S E E D L I N G S

Sustainable people/places/things worthy of celebration.

An Invisible Layer of Design: HOUSE by Billy Del Puerto

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We recently joined Artisanal LA for two curated events in Los Angeles. The first was at West Elm in Santa Monica. A few weeks later, we joined Tesla and SpaceX for a holiday pop-up (we even got to see a piece of the rocket enter the facility on the back of a semi truck). We loved the staff of West Elm, Tesla, and SpaceX, and on both occasions we had the complete honor of getting to know Billy of HOUSE by Billy Del Puerto. He has designed a line of hand poured soy candles and we know you'll love him as much as we do. See our interview below-- 

AO: What inspired you to start hand pouring soy candles? 

I used to design for a candle company back in 2007/2008. It was while I was finishing school at FIDM in DTLA, and during the recession. The company tanked and I found work managing a hair salon in Beverly Hills. I missed being creative and getting my hands dirty, so I decided to create my own candle line with the experience I gained. I love interior design and creating spaces. To me, scent is an invisible layer of design. It can brighten a room or add sultry ambiance to a space.

AO: What ingredients give your candles their clean, earthy, floral, and androgynous scents? 

I use a mixture of fragrance & essential oils, but its knowing how to mix them in combination with each other. Every manufacturer has their own version of “gardenia” for example, but making sure I chose the right scent for my product is the challenging and fun part. I look for something that smells real, has depth, and can last in a candle to the last ounce of soy wax is burned. Quality above anything else is what I believe, or else why do it at all? 

AO: What was the first candle you poured? 

LIBRARY!!!!! My first baby, she is a mixture of gardenia, sandalwood, and cypress. As soon as I smelt it, I was transferred to a library aisle with books towering over me on both sides. It was marvelous; this was also the moment I decided to give my candles names. Its much more exciting for me to see a customer read the label and anticipate what it is going to smell like, then to just call it “vanilla” or “lavender”. I enjoy the complexity it brings.

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AO: Was it a success or was there a lot of experimenting to arrive at the first candle you’d launch?

It was successful. I started with 4 scents and its grown to 16 scents. In the beginning people really responded to the collection. I sold them at the Melrose Trading Post at Fairfax High, still do from time to time even now. Thats was a great way for me to get input from my consumer and I kept an eye on what was selling most or what candle wasn’t moving at all. BLONDE for example used to be an orange and cream scented candle, but I tracked sales and realized it was my lowest selling candle. I asked suggestions, and researched scent trend forecasts (yes they exist also) and created a sea salt & caramel blend. Now Blonde is my 3rd best seller all year round. The key to a successful company is listening and adapting to changes that need to be made. Give the people what they want!

AO: What inspires you to create new a new candle? 

Inspiration for me comes from every direction. Music, museums, memories, a mood. I immerse myself in that inspiration and go with it. I have a limited edition collection called “the women we love”. This collection was inspired by the women in my life. I was raised by a single mother and three sisters. I have an immense respect towards women and the magic and love they bring into the world. It is a homage to them, and now my customers can share them with the women they love.   

AO: What’s your process like to create a candle before you release it into the world? 

A lot of thinking, playing with labels, looking at interesting scent combinations and what mood/look I want to portray with the candle. I clip magazine images, pull pins from Pinterest or ask friends to give input on containers I may want to use. Ultimately at the end of the day its my decision, but I trust the advice I seek out and I always listen to my gut feelings. You can never steer yourself wrong. 

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AO: You mentioned that your candles burn for a long duration, which is of course enticing for those of us who always want a candle burning! What makes this possible and why was this important to you? 

Its important to me to produce a product of great quality. Bottom line. I use soy because it holds the scent better than other waxes and is a slower burning wax. That being said, there are some important rules to follow. If one of my candles says “burns 75+ hours” that doesn’t mean it will burn 75+ hours straight. You must keep the wick trimmed to about a 1/4 in before each lighting that bad boy up. Wax has memory, so the first burn needs to melt the wax all the way out to the inner walls of the container. If you don’t do this, the candle may burn in whats called a “barrel” effect, which means, when it burns it doesn’t melt all the way out, then there goes the life of your candle. Lastly don’t burn the candle for more than 2 hours, the heated wax will still emit a scent after the flame is out. Even better, invest in a candle warmer. They will let you candle last twice as long without a flame. 

AO: When you arrived at West Elm you had a few vintage suitcases from which you pulled your product from. You mentioned the importance of functionality. Talk to us about this. 

As a business owner I wear so many hats, some of these hats include the stock boy and the runner. Many of these pop ups I work alone and have to setup and breakdown quickly, so being organized and making sure everything can function as part of my candle display is important. Work smart, not hard. 

AO: What role does sustainability play in your life? 

The first thing that comes to mind, in terms of design, is my appreciation of aged furniture.  My roommate and I have been refinishing furniture for years, and we incorporate revived pieces throughout the apartment.  Sustainability in my life is in part an inherent appreciation for what potential items possess to continue their life. Regarding sustainability within the environment, as I mentioned before all of my candles are 100% soy wax and I refuse to use Paraffin in my products.  The production of plastic products is not something I support, and absolutely isn’t something that I want to breath.  Soy wax gives a clean, pure, and healthier element to my candles, and I will continue to use this healthier alternative to plastic based wax. I also offer a refill option with my Gold Cult Candle.  It was a bit complicated for me in the past, but I’m working on reinstating the ability to return this candle’s vessel for it to be refilled at less of a cost to the consumer, and less waste to the environment.

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AO: The smell of tomato leaves that you’ve captured in “Greenhouse” is the same scent that gave Brennan the idea of creating a lollipop that could grow herbs and flowers. Mixing tomato leaves with jalapeño seems so unusual for a candle and yet it smells incredible. What inspired this? Do you garden?

So I grew up next door to my grandparents, I was very lucky! My heritage is Native American and Mexican, so my grandfather was all about letting the earth provide for us. He had a lemon tree, a fig tree, a persimmon tree and countless veggies. That smell of fresh earth was always a part of me. Anyone who grows tomatoes knows that tomato leaf oil is STRONG and doesn’t wash off easily. As a kid it was a nuisance but as an adult its a way to travel back in time to those summer days with Nash (Grandpa). 

AO: What are your best sellers? How many candles have you brought to life? 

I have 16 permanent scents over 4 collections. My best sellers are “Lord”, “Whiskey” & “Greenhouse”.

AO: What’s next for you?

Whats next for HOUSE//soy candles……Im so excited to say I  have partnered up with Pop Physique, an amazing workout studio. We do a “candle-lit class", where woman and men workout in pure candle light to awesome music, all while being engulfed by the scent story I chose for them. Its been an amazing opportunity for me and I am so proud to be part of the Pop Physique Family. On the horizon for HOUSE as a business, I'm in the market for a home to flip! My vision is to leave my interior design mark on homes in neighborhoods across California, and to expand from candles to an entire home decor line. It's a work in progress and I am having a blast getting there!

Got Mylk? Meet Mylkman Founder, Jeff Leaf

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In the infancy of Amborella Organics, when recipes were being developed and seed-bearing sticks were growing all around us, we were simultaneously redefining how we wanted to consume food for the rest of our lives. Not today, not for 30 days, but removing food and adding nutrients that could be a lasting commitment to self. This included, and to our best ability still includes, being gluten/dairy/soy-free. There was an immediate adjustment that came with our morning cup of coffee. Almond milk lacked froth and most coffee shops only offered soy as a non-dairy alternative. A minor issue for some, but morning coffee to us was a ritual. We attended Coffee Con in Los Angeles and that’s where we met Mylkman, a local almond "mylk" company that’s zero-waste and baby does it froth. You won’t find them in Whole Foods, as in order to make this possible they’d have to compromise the purity of their ingredients. We uphold the uncompromising values of Mylkman Delivery Service and it’s with great honor that we present an interview with founder and CEO, Jeff Leaf below. 

AO: What year did you launch Mylkman and what were you doing before this

business? 

JL: We launched in 2011. 

AO: Why did you start Mylkman?

JL: I was just making almond mylk for myself then a friend tasted it and wanted to

buy it. Then one after the other, word spread. and Mylkman was born. 

AO: When did you begin to offer coconut water? Do you offer coconut mylk?

JL: I can’t remember exactly, but it was about 4 years ago. We don’t offer coconut mylk, but offer coconut water. 

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AO: Why do you spell it mylk instead of milk? 

JL: Well milk is considered “dairy”, so we changed it up. 

AO: How would you describe the taste to our readers who haven't sampled? 

JL: It’s  like liquid ice cream!! The best ever!

AO: One of your colleagues, who I connected with at Coffee Con told me there is little waste from the coconut after you're done. All of your coconut meat is sold to local cafes, who in turn use this for coconut puddings, smoothies etc. 

JL:  We’re almost 100% zero waste, as a company.

AO: Where do you source ingredients from? 

JL: Our almonds are from Italy and coconuts from Thailand.

AO: Where do you deliver?

JL: We deliver to all of LA county.

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AO: Do you plan to expand delivery and manufacturing or are you interested in small batch? 

JL: Yes, we will be expanding all across the USA. We have had a huge demand.

AO: Where will you expand first? Do you have a timeline?

JL:  Most likely NYC in 2018. 

AO: Would you change the recipe to get a longer shelf life and be sold in somewhere like Whole Foods, or are you happy with what you're doing? 

JL: We are happy with what we are doing, and don't want to compromise the product by extending shelf life. Our clients value how fresh it is.

AO: What is your shelf life, what ingredients are you avoiding to extend this shelf life, and why?

JL: 3 to 5 days. We don’t put any additives in because we don’t want to compromise the product. 

AO: How do you live a sustainable life? 

JL: I try my best to recycle, reuse, shop at second hand stores and only purchase products for my house that are vegan.

AO: How do you consume coconut milk and coconut water? 

JL: I drink coconut water like it is the last thing on EARTH :) 

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AO: Your almond milk is enticing for coffee shops because if DOES in fact froth unlike most non-dairy alternatives.

JL: Yes, so sweet and yummy.

AO: Do you have a relationships with nature?

JL: Well, I grew up in Montana where I was very close to the outdoors. I now live in New York City most of the year, so I’m trying to find that balance everyday.

AO: Do you plan to release additional products? 

JL: We are sampling a lot of different things in the kitchen as we speak. we want to be a vegan goodies delivery service. (Look out for these in 2018!)

Learning to Kiss The Ground with Finian Makepeace

When Kiss The Ground isn't consulting on private and state run projects around composting and regenerative agriculture, co-authoring composting legislation, or recommending zero-waste franchise systems to the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, they're finding a meaningful way to educate the world about why soil can single-handedly save us from our prominent environmental impact.

Their website reads, "We can balance the climate and feed the world by building healthy soil." We affirm their mission and take special interest in soil, as seeds are only as good as the soil they sprout from.  Kiss The Ground continues to inspire us as they change the dialogue we have surrounding soil. We're excited to share an interview we conducted with co-founder, Finian Makepeace about how it all began. 

Amborella Organics: When did you first have that aha moment that soil is life? 

Finian Makepeace: I had an amazing biology teacher when I was 17. I began doing research on Mycorrhizal Fungi with Cornell graduate students. It was some of the first documentation of oak groves sending messages to each other through the fungal networks in the soil. I think this was the initial aha. Then, my lifelong friend Ryland, co-founder of Kiss the Ground brought Graeme Sait to Los Angeles to present about soil.  

AO: What was your relationship with soil and nature like before this? 

FM: I’m a big science geek and hearing this lecture about what makes up soil, made that interest or love return. Graeme was referencing things I was privy to and putting them into a much bigger context. He gave a birds eye view about soil being the essence of life. He put into perspective that we are looking at 500 million years of research and development that has occurred so that ecosystems can function and proliferate. I was grasping what Graeme was talking about-- the planet's carbon cycle was balanced to begin with because of the development of soil-- and this was initial "Aha" behind the founding of Kiss The Ground. 

AO: How has forming Kiss The Ground enabled you to accomplish your mission of soil education? 

FM: Kiss The Ground is designed to spread the word about this mostly unknown idea. All terrestrial life revolves around soil, people can understand that. In regard to climate change we’ve all been looking at how to reduce our emission, but not upholding this ancient system of carbon balance. By educating, we're providing a new solution. We can get the system back into balance by building back healthy carbon filled soil. 

AO: What was the movement like in the beginning? Were there puzzled faces when you explained the significance of our soil or do you think there was a collective awareness shared? 

FM: When we first shared people were excited but generally confused. It's a new subject and an idea that is generally not talked about throughout our education system. The initial strategy was to interact with a lot of people, and try not to push people away. For those with a background in science and the connection to soil and compost, it easier to grasp. But when we deconstruct the common view, it's not that surprising where we are in terms of comprehension. So, we try to start where people left off. For example, when talking about carbon, which is commonly thought of as the enemy today, we say everything that's alive is built from carbon. The substance or mass of a tree is carbon. Where did that carbon come from? It came from the air. So the tree came from "nothing". If they understand this, you can then ask, "where does soil come from?"

In school learned that soil is formed from the erosion of rock into sand silt and clay and the addition of organic material from decay of leaves and other things that fall to the ground. But that organic matter of the soil accounts for only 8-10% of it. The majority of the organic matter that makes up healthy soil comes from the same place that the tree comes from. THE AIR. How? The tree or plant uses photosynthesis to create carbohydrates from CO2 in the air and water.  Then, it shares up to 80% of the carbohydrates (sugars/sap) by pushing it out of their roots and into soil. This feeds the soil organisms like fungi and bacteria. Why do trees give away their sugar? Because the soil microbes are helping to pull in minerals and water for the plant. This is a process nature invented, to pump carbon into the ground to make life on land possible. It creates soil aggregates which allows for water and air to infiltrate the ground for all soil life and plants to prosper.  The carbon filled soil aggregates can remain for 50 to 100 years. That means carbon underground. Then there's compost, which increases the biological function of soil. This is a probiotic for the soil. 

AO: How do you personally lead a sustainable or regenerative life? 

FM: By making the decision to get involve and not waiting on the sidelines for someone to tell you to start playing. One day I realized, "why are we waiting for someone in a field to share information with us?" There is so much information and expert people available on the web. Read! Watch youtube videos, call the experts! They will talk to you. The world needs you.  We need unusual suspects to get involved. And not just holding signs at a rally but starting projects in their community, writing legislation, and spreading the word of whats possible. People need to say "I will be the one who does that".  

AO: You are a recording artist in addition to being the co-founder of Kiss The Ground. Which takes precedence? Do you inject your work with Kiss The Ground into your music or do you keep the two separate? 

FM: I have two or three songs that are connected to Kiss the Ground and/or soil. The Garden Song and 2060. 2060 is a dream I had about a Brazilian refugee camp. I was an old man and my granddaughter walked me to the edge of the city, which had been destroyed due to climate change. She said, why didn't you do anything? That had a profound impact on me and got me off my ass to start helping. I generally try to keep my music world on its on track but these days it might make sense to bring them together. 

AO: What are your thoughts on indoor farming vs. outdoor? 

FM: In terms of hydroponics, few people combine soil which gets good results. We're at the tip of the ice-burg of understanding the benefits of soil. In a forest we have trees that are 200 feet high. Why do we think that controlling it helps? What if we mimic nature? Bio-mimicry. If we remove our old baggage of how things go and admit that our whole framework with outdoor farming is flawed, then we begin to reframe it. Cuba has done an incredible job with hyper local farming. We need another victory garden/hyper local farming movement here in the US. Victory garden's came about in World War II and the whole premise is invest in people to farm by teaching them how to grow food at home. Victory Garden Movement was actually the name before we were an official organization called Kiss the Ground. 

AO: Our mantra at Amborella is Eat, Plant, Love. If you could attach one word to this what would it be? 

FM: I would change plant to grow, and include learn and share. If we look at the history of communication with humans, in the last 100 years you have a major decline of agriculture and sustainability and an upward curve of human connection. We can't assume people know (because they have access to more information), we have to educate. 

What's next for Kiss The Ground? They just finished their campaign for The Compost Story (www.thecompoststory.com) featuring Rosario Dawson, Adrian Grenier, Amy Smart, Paul Blackthorne and Kendrick Sampson. This September, they're slated to release a curriculum for middle school students featuring five lessons on the carbon cycle, photosynthesis, soil, regenerative agriculture, and taking community action. A free download will be available online. In November they will be releasing the book "Kiss The Ground" available for pre-order on amazon. In 2018 their future length documentary "Kiss The Ground" will be coming out. For now, subscribe to their newsletter and visit their website for more information.