Spring/Summer? Not quite… this year it’s less about fast-moving fashions and all about a Sustainable Summer collection. Meet six Etsy sellers taking planet-friendly making into their own hands.
We’re living in an age of renewed curiosity. Whether you’re more politically woke, engaged in your community or have a greater concern for environmental issues, more engagement leads to asking more questions. For the latter example, these are often: ‘What is this made of?’ ‘How?’ ‘What’s its impact on the planet?’ Shopping search terms such as ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘reclaimed’, and ‘eco-friendly’ are on the rise and it’s wonderful to see the nation’s preferences start to shift, with small-scale businesses at the very heart of it.
Etsy sellers Becka Griffin of Becka Griffin Illustration and Louise Verity of Bookishly have just started a campaign called Naked Cards to encourage other online sellers to ditch the cello bags used to send greetings out to customers. “Most of my sales are online, direct to the customer, so I was sitting there, cello-bagging each individual card, then folding a delivery note round it and then putting it into a board-backed envelope,” explains Becka. Simply removing that step is such an easy way to reduce plastic waste.
Initiatives like this one show how more and more of us are making small changes that could end up having huge benefits for all. With less bureaucracy and complex processes to unravel, this positive action is often championed by small, independent sellers and their savvy customers, and lots of them are on Etsy! We wanted to celebrate these businesses for rising to the challenge and inspiring us all.
Couper et Coudre
“Being more selective and choosing sustainable items that are built to last is one of the ways we can begin to slow down the exploitation of our planet.”
Fleurie Thomas started Couper et Coudre (French verbs for ‘to cut’ and ‘to sew’) in 2016 to offer a fashionable, eco-friendly alternative to mass-produced accessories.
Couper et Coudre is all about making items to treasure. Amongst her gorgeously curated offering, Fleurie makes beautiful leather bags, purses and wallets. “I make all the bags from either vegetable tanned leather or reclaimed leather,” she says. “Vegetable tanning is much better for the environment than chrome tanning because it doesn’t use chemicals and makes the material completely biodegradable.” Using reclaimed leather too, means that Fleurie is giving new life to a material that would otherwise be discarded to landfill. These beautiful pieces are considered, timeless and made for a lifetime’s use.
Bean and Boy
“Now I make things with my hands, I create happiness every single day.”
Stacey Siddons, founder of all-natural soap company Bean and Boy discovered a passion for formulating safe, sensitive-skin friendly soaps when her children were both diagnosed with eczema.
Bean and Boy soaps are all made the cold-pressed way – that means no chemicals or environmentally-damaging processes. “I found it to be the kindest and most natural form of soap, which allows you to keep all of the goodness that you put into each bar,” says Stacey. Driven by the need to find products to calm her babies’ skin, Stacey studied for a diploma in soapmaking. She is totally in control of the whole process, with every bar still handmade. Each product is certified and safety accredited, with all sustainable and ethically-sourced ingredients, recycled and recyclable packaging, and absolutely no artificial fragrances, artificial colourants, foaming agents, preservatives or fillers. It’s no surprise that customers keep coming back for more. Stacey has saved many a flare up for happier skin all round.
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.”
Qualified cosmetic scientist, Emma Heywood of Eve of St Agnes wants to leave as little a negative impact on the world and environment as she possibly can, and with her revolutionary Zero Waste Beauty Kubes, she’s doing just that.
“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. “It takes a bit of extra effort and expense to create a more sustainable business, but if business owners don’t accept this then, things will not change for the better.” As a small company, Emma often feels it can be difficult to keep ahead of big business, but her new Beauty Kubes are separating her from the plastic-packaging crowd. Emma uses all organic and vegan ingredients. In fact, her company name is inspired by ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ by poet John Keats, celebrating the patron saint of purity and virginity; standing for the pure and natural ingredients she uses.
“Having a sustainable business is something I have tried to keep at the heart of my making.”
Recent ceramics graduate Isobel Higley’s happy spirits and personality-filled homewares and accessories are bringing the cute to conscientious gifting.
Isobel has made it a standard practise in her small studio to reuse clay, only go for non-toxic glazes, and to buy in powdered clay – this means she adds the water herself to reduce energy in transportation. Her concern for the environment runs deep. “Whilst at university I wrote my dissertation on ‘An Environmentally Aware Investigation into a Contemporary Sustainable Ceramic Practice’,” she says. “I’m working to introduce what I learnt from my research into my own practice. My goal in the future is to design an eco-friendly studio with clean energy to run my kiln.” Isobel believes the life-span of an object is very important, always considering where the materials have been originally sourced and what will happen to the object in the future.
Wild Rose Flower Company
”I always ask: How many processes have happened to the product, and where, for it to finally come to fruition?”
A soft-spot for succulents and RHS training in horticulture led Rosie Insley of Wild Rose Flower Company to create a artisanal, seasonal flower farm and a high-quality plant-based gift business with a low carbon footprint.
Former events manager Rosie now grows and sells British cut flowers from her partner Steve’s working arable and livestock farm. During her career change, it was important to her to create a sustainable business – something that could help to support them both, as well as offer something refreshing and new to the local community. She then started to think about reaching out to UK residents with high-quality planted gifts that arrive by post. “I designed my gift boxes to have a long life as well as ensure that all the manufacturing was based in the UK and as ethically sourced as possible.” Rosie also enjoys the process of finding secondhand and vintage containers for her planters, and the results are simply stunning.
“Having a sustainable business means everything.”
Elisa Lubisco of Vegan Bunny had a New Year’s Resolution: to live a zero-waste lifestyle. Of course, that extends to her all-natural candle company.
The base material in all of Elisa’s candles is soy, which is biodegradable and US-made. “Sourcing this way means it doesn’t hurt the planet, as the regulations of the country control the abuse of chemicals,” says Elisa. Vegan Bunny candle tins themselves are also recyclable and so cute, that ‘bunnies’ (Elisa’s pet name for her customers) often keep them to use as home storage. Businesses like Vegan Bunny are continually investing time in getting the right balance between reduced carbon footprint and buying in certified sustainable materials. “Right now I’m deciding between having our enamel pins made in the UK or importing them from US where they can be made with recycled materials,” says Elisa, and isn’t it comforting to know that your favourite producers are making informed decisions like this? Elisa offers this last piece of advice – a checklist for sustainable shopping: Will it last? Will I still use it after the season? Do I need it? Does it have plastic in it? Why do I want it? How can I help the planet by getting it?
To discover more, follow #SSCollection and take a look at our editor’s picks here.