(This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links throughout)
Five years ago, it was virtually impossible (for me!) to find reusable cloth bags sold anywhere… except Etsy. And our love affair has been going strong ever since. It’s now my number one “go-to” to discover everything from zero waste makeup and personal care products to reusable homewares and even eco-friendly Christmas decorations!
So I was thrilled when Etsy UK asked me to help launch their new Sustainable Summer Collection – #SSCollection – Etsy’s first eco-friendly product range made up of talented UK sellers who all take a sustainable and eco-friendly approach to their products, ranging from homewares to beauty and fashion.
The curated product range aims to encourage people to buy better and make it easier for folks to shop consciously, offering something for everyone, whether it’s plastic-free shampoo, organic babywear or vegetable tanned bags made from reclaimed leather.
The #SSCollection came about after Etsy saw a strong desire from customers to purchase produces that are kinder to the environment – seeing a dramatic 218% increase in searches that contained the term “eco-friendly” between January 1st and April 30th this year, likely thanks to the huge popularity of Blue Planet 2 and the public’s growing concern around plastic.
At this point I want to yell “go consumer power!” but Etsy has been ahead of the sustainability game for a while now; supplying their employees with reusable Keep Cups, fitting their offices with upcycled and locally made furniture, composting food waste and recycling.
Etsy are passionate about green living and have made a promise for all of their offices to be zero waste by 2020, both in the UK and overseas.
To launch the #SSCollection, EtsyUK hosted an evening at their HQ in North London where every little detail had been thought through, from the table decorations (re-purposed leaves from the office plants as place names!) to the seasonal menu created by eco-chef Tom Hunt.
I had a chance to meet some of the sellers featured in the #SSCollection and find out more about their brand, why they love being an Etsy seller and why sustainability matters to them.
I started using these little plastic-free “kubes” earlier this year and I couldn’t stop raving about them to anyone who would listen. In fact, Mintel, the leading market intelligence agency recently named Beauty Kubes as one of their “10 Most Innovative Beauty Products”. Personally, I’ve found them easier to use than a typical shampoo bar – they leave no residue and come packaged in a recyclable cardboard box with a piece of tissue paper inside.
Handmade in Cornwall from organic ingredients, Beauty Kubes launched in February 2018 after their parent company, Eve of St. Agnes (who make award-winning natural beauty products) decided to remove all plastic bottles from their product range after learning of our plastic pollution problem.
Going a step further, they only send out orders packaged in easy to recycle paper packing materials, including paper packing tape!
“I don’t think that running a successful and profitable business should have to mean you have a negative impact on the environment,” says Emma Heywood, a qualified cosmetic scientist from Eve of St Agnes. “We now live in a society full of plastic ‘stuff’ that has very little value and very little importance in the great scheme of things.”
◊ Isobel Higley ◊
These could be the most adorable ceramics I’ve ever come across – decorated with smiley faces that are as uplifting as a morning cup of coffee! Sustainablilty is at the heart of Isobel’s collection, reusing clays, using non-toxic glazes and only buying in powdered clays and adding the water herself to reduce energy transportation. I managed to grab her for a little chat to find out more about her brand.
“I am a recent graduate from Falmouth University where I studied BA(Hons) Contemporary Crafts and specialised in ceramics. Since graduating I have completed several work placements in potteries and used the skills I have learnt to build on my own artistic practice. Within my work I combine traditional making techniques with contemporary designs, this is an outcome from working in potteries and a having fine art degree.
Etsy provides a great online platform to promote my artistic practice and has allowed me to make connections with other like-minded makers. I have found that there is a great sense of community with Etsy in help forums and Facebook pages. I have been able to get feedback on my work and in return give advice to other makers.
Having a sustainable business is something I have tried to keep at the heart of my making. Whilst at university I wrote my dissertation on ‘An Environmentally Aware Investigation into a Contemporary Sustainable Ceramic Practice’, as part of this process I interviewed ceramic artists that work in a sustainable way. I am working to introduce what I learnt from my research into my own practice.
In my studio I reclaim any waste clay (reclaiming is a method of recycling old clay ready for reusing). Due to the small scale of my production, to minimise energy, I reclaim different bodies of clay together. This process means that the texture and colour of my products vary between batches –creating totally unique works. My next goal is to start collecting and filtering rainwater to use within the reclaim process.”
◊ Bean & Boy ◊
Stacey Siddons, the founder of all-natural soap company Bean & Boy could be the bubbliest person I’ve ever met (pun intended!). She clearly has her work/life balance sorted, turning her passion for making soap into a full time business.
After both of her children were diagnosed with eczema, she decided to simplify the products she used on them and around the home, and started making soaps suitable for sensitive skin,using sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients and minimal recycled and recyclable packaging.
I asked Stacey to tell me a little more about her business and why she loves being an Etsy seller.
“We started making soap for our family when our daughter developed a mild form of eczema that was made worse by commercially-produced soaps and washes. We spent months researching, and tried out loads of different recipes and combinations to find the ones that work for our daughter’s skin – and for us too.
We settled on a combination of high quality ingredients, unfussy essential oil blends, and a slow soap-making process that is as close to the ancient traditional methods as possible. There’s nothing else added: no preservatives, no colourants, no fragrances and no additional heat to speed things up. The best things take time, and proper soap is worth waiting for.
What started out as a necessity and family hobby quickly grew into a mini production line in our kitchen as friends and family started coming back for more. When they began “pre-ordering” before batches had cured, we knew we’d hit onto something special that we couldn’t keep to ourselves anymore.
Since then we’ve had our soap recipes certified and we have introduced new combinations specifically targeted at problematic skin. We have also just launched our virtual shop doors at Etsy, and are selling at markets around Essex.
We still make our soap by hand using the traditional cold process method. We don’t add anything to speed up the process, and we keep things as natural as possible. Each batch is given the full six weeks to cure before we share them with our customers.
When I first launched my website, I decided to use Etsy as my online portal. It was so established, made everything seem so much easier, and of course I was already an Etsy shopper so the progression for me was completely natural.
In the first few weeks I was nervous about not making any sales, but I was soon picked up in an Editor’s Picks roundup and I noticed the immediate impact – followers on social media, questions about my products, and orders. It was all it took to go from zero to hero almost overnight. I started getting feedback from customers about my soaps and that really helped to boost my confidence and help give me the push I needed to do more and make more. Now my soaps are regularly included in gift lists and editors picks, and I can always tell when something special is going on at Etsy because you can track where your customers come from, how they’re shopping, whether they’re new to you or return customers, etc. Being able to have access to Etsy’s seller tools and seller dashboard gives me information I didn’t even know I needed, but has helped me to increase sales, boost our presence and improve my listings.
Being an Etsy Seller is like being a part of a huge creative family. It’s a rite of passage and an honour to represent Etsy online and offline too. When I tell people at markets and events that they can buy my soaps online at Etsy, they nod in agreement and recognise the brand and the quality associated with it. It’s fantastic to be a part of this, and to help drive it forward.
One day, I’d love to be an Etsy Local Captain – I think that there are loads of amazingly talented makers around Essex, and would love to bring them together offline for Etsy Local events and workshops.
Sustainability is not just important to me, it’s the backbone for everything I do at Bean & Boy Soaps, in our workshop, and in our home too. I got a wake-up call at the amount of waste we were producing as a normal everyday family, and I vowed to make a difference. I’m making a huge difference to cut out plastics and single-use items at home and in our work, and I’m actively aware of what I’m buying at every step – whether it’s soap ingredients, packaging materials, administrative supplies or just the everyday things you use at home and in an office.
It translates into everything I do at work and with our products: our soaps are wrapped in paper and they’re tied with biodegradable strings. We only buy our supplies from (verified) ethical and sustainable family businesses and suppliers, and we always source locally wherever possible. I make everything by hand, and our waste is so minimal – mainly water, which drives me a bit mad, but we collect a lot of water to use as grey water and try to be as careful as possible at every opportunity. We are completely and utterly committed to sustainable methods and practices, from posting out parcels, to the way we make soaps, and the way that we sell them online and offline too. We use recycled paper packaging and boxes wherever possible, and earth-friendly jiffy bags when necessary to protect a small order in transit. We also support local homeless charities with our soap offcuts, and we also have started a local knitting collective to empower and enable the makers who help make our cotton face cloths, soap savers and face scrubbies.
The other thing I’m really passionate about is teaching other people how to make their own soaps, and also how to make things like face creams, bath bombs, lip balms, cleaning products and candles. Enabling someone who is passionate about sustainability is like training an army of amazing people who fight for the planet. If one person can replace all of their family’s consumable plastics with handmade soap (which can be used for bathing, for washing your hair, for cleaning your counters or other household application, for laundry washing …), imagine what we could do all together if we all know how!
I think I’ve become a bit of a quiet eco warrior. Nobody’s perfect, but I’m doing as much as I can to help reduce the impact that my family and my business has on the planet, and to help everyone around me reduce their waste too. Making a swap from plastic-bottled liquid soap or shampoo to a solid bar soap or solid bar shampoo is a HUGE difference for a family, and over the course of a year it’s a huge difference for the planet too. Imagine swapping face wipes for a cotton flannel or cotton face scrubbies. Imagine getting rid of all of those chemicals too, and decreasing the demand for mass production. Imagine binning chemical-filled commercial products and making your own, and washing your clothes with soap instead of chemical powders that come in non-recyclable plastic packets or tubs. Now imagine that you can share that with a friend, and a friend of a friend… soon, we will all be making less of an impact on the world around us and we can start to repair some of the damage we’ve already done.”
◊ Couper et Coudre ◊
After losing my wallet a week before the event, I found myself floating towards Couper et Coudre who had a display of beautiful vegetable tanned and reclaimed leather bags, wallets and purses and I spotted one that would make the perfect replacement… let’s just say, I may have popped over for a chat with owner, Fleurie Thomas, but I had one eye on this wallet the whole time!
Couper et Coudre (which translates to “cut and sew” in French) launched in 2016 with the goal of offering beautifully made leather bags, purses and wallets using vegetable tanned leather or reclaimed leather. Unlike chrome tanning, vegetable tanning means the product can eventually biodegrade in the end and is kinder to the environment. Fleurie is also adding a range of clothing made from organic cotton to the growing collection.
I couldn’t resist having a moment with the Ted Wears Organic range; a collection of simple yet playful children’s wear, with cute slogans such as “little eco warrior” and prints ranging from sharks to feathers and dinosaurs, all made from organic cotton.
Owner, Vicky Trevithick, shares more about Ted Wears Organic:
“Being a parent myself, to my little man Ted, I know that clothing needs to be practical for running, jumping, rolling, climbing, hiding and generally being a mischief in, but they might as well look incredibly COOL too! So ‘Ted Wears Organic‘ was born from my toddler needing to have practical clothes to play in that scream style in fabric that’s gorgeously soft and unique.
I love simple but understated designs for kids’ play-wear with a dash of Scandi inspiration and this is where the Pick ‘n’ Mix Wardrobe principle comes in. You can see which garments can be combined with others and with the specially selected fabrics, the co-ordinates and options can be made to what you want them to be!
I started my business around two and half years ago, however I came to Etsy two years ago with a much clearer idea of my branding and what I wanted to achieve. Before that it was mostly selling through facebook and I was almost just sewing whatever people asked for, so it wasn’t that clear what I was offering. Those six months or so gave me a chance to work out what was important to me and what I enjoyed making the most! That’s the point at which Ted Wears Organic was born and I opened my Etsy shop.
Using Etsy as a selling platform allowed me to structure my brand ethos clearly and provide an excellent opportunity to be found, which otherwise would be difficult to attain independently. Being an Etsy seller has its challenges, especially in terms of SEO and keeping up with search algorithms, however this would be even harder if not on a specific selling platform.
More recently there has been a local group of sellers here in Southampton (@sotonetsy) which has been really great. They arranged our first ‘Etsy Made Local’ market before Christmas and it was a huge success! Big queues around the block, high footfall and so much enthusiasm for handmade goods! We’ve got our next Etsy Local event this weekend, which I’m really looking forward to as it is in collaboration with The Sorting Office Open Day and will also be running alongside Eastleigh Unwrapped, so a very cultural family weekend!
The world is becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint and their views towards eco options. As a family, we have been making changes to our lifestyle to help our son’s future and to also set a positive example. It is not only about being more sustainable and eco friendly, there is also an ethical standpoint to consider. Even if you can buy a multi-pack from a large chain store for half the price, what is the real cost behind it? With sweat shops and unfair working conditions still being rife, in addition to child labour, being mindful of where our products are coming from should also be part of eco friendly / sustainable decision making. It seemed natural for this to apply to my business as well.
My main focus from an eco friendly point of view, is the fabric I choose to stock. I use only fabric which contains Organic cotton and even down to the paw print / leaf logo tag in the side seam of all the Ted Wears Organic products. It doesn’t just stop there though, I always question how necessary something is when it comes down to other aspects of the business by trying to choose recyclable options and reduce any waste as well. For example when ordering business cards, I took the extra step to make an eco friendly decision and I don’t hand them out with every order anymore either. When it comes to packaging, I’ve researched my options and I’m constantly reviewing to try and make improvements.
When people start looking into more sustainable and eco-friendly options, it can seem overwhelming! However even small changes can be beneficial and as an individual it may not feel like ‘you’ are making a difference, but for every person who makes a change and discuss it with friends, that could introduce and persuade another person. Being a little more conscious and not worrying about ‘all or nothing’ will breed further changes in your lifestyle and before you know it, it’s become the norm! So starting with small and manageable changes, will breed more change over time.”
Who doesn’t have a soft spot for succulents and cacti right now? Not only do they look cute and quirky, they also grow slowly and are easy to keep making them an ideal gift – which is exactly what Rosie Insley had in mind with Wild Rose Flower Company.
Each Wild Rose Flower Co gift box contains a trio of plants that can live in their planters for up to a year, each housed in recycled and recyclable British-made packaging.
◊ Vegan Bunny ◊
Elisa Lubisco is passionate about sustainability and is keen to start moving towards zero waste both at home and with her candle company, Vegan Bunny. In fact, it’s thanks to her Etsy customers that her candles are now plastic-free!
“It all started when I had my baby girl three years ago, as she was growing up, I started feeling the need of looking for natural ingredients on beauty & health care products, but these “natural products” in drugstores are still expensive and usually contain water or nasty ingredients (because of the water, these will have preservatives as well). So, I started making everything for my baby: body balms, nappy rash cream, my own deodorant to make sure she wouldn’t get contaminated with the nasty stuff while she was breastfeeding and the list just goes on.
Candles just arrived organically into my life. I used to buy cheap supermarket candles every week. Only a year after using them daily, I realised I was bringing poison home to my baby, regardless of all the efforts I was putting in on other aspects, paraffin waxes with chemical scents were worse than combining all the other stuff I was avoiding. As I already had all the ingredients from my homemade beauty recipes, I try making homemade candles. Once I lit it, there was no way back!
Why is it a 100% Vegan company? I have being mostly plant based for nearly 6 years now, slightly transitioning to fruitarian on my own time, so there was no other way. I would not share or sell something I would not use on my own baby.
Being an Etsy seller, is a blessing. I mean, being an entrepreneur is always hard, you face different challenges and you’re focused on growing and building a brand. But, Etsy somehow makes it all easier. My first ever online candle was sold on the platform and I was not paying for promoted listings, it just happened organically. I am talking from my own experience, but I do feel Etsy has an amazing team choosing underdog new brands and helping them grow. They, somehow, find the best and most supportive people online. Our candles have been chosen twice for press opportunities by Etsy, and every time it has been heartwarming. This kind of support I have never received from any of the other platforms. Also, they have a seller learning centre that is the marketing bible, the stats are amazingly specific, so you can learn on the go about your niche and what they are looking for.
Everyday, we get closer and closer to destroying nature. Somehow, most of us are just waking up from this crazy ride of resource abusing. We have being given everything by mother earth, but we have only taken. I feel, this is the time for us to give, or at least stop taking so much.
I am not completely Zero Waste in my personal life, I think everyone takes their own time. But I am transitioning into it by buying second-hand products, reducing my consumption of bottled water, supporting small local makers, and focusing more on “what’s in?” instead of “what’s the brand”. Your company is a reflection of your own self. It will always be, I guess, like the idea of becoming more and more conscious about the little changes that can reduce my negative impact on earth, and as my ethics keep growing, so will my brand.”
View the full #SSCollection here.