Four ways Bottle Branch is working to be greener in 2021

I’ve written before about my efforts to lessen the environmental impacts of my small business, but since sustainability efforts are ALWAYS a work in progress, here’s a quick update about a few more small environmentally-minded changes I’ve made in the past few months. 

(1) Notepad packaging has gone plastic free.

For my notepads, I’m thrilled to have worked out plastic free packaging, in the form of a locally printed kraft paper “belly band” which allows me to include label infomation without having to sheath the entire notepad in plastic. A sticker on the back allows me to include plant identification infomation for plant enthusiasts – one of the details I would not want to give up!

(2) Streamlined card packaging

When packaging individual cards, plastic is hard to avoid. Go to any card display, in any store and you will see what I mean – all sheathed in plastic to protect them for a future buyer. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t be working to improve my packging. This year, I’ve switched to a lighter, non-sealing sleeve for cards, and reconfigured my cards so there will be no sticker on the back. Small changes, but they add up – in just one year, that means over 4 lbs less plastic used in packaging single cards for Bottle Branch. Hooray! And, yes, card sleeves are still made of compostable PLA, not petroleum which means they’re (1) renewable and (2) biodegradable. I’ll keep watching industry trends to see if these too could be switched to paper labelling and I hope you, my friends will let me know if you think the time is right to switch.

(3) Re-using packing materials

This is not a recent change, but re-using materials is worth noting, as we all know that part of sustainability is re-using, in addition to recycling and reducing. So, every time I receive a shipment, I salvage all usable material for re-use. I have a box in the corner of my workshop that holds bubble wrap, air pillows, packing papers until I can re-use them. (My husband, a neat freak, can often be found eyeing the pile up suspiciously.) I’d share a picture of it, but honestly its pretty awful looking, so here’s an image of my box wall instead. 

When packing larger orders and wholesale orders, I first try to pack them in a salvaged box before busting into my supply of fresh shipping materials. This effort undoubtedly requires a little extra time to organize materials, remove old labels, etc. but I consider it worth the effort. Now you’ll know why, if you place a larger order, and it arrives in a funky box.

(4)  Phasing out tissue paper

Finally, I’m in the process of switching from using tissue paper (compostable, only rarely recyclable and not in my area) to kraft paper and newsprint (recyclable AND compostable) when wrapping items to ship. I have to admit I love the pretty patterns and colors of printed tissue, and they are hard to give up. But when a customer gently noted that tissue paper is commonly placed in recycling (or, wish-cycled) and ends up gumming up recycling facilities, I knew I had to make the change. For now, I’m using the last of my tissue paper sparingly and padding things as necessary with recylable paper, and looking for prettier, more sustainable options.

Changing packaging and processes while still managing inventory and orders feels a little like steering an ocean liner – my operation can’t exactly ‘turn on a dime.’ So, while these changes are small, I’ll take a moment to feel good about them, before I move on to figure what’s next as I strive to keep my business fresh and green.

Sustainability, oceans, and artist Jo Atherton

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently published study on the proliferation of plastic debris in oceans. News organizations have touted “five grocery bags of trash on every foot of coastline around the globe” and the fact that plastic has been found all over the ocean, from the deep sea to Arctic ice.

I’ve also been thinking about Jo Atherton, creator of “flotsam weaving” from washed up fishing line, netting, balloons, lobster pot tags, army men, and other plastic trinkets she and her helpers find on the coast of Cornwall in the U.K. Her work is clever, beautiful, and powerful. Her contemplation of the weaving together disparate objects and their histories, the longevity of plastic trinkets, and the global problem of marine debris is even better.

  Watch Jo Atherton’s TEDx talk here

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P.S. If you don’t know me in person, you might not know that I worked many years in environmental science, studying carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems. Even today, I can be downright annoying in my zeal for composting. So, yes I have a history of being environmental-ish, but I promise I won’t preach too much here on my blog.