Indigenous Paint Company Beam Paints goes Plastic-Free
Putting More Green on the Palette; As the first Indigenous paint manufacturer and first plastic-free paint manufacturer in the world, Beam’s creativity, innovation and determination are showing the way.
As an artist and child of two practicing artists, Ms. Anong Beam was familiar with most brands and methods of purchasing artist supplies and watercolour paint. Having learned traditional approaches to pigment, and a process of imagining traditional knowledge implemented in the modern times from her father, she recognized that ancient approaches to colour could be reimagined and developed in order to help her business operate in a more sustainable, plastic-free way.
The undertaking developed very organically, beginning with a paint recipe that utilized waste stream super fine stone from local quarries Beam took a fresh look at the standard plastic half-pan and designed one made with waxed canvas instead of plastic. The success of this product led to the replacement of plastic cushioned mailers with recycled kraft mailers, plastic packing tape with water-activated paper tape, etc. As well, returnable and refillable palettes made from waste stream wood byproducts destined to be burned were developed.
To date, over 100,000 pieces of single-use plastic have been replaced with fully biodegradable natural biobased materials handmade in Beam’s community of M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island where Indigenous women work (seven full-time, and six part-time) at Beam for, or above, a living wage.
Beam Paints now provides eco-friendly paints to customers in twenty-five countries, having developed wholesale relationships with twenty US retailers, eighty-nine Indigo Books and Music Stores in Canada, and eighteen independent retailers in Canada. Indeed the company’s rapid growth rate—and one in the UK might have been an obstacle. The company could have been a victim of its own success had they not been open to adapting their processes to meet the demand for their product.
Beam Paints consistently consults with employees who develop and share their own ideas and approaches. This collaborative approach helps the team imagine still better packaging and improve upon their fulfillment process. Reviewing their sourcing ensures that the company has multiple ways of making a consistent product with their preferred materials. When possible, off-cut waste to package other products. Reimagining waste has kept them profitable and creative in their approaches.
Beam is the first Indigenous paint manufacturer/brand and also the first plastic-free paint manufacturer (in product and fulfillment) in the world. Their innovation is showing the way.
This small outfit was also the first company to refuse to use poly bags for warehouse orders at Indigo Books and Music, but word is others are now able to follow suit. Beam is inspiring more companies to take a harder, greener, look at the containers they choose for their products, showing what can happen when you apply your skill, dedication, and paint outside the lines.