Is a totally plastic free business possible?

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Zoe Strassen is a Devon based artisan soap maker. She started her business, The Natural Spa, three years ago in a small shed at the bottom of the garden and is now making a real impact in her field. She has two huge passions in life, making soap from fresh natural ingredients and plastic free living and so keeping her business plastic free and environmentally friendly is a huge part of her business.

She takes great care over the products that she makes, keeping the ingredients natural and fresh, using her skills from her former career as a chef to create the most incredible flavour mixes, ‘Lime and Lavender’ and ‘Lemon and Eucalyptus’ are two of her most popular scents.

When you run a business that claims to be plastic free you have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Zoe often gets enquiries from her customers checking that she is plastic free behind the scenes, here are some of the things that she does to make sure that her business is authentic.

  1. Minimise product packaging

    Beauty products are carefully regulated and so everything Zoe makes is safety tested by experts before release and has strict requirements for ingredients lists and usage warnings. Despite this she uses a single paper band as or a single sticker on each product which has just enough space to have the product description and the legally required details. The bands are made from recycled paper and printed locally. This is also a very cost effective way of packaging – many soaps are plastic wrapped or boxed but this isn’t necessary and while is looks nice it will deter customers that want to be plastic free themselves.

  2. Reuse boxes

    Whenever possible Zoe will send parcels out in a second-hand box, she is lucky to have a large supply of these readily available. You might think that this will put people off but her target market really appreciate it, she gets lots of comments from customers saying how pleased they were that their package arrived like this.

  3. Use paper based parcel tape

    Most people use a plastic based sellotape by default but paper based tape works just as well and is easy to source, it looks much better in additional to being more environmentally.

  4. Use paper shreddings for packing

    Zoe is based in the same office building as an integrated label supplier, they have to keep sample paper sheets for two years and so she shreds the samples that are no long needed and uses it instead of polystyrene beads of new paper packaging in her boxes.

  5. Ask Suppliers to supply to you plastic free

    She asks her suppliers to send materials without plastic packaging, if that isn’t possible she will return larger plastics to suppliers for reuse and finally recycles anything that is leftover than cannot be reused.

  6. Buy local

    Zoe uses local ingredients and services whenever possible, and if she does have to go further afield she always prefers to buy from a small business.

You do need to keep your business head firmly in place, you have to make sure that you stay efficient as well as being environmentally friendly. Zoe says that the key is to do a lot of preparation in advance so that you can pack quickly and efficiently on a day to day basis and to use common sense, so for example if someone orders gift wrap then they might also prefer that you use a new box. She has put a system in place that can grow with her business, environmentally friendly, authentic but is also efficient and practical.

Zoe uses One Stop Order Processing to process orders from Amazon, eBay, Etsy and her own Shopify online shop, this helps to streamline order processing and allows her to keep track of stock over all of the stores, this is a really important to Zoe because her products are all handmade and some take over three months to make from end to end.

36 Responses

  1. nothing wrong with plastic
    its how people dispose of plastic waste that is the problem

  2. There are many ways to reduce plastic. Plastic is a great product and it has its uses. Just none of them should be single use.

    One immediate change that can be made and can make a big difference is online orders in plastic bags. Especially clothing companys who just put everything into a plastic bag and apply a label. I realise it is easy but it has to stop now. They have to use cardboard.

    People need to stop supporting companies that deliver in plastic bags. Think about how many of these go into landfill every day.

    We have never used many of them but now we have completely removed these from our warehouse.

  3. we could all stop using plastic, live in a cave, grow crops , hunt animals and dance round in stone circles

  4. 20 years time lego will be worse than ivory ,
    , we will have false teeth made from cardboard,
    constipation will be the worlds big killer because having a dump wont be eco friendly

  5. Hi Zoe, ignore dumb comments here or elsewhere. What a stupid reaction to make comments about your glasses. Do I have to wear wooden shoes , while I am a flexitarian?? It is not about being 100% eco friendly, it is about doing the right thing as much as you can. We all depend on the state of our nature, sea and planet. Nothing hippie about that. Thumbs up for your company and eco friendly goals. I agree that also Ebay sellers should think about the way they pack things. 1) I started to use cardboard boxes in stead of bubble envelopes. They look pretty nice too. 2) I try to use not so much plastic cellotape. 3) I do not use a sticker for the address if not necessary. 4) I use paper wraps for filling the empty space in a box, not plastic.

  6. @ Zoe Strassen

    Minimise product packaging: We use 3 size boxes but have had complaints that our packaging are too big for some items, it would cost us more to buy smaller quantities in various sizes. We use either paper or bidegradable void fill to pack with, so no real harm done.

    Reuse boxes: Not really practical, we don’thave 1500+ boxes to reuse each month or the space to keep them. All our inmcoming boxes are sent to a paper recycling centre.

    Use paper based parcel tape: I wish, please recomend a cheap supplier and I will look at this. We moved to using crash lock boxes on 90% of items so only have to tape the top of the box. We are looking to move to self seal closing boxes in the future.

    Use paper shreddings for packing: I found using shredded paper puts the weight of the box up quite a lot, I use Packing Paper Void Fill from aa-packaging-sales-team on eBay, which is a lot lighter and good for packing heavy items. Whilst the weight may not effect your postage rates it does effect the load on the carrier you use.

    You forgot one of the most important points: Educate your customer, if you dare!

    Many customers buy from us each month rather than ordering 3 months worth, at a time, which puts up the carbon footprint of what they buy. Even though a lot of our customers are Eco-Friendly and have complianed re size of boxes and using “polystyrene beads”, although we do point out we use degradable fill which will dissolve in water.

  7. use paper rather than plastic?
    is using huge amounts of paper eco friendly ???

    the glasses remark ,
    was intended to point out the hypocrisy of the anti plastic eco warriors.
    to all these anti everything save the planet social media keyboard warriors ,just look at all the plastic cased computers that are in front of you,all the plastic insulated wire that provides the power and transmits your messages

  8. oh nearly forgot
    our business is 100% environmentally friendly 100% of our stock is recycled
    were Antique dealers!!!!

  9. Well done Zoe. In regard to companies using plastic bags to dispatch orders; postal biobags – made from plant starch are now available here in the UK and I very much that the large clothing brands are going to be leading the way and use biobags for dispatching their orders.

  10. Another boost for reducing plastic usage at Glastonbury, with David Attenborough on stage.

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