Sustainability is a great buzz word, but what does it actually take to ensure sustainability within an Australian small business like The Grampians Goods Co.? In this article, our Founder, Amanda explores the challenges and solutions to proactively and continuously building a sustainable business.
A Sustainable Future for the Grampians Goods Co.
In the past, I wouldn’t say I’ve ever personally identified as an eco-warrior, and even as I type this I’m conscious of being perceived as jumping on what I’m aware is currently a very trending bandwagon.
But ultimately, not being prepared to make changes in favour of a sustainable future for fear of having unwanted labels placed upon me, or having my motives questioned, is missing the point entirely.
I believe that my energy is better spent on real and impactful action.
So with that out of the way, I’m so proud to share with you all the ways in which I’m trying to make sustainable changes in the day-to-day operations of The Grampians Goods Co.
And, if I’m very lucky, I’ll be able to help you guys easily use your power to make a difference too.
Sustainability and Small Business: Oh, What a Challenge
In so many ways I’ve struggled for a long time to find sustainable business solutions.
It was challenging to find options that I felt would both honour my brand’s integrity, as well as my commitment to using the highest quality Grampians-sourced ingredients as well.
For a small business, buying supplies and materials in huge quantities to save on costs is always a risk and it’s not always the right choice.
My Trip to Hong Kong in Search of Sustainable Small Business Solutions
Earlier this year, I took a trip to the holy grail of innovative eco-packaging solutions and manufacturing mecca; Hong Kong.
I was hopeful and optimistic that I would be able to find sustainable solutions for my business.
But I came away feeling deflated…
The lack of truly eco-sustainable options available—especially in realistic quantities—burst my bubble of enthusiasm and left me feeling despondent.
So With No Sustainable Solutions Available, I Came up With My Own!
I knew that I definitely wouldn’t be able to make a dent in the Chinese manufacturing scene, and that I wasn’t able to order such huge quantities to warrant the cost of a completely unique material or design.
So, I started thinking about what other solutions might exist. Here’s what I came up with and adopted into the business operations soon after:
# 1 I Reuse Every Bit of Packaging That My Supplies and Materials Arrive In
If you’ve received an order from me, you may have noticed that the outer box might be ‘a bit ugly’ and obviously second hand.
There may have been stickers over stickers and scribbled out old addresses. OR you may have seen polystyrene padding inside…
When you receive packaging like this, smile! Know that I’ve intentionally given it a second life to do my bit.If you can, I’d love to see you reuse it yourself. How many times can one box be reused?!
#2 I Use Recycled PET Plastic Bottles for My Lathers & Lotions
Plastic is plastic and plastic bags converted into new products is still plastic.
But, in my opinion, avoiding the use of completely new materials is a great step forward.
I’ve researched glass bottles, and found out that they’re hugely energy inefficient to produce and transport due to their weight.
Also, there’s a possibility that they would smash on the tiles in customers’ bathrooms—definitely not a scenario I want happening!
So, when hemp bioplastic Boston bottles are being mass-produced and sold in smaller quantities by an Australian distributor, I will happily make the switch.
Until then, I’d recommend that you fill your empty pump bottles with dishwashing liquid or recycle them in your council recycling bin.
Stone paper is made from 80% recycled stone (retrieved from quarry waste and industry offcuts which would normally go to landfill) and bound by a non-toxic HDPE resin which is photodegradable (can be decomposed by sunlight).
It’s 100% recyclable and commercially compostable, and it’s the world’s most sustainable, naturally waterproof, and luxuriously matte label option.
Stone paper is seriously amazing and I’m really proud of these labels!
#4 I #SupportLocal—for real!
I use as many locally-sourced and handcrafted elements as possible to support local primary industry and minimise transportation.
I use organic olive oil, hemp oil and husks and rosemary essential oil, all produced in the region.
The leather we use in the Avoca-handcrafted Leather Blanket Carriers and Mt Sturgeon clutches is sourced from the Ballarat tannery.And of course, my Aromatherapy Candles which I pour myself at home, are made in glass vessels (which I’d love you to reuse as a pen jar!) with cotton paper sticker labels minus the often-used petroleum-based coating.
#5 My Tartan Blankets Are Made from Recycled Wool
Our recycled wool tartan blankets are ethically woven in India from 75% recycled wool and 25% mixed fibres, rather than being made from virgin wool.
Recycled wool includes used wool garments, blankets and offcuts from the woollen mill that get meticulously sorted into colour groups, shredded into individual fibres, re-spun into yarn and finally rewoven into blankets.
This journey skips the dyeing process, saves water and chemicals, and eliminates the resulting wastewater.
It means that your blankie is no stranger to rough treatment and is, therefore, less precious and more practical – rugged luxury at its best!
#6 I Use Washable Paper Packaging For Selected Products
This packaging is meant to be used to store your soap so you can keep it dry between uses extending its life, or even take it with you on your travels – less waste!
#7 I Use Enviro-Friendly Custom-Branded Tissue Paper By noissue
My very beautiful custom-branded tissue paper that wraps the blankets and other goodies comes from noissue.
All their tissue is completely acid-free and FSC Certified and their ink is soy-based as opposed to traditional petroleum-based ink.
So, using their tissue paper is both an environmentally friendly option in terms of production, plus recycling the paper afterwards is responsible and safe.
#8 I Use Heaps Good Compostable Mailers
I wanted to use eco-friendly mailers, rather than piles of plastic, so I went searching for some options.
Heaps Good offered exactly what I was after.
I use their ‘Ecomailers’, which are both waterproof and durable, as well as 100% home compostable, breaking down in 3-6 months.
They also come in multiple sizes, which was essential for GGCo. given our range of products.
#9 I Use Bio-Fill Packing Peanuts to Pad Boxes for Orders
Manufactured from renewable resources, these void fillers are made of 100% natural starch making them fully compostable.
Try applying water to the Bio-Fill and you’ll see that it breaks down very quickly once it’s wet!
I suggest popping them in the compost, showering with a sprinkling from the hose aaand voila, they’re gone!
#10 I’ve Partnered With i=Change To Support Selected Non-profits
Finally, with the strongest desire to use my business to create a force for good, I decided to partner with online social commerce platform, i=Change.
Practically what this means is, every time you shop on The Grampians Goods Co. website, $1 (or more if you donate!) goes to a project that you choose at the checkout.
You’ll be able to choose from one of three choices; to Restore the Land, Restore the Reef or End Violence against Women.
By integrating philanthropy into every purchase, I wanted to activate a powerful opportunity to create a new funding stream that could make a positive investment in the future.
You’ll also be able to ‘Track Your Impact’ and see how much your purchase has helped to raise and where it’s going, in real-time – with your dollar, you’re choosing change and that feels amazing!
So if you’re feeling disenchanted about the unsustainable, consumerist culture that we’ve found ourselves in, please take heart.
Along with so many other innovative and solutions-focussed Australian businesses, The Grampians Goods Co. operates with sustainability in mind.
And, the sustainability movement is growing, and new solutions enter the market every year.
I’m optimistic that we can continue to learn and grow together, always doing our best and making decisions based on our collective wellbeing and the future of our planet.