Our Sustainability Journey.
Did you know it was ‘Earth Day’ last Thursday?! It’s a day to mark the anniversary of the modern day environmental movement and one which is there to encourage us to act towards the protection of the environment and focus on the need for conservation. We ‘ummed’ and ‘aahed’ about sharing something about our journey into being more sustainable last week but worried it might get misconstrued as ‘jumping on a bandwagon’ or diluted amongst approximately several thousand other ‘days’ that 22nd April might have also been. Not there is anything wrong with sharing your views or feelings about our planet on that given day. In fact we read some brilliant articles, posts and pieces all doing just that and articulated beautifully too.
But as a shop, we’re really trying to be more sustainable, less wasteful and the best consumers that we can: even if that is a bit at a time. Over the past few years we’ve been making some small changes that we know we can stick to and ones that we hope will make a difference in the long run. We also thought that sharing a little bit more about our journey into being a bit more sustainable and far less wasteful might be something you’d be interested in learning a more about. It’s one thing being a bit more eco-minded at home but it’s completely different doing it with a small business!
So where did we start?!
RE-USE, RECYCLE & RE-PURPOSE
Turns out you can be frugal and help the planet all at the same time and not even really realise it!!! One of the best ways to reduce waste is to re-use, recycle and re-purpose whatever you can. We’ve always done this at home. That basically means that less things end up as general rubbish waste (and eventually landfill!) and can be used in another way instead and so given a new lease of life.
We began Ashbridge and Brown as big lovers of the small independent businesses we grew up surrounded by. The kind where you recognised a familiar face each time you paid a visit. The sort of shops where you felt your purchases mattered and helped put food on the table of those who owned and ran them. Retail has changed a lot over the past few years but we’ve never lost an appreciation for those values and have always promised ourselves that our shop would be just the same.
Because of that we’ve always shared a love for older furniture and loved the idea of giving new life to pieces that might have otherwise been forgotten or never used. Being the creative and innovative people that we are we also love the idea of using items in ways you would never have thought of: Wardrobes to display kitchen items, vintage chests of draws to pile high with re-usable bottles or a great big whopping Victorian haberdashery cabinet to both display and store all of our printed kitchen linens and table mats! At Christmas it prettily stored all of our excess glass baubles and did a cracking job!
As it turns out not only does this way of thinking save us a heck of a lot of cash but it also means that we’re re-using and re-purposing something that already exists instead of adding to the constant demand and pressure to always buy new! If you’ve visited us you’ll also know we love being creative with our delivery pallets! We keep most of them and use them to create bright and colourful displays for our stock.
Another great way for us to keep on reducing our waste is to simply throw less away! You’d be surprised how much packaging you get in even the smallest of deliveries. Whilst we try to choose better brands who are trying to reduce plastic and non-recyclable materials in a lot of their deliveries to us; it’s sometimes just unavoidable and is out of our hands. In this case we make sure to re-purpose any plastic we get to stuff and fill our products to help give a better idea how they might be used when you’re looking at them. We also re-use plastic to help keep any website orders we post out wrapped nice and safe, and even further reducing the chance of any breakages or damage! Any other recyclable materials are stored separately and taken to our local recycling centres once a week.
CHOOSING BETTER BRANDS
A big step! And one we’re very much working hard on. We try to buy from small brands that share the same values as us as much as we can – a no brainer really. Not only do we want our cash going to the right places but we’re passionate about putting money back into the smaller more sustainable businesses to make them stronger! In a lot of cases these businesses are UK-based in both design and manufacture (a rarity in a world where most products are made in China!) or are small family businesses who directly make and design their stock in the same place. By also choosing littler brands, it makes their supply chain and products much more easily traceable for us and anyone that buys them and reduces air miles at the same time where possible.
We can’t commit to every single brand in our shop being this way but it’s something we’re working hard to look at more. Think less ‘steps in the right direction’ and more ‘steps with the odd skip thrown in for good measure.’
Since growing the online side of our shop lots more over lockdown, we’re also pleased to be almost plastic free in our online packaging too! Any plastic that is used is nearly always recycled from another delivery.
Our post bags are all sustainably sourced, carbon neutral, fully recyclable and made entirely from sugarcane! Most of our customers actually tend to have their own cotton shopping bags but we also hand out most of our purchases in compostable brown paper bags unless it’s necessary to provide a plastic one!
MAKING IT MAINTAINABLE
We’re big believers of taking small steps and making changes that we can and do stick to each and every day. Far better that than trying to change everything all at once and feeling overwhelmed and like we’ve tried a lot of things and successfully changed very little. Trying to be more eco-friendly and sustainable as a business is a completely different task than doing so at home. It takes lots more planning, a lot of trial and error and an acceptance that you can’t control every single thing all at once. Small steps are better than no steps!
SHARE OUR KNOWLEDGE
If knowledge is power and sharing is caring then we’re doing ok! We can often be found sharing our eco-inspiration with anyone that will listen! In the shop we often get asked about our displays or about the sustainability of certain products or where they come from. We also stand by the fact that we don’t stock anything that we wouldn’t or don’t use at home ourselves and never will! We’re very happy to talk to you about how you can best use all of the trillion different brushes we stock!!! Or the pros and cons of our plastic-free rucksacks and re-usable Chilly’s bottles: Because we love and use them ourselves! We’re also working hard to share some more local and seasonal recipes you can try at home on the blog because they’re things that we love to make and eat and hope you might too!
Moving forward we just want to be realistic! We’ll continue doing as we are and keep looking at ways to make that better! There’s always room to improve and we know it’ll always feel like we can do more. It’s not unusual for us to spend our evenings researching new brands or discovering local artists and things that we know you’ll love and appreciate just as much as us.
We’d love for you to share any brands you think we’re missing out on or suggest any other ways we could do our bit in helping to look after and protect the world we live in.
Let us know over on Facebook or Instagram!