We will soon have a page on this site dedicated to our pledge to be more sustainable. This will be a major challenge for us at this level. A key part of being sustainable is utilizing packaging that is reusable, renewable, or easily recycled. For most of our history, outside of our beard oil, waxes and lip balm; everything has been plastic. Although we have been using the most recyclable plastics available, it is still plastic. With consumers not fully engaged in recycling, we can do little to force it upon them. It can be called out, encouraged and outright recommended but it cannot be mandated by us. Even in communities where recycling exists, there is no enforcement upon the people. In some communities that do have curbside recycling, it all may still end up in landfills.
As part of our mission to become sustainable we are going to end the use of plastics as much as possible. Every product will be looked at to find a way to remove plastic parts and replaced with glass or metal. Unfortunately not everything can be. Items like lotions and our room sprays are difficult to find a functional alternative. With lotions, there are compostable tubes or tubes made from more eco-friendly post recycled goods. For room sprays, we can use glass bottles but all available (to us) spray heads will not seal properly on glass bottles. We can consider metal bottles, but there is a cost factor involved that could make them unattractive due to price.
From an educated guess-timate, it appears our customers are evenly divided on where they stand when it comes to plastic versus glass/metal. For the most part, they are focused on the performance of the product and not how it works. It is easy to be comfortable with it all being plastic as it is what is available at every store; we take it for what it is and are OK with that. Then there is the safety of glass packaging for items used in the shower or bath. The last thing we would want to hear about is a person getting cut by broken glass because the item dropped and broke. Secondary is the loss of product that they paid for and now cannot use.
There are plans to offer refill pouches for the Room + Fabric Spray bottles. The pouches, though plastic, use a lot less plastic than any bottle. By offering such an item, a customer can reuse the bottle we provided or refill any bottle they wish. In the meantime we can continue to search for an alternative to the plastic bottle that will work with available spray heads.
For jars, we will move to glass for items that are not used in the shower, specifically. Many creams, scrubs, bath butters are often used while relaxing in a bathtub. This is not a rushed daily routine activity, but done casually with thought and planning. Proper preparedness can take place to have a safe and secure spot to place the jar to where it won’t easily fall and break. A little stool next to the tub, or a bath with a large brim around it would be available. If the jar drops into the tub it would be very unlikely for it to break as the water would cushion it and let it sink. If it were to fall to the floor from such a low height it may hit hard but most likely would not break. So far, pricing of glass versus plastic is insignificantly higher. A few cents more would not cause us to raise prices due to the change in packaging. There is some thought to use metal tins with screw top lids. Our concern here is how well these hold up after a few uses. Will any residue or film on the threads after a couple uses create a problem? Will they still be easy to open each and every time? We will have to test this first. Recently we discovered composable plastic jars and bottles made from straw. We have seen this plastic used as a replacement for plates, cups and other food service items, but not for product packaging. We wish to test these to see how well they perform for our products, and will the decomposition process start while the item is on the shelf.
Sustainability is more than just packaging, it is a culture to embrace
We need to look into every ingredient we use. How it is sourced, how it is packaged and how it is shipped to us. We wish to find affordable local or close regional suppliers for as many items as possible that meet the sourcing and packaging component. The shorter distance an item travels is less fuel burned. Many suppliers are not into the sustainability migration yet. Many heavily rely upon plastics and are not looking into the sustainability culture of their suppliers. Some of our most loved ingredients are from a couple manufacturers that do take sustainability seriously. With one of them being based in the UK, and another owned out of Sweden, they are already immersed into being sustainable in their work and bringing it forward in their products. A great thing to know is that these 2 manufacturers are behind our soaps (bar and liquid) and soy wax items – a big chunk of our business today.
Behind the scenes behaviors, like water usage and energy consumption are part of it. Making anything, even soap, is heavy on water use. Oils and waxes are not easy to wash off implements or our hands. How we use water here is going to be a mindful practice to be responsible about how much water we are running through the taps. Every implement possible is cleaned in a energy efficient dishwasher. For safety reasons, we use a limited amount of plastic beakers and pitchers for measuring and mixing. None of which are one-time use. Other implements and tools are metal, glass or ceramic.
Energy use is managed as much as possible. Using methods that consume less electricity are applied. Wax is melt in thermostat controlled melters, not double boilers. All lighting is low wattage/low voltage LED light fixtures and are controlled by smart integration to manage brightness in our work areas. Few appliances are used with most items being blended by a hand with a spoon or whisk. Hand blender and a hand mixer are used when required, our scale/balance is also electric but can be operated by batteries. Other tools used are a heat gun and a microwave for various purposes.
We ship using boxes made from recycled paper; compostable padded envelopes for smaller things. We don’t have our boxes printed with our logo, we hand stamp them. Bubble wrap and other packing materials are reused from our received shipments. We don’t throw all that away then buy more of the same to use as many others do. It is such a wasteful practice that many of my past employers would do. We do purchase plastic bags to secure items that have a potential to leak as this is more reliable than tape around the cap. Despite only having a couple instances of leaky bottles in shipping, having it happen once is too often.
If WE do it, WE will need to prove it and not just brag about it.
Honestly, we do not know actual metrics around where we are at in regards to sustainability. Having not tracked every component all along we cannot tell you how much better we have become. All we can do is measure where we are at today and update as we get better about it. We also need to have it measured through other sources. It is all fine and good to say that X% of our packages or ingredients are sustainable, but that means nothing in the bigger picture. There are means to identify our carbon footprint and we will start that process very soon. Once we have an idea we will share it on our new Sustainability Pledge page.
We see that any step we take to move in this direction is far more than doing nothing. We certainly won’t be “Green Washing” – hype up what we do that is eco-friendly and ignore all that we won’t change. There are steps major corporations can easily take to improve their position and lead by example when it comes to sustainability that they outright refuse to do. Even when it has no negative impacts to costs or quality, they won’t do it. And if they do, they charge substantially more as they make a big deal about it. To handle doing the right thing as a luxury element is mind-boggling.
To take a look at yourself and identifying areas that can be improved is far better than keeping with the status quo. It is easier to just keep chugging along doing it the same way we always had. But that has never been a part of our culture here. Most everything we do came about by rethinking it. Why would we not rethink our packaging, suppliers and energy use. To rethink a recipe or product is no more challenging than rethinking our behaviors that has the potential to improve our world.
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You can help guide us. Please give us feedback and suggestions on what we can do to improve. Your input has real value to us and can call attention to things we may have overlooked.
We will have our sustainability pledge page created over the coming weeks. It will be updated with support data as we acquire the information. There will be no empty promises and not hype around one specific thing to glorify our action. We want this to be a path or growth and development that is as honest as everything else we share.