us about your business journey so far – what got you to where you are today with Resparkle?
After leaving banking in 2008, I started a Creative agency with my now-husband (Conrad). My role in this agency was to ideate innovative experiential activations for brands using cutting edge technologies. The majority of these activations were world-firsts.
This agency very quickly grew from Singapore into four other cities – Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai. While running the agency that still served corporates, I still had a burning desire to create a more purpose-led business that could create a positive impact.
I knew this was an industry ripe for disruption and somewhere that I could make a difference. Running the creative agency for over seven years meant I was used to ‘out of the box’ thinking. I cultivated the mindset of looking at problems through a design lens.
Looking at the traditional cleaning industry as a design problem, I set about re-designing the packaging bottle and reformulating it to ensure it is made of natural ingredients. This knowledge eventually birthed the Australian first, refill pod of concentrate innovation.
Our concentrate was one of the first to be certified by one of Australia’s largest organic bodies – NASAA. The Resparkle products were also cost-effective; we pass on the savings made via reduced plastic and transportation costs, leading to a cost-effective, efficient, better-for-you, better-for-the-planet offering.
What has been your proudest achievement to date for Resparkle?
Being zero waste has always been a lofty goal of mine. Would it even be possible to create a product that did not create any more single-use plastic and contribute to landfill? This was always the ideal for me, and I’m so happy to have finally achieved this after eight years with Resparkle.
After committing to creating a zero-waste product, we aligned on a powder to clean concentrates. And after a gruelling 12 months marred by countless delays and obstacles (thanks, COVID!), Resparkle has finally relaunched in the form of powder-based concentrates that turn regular tap water into cleaning supplies in minutes.
By providing a viable, sustainable alternative, with which we hope to turn the tide on plastic. The absolute dream for me!
What do you think is the biggest threat to our planet and the people in it today?
Without a doubt, plastic is the biggest threat to our planet and the people in it! It is clogging up the earth, and every piece of plastic ever created still exists in some form here on our beautiful planet.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My son is my biggest inspiration and motivation to make this business a success.
Every morning, what gets me out of bed is the knowledge that every Resparkle win is a win for the earth he will inherit.
We’ve done so much damage to our planet, and I’d like to think I’ve done my part to help repair some of that.
Who/what has been the biggest influence in your life?
My father. A lot of my work ethics, drive to excel and resilience came from him. As a child, whenever I did poorly in a school exam (we had exams from 6 years in Singapore!), he would very gently ask me this straightforward question: “Is this the best you can do?”
“If your answer is yes, then I’m happy. But if your answer is no, how can you do better?”
These questions have seen me through every challenging situation in my life, whether as a businesswoman, woman, or mother.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
Sarah Wilson’s This One Wild & Precious Life. Very apt for the overwhelming times we live in now and how we can regain reconnection to joy and finding a new way of living.
What does the word ‘community’ mean to you?
To me, community is using our collective power to create something for the greater good.
Australia as a community has come a long way since I started Resparkle 8 years ago. At that time, there was little awareness around the problem with plastics and going zero-waste wasn’t a buzzword then. Fast forward to today, you now see more and more brands jumping on the sustainability bandwagon. I would like to believe this is driven by community-driven consumer demand requiring brands to take sustainability seriously.
More importantly, our government and industry bodies are now more proactive and taking collective action via a target, outlining concrete steps towards more sustainable packaging. Now that’s community power!
What are your top tips for people who are working to achieve a plastic-free lifestyle?
We are fortunate to live in a time where there is an abundance of better-for-you, better-for-planet alternatives to almost everything.
- Be mindful of your consumption. When I make any purchase, I try to choose quality so it can last longer. By consuming less, you produce less waste.
- Choose better quality
- If in doubt, do a google search. This will likely yield more eco-friendly/healthier choices.
- If you feel overwhelmed, take it one step and one choice at a time.
Where are you heading to next in your journey?
Resparkle has a lofty goal of saving 2,000,000 plastic homecare bottles. To date, we’re proud to say we’ve saved over 233,000 plastic packaging entering landfill and every single day we look forward to bringing our brand mission into homes across Australia.
My vision is for a “Resparkle home” that spans from homecare, personal care to skincare products. Anything that has unnecessary plastic and nasty chemicals, we can disrupt.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
Resparkle’s motto is “Choose Better.” It was founded on the belief that we’re all capable of making the planet a better place. I believe there is power in the small, everyday choices. By choosing our waste-free and toxin-free home care products, you can become part of the clean planet solution.
For more information on the Resparkle ZERO waste range, please visit resparkle.com.au.
Pearl Chan is the CEO of Resparkle. Ex-banker and Creative Agency head turned ecopreneur who ditched the high-pressure corporate career to establish her own sustainable business.
The desire to create something that was giving back to the environment, rather than taking, originated from being disillusioned by some incidents in her career as a private banker, with the last straw being 911. “As I imagined all the lives lost in the buildings that looked exactly like mine – it truly was a wake-up call for me. I asked myself, would I be happy with the life I led if a plane came through the window that morning? The answer was a resounding no.”
Researching her next move, Pearl discovered the cost, waste and carbon emissions produced to make and transport cleaning products around the country; Pearl’s brain began to tick…
Like most start-ups, Resparkle began as a side hustle. Developed as a small range of eco cleaning products that were an overnight sellout.
Since the initial launch in 2015, well before eco cleaning products or sustainability was on the agenda, the range has seen numerous iterations, with the latest range now proudly boasting ZERO WASTE credentials via its ‘powder to clean’ formulation – something Pearl is proud of and one of the main reasons she started the business.