How green are we (and where can we do better)?
With all the talk about sustainability in business, we think it's important to honestly assess where we stand. The good news is that we're pretty eco-friendly. The better news is that there's more we can do!
We’ve used the Green Business Certification checklist to assess where we are today, and where we can further improve.
ENERGY SAVINGS AND BUILDINGS
So far: We’re pretty happy with our energy savings. A number of measures have reduced our electricity use by 57% in the past year, and gas by 32% (heat).
We conducted an energy audit in early 2022, and as a result: we’ve: installed secondary glazing on all windows to reduce heat loss (and heat gain in summer).
We’ve also installed solar window films on all south-facing windows. All light bulbs have been changed over to LED and we’ve reduced/eliminated stand-by on all appliances, laptops, etc. All appliances used (microwave, iron, hob) are the highest energy rating.
We’ve installed double-glazed roof windows to increase air circulation and natural light in the workspace.
We’ve had the ceiling and the roof insulated to 270mm, reduced the boiler flow temp to its minimum.
We use natural ventilation and electric fans instead of air conditioning, and 100% green electricity from our supplier (wind, solar and hydro).
We swapped our boiler for one with the highest efficiency rating.
In addition, we’ve made a number of changes to our production that have resulted in energy savings:
- We changed our wax mixture process and were able to reduce energy use by half, from 6 hours to 2. We are thrilled with this!
- We changed our waxing process so that it is around 3-4x faster (still all done by hand though!)
Still to do/consider: Installation of a loft fan for cooling, to draw warm air up and out through the roof windows. Longer-term: Solar panels for the roof, exterior wall insulation and moving away from a gas boiler.
So far: Waste reduction underpins everything we do and all products we make, but we haven’t yet found a way to eliminate the plastic from our raw materials suppliers.
We’ve eliminated almost all disposable goods from our business (and our lives). In our production process we reuse takeaway containers as wax moulds, repurpose the paper bags from our wax as spill paper and reuse the bags from our resin over and over.
We set ourselves the goal of using no more than 1 10l bin bag per week, and we hardly ever go over that.
All purchases are made with the goal of being both plastic-free and recyclable. We don’t always achieve this, but it means that wherever possible, we buy paper, glass or aluminium instead of plastic. For example, our olive oil comes in 2l tins.
To eliminate waste from our production process, we have two programmes (“Earth-Kind” and “No-Waste) to sell imperfect goods, so that nothing goes to landfill. In addition, we bundle up all fabric remnants as quilting packs to sell on. Oct 2023 update: We are now bundling every last scrap of fabric from our production and selling it on (for the cost of the postage and fees only) as all-natural soft toy stuffing! That means that 100% of our fabric is used, and we are ZERO-TO-LANDFILL in that respect.
Still to do/consider: Several of our suppliers send raw materials in plastic (e.g. fabric and damar resin). As things stand, they can’t change this, so we have more plastic than we want. See more about how we’re addressing this in the SUPPLY CHAIN section.
PRODUCTS AND PACKAGING
So far: We’re pretty good here. Our wraps are specifically designed to replace single-use plastic, and they’re biodegradable and compostable. All of our packaging and labels are plastic-free, biodegradable and recyclable.
We use a UK-based zero-to-landfill printer that is FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) approved and vegetable inks. All of our labels are made entirely of post-consumer waste.
All of our packaging and labels are plastic-free, biodegradable and recyclable. In addition, our wholesale wraps come in either biodegradable, recyclable greaseproof paper or commercially compostable vegetable starch sleeves. We use Jiffy Green bags, made from 100% recycled paper, single wall boxes (less cardboard), recycled packing paper, recyclable envelopes and Eco-Craft paper parcel tape.
We sometimes get deliveries that include plastic packaging like bubble wrap or a non-recyclable shipping envelope. When this happens, we reuse it when we send out commercial orders (with a note asking them to reuse it again) It’s not ideal, but until everyone stops using plastic packaging, at least it’s getting reused.
In November 2022 we switched to Eco Craft paper tape for all retail parcels, too, ditching the Sello tape completely, and in December we switched to recycled printer paper for our shipping labels.
Still to do/consider: We’ve looked at using recycled cardboard boxes, but there are some EU packaging laws that make it tricky, so we’ll need to look in more detail.
So far: Medium. We use only OEKO TEX 100 certified fabrics (tested for any harmful substances), however they are not GOTS-certified, which would pass additional ecological and social criteria. We have had our wraps independently tested and certified food safe. Some of our raw materials come from outside the UK and there’s still too much plastic coming from our suppliers.
OEKO-TEX 100 vs GOTS
While our fabric is all OEKO-TEX 100 certified, it isn’t GOTS (organic) certified. In order to use only GOTS fabric, we would need to eliminate all of our Made with Liberty Fabric, William Morris and Classic patterns, because there are not GOTS options for these.
In terms of testing for harmful substances, OEKO-TEX and GOTS run the tests on the same things (many chemicals as well as naturally occurring hazards like arsenic, lead and mercury). The GOTS tests have slightly lower tolerances. Both tests have tolerances that are well within health guidelines.
To assure ourselves further, we’re one of the only wraps makers to have had our wraps food-contact safety tested by an independent UK laboratory, and they passed with flying colours. All test results are available on our website.
Regarding working practices, we have asked our fabric suppliers about their factories (in Japan, Italy, France and Thailand) and have written assurances that they all support good working conditions and worker health and safety. They have no official certification/documentation to this effect.
Our waxes and resin all have up-to-date Certificates of Analysis / Material Safety Data Sheets, and are non-toxic (FDA, EU and UK certified safe for food), biodegradable and compostable.
We have traceability of all raw materials, although we don’t have visibility into the production of our beeswax (in China). Harvesting of our candelilla wax (from Mexico) is highly regulated with limited licenses to ensure sustainability. Our damar resin (from Indonesia) is sustainably harvested.
Regarding our suppliers’ packaging, we’ve talked to our fabric suppliers and they have to use clear plastic shrink wrap for their fabric rolls (it is shipped to them in that plastic and they are not able to find out about its recycled status). And they must use black plastic to ship out orders because it prevents any fading from light. That plastic is made from 100% recycled material, but it cannot itself be recycled.
Our Liberty Fabric supplier is better on the plastic front. They use cardboard boxes to ship the fabric bolts, although the bolts themselves come in plastic sleeves.
Our resin comes in clear plastic bags of 3kg each, inside recyclable cardboard boxes. We reuse these bags but they cannot be recycled.
Historically, our wax came in paper envelopes inside recyclable cardboard boxes. We reused the paper envelopes. Update: As of August 2023, our wax (25kg at a time) comes in a single recyclable cardboard box with a plastic bag. We reuse the plastic bag.
Our olive oil comes in 2l tins, which we repurpose into plant pots or recycle.
We would love to source all materials locally, but it isn’t possible for any wraps maker. Since cotton isn’t grown in the country, it’s grown, harvested and treated abroad. If it is then imported to manufacturers or printers in the UK, it is allowed to be labelled as ‘Made in the UK’.
Our Liberty and William Morris fabrics are produced in Italy and Japan, and damar resin and candelilla wax do not exist in the UK (they grow in Indonesia and Mexico/US). We do use olive oil that is packed in the UK and produced in Spain and UK-based producers for our gift boxes, vegetable starch sleeves, mailer bags and gift ribbons. Where we can’t source locally, we use UK companies that import using sea container shipping to reduce the number of deliveries that have to be made.
Update August 2023: We looked again at sourcing our wax from UK hives but could not find an apiary that can supply in pellet form in the quantities we need. We'll keep looking!
Our beeswax comes from China via shipping container to a UK company. They buy in lots of 5,700kg. This entire shipment generates around 350-380kg of CO2.
We buy 25kg at a time and the carbon footprint for 25kg is 1.3kg.
Our damar resin is sustainably harvested in Indonesia. Our supplier imports 1 tonne at a time from Germany, which equates to around 190kg CO2. We buy 18kg at a time and the carbon footprint for that is 3.4kg.
Our olive oil comes from Spain.
Our fabric from Thailand and Japan (via Canada) come via sea shipping container. Our fabric from Italy comes to us by road, where 1000kg weight in fabric generates 52kg of CO2).
Still to do/consider: We’re limited on moving to GOTS fabric because our patterns form the basis for our business. For instance, we’re the only wraps-maker authorised to use Liberty’s fabrics for our wraps. Where our suppliers start offering a GOTS option for the patterns, we will use it. We have looked at using UK-based beekeepers for our wax, but haven’t found a supplier who can guarantee the amount we need. We’ll keep looking. Damar resin and candelilla wax are only grown abroad, but we decided to use them instead of pine resin (which some people are allergic to) and soy wax (which is worse for the environment).
Fabric may be printed in the UK. It may even be woven in the UK. But the raw cotton has to come from abroad, and that generates Co2 emissions.
We have looked at using a commercial recycler for the clear plastic wrap that comes with our fabric, but the volume isn't high enough for them.
So far: Good. We used some water in two areas of production and have revamped our process so that we now use no water in our wax mixing process. All water rom our waxing process is reused multiple times, and eventually used to water the plants.
TRANSPORTATION (Order fulfilment)
So far: Pretty good. We’ve chosen to use Royal Mail because it’s got the lowest carbon footprint of any delivery service.
We use Royal Mail for the majority of our retail orders, which has the lowest carbon footprint of any delivery service (205g of CO2 per delivery in the UK). Where orders go to the US, the US Post Office finishes the delivery. In some cases, e.g. during Royal Mail strikes, we have needed to use Evri to meet our delivery deadlines.
Most wholesale orders through our website are also sent with Royal Mail.
Finally, UK orders through our wholesale partners are now sent with Royal Mail, and US orders are sent using spare DHL capacity (orders hitchhike on shipments already going) and then go into the US Postal System. European orders are still sent using our wholesaler's negotiated courier service.