Puerto Rico still needs federal disaster relief to rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, just as states do when they are affected by natural disasters. But Puerto Rico is making progress toward economic growth by the efforts of individuals and individual companies, too. One example is cleancult, LLC, a maker of sustainable cleaning products.
A century ago, many Americans made their own soap from lye and the fat of animals raised on their farms. When animal fats became scarce during World War I, chemists figured out ways to make soap — or more commonly, detergents — from petroleum. Now, most household cleaners are made mostly from petroleum derivatives like sodium lauryl sulfate and water, packaged in plastic bottles that are shipped across the country or around the world.
Cleancult came up with a different approach. Working with scientists at the University of Puerto Rico, Cleancult created effective household cleaners made from coconut oil rather than petroleum detergents. Then they developed a subscription model that gives consumers one plastic bottle followed by refills sent in paper milk cartons. Consumers refill the single plastic bottle to get the benefits of the plastic packaging while reducing the amount of plastic they use. The result is a greener, more sustainable way to keep a clean home.
Ryan Lupberger and Zachary Bedrosian, the founders of Cleancult, got help along the way. Cleancult received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop their green cleaners, support from startup incubator Parallel18, and success with start-up programs like Kickstarter and college competitions.
Cleancult built a manufacturing facility outside of San Juan, benefiting from the manufacturing expertise among people on the Island as well as lower operating costs compared with their original location in California.
The company had to relocate to New York after Hurricane Maria, but intends to bring manufacturing back to Puerto Rico soon. The company donated 100,000 loads of laundry after the hurricanes and helped to raise $60,000 for hurricane relief. They continue to support Puerto Rico with a variety of projects, from providing cleaning products to people on the Island to partnering with organizations that help communities install solar power and hand-operated washing machines.
Cleancult is just one example of a business supporting Puerto Rico and benefiting from the Island’s natural resources.