It’s 10 a.m. on a sunny Monday morning in early April, and I’m standing in New York City’s Highbridge Park shoveling dirt onto a freshly planted baby tree. A hundred yards away, Scarlett Johansson is wearing a Yankees cap and simple cargo pants, and she’s up to her elbows in mulch. In honor of Earth Month, her new skin-care brand, the Outset, partnered with One Tree Planted, a nonprofit dedicated to global reforestation efforts, and she—along with her co-founder Kate Foster Lengyel—were spending this particular morning getting their hands dirty to contribute to cause: planting 25,000 trees.
The brand, which launched last month, prides itself on being a beauty brand that centers sustainability and minimalist values. This ethos is exemplified in everything from its packaging (which is made from recyclable glass and post-consumer recycled plastic) and its supply chain (the brand’s factories are 100 percent wind-powered and carbon neutral) to its partnerships (in addition to One Tree Planted, the brand also works with Dress For Success and 1% For the Planet).
The Outset is that inherently optimistic idea that every day is a chance for a fresh start. With our philanthropic efforts, the idea is to support new beginnings for people for the planet.” —Kate Foster Lengyel, co-founder
The Outset is that inherently optimistic idea that every day is a chance for a fresh beginning and a new start,” says Foster. “And so with our philanthropic efforts, the idea is to support new beginnings for people for the planet. That’s why we partnered with One Tree Planted for all of Earth Month. Our philosophy is that we’re a consistent, everyday brand, and that’s how we’re showing up with our philanthropic efforts, as well—in these kinds of consistent everyday ways that we can support the causes that are meaningful to us and to our customers.”
With that in mind, “simplicity” is the driving force behind everything that the Outset does. The brand’s product line includes what people need for a well-rounded routine and nothing else: a cleanser, a serum, a moisturizer, and an eye cream. This is in part to ensure their products are accessible to a wide range of complexions, but it’s also a means to help consumers minimize the amount of waste they’re creating with their skin care.
“We wanted to have as little environmental impact as possible,” says Johansson. “There’s a lot of stuff out there, and I think it would be irresponsible of us not to take that into consideration. That kind of mindfulness is a big part of our brand DNA.”
During the month of April, the brand is donating 10 percent of its sales up to $25,000 to One Tree Planted to support wildfire restoration efforts in California. For every dollar donated, there will be one tree planted, adding up to a total of 25,000 trees. And on the other side of the country in NYC, in addition to the individual trees that Johansson, Lengyel, and their team (and I!) planted, the brand also donated $17,000 to fund urban planting organized by the nonprofit New York Restoration Project. Considering trees in NYC remove 2,000 tons of pollution and sequester 42,300 tons of carbon, these small steps can make a big difference.
Regarding bigger impact potential, Lengyel and Johansson hope the Outset’s initiatives will inspire the rest of the beauty industry to take note. “I think if you show people that they can use products that are clean and also effective, and that are good for you and have less impact, that’s important,” says Johansson. “The industry is so consumer-driven, so in being proactive and [showing them those products exist], large companies will be forced to follow suit. It’s our goal to be a part of that story.”
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