Songbird Naturals Environmental Policy
Our Environmental Policy is not simply a standard policy that is set in stone but is dynamic and changing, just like the environmental challenges facing us all. Change is happening so fast that unless it’s incorporated into all of our businesses and lives, we will get left behind. We have a responsibility to do the most we can to reduce and repair our impact on the planet, so we should be constantly checking to see if there is more we can do. So, as a result, this is an environmental conversation, rather than a fixed policy.
Having originated in the Tui Community in New Zealand, where environmental issues have been at the forefront of thinking since the 1980’s, we have always been conscious of our environmental impact. We have tried to drive this into our business model as a way of operating, rather than as a list of boxes to tick. Songbird Naturals has been in business in the UK and Europe for nearly 20 years and much has changed in this time, and never more so in the last few years, when the scale of the environmental problems we are facing has become so clear.
The everyday office
In the office is where it all starts, and most businesses have an office to deal with. The environmental impact here can be huge in terms of plastic packaging, polystyrene and other undesirable packaging coming through the door via stock purchases, office stationery and food waste. Theo is our staff member in charge of making sure we have all the correct bins to sort the waste leaving the office. These are then put into separate skips for recyclable and non-recyclable waste and it is handled by agents.
But of course, the main thing is not to get non-recyclables into the office at all, so we try to reduce this by:
- Encouraging staff to bring food in re-useable or recyclable packaging and containers
- We speak to suppliers who are giving us polystyrene and unnecessary plastic and ask them if they can change their packaging
- We have our own cups for the water machine – no throw away cups
- We use natural and non-toxic cleaning products
- We try and reduce our energy use with actions like using efficient bulbs, and putting on a jumper before we think about switching the heating on
- Our olive and almond oils are shipped to us in re-usable and exchangeable IBC’s.
- Our wax is packed in cardboard
- When we upgrade our company van, it will be to electric. We already have an electric recharging socket at the office as a staff member has an electric car
Essentially, it’s a case of being conscious, just as you would at home.
There are two elements to packaging; the pots that contain the wax, and the materials we use to pack and send them in the post
The materials we use to pack and send your order to you are 100% recyclable or compostable.
- Cardboard boxes to send your order: Recyclable
- Paper parcel tape to hold the box together: Recyclable
- Corn-starch packing chips to keep your tubs safe: Compostable
That brings us to our products themselves, all of which are 100% Natural. They have traditionally been packed in polypropylene since the New Zealand times and which were, everyone was led to believe, recyclable. Polypropylene is, in fact recyclable, but very few councils have access to recycling plants, which means this is not ideal as a long-term solution. We believe that it will eventually get to a point where these facilities are more common, but that doesn’t help us now. A few years ago, we realised this, and that we needed to change.
We first looked at tin, aluminium and glass, before realising that these items, although recyclable, use a lot of energy to be mined or created and especially recycled, and we felt a need to go down a different path. We chose to go down the path of cardboard. Natural, sustainable, recyclable, compostable and most of all coming from growing more trees – which in anyone’s books, is an industry that needs to be fully supported. If there is an incentive to re-tree the planet so that more carbon can be captured, supporting a tree-based system seems like a fair way to go.
Traditionally we are often led to believe that quality is equated with flash, overloaded packaging – often created expensively with plastic and treated, unrecyclable glass. This is especially obvious in the beauty world. We realised that this is certainly not the case, and true beauty is showing that you actually care for the world and what your packaging will do to it. This led us to the conclusion that we were going to go the route of cardboard.
In navigating the transition from plastic to cardboard, we had a challenge in finding a way to hold an oil and wax based product without seepage and staining. But with new technologies happening all the time, there had to be a solution, and we found one which was close to fitting the bill. We found that cardboard lined with PLA (Polylactic Acid), which is natural and biodegradable, is just about able to hold the oil/beeswax formula. The active phrase here is ‘just about’. Because after a while, the oil finds a way to seep through the cardboard. However, it's not greasy or oily to the touch and holds well.
We launched our Ecotub range very successfully, with a change to cardboard of 35% of sales within the first 18 months of its introduction. They are not yet the perfect solution though, and we are actively working on finding a more reliable cardboard tub solution, and the available technology is rapidly developing.
As we said at the beginning of this policy, this is a dynamic area which we are all engaged with every day, and if we can each take time to fill our own part in the web of environmental accountablility, it will go a long way to sorting out the environmental issues we all face today.