Leaders We Follow: James Bauer
Is it possible to run a business without being driven by capitalist values? Believe it or not, yes.
In one of my favorite books, Proposals for the Feminine Economy, Jennifer Armbrust lays out the difference between an economy grounded in feminist values versus one rooted in masculine traits. She asserts that we’ve been living in a masculine economy by the name of capitalism. It’s led us to value profit over all else, including people and planet. It’s led to the exploitation of both and the grave inequalities we see in our society.
The solution is a feminist economy, one based in collaboration, sustainability, curiosity, connection with nature, interdependence, integrity, gratitude, and mindfulness.
I love these concepts for so many reasons, and here’s one: it proves that running a business doesn’t automatically make you a soulless capitalist. There’s far more nuance than that.
All of the entrepreneurs in our Leaders We Follow series have been actively contributing to a feminist economy. Today we’re adding another one to our ranks. Meet James Bauer, Founder of Mineralized.
James’ conscious company offers a powdered deodorant that’s safe for your body and the planet—and that actually works. With an academic background in engineering and physics, James approaches the world through the lens of the scientific method. He was leaving a stint in the finance world and traveling around North America when he noticed all the unpronounceable ingredients in our body care products. Besides being unnatural, he saw that many of these chemicals were derived from petroleum oil and thought, ‘that can’t be good’ (I’m paraphrasing)—neither for the environment or our bodies.
Being naturally curious, James started seeking answers: “I asked myself questions like, ‘Why do people smell badly to other people? Does a horse smell bad to other horses?’” Think about dogs, for instance. They say hi by shoving their nose in each other’s crotches. I find it hard to believe they’d continue doing that if the result was incredibly unpleasant.
Smelling badly to members of the opposite sex also seemed like a biological disadvantage, which got James wondering if this had always been the case. If it hasn’t, what’s changed in the past few hundred years that caused us to start being smelly to one another?
For one thing, our water. The water we bathe in is sanitized and free from the minerals found in natural spring water. James started exploring if any of the minerals in mineral water could be used as a deodorizer. He used his familiarity with the scientific world to research and explore, experimenting with a few different formulas. Eventually he landed on a combination of ingredients that’s worked for just about everyone who’s tried it: a combination of magnesium and calcium compounds with trace amounts of coconut oil and some essential oils for scent (if you’re into that kind of thing).
James was kind enough to send me some and let me tell ya, I’m loving it so far. (No, this isn’t a sponsored review.) The powder goes on super clean and it feels like I’m not wearing anything. I got the grapefruit and bergamot scent which is lovely.
Plus when I’m putting it on, I know I’m betting on something that’s good for my long-term health. It’s difficult to get accurate research on the long-term effects of body products. Most studies are short-term and use a high dose of product to suss out severe reactions. While that’s revealing for some things, it doesn’t tell us about the impact of using a product daily for years on end. And again, many of the ingredients found in traditional body products are derived from petroleum. That can’t be healthy to absorb.
Because Mineralized is made from calcium and magnesium, two minerals naturally found in the body, our bodies know how to handle them (unless you have a kidney disease or other condition that prohibits healthy filtering). When your body absorbs Mineralized, it knows how to deal with any excess minerals.
James doesn’t have long-term studies for his product, either, but figures it’s a safer bet to opt for naturally-occurring compounds. Without knowledge of the long-term, putting any kind of product in and on our bodies is essentially an experiment. “Would you prefer to experiment with chemicals made from oil that are not native to your body,” he reasons, “or minerals that are already found in your body?”
James is committed to the long-term health of the planet as well as our individual bodies. Mineralized utilizes a nearly zero-waste supply chain from start to finish. The product itself comes in an aluminum tin with a sponge for application. When you run out, you can purchase a refill packaged in a cardboard tube. You pour the powder back in your original tin and continue using the same applicator, meaning the only waste created is cardboard (which you can recycle or compost). This is exactly the example we need set for other retailers.
“Being nearly zero-waste was important to us because, long-term, for humans to survive on this planet, we’re going to need systems in place that don’t disrupt the homeostasis of the planet,” James said. “We’re not going to be able to just dig things out of the ground, turn them into plastic, then throw them into a pile someplace and hope everything’s going to work out.”
In addition to having as small a footprint as possible, James hopes Mineralized will inspire other brands to adopt similar environmentally-conscious practices. He wants to show them that “you can do things a different way, you don’t have to rely on destructive environmentally practices in order to run a business.”
In a blog a few weeks back, I talked about my issues with the zero-waste movement, namely that it places blame on individuals rather than corporations. Companies like Mineralized are exactly what we need to break the cycle and give consumers more environmentally-friendly options.
One of my favorite moments from our conversation was when I asked James if he might create other home or body products. His answer was pure gold: “Only if I feel like I could add value in some area of the world.”
I asked James if he might create other home or body products. He said, “Only if I feel like I could add value in some area of the world.”
“It doesn’t feel right to make something just for the sake of selling it,” James said. “If I could create something that would be diverse from what’s already available, then that would be worth doing, especially if I could make it more eco-friendly and more healthy in the long-term. But I just don’t see the point in selling something for the sake of selling it.”
Can you imagine what our economy would look like if more businesses had that same attitude?
Whether acting as consumers or business owners, we each participate in shaping the world we want to live in. Every dollar we spend is a vote for a certain kind of future. When I’m purchasing from brands like Mineralized, I know I’m voting for intentionality, curiosity, and living in harmony with the environment.
You can learn more about Mineralized here (practical Christmas gift, anyone?). You can try it out in Pink Grapefruit + Bergamot, Lavender, Sandalwood, or Unscented.
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