Community Member Spotlight: Kate and Mike of Meliora

ZWC tours Meliora Cleaning Products | Zero Waste Chicago

Story and reporting Maia Welbel.

Our January meet-up at the Meliora Cleaning Products production space was our most attended event to date - over 50 of you came out to tour the space, experience how Meliora’s products are made, and hang out with other members of this community.

We had the chance to learn about how a couple of engineers created a responsible cleaning products company, why transparency is so important to them, and how they are working to reduce waste!

Kate Jakubas and Mike Mayer started Meliora in 2013 with the intention of bringing safer, more sustainable options to the cleaning products industry. While Kate was pursuing her Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering, she took a course that explored how pollutants distribute in the environment, and began to wonder about the impact of the products she used in her own home.

Kate discovered that makers of cleaning products in the U.S. are not required to label ingredients. “You can buy something and use it on your floor or on your baby’s clothes and you don’t even know what’s in it,” she explained.

Along with her partner Mike, Kate began experimenting with non-toxic ingredients to create safe soaps and detergents with minimal environmental impact. “Both Mike and I are engineers so if you give us duct tape we’re not going to use it to tape ducts, we’re going to do something weird with it,” she joked. They decided that they could use business as a tool for facilitating change in the industry.

ZWC tours Meliora Cleaning Products | Zero Waste Chicago

Public demand for greater transparency in other industries like food and beauty have pushed companies to be more upfront about what’s in their products, but these values haven’t been applied to cleaning products in the same way. “We knew that there were people who cared about transparency in ingredients and wanted a better product, and we really wanted it to be easy for them to get that product,” said Mike.

Since Meliora makes everything in-house from raw materials, they are able to sell products at an accessible price point. “It shouldn’t cost more to clean better,” Mike said.

ZWC tours Meliora Cleaning Products | Zero Waste Chicago

Meliora has come a long way since the pair started making soap in their condo five years ago. Kate and Mike expanded the business into a production space in West Town in 2015, and each year their goal has been to reduce waste output by ten percent. From choosing plastic-free packaging to re-using raspberry crates for storage, Meliora prioritizes sustainability from a life cycle perspective.

“We are always asking ourselves: How can we use this business to improve the environment, change an industry, and help people’s lives get better?” Kate said.

Maia Welbel is a Master’s Candidate at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She loves writing about sustainable food systems and urban development. She is also a member of Cocodaco Dance Project, a Chicago-based contemporary dance company.