Barbara Lee is the founder of Trashy Beauty and host of the new podcast Trash Talking with Eco-Warriors. Barbara was born and raised in Hawaii, where she was instilled with the importance of protecting the fragile beauty of nature. Now, as a former journalist, barista, and conservationist, Barbara is combining her love of a minimal, zero waste lifestyle and coffee to inspire others to live a naturally beautiful life. In this episode, we discuss her inspiration for starting her coffee body scrub company, the challenges that come with starting your own podcast and her mission to bring awareness to the value of what we throw away.
Marjorie Alexander (00:00):
This is a sustainable mind episode, [inaudible].
Barbara Lee (00:03):
What I wanted to do is I kind of want it to have a little bit of a shock value to it to show people that there is such a useful test for something that they normally just throw in the trash. So if it's that coffee gardens are really valuable and I'm throwing coffee grounds as the trash, what else is really valuable that I'm throwing away that could have other purposes. OK,
Marjorie Alexander (00:28):
welcome to a sustainable mind where we delve into the minds behind today's most impactful environmental campaigns, organizations and startups, inspiring the environmental change makers of tomorrow. I'm your host, Marjorie Alexander.
Marjorie Alexander (00:51):
Today we'll be speaking with Barbara Lee, founder of trashy, but which sells body scrubs made from recycled coffee grounds and she's the host of the new environmental podcast trash-talking with Eco Warriors. Barbara, welcome to the show.
Barbara Lee (01:06):
Thank you for having me.
Marjorie Alexander (01:07):
Absolutely. So firstly, before we get into trashy beauty and your new podcast, I want to hear a bit about the role that nature and environmental sustainability played in your life growing up. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Barbara Lee (01:21):
Sure, yeah. I was born and raised in Hawaii on Oahu pro city and I left the islands when I was thirteen. My parents moved us to Los Vegas, which is probably the most
Marjorie Alexander (01:36):
go to the list
Barbara Lee (01:39):
and it's something that I don't think I really reflected on how that impacted me and the care that I had for the environment until I was much older, so I moved to Las Vegas and then I spent some time living in Boston for college and I moved back to San Francisco and it wasn't until I moved to new deal and it really struck me that the background that I had and growing up in Hawaii, I actually really impacted how I felt about nature and about species and about sustainability and how we live with our environment.
Marjorie Alexander (02:14):
What were some of the differences that you saw maybe between the populations or the cultures between all of these places, how people decided to treat their local environment? The place that they call home? Yeah. Not to bash anybody, of course. No,
Barbara Lee (02:29):
no, no, not at all. I actually really love the southwest area of the US. Like I spent a lot of time hiking in, you know, southern Utah and there's a red rock national park nearby where I am a degas. It's a thirty minute drive from my parents house so when I'm back I spend a lot of time hiking and outdoors it and it has its own level of beauty but I think it's this story that gets ingrained in you when you're younger about realizing that there's these invasive species and there's all these extinct species and you go to the New Zealand and Hawaii as a kid growing up and it's like, yeah, this is the 16th borough and then this is the case that was made for this client loyalty and it's made from these extinct bird. And you're like, yeah, because it's like a really huge issue and you learn about all that and then you go somewhere else and you realize it doesn't have that continuity. And for me moving to New Zealand, I realized that there were all these extinct species or near extinct bird species dealing for anyone who doesn't know actually needs to be a giant bird call day before any mammals were introduced. And so none of the birds have any defense mechanisms we can smell like rodents and some things that really like to prey on birds and the birds have no defense against that.
Marjorie Alexander (03:51):
That's so interesting to me to really have that heightened awareness that early on having this mindset. Where did that lead you in terms of your job prospects and how you basically built your life as a young adult?
Barbara Lee (04:04):
That's a great question. And it's been such a meandering career that I've had. I first became a vegetarian when I was fifteen or sixteen. I was in high school. I saw this peta video and it was the first time I had really kind of realized that our food goes through so many processes and that's what animal treatment and was like. And it was this big awakening for me. I was really frightened and terrified to tell my parents I was no longer going to be eating. And um, it actually went really smoothly. I was very impressed with my mom because growing up I ate very unhealthy. I didn't eat a large variety of food and I definitely didn't eat vegetables. I stuck with things like ramen and chicken Katsu and that was about the extent of what I ate on the day to day basis. I had a lot of and I'm like hotdogs to my favorite foods and then I watch this youtube video and I realized that there's all these things that are happening through things that I'm putting in my body and all my body and it just.
Barbara Lee (05:05):
It started from there. It went from food to the beauty products to how I lived my life and being very intentional and conscious of everything like the companies, what those companies do. It is what it took me working as a content creator for a couple of fair trade companies and I have had a lot of different jobs along the way from working in retail to Barista saying when I was living in New Zealand at cafes and genius. This level of waste at different restaurants but I worked at was very alarming to me and also the fact that we were throwing out some things. To me that was still very valuable. If you're not aware, coffee can be made into everything from bio-diesel to fertilizer, so it has a lot of useful properties. There's a company in California that makes the coffee grounds into bio charcoal and so it's something to me that has so much value and it's just ending up in the trash.
Marjorie Alexander (06:06):
So that's where trashy beauty dot coms started was your desire to take this, this waste stream coffee grounds that can be used, like you said, for a whole host of products and deciding, OK, what are we going to do with this? How can we package it in a way that is attractive to a consumer and and reuse it in a way that's better for our planet. Basically
Barbara Lee (06:31):
in some ways, yes. Some ways, no. So what I wanted to do is I don't want it to have a little bit of a shock value to it to show people that there is such a usefulness for something that they normally just throw in the trash and to get them to start thinking about this whole process. So if it's that coffee grounds are really valuable and I'm throwing coffee grounds and the trash, what else is really valuable that I'm throwing away that could have other purposes. And I came from living in San Francisco were composting is a way of life. Every single household has impersonal composting. Then there's conflict ends on the streets, every restaurant compost. And then I ended up in New York City through a series of, um, different life decisions I made after I came back from traveling for two and a half years and I ended up in New York City and I was horrified by how much waste was just going straight into the trash. And then I learned about the trash [inaudible] in New York City. I think they spent about one point $3,000,000,000 annually on waste removal.
Marjorie Alexander (07:36):
Barbara Lee (07:37):
Yeah. And it's four hundred million alone just on trash removal from the city. And I think the statistic is that like thirty to forty percent of that coming from residential homes are all organic because it's potentially stuff that we could be saving money on and turning into nutritious soil. So just trying to figure out a way to be a voice in changing people's minds about how they're going about their daily lives and what they're throwing away.
Marjorie Alexander (08:07):
So it's interesting. I went to your website several times this week, but as a consumer myself of ECO friendly products, I look at coffee grounds and I think, oh my gosh, I don't think I would want to put that in my body or on my body. But I also. I also don't drink coffee. So maybe there's an alert there that I don't quite understand. But do you find yourself needing to spend a lot of time convincing people that this is a viable, useful or recycled coffee grounds? Like what are people's reaction when you told them exactly what you do?
Barbara Lee (08:46):
Mixed reaction I think is. It's actually quite trendy. Coffee Buddies dress. There's a few companies that are very popular that make very great body scrubs, but they create them with robusta beans that are brand new. So they're taking brand new beans that could potentially be made into a beverage and instead of making it into a beverage they're making into bt product. So those companies are already creating this really great, fantastic problem product that actually has a whole host of benefits. So even if you're kind of put off with the coffee, caffeine itself, um, is absorbable through the skin, it helps to brighten your complexion, that helps to exfoliate the skin cells and also the coils that are in coffee are actually really beneficial to your skin and uses a beauty product is it helps to reduce the fat. So yes, there's a lot of benefits. There's actually an article that I'm, my really good friend, murky actually wrote that I posted on the blog for my website. So people want to kind of read a little bit more about some of the benefits for using coffee body scrubs. It's there, there's lots of resources online to talk to that house. Great. Coffee scrubbing is. And Yeah. Sorry, go back to your original question. Do you want to actually. Do I have to convince people
Marjorie Alexander (10:05):
he just, I think it's with any earth friendly health and beauty product is they are all a little bit out there if you're not used to it. And maybe this one is just so new for me. It feels very much out. There were sea salt scrubs. I mean, sure, if you've never heard of that before, that also seem might seem out there. So maybe it's just me needing to rewire my brain a little bit. And of course it's a waste stream. It's an organic material. So why not? If it has all these great properties and it can be used for this, why not? But I don't know. It's just this switch that needs to be turned on and then, you know, I have to, I'm going to have to sleep on it, you know, I'm going to have to work through in my own mind.
Barbara Lee (10:52):
You can see how amazing it would be. Nice. Yeah. It's so great because it actually really take up the steps in your whole beauty process where it's like, OK, you shower, you play in your voice, your eyes, and it actually does everything for you in one step.
Marjorie Alexander (11:11):
Well I love, I love lavender. If you have that set,
Barbara Lee (11:19):
it's in the mail.
Marjorie Alexander (11:20):
Awesome. Cool. So in addition to your products and your blog, which everyone can visit at trashy, but you are also just start a podcast last month. So tell us about your podcast, what the podcast is about and what makes it different than every other environmental podcast out there, which actually there aren't a lot, but still tell us what's different about you.
Barbara Lee (11:46):
So the podcast was called trash talking with Eco Warriors. I actually spent two and a half years traveling New Zealand to Central and South America and Kenya. And so I worked on reforestation and a rehabilitation in the Caribbean and I also worked on a UN carbon credit red plus project. I know that's like a month.
Marjorie Alexander (12:10):
Barbara Lee (12:12):
I'm like, I just trying to figure out how to. It's a red plus program which is a UN certified carbon credits and it's company who wants to invest in making sure that carbon is retained and kept in our soil and entries. And so there's a project out in eastern Kenya that I went to do content creation for for a little bit. And during this time that I've been traveling, I've met a lot of people who work on the beach, really fantastic problems and work on these great projects and so I wanted a way to help inspire others to pursue these types of careers. I think we get pigeon holed into thinking that being in a green business or in a green career in one way, and I want to show people that there are a lot of different ways to continue working and having a viable career, but to also serve the earth.
Marjorie Alexander (13:07):
That's amazing. Perhaps this question is, is a bit more self serving for me but as a podcaster, because I don't get to interview a lot of podcasters. Yeah. Aside from the environmental aspects of your show, what have you learned? What's been beneficial for you? What have you gotten out of doing this show? Just tell me a little bit about your experience. I mean, I'm, I'm curious to see the experience of casters that also do environmental shows and how that doing that show is kind of shifting their mindset overall.
Barbara Lee (13:45):
That's an interesting question. I haven't really thought to think about it since it's been recorded about twelve episodes and I've released about five at this point and it's definitely been more challenging than I thought it was going to be. I thought, oh great. I'll go interview some really cool people and I was a hostess on soundcloud and it will just be really extreme light and easy and I ran into the issue where I like couldn't get my artwork in line with like itunes requirements. Then I realized that I had to pay for like podcasts those days. There's like scheduling interviews and I realized there is a lot more that goes into it than I hadn't dissipated and maybe it wasn't a great idea to have a full time job started
Marjorie Alexander (14:34):
that the whole product company and doing podcast the same time, it'll. It'll all figure itself out. See People. It's not that easy to do a podcast. This is really hard to work full time job. It's absolutely right.
Barbara Lee (14:48):
Yeah, and I have a few friends that I've met along the way here to typecast. I'm a good friend of mine from college. She just started her podcast co-host, so she is people who are working with her and I was like explaining some of my difficulty with her and she goes, oh yeah, but like you know, Emilia, take care of them and I'm like I don't have as Amelia. I'm just trying to do everything on my own and I'm just really lucky that I have really amazing connections with his friends. So for example, my, one of my oldest friends in the world, Michelle, she actually finalize all of my artwork for me for my logo and my sign and that was a godsend. And then I have another friend who does tell that Jerry from or she gave me a bike to use to record my intros and so that sounds amazing. And then I have another friend who does content creation and has worked with the concentration for this company called Louis. It's like a burrito super food company that also has a very big social mission and she is helping me with content and she's really into natural beauty. So she's been kind of like helping consult with like what types of things I should add into the scrub and what ratios I should use and so it's just working through my network and having so many like-minded people nearby to reach out to you.
Marjorie Alexander (16:02):
Well congratulations. You really did a great show. You're a good host and it seems like you're really focused on women in the environmental sustainability space that are starting businesses. So that's definitely something that I like to see more in this space. I don't really think that women are highlighted enough, so I really appreciate that just as a listener. So keep doing what you're doing. Any sustainable mines out there that are looking for a new environmental podcast. Do check out Barbra's new show called trash talking with eco warriors and your logo is really awesome. Actually. Good job on that when you can pass on my. Kudos for that.
Barbara Lee (16:44):
Yeah, I thought through the process it was really difficult because I know that it's really important to like the down on what you're talking about in a podcast and I was actually concerned about focusing just on females in the field because I thought it was a little narrow, but I talked to a friend of mine and she was kind of like men follow women where they go, they'll, they'll listen and it's actually been really cool because there's been companies that I think a lot of the founder the mail, but some of the other people who work in the c-suite or female and so it's like instead of having that same interview with the people that we work are the top people at like I'm reaching out to the women who work in the c-suite and they have really interesting stories and journeys to share as well and so it's been great because I think I'm getting more unique content through this way.
Marjorie Alexander (17:37):
We'll keep doing what you're doing. It's good and it will, it will get easier, you know? Well maybe won't get easier I think. I think that the trick is figuring out how to, how to batch and like get your system is kind of, not running on autopilot, but like templates, you know, templates for everything really, really helps. And I mean that's with any job, you know, just finding ways to work, work more efficiently. So, um, I definitely appreciate that you are a newcomer in the space and I hope even more individuals who will start doing high quality environmental podcasts because we definitely, definitely need it.
Barbara Lee (18:17):
Marjorie Alexander (18:18):
So we're going to dive into our seven sustainable questions here. And the reason why I do this is because I've noticed that people tend to follow people and not necessarily companies or movements, but people really want to know a little bit more about you. They're investing in you and your brand, not just trashy beauty, but they're investing in Barbara, right? Sure. Get to know a little bit more about you in your current lifestyle and habits. Can you share with us a long-standing habit that you believe has drastically improved your life?
Barbara Lee (18:53):
It's only been a few years now, but this has been very helpful. Not just the being the giant no mad that I have been for a few years, but also being able to let things go and the frugal in the way that I'm building my startup and my life and being able to afford experiences rather than things has been extremely beneficial to me. I think mentally and physically.
Marjorie Alexander (19:21):
Yes. More experiences, less things. Definitely all the time. However, I will interject and say if you have family that uh, you tend to buy experiences for and they don't tend to take advantage of those experiences, those family members are probably gonna listen to this episode. Just stopped buying them anything altogether and asked them maybe what they want instead. Don't force your family because they might not be into it.
Barbara Lee (19:49):
Yeah. My favorite thing that I do though is like I'll tell my friends and I'm like, I don't really want a guest, but like take me out to lunch. Like I want to spend time with them.
Marjorie Alexander (19:56):
Yeah, yeah, that's true.
Barbara Lee (19:58):
You know those things there or something to unreplaceable. I've spent so much time traveling and a lot of my friends are all over the world. I have friends everywhere from Zealand to Africa and it's hard to see everyone until I think the moments with people are definitely going to be there much longer than anything you could ever purchased them.
Marjorie Alexander (20:21):
Absolutely. Totally agree. What new habit are you cultivating in your life right now?
Barbara Lee (20:27):
Right now I'm trying to get to the gym every day. I'm, I'm, I'm a runner and I really liked being outdoors and hiking and it was very easy to do when I was in, you know, the equator belt at like Costa Rica and Columbia, but now that I'm in New York and it's turning into winter, it's been really difficult me to find time to be outside in thirty degree weather running around and so I'm just trying to fit in exercise in my life and movement and so I've been trying to go to the gym every day for the last two days and it's been going. It's been going well so far, so I'm happy about that.
Marjorie Alexander (21:08):
What is one item that you've acquired that you didn't have to pay for recently that has greatly impacted your life?
Barbara Lee (21:17):
All the furniture in my entire room.
Marjorie Alexander (21:19):
No Way. Really.
Barbara Lee (21:22):
Yeah. I moved to New York four months ago and it was the craziest experience I was. I had just moved back from Africa. I live in Las Vegas. I didn't have the time to really fly out from New York to look at apartments or anything and I ended up in Oak Lane apartment in Brooklyn and it came fully furnished and then all the other furniture I just found on the road.
Marjorie Alexander (21:45):
Yeah. Yeah. If you're willing to do a little bit of cleanup, you know, figure out how it's going to fit within the stuff that you already own. You can find a ton of stuff on the side of the road. I mean, seriously, it's like low brow stuff. Some of this stuff is really, really, really nice. I don't understand why people just leave it on the side of the road. Like some of these things are almost brand new. I don't know. Maybe they don't have the time or energy for that, but better for me.
Barbara Lee (22:16):
Yeah. No, I think New York has a giant problem where I think people are really like bugs and things getting dirty is a little bit and I don't mean to bash on like the American society in general is very used to like, well I can replace it for not a lot of money so I'll just replace it rather than trying to fix it and yeah, I actually almost everything in my apartment is almost brand new and same for a lot of the other stuff that we have in our apartments and it's just, it's fantastic and I love the fact that I'm thought attached to these things because I actually didn't though.
Marjorie Alexander (22:54):
Absolutely. If you had access to a time machine and would go back and speak with yourself at any point in all of the various places that you've lived, when would you visit and what would you say to yourself?
Barbara Lee (23:08):
Really interesting question. I don't know if I want to go back and tell myself necessarily at a thing. I really respected appreciate every part of the journey that I've been through and I've learned so much through all of it.
Marjorie Alexander (23:24):
Barbara Lee (23:26):
Trying to think of advice that I would go back here.
Marjorie Alexander (23:29):
I mean I am getting this answer on an increasing basis, so maybe I need to switch things up. This, this, this could be, you know, this could be the writing on the wall. One of the seven questions needs to change.
Barbara Lee (23:42):
Maybe the only thing I would say it's just going and going back the point in my life before I made the drastic switch to being a lot more healthy and mindful of my consumption and my habits. I think that would be the moment that I would kind of go back and maybe like educate myself a little bit earlier on what was happening in my life and my health. Yeah, I think that would definitely be the only thing that I wish I had no sooner that my eating habits and my behaviors are.
Marjorie Alexander (24:13):
Do you have an internet resource and it can be environmentally related or not, but an internet resource that you find useful on a daily basis that you'd like to share with us?
Barbara Lee (24:24):
Yeah, so it's kind of a kind of a cheat, but it's a search engine that plants trees as you're searching through their ad revenue. It's a really fantastic company and I mean you have to search for things on the Internet anyways, so why not support tree planted in somewhere in the world?
Marjorie Alexander (24:45):
I love it. I feel like I accidentally stumbled upon them sometime in the last few days. That name sounds familiar and I, and I read a description that was very much like what you just said, so y'all definitely linked that up in the show notes and people can go to the show notes page for this episode and get all the links that we've mentioned in this episode so far. What book would you recommend for sustainable minds out there that are hoping to change their mindset to become more of the change that they want to see in the world?
Barbara Lee (25:17):
I actually have to, and I think they're different books for different levels of people, so the book that I read an island in my freshman or Sophomore Year of college with a book called the world without us. Have you heard of it?
Marjorie Alexander (25:32):
I believe that I have or maybe I'm just thinking of that TV show on the history channel. I
Barbara Lee (25:39):
cannot ask after the book. Yeah, but Alan Weiss and wrote this book called the world without it and it's essentially what would happen if all the humans disappeared off the planet tomorrow. How long would it take for nature to take back over everything that we've built and created. The other book is called Eco Kochia and this one's a little bit more of a stretch. It was actually the very short book and I believe it was written some time ago like in the sixties or the seventies, but the author has essentially created a alternate reality where California has split off from the rest of the US and created its own country called Eco Tokyo and written from the standpoint of a author who goes in for the first time. He's the first non Ethiopian to go into Eco Eco Topeka and experience what it's like and he's writing. He's like Mary, straight forward facts about what you could hope is like and how you know, learns how to like fix things. Then all the kids go to school to learn how to farm and then he goes back and forth between writing in his journal about what his experience has been like switching into this mindset
Marjorie Alexander (26:54):
and I, and I'm not making light of, of anything that you just said, but is this at all? No, it's not OK because in my mind is I'm imagining that I'm, I'm, I'm imagining that that would be a hilarious movie, but that is just my very strange sense of humor. So ignore me.
Barbara Lee (27:11):
No, I think about it a lot though because I think if you get all these questions right where you're like, oh well that could actually happen because how will they physically separated off the west coast for the rest of the country? And then you think about the mountain range that goes almost the entire northern part of the US to the southern and that's actually where the border is great in Tokyo.
Marjorie Alexander (27:35):
Well the three states along the, the, the west coast of the US I think would be OK with that probably.
Barbara Lee (27:44):
Marjorie Alexander (27:45):
So it's been a long journey start to finish and now with trashy but dot calm and your new podcast, if you were to recreate the same level of success that you have now, even though you're in the early stages, especially with the podcasts, what fundamentals, tools, resources, or connections would you put in place earlier to have more success?
Barbara Lee (28:10):
I think I would've started listening to other podcasts from an entrepreneur earlier. There's a few really great ones like founder. I don't know if you've heard of that one.
Marjorie Alexander (28:21):
I feel like I have, but I've not checked it out, but I'll have to.
Barbara Lee (28:23):
Yeah, founder and how I built this and breed Hoffman, masters of scale. But these pockets about entrepreneurship, I didn't realize there's a lot of things I think make a successful entrepreneur and a successful person in general and there are a lot of the lessons that I kind of took away and learn from the podcast. But also I realized that I have a lot of those skills and abilities and uh, I wish that that came to me a little bit sooner.
Marjorie Alexander (28:54):
OK. So before we end things, I would love for all of you listeners out there to go check out Barbra's new podcast called trash talking with eco warriors. Again, she interviews some wonderful women in the space of sustainability and eco-friendly business. So go check that out and you can also listen and by some of her coffee scrub a email@example.com and follow a trashy but co on instagram. Great photos there. So Barbara, do you have any words or parting pieces of guidance to give sustainable minds out there?
Barbara Lee (29:32):
Yeah, check out my pocket.
Marjorie Alexander (29:36):
Absolutely do that. And and like I said, we will be linking up talking with eco warriors in the show notes page for this episode.
Barbara Lee (29:46):
So I think the only other thing that I wanted to stay as a piece of advice but I didn't know if I should say it is like to go see things for yourself. I struggled a lot with the idea of travel because like I love traveling and I love seeing things and I really appreciate experiences that I've had while I've traveled. But at the same time, I understand that travel makes such as big carbon footprint on our planet and so one of the things that I like to encourage people is to partake in offsetting your carpet, like it's better to not create that carbon footprint, but if you are going to figure out a way that you're happy to offset that. I have a friend who actually buys like Kelp Sea Kelp or seagrasses seagrass. Shiva is the grass and the catches the carbon and nothing really actually stays for better.
Marjorie Alexander (30:37):
Wow. That's an interesting thing though. I have to look into. Thank you for that because you're absolutely right. Especially with the holidays coming up. Travel is just kind of a part of life these days and it's pretty difficult to get away from, especially if you have the means to do it and you enjoy traveling, but you still feel badly about it. And rightfully so because this is our planet when we do need to take care of that. So thank you for, um, for mentioning that. That's really important.
Barbara Lee (31:05):
Yeah. Wildlife where it's also the company that I worked with out in Kenya. They also do carbon offsetting that individual can do themselves as well as companies, and so there is actually a great carbon calculator on the wildlife works website that you can see what the average carbon consumption is for an American and you can offset your carbon directly with them as well. They also help protect elephants and giraffes and zebras, which is also a perk.
Marjorie Alexander (31:36):
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