Zero-waste Packaging & Shipping Pledge
When we first started online retail, packaging was our biggest considerations. How can we ship in the most low-impact way, and send a coherent message with both our products and our packaging?
<<< Scroll down for the full story of Mel's journey in sustainable packaging >>>
Our pledge & commitment
When preparing online orders, displaying products at a retail shelf or marketplace, and when dealing with bulk and corporate clients, we promise to:
REFUSE non-essential packaging materials for all products.
REDUCE our consumption by choosing the best packaging solution in terms of material, durability, and sourcing.
RETHINK our design and consumption of materials, whether in an individual capacity, as a company, or when advising clients.
What "sustainable packaging" means to us
Sustainable packaging: Packaging a product for display or sale
1. Prioritise renewable, recyclable, or salvaged materials
Examples of this would be (1) our choice to package our multi-use washing soap blocks in paper (recyclable), with all usage instructions on the packaging itself; (2) our choice to create pouches for cutlery or strawkeepers from offcut fabrics, diverting textile / fabric waste from the waste stream and supporting a closed-loop or circular economy.
2. "Naked" displays as far as possible
We try to avoid tags or boxes that would serve the sole purpose of being vessels for the finished product. As far as possible, we try to display products as-is, with no external plastic or paper wrapping. You'll have the "naked choice" especially at market stalls where we have more control over product display.
3. Products must be displayed in a way that does not compromise quality or longevity
We know we deal with natural materials. Natural materials are fussy! Humidity and temperature are not our friends. We are careful to advise all our retailers how to display responsibly to protect the quality and longevity of our sustainable items.
Sustainable packaging: Packaging a product for shipping
1. The product is packed safely to minimise damage. Replacing a damaged product causes more waste than adding a little extra padding.
2. Fragile products are packed with donated or salvaged bubble wrap. All bubble wrap we use is second/third/fourth-hand. It has been used and we wash, dry and reuse them.
3. Non-fragile products are packed without unnecessary padding or wrapping - "Naked"
4. Avoid non-recyclable packaging materials. We do not wrap in plastic and only brand minimally and where necessary.
Our impact so far
^ Packages from our online orders dispatched in minimal packaging, including salvaged materials, reused boxes, and 100% recycled (post-consumer) paper padded mailers.
- Numbers last updated Jan 2021
^ Bulk or corporate orders dispatched with packing boxes that were reused, salvaged or re-made to size!
- Numbers last updated Dec 2020
^ Thousands of "naked" market-day sales from 2016-2019! Oh well, we'll start counting when markets are a thing again!
So what's the inspiration behind all this?
Retail is tricky. Now double that with the fact that your product aims to start conversations about consumption habits... Eek! At the beginning (we're talking 2014/2015), I stubbornly refused to package our straws in any new material -- no branded boxes (marketing pros would shake their heads), no unnecessary wrapping (not even paper)! And when we started mail-order straws, I was hard on not buying new material for shipping them in.
How can we ship in the most low-impact way, and send a coherent message with both our products and our packaging?
At the start, I repurposed cardboard (salvaged), re-made boxes to fit items, and so on. Here are examples:
Re-made box cut from cardboard (I made a template to trace these out. It was tedious but alright when I was only shipping a few a month.)
You may have also received your package in an upcycled rice bag - hey, it works!
The 24-hour supermarket staff started to recognise me and when I opened my mouth to ask they would just say "okay" before I could get my words out. Here's a supermarket carton repurposed for shipping. You'll spot an upcycled (re-made from offcuts) straw keeper pouch! That was the early edition of our offcut fabric pouches!
Re-making, re-using worked! It started conversations with recipients too ... and was good while it lasted!
When we were still very very small and processing only a dozen orders a week, crafting boxes and envelopes out of cereal boxes, salvaged cardboard form the neighbourhood supermarket, and repurposing materials was great! We saved money on materials and we stayed true to zero-waste (reducing waste wherever possible!)
As we grew, I knew that we needed a more efficient solution than spending 3 hours cutting boxes every night (I admit I cut boxes during lull times on night shifts). The time could be spent on developing new ideas and I knew it was time to change. I was also handling three jobs at that point and this solution was no longer physically-sustainable for me.
I researched many suppliers and finally found a bulk supplier of 100% recycled (and recyclable -- there's a difference!) post-consumer paper envelopes (padded with recycled paper "fluff"!
And thank goodness we made this switch which improved our workflow by A LOT.
There came a particular day in I think November 2018. The zero-waste movement in Singapore was gaining interest. Gradually, we started to ship straws and cutlery sets to more people. It was thrilling! Every day I would wake up to new messages in my Instagram DMs from people who wanted to find out more about what they could do and more about our bamboo straws. One grand day came and we received 120 orders in one day. I processed 30 of them myself before refreshing the page and seeing more -- at this point I fell over on the sofa thinking "Oh gosh!" And then my very kind friends came - thank god for them! We processed more than 90 packages that night over pizza. Here are the 90+ packages the morning after...
Our products inside the envelopes are still "naked" (not packed in any unnecessary extra material) and there is not a lick of plastic in the shipment if we can help it!
This is an example of striking a balance between values and practicality. There will never be absolute perfect solutions, but there WILL be a best solution for every individual scenario. By supporting the envelope supplier, we are contributing to making this a viable option. The more people opt for sustainable choices, the more affordable and easily accessible these choices will be.
I hope that gives you some ideas for your own daily life, be it in your hobbies, school, work or starting your own environmentally conscious business.