RTP-based Burt’s Bees strives to reduce manufacturing footprint

RTP-based Burt's Bees strives to reduce manufacturing footprint (Image 1)

One of the top skin care companies in the world is located right here in the Triangle. And the company, RTP-based Burt’s Bees, has taken the “eco-friendly” trend and turned it into a way of life.

On a recent day at Burt’s Bees, the smell of peppermint fills the air. It’s a sinus cavity paradise as workers are bottling everything from lotions to body scrubs.

Burt’s Bees takes pride in that fact that its products are almost entirely natural.

A tour of the Research Triangle plant shows an array of scented oils, large vats of what will be tinted lip balm and the beginning process of its signature beeswax lip balm. But the 25-year-old company has decided to look inward in its quest for natural, with an aggressive effort to reduce its own footprint.

“What you are seeing in here is our manufacturing footprint,” said Paula Alexander, director of sustainable business for Burt’s Bees. “We are looking to really reduce energy water waste.”

Through processing and equipment improvements, Alexander said Burt’s Bees has made a 20 percent energy reduction since 2011 and cut water usage by 15 percent year over year.

Burt’s Bees is even tweaking its packaging to try to conserve paper and plastic.

“We’re saving 1,800 miles of plastic every year,” said Alexander.

The effort to conserve reaches beyond the plant with an impressive recycling center that’s not just paper and plastic, but also a compost. And what can’t be recycled gets burned for energy.

“Today we are a zero-waste to landfill, so how can we eliminate all waste in our manufacturing?” Alexander said.

Burt’s Bees has successfully made it  lip balms, lotions and skin and hair products synonymous with natural. And that has paid off with $250 million in sales a year.

“We sell one lip balm a second in the United States,” Alexander said. 

A new line is tinted lip balm, which the company hopes will take off. The eventual long-term goal is making less of a mark environmentally.

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