While other father-daughter teams build Lego or concoct slime, Lem and Alex Pastoral make insect repellent, dish soap and hand sanitizer.
For seven years, chemistry grad Lem, 36, worked at a solar cell manufacturing company before his current day job as a purchasing manager for gensets and automatic transfer switches. “We also serve the preventive maintenance of telecommunication companies’ cell sites,” he explained.
But after clocking out, his daughter Alex, 6, helps him measure and mix raw materials for their creations. “She likes the smell of the eucalyptus essential oil because it’s so relaxing daw,” said Lem.
Lem and Alex have made their creations available to the public through Simula (simula. ph), an online store that sells zero-waste/sustainable items.
Celina Alejandrino and her cofounder Maan Aguila started the business in 2018 as a personal advocacy: “We realized the need to act on the pollution we all create.” From selling french net bags as alternatives to plastic bags, they now sell “araw and baño essentials.” Their bestsellers include collapsible straws, cloth menstrual pads and liners, dish-washing liquid and reusable cotton rounds.
In 2010, Lem and his wife Clarissa sold baby cologne, room and linen sprays and massage oils. They discontinued the business when Clarissa got pregnant with Alex and they had to move house.
Celina and Maan saw the need for bath and kitchen consumables not sold in plastic bottles or sachets: “Chemicals from commercial liquids we use every day go down the drains and eventually to our oceans.”
Since everybody uses dish soap, they thought this was where they’d make the most impact. “We remembered Lem, as he once made safe and effective products. He then came up with a food-grade dishwashing liquid that’s safe for us and the environment. Buyers can refill their own bottles or those purchased from us.”
To ensure proper hygiene, Simula has standards customers need to comply with prior to refilling. “You have the option to buy a brand-new glass bottle from us or to bring your own. We require dry, sterilized bottles to avoid product contamination. We entrust this part to our customers.”
Where can refills be done? “Maan allows customers to refill in her home in Merville, Parañaque. We also have some pop-ups around the metro. We’ve some coming this October, November and December,” said Celina.
Shipping products has been a challenge for Simula since they prefer to ship plastic-free. “We ship glass bottles wrapped in old magazines and newspapers to provide cushioning during transit. So far, it’s been great! There are always options other than plastic,” she said.
Lem’s liquid consumables are sold per milliliter: The dish soap is P0.25/ml when you bring your own bottle, insect repellent is P2/ml and hand sanitizer is P1.50/ml.
How do their items compare with commercial brands? Since Lem formulates his products together with his daughter, this father makes sure that their reagents are safe even for pregnant women and infants. “We do not use any harmful chemicals and 100 percent of our ingredients come from plants,” said Celina. “Customers love how our soap is unscented. It’s the best option when you clean bottles, plates and glasses that come in contact with children. Even though our soaps aren’t as bubbly as the commercial ones, customers say it still feels clean and the dish soap easily removes grease and stains.”
Ritual, Kalikhasan, Messy Bessy, Refuse PH and Naturale Market are other stores that Celina says share in her advocacy.
What makes Simula different from them? “Simula offers the most affordable sustainable products in the Philippines. That was one of our struggles when we started the journey to a low-waste life,” said Celina.
Simula’s Araw and Baño Essentials are the Sisal soap saver pouch, wet bag, cloth liners, cloth menstrual pads (regular and overnight), menstrual cup, bamboo toothbrush, cotton rounds, handmade soaps, hand sanitizer, net bag, produce bags, upcycled glass bottles with lights, earpicks (stainless steel and bamboo), steel razors, shampoo and conditioner bars, cucumber toner, sun creams and gels, facial wash, sandwich zappy wraps, stainless-steel laundry hanger and clothespins, collapsible milk tea straw with pouch, telescopic straw and brush, stainless-steel food container, sporkini, bamboo milk tea and regular straw, beeswax wrap (cling wrap replacement), mesh unsponges, food grade dishwashing liquid, plantable pencils (sili, kamatis, talong, mint, basil, citronella, bell pepper, repolyo), frosted glass pump bottle,
BagsGo reusable bags.
Simula ships within Metro Manila plastic-free (for now), and nationwide using regular packaging. —CONTRIBUTED
Email [email protected] Where to find Simula: Karton.ph, The Good Store PH, Tali Ti Amianan in La Union, MUNTIndahan in Laguna, Kook Café in Siargao, and at a popup store near you.