How a Small Business can be More Eco-Friendly
by Emma Hannay at Stamped With Love
At Stamped With Love, we have always been conscious of our impact on the environment on both a personal and a business level.
Changes At home
We have used Cloth Nappies for both Mini SWL1 and 2 and the stash is still going strong almost 6 years on. We plan to donate these nappies to a friend or two once we’ve finished with them too. We got so much amazing information and help from our local Nappy Library.
We use reusable kitchen roll, face wipes and sandwich wraps all from the amazing Clever Cactus. Our loo rolls are from Who Gives a Crap who donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. We have switched to 100% reusable energy for our Gas and Electric, and I am regularly found tinkering with the thermostat timer to ensure we are only using the energy we need.
Mini SWL1’s school is great a collecting all sorts of items to be recycled, including pens, crisp tubes and packets, batteries, and milk bottle tops. We usually have a load of bags on the side in the kitchen collecting various materials ready for recycling.
Where to Start With the Business
We had a look at the different areas of the business to see what items we used and what impact they had on the environment:
- Packaging: We were using jiffy bags, the kind with the bubble wrap inside and paper on the outside, as they are a mixed material they couldn’t be recycled. We also put everything in little organza bags however these are made from nylon and won’t biodegrade.
- Plastic Tape: We used clear plastic tape to secure the boxes but again this was made from plastic and would take years to degrade.
- Sweets: We included a little sweet in our packages that were usually wrapped in plastic and certainly weren’t suitable for Vegetarians or Vegans.
- Suppliers: We were not keeping track of stock effectively and certainly hadn’t spoken to them about using reusable packaging.
- Deliveries: We hadn’t considered the environmental impact of our delivery to our customers and whether our delivery partners had environmental policies.
What Changes Could We Make?
We looked at the different areas of impact above and made some changes:
Our first instinct was to change to boxes rather than jiffy bags as this was a uniform and safe way to protect our makes. The size is uniform, the boxes can also be reused if needed. We tested a few suppliers boxes to see what their construction was like but settled on those from iDeals UK as their quality proved consistent.
We ditched the organza bags and chose paper bags instead; these are easily recycled and offer that extra little excitement when you open your parcel. We love the variety of options at CarrierBagShop.
We switched to potato starch bags for our stockist packaging. They already had a card backing but by switching from a plastic bag to the potato starch bags we knew they could be composted too.
We also managed to source eco-friendly gift boxes after our supplier Westpack launched a brand new range so 100% of all our packaging is sustainable and can be recycled.
We switched from plastic to paper tape that could be easily recycled but most places only did brown tape which is a bit boring. But after a recommendation from another small business, we found an awesome company called Sticker Mule* who prints custom tape. It is amazing and super sticky!
We went on some vegetarian forums to see if any sweets are suitable and found that Love Hearts from Swizzles are suitable for Vegetarians, so these are the sweets we use now.
We don’t have as much influence over our suppliers, but we do request plastic-free deliveries where possible and we make sure we re-use, return, or recycle any packaging they do send. We also make sure that we buy efficiently, only buy when we need and ensure that we buy a good amount to last us a while rather than lots of little orders.
We use Royal Mail for all our deliveries who are committed to reducing their impact on the environment and publish annual figures on the reduction of their carbon footprint.
Offsetting Our Carbon Footprint
There are some things that we have to do that have an impact on the environment that we cannot change. We order items from the USA, China, and other countries around the world and they are usually air freighted to the UK. It isn’t very often but they are items we cannot get in the UK – or at least at a competitive price. So we looked at ways we could offset our carbon footprint and cover us for these deliveries as well as our daily impact doing things like the post-run.
After some research online we found a company called Ecologi. We make a payment each month and they offset our carbon via several different ventures both in the UK and around the world. These include projects such as Wind Power in India or closer to home Reforesting Dalry, Scotland. This is how many trees we have planted so far, and we keep a running tally in our website footer so all our customers can see.
You can also track our progress on our profile on their website, there you see where the trees have been planted on our behalf, and how much carbon we have offset to date.
We also have the option to purchase more trees and we have committed to purchase an extra tree every time we do an international order.
What We Have Learnt
Whilst it is a little more expensive to go for the eco-friendly option on packaging (i.e. jiffy bags approximately 10p each vs boxes at 17p each) the knowledge that customers can recycle 100% of our packaging makes us very proud.
It gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that every time we pack up our orders, do the post-run or even just take the kids to the park we are doing our bit. It almost feels like a weight off strangely enough. The changes that we have made are not that significant or that expensive.
We’d love to know what changes you have made or are planning on making in the comments below.
Emma is the owner and creative person behind Stamped With Love, where you can buy bespoke gifts for extraordinary people.