When we first began shipping our products, we were scrambling to reuse any and all boxes we had from inventory or even personal use in order to not buy new boxes to ship out. It seemed insane to me to have to "buy" boxes that have been produced when we could reuse what we already had.
Reusing was a practice that both my husband and I were raised with. Someone once endearingly told me reusing plastic bags was such a "latino" household practice, but my husband is Afghan and he grew up the same way so maybe it was simply our economic background in common, that led to the need to reuse. Growing up our family room rug was a remnant from my dad's office that he installed a binding edge around, making it our new area rug. If we had old clothes, those clothes became fabric! Fabric for decor, new clothes or worse case rags to clean with. And the bags, the days of the plastic bags in the grocery stores didn't really change the fact for us that we had a drawer of bags that we used again and again for shopping, as a bathroom garbage liner, for an ice pack...you get the picture. Halloween meant using what I had to recreate a character. It was fun and a creative outlet to "get to" repurpose, not realizing that early on we simply couldn't afford to buy new.
What that taught me was to be resourceful. Now that we have started to scale our family business, we have hundreds of decisions to make and dare I say choices.
For example, by upgrading the quantity of which we buy one of our main soap ingredients, we were able to graduate from plastic bags to kraft recyclable barrels. It was not an easy choice because of course financially, it was a rather large commitment to make. We still have to buy some of our more expensive ingredients in plastic gallons, but we are close to eliminating this necessity.
Because our fulfillment has grown by leaps and bounds since we started online shipping in 2020, we do indeed have to "buy" boxes to ship with now. There came a point early on where we simply ran out of boxes to repurpose lol.
Shipping supplies is a touchy subject for some and in fact I or shall I say our company (I take these things very personal) have been accused by a customer for greenwashing after receiving a small amount of biodegradable peanuts in her order. Our entire business model is built on developing business products and business practices that are not only sustainable but many times challenging since sustainability within retail or manufacturing is certainly not the norm. So this indeed is very personal for us.
I explained that while we do not choose to buy shipping peanuts or plastic shipping supplies brand new, we do in fact save them and reuse them if we come across biodegradable peanuts in our shipments from our bulk orders. At the time they were coming from a potter we used to buy from. The customer explained she was trying to live a plastic free lifestyle and felt that we were "greenwashing" by selling sustainable products and not using responsible shipping materials.
So my question to her was, should I have thrown out the peanuts before using them and shipped your order with all newly purchased shipping supplies? Her answer was "Yes, in order to stay consistent with your message. "
As a note, biodegradable peanuts are made from non toxic corn starch or wheat and does indeed biodegrade. You can test one in your sink, if you're unsure. If you see "compostable" on a product, proceed with caution as many products labeled compostable are not backyard compostable.
I get it, the word "sustainability" has become very trendy these days. But I have to disagree with this approach of buying new to maintain this facade of sustainability and perhaps there was a disconnect culturally and economically. Again, being raised to always reuse was a financial necessity for us growing up. But even now, with the means, why would I send off an item to landfill only to pull from new stock in order to portray this image of sustainability?
The word sustainability is defined as "avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance"
If we can reuse a shipping product like a biodegradable peanut or biodegradable bio based plant based plastic bag before using new shipping supplies I've bought in order to delay buying more new supplies, I will absolutely without hesitation REUSE what we already have. If this is greenwashing, then ok, I'm fine with that. I'm not really too concerned with the marketing side to be quite honest.
Simply put, we create products that produce less waste and we commit to creating less waste as a manufacturer wherever and whenver possible. We aren't perfect but we continually work towards fulfilling our standards.
Where are we at today as a Company?
- Our textile goods are made from 100% linen because linen is a sustainable fiber, feel free to peruse our former journal post about linen. Also, the mill we buy from is family owned so I'm kinda a fan.
- Our thread we use is COTTON and oh is it pricey and really hard to work with. But guess what polyster thread is made of...yes plastic. Non PLA plastic that does not biodegrade. Many products today that are labeled as "sustainable goods" are made with poly all purpose thread. Why? Because it's 4-5 times cheaper than cotton thread and much more durable. But we do have a standard to stick to so we choose to use Cotton thread.
- The sewn in tags we use in our products are natural cotton.
- We order in bulk whenever possible to limit carbon emissions and upgrade to bulk metal containers, again when it is financially feasible.
- Our shipping tape is recyclable paper based shipping tape.
- We REUSE shipping supplies whenever possible.
- A limited amount of unecessary paper collateral is included in our shipments as our company or product information can already be found online.
- We source our botanicals and grains locally from other family businesses.
- We work with chemical companies that provide ingredients not sourced from palm oils and include non toxic and earth friendly ingredients.
- Containers are either biodegradable or recyclable but first and foremost, resuable.
- We offer gifts in reusable wood boxes or wrapped with scarves.
- We create products that are not single use and are working diligently to make sure we continue the path of creating reusable, repurposing, multifunctional products.
- We use reusable water bottles and flatware in our workplace.
- We use no bag or a washable garbage bag for all of our small garbage bins throughout every work station, made from the same fabric as our food bags are made of.
- All of our office and warehouse lighting is energy effecient.
- We use cotton towels for our makers room.
- We saved and invested in industrial sewing machines that use less electricity than our former residential machines.
What we are working on this year
- Eliminating whenever possible product labels. We are working on custom printed product packaging. Why? Because Every label has a backing that we have to toss once we apply the label to your product. So not cool.
- Upgrading our bolt size to fit more of our product when we cut it. Our goal is not to have any excess fabric. We are really close to that now, thanks to the creation of our Do Good Sponge.
- Continue to source bulk suppliers that also ship sustainably. When we find a new vendor, we always ask and while the bulk and manufacturing industry has a very long way to go, we plan on discontinuing relationships that don't use at the very least, biodegradable shipping supplies and yes, for now this includes biodegradable peanuts and Plant derived Bio based biodegradable plastic if necessary.
- We are hoping to expand our staff in order to begin offering our refills to our favorite retailers. This will ideally eliminate the number of individual shipments on the road if our customers have a local shop where they can buy their refills. We are unable to keep up with demand at this time and we hope to change that this year.
This was a long one but important information for our customers and retailers to know about us.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org We are always happy to provide further information, please approach us with an open heart and an open mind, respectfully and we will do the same. We appreciate all of our customers and retailers for continuing on this journey with us and Happy New Year!
and yes, still a shipper, a sewist, a maker, a customer service rep, a janitor, a designer, product tester ;)