Being a company that is intrinsically linked to the environment we thought we would spend a bit of time going through our products and practises to assess their impact on natural resources. With our directors both coming from different backgrounds but both based in the natural environment, one being a qualified horticulturist and one a chemical engineer involved in innovation and resource management, we have a strong foundation in this area.
Over the years we have been fortunate to be an expanding business and through the different ebbs and flows of business we have experienced different mindsets when it comes to our purchasing ethos.
As a younger company we may have been purchasing purely on prices and delivery schedules rather than a broader picture of sustainability. Over the years though, we have grown and become more aware of the impact our decisions as a company may have and so we can explore new avenues of purchasing.
Below are a number of practical material items that we use and some of their environmental traits:-
Invoice Paper - These have an eco score of 3 and are recyclable, made from sustainable materials and are plastic free.
Toner cartridges - These are all recycled at our local recycling facilities
Envelopes - There is a percentage of recycled material used in the production of these. Both the paper outer and the bubble wrap inner are recyclable if disposed of correctly.
I have seen a number of uses for these around the home as well, from being simply reused for post to being used as flower planters. If you simply do an internet search for this it could keep you entertained for ages.
Pockets - The paper used in these is PEFC certificated and fully recyclable. There is no recycled content though but it does fit to the REACH guidelines.
Glassine bags - These are manufactured in the UK with 100% PEFC Certified Paper. They are biodegradable and 100% recyclable.
Pelleting pots - The plastic resin code for this is ‘5’. The items are made of polypropylene and are recyclable in many locations but you would need to check your local facilities.
Metal grip seal - These are of unknown makeup and are items we have had in stock historically and are being used up but will not be replaced due to new production methods that we now use. We feel it is better to use these to wind down our stock than simply dispose of.
Seed stock - Obviously this is a very large part of our purchasing. When buying seeds our first and foremost priority has to be quality / price as this is what we will ultimately be known for. Following this though is the sustainability credentials of the products. We only use one non-UK supplier as we are conscious of the delivery miles of the products and we are also working with our suppliers to have more suitable packaging that can be made of more sustainable packaging or recycled, reused. This is the only area of our purchasing that would have a use by timescale and so it is important we do not purchase too much and end up throwing it away.
Of course, the impact on the environment is not only in the materials used in the consumables we purchase, there is also the transportation of it. To this end instead of buying regular small amounts of our consumables as we used to do due to space limited storage, we have started having less frequent larger amounts delivered. The same wagon size was used whether we had 10 boxes of envelopes delivered or 200 and so the carbon footprint of the delivery was the same. Yes this does cost more for our storage but sustainability is not always the cheapest option.
Also there is added benefit in buying from single companies rather than from different sources. Many companies combine orders into one delivery and so again there is a reduced carbon footprint. Buy 10 items from one place - 1 lorry needed, buying 10 items from 10 companies means upto 10 lorries needed. Having traditionally purchased from ‘where ever was cheapest’ for everyday consumables this has again gone through an evolution of thinking.
Non-material sustainabilityThe material assets are only part of the whole sustainable approach we hope to grow into. There are also the utilities and general office behaviour.
In our particular case we are in a managed property and so we have no direct control on our utilities supplier and their green credentials but in everyday ways we can make a big impact. Do we boil a kettle for the drinks that are needed or simply fill it up? Do we turn lights off when not in a room or leave taps running etc? These are the small everyday things that have a massive impact on the sustainability of our environment, and save our monthly costs!
We can make these larger changes to our way of working to create change but there is also this well known phrase that has been part of our company conversations since day one:-
- Do you need to keep the lights on?
- Do I need to boil a whole kettle of water?
- Can I print double sided instead of using two sheets of paper?
- Do I need to buy so much of something ‘just in case’ and then throw it away?
- Paper invoices can be securely shredded and used for packaging.
- Delivery boxes / packaging can be reused.*
- Everything is useful to someone. Could other businesses / private individuals make use of it, sites like www.freecycle.co.uk are good sources or local business groups.
*We produce a lot of cardboard waste (more than we can re-use simply as boxes) . Is there a cost efficient way to shred cardboard into packing material, does anyone know?
Pretty much anything can be recycled in the right place. It may not be as convenient but it is looking at the bigger picture rather than simply your immediate situation which will pay dividends down the line both financially and environmentally.
We as a company are beginning to stretch our legs on this although we have known the theory for a while and have been making steps in the right direction. Like many companies, actions need to speak as well as words.
If you have any thoughts on any of this, or indeed you are a supplier of any items listed and can supply sustainable / practical alternatives then we’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading,
Editor's note: we need to go further , more R's to consider - the most important is to REDUCE consumption, then recover, refill, refuse (limit use), repair and restore, reuse or repurpose (upcycling), rethink (can it be done differently), AND FINALLY RECYCLE.