5 possible ways to becoming a sustainable UK lifestyle brand

As we moved into 2020, one of my biggest goals was to ensure my products are all environmentally friendly and my business ultimately sustainable.

With my two eco conscious daughters

I’ve always had an awareness, but this has been heightened by my two daughters who are both eco conscious pushing me to ensure I’m being responsible.

At the end of last year, I could never have imagined what was in store for us, but now more than ever it’s imperative for businesses to think about the environmental consequences. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing how removing humans from roads, transport and outdoor areas has had massive benefits on nature, pollution levels and the environment overall and we must think about sustainable living more seriously when we return to some kind of ‘normal’. 

I’m aware that as well as the environmental impact there’s also the economic and social aspect of sustainability. ‘Is your business sustainable?’ My daughters’ regularly ask. 18 months ago, I couldn’t answer this question honestly, but today I’m happy to say I’m working on 5 possible ways to make my business sustainable.

1. Solution not Pollution - Sustainable Packaging UK

One of my first steps has been to research sustainable packaging; I’ve found some great alternatives that I didn’t know existed. I’ve replaced all my cello bags with tissue paper, meaning my notebooks and smaller items will now be delivered wrapped in tissue paper.

Soon all plastic bubble wrap will be replaced by a cardboard version. 

I've always used cardboard boxes to package my lampshades and larger orders and I’ll continue to do this. For plastic mailers, I'm using up what I have at the moment, but then I'd like to move to a paper version with fluted card padding inside.

Finally for poly bags, I plan to move to biodegradable or compostable bags that are made from potato starch. While I’m using up my current supply, I’ll keep researching which of these alternatives would be better. These moves feel good and a positive step, but the challenge is the cost of all this. It’s undoubtedly more expensive, but my emphasis is on the importance of the environment.

2. Keeping it close to home - sustainable designer fabric UK

When it comes to fabric it’s tricky to know what’s right and you have to dig for transparency. I’m not an expert and I need to do far more research on this area, but right now my aim is to create products that have longevity. The idea that the prints from my collections all mix and clash together helps my customers add to their collection rather than replace it.

I spend a lot of time carefully researching my suppliers and makers.

All my designer fabrics are digitally printed in the UK, which helps lessen any carbon emissions. They print in the most eco friendly way using special inks; no water is required in the printing process and it uses 95% less energy than traditional screen printing. (Although I absolutely love the craft of screen printing). This is virtually a zero waste process and there are no residues from production. 

All my cushions and lampshades are made by very talented local makers. My furniture is upholstered using my designer fabrics by super skillful upholsterers all based in the UK.

Apart from stock I have in the shop, all my products are made to order which also reduces any waste. My lead times are between 10-14 days and these can be speeded up on request if needed. I do feel that in this ‘immediate’ world we live in today, waiting for a product to be made especially for you, can add to the excitement and makes it feel special.

3. Wonderful wallpaper - sustainable designer wallpaper UK

One of the first product areas I’ve noticed customers question the sustainability of, is wallpaper. Maybe because it’s paper and easier to trace and understand. My designer wallpaper has always been a bit ahead in terms of sustainability compared to my other products. 

All of my wallpaper is digitally printed in the UK on an FSC base paper; my supplier only uses water based inks and all the packaging is recyclable. Deliveries are made carbon neutral. 

I love the matte quality of my current wallpaper collection and I’ll be exploring different bases in time, but I’ll always ensure that they are sustainable.

4. The magic of upcycling - Upcycling of designer fabric and wallpaper for sustainable living UK

When I exhibited at Top Drawer in January 2019, I asked Kelly from Thriftys Retro if she would upcycle a mid century G plan cabinet for my stand. She covered it beautifully with my Breeze wallpaper; I still have the cabinet and will never let it go.

My most recent upcycled project has been inspired by my eldest daughter who worked on a fabulous zero waste project with The Fashion School. Now thanks to her inspiration, using leftover or offcut fabric has become another way my business is becoming a more sustainable UK lifestyle brand.  

Recently I had 4 large cushions made up from offcuts of my printed fabrics, mixed with a pair of men’s Levis jeans from a charity shop. They have been used together to create very cool patchwork designs. Each cushion is unique and different from the next.

I’ve also started using fabric offcuts for the inside lining of my faux fur eye masks and bags.

I’d love to continue to do more upcycling projects.

5. Be Active - sustainable activewear UK

Being active is really important to me; I love everything from yoga to running. I try to build exercise into my schedule at least 3 times a week, but during lockdown I’ve been doing something everyday just to keep my mind healthy too. My leggings are proving to be a popular purchase during this time.

I searched high and low for a UK supplier for my activewear collection, but the minimums were just unworkable and I couldn’t take the financial risk or more importantly the impact of waste; so now all my activewear (leggings, shorts & sports bras) is made to order in the EU’ and printed using environmentally friendly inks with a careful minimal waste process. I feel that this is a more sustainable alternative at this point, but I will always look to improve.

I also now have coordinating reusable stainless steel water bottles. As you know, these types of bottles are a safer and a more sustainable alternative to disposable ones. My bottles are produced and printed in the UK and my supplier takes sustainability seriously. So not only are they made in a sustainable way, this product helps my customers do their bit for the environment by helping cut down on single use plastic. (But more on that in a future blog).

Looking ahead and truly becoming a sustainable UK brand

I’m now following some inspiring fashion brands who are leading the way on sustainability, and they talk about a world in which sustainability is a ‘given’. We shouldn’t need to point out that our brands are sustainable, they should just BE, from concept through to the finished packaged product. I hope we can move to this stage very soon. 

Right now, I feel I’m making some significant steps forward to becoming a sustainable UK lifestyle brand. It’s still a work in progress and it’s not perfect, but I’m moving closer to my goal and have a real answer for the next generation when they ask that all important question -  ‘Is your business sustainable?’ 

‘Yes and I’m working hard at it!’

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