I’ve worked in sustainability in the corporate world for more than a decade so I’m pretty well read on what the major companies and brands are, or are not, doing to become more sustainable. I try as much as possible to “vote with my pound” and shop with brands and companies – that whilst may not be perfect, who is after all? – are taking their responsibility to being more sustainable seriously. I’m always on the look out for brands and companies that offer more environmentally sustainable products and especially British brands that support local jobs and contribute to communities. Sustainability, after all, is not only about environmental credentials but also whether a business is acting in a responsible and considerate way for its people and communities.
Throughout 2020 we all spent a lot more time at home and for many of us that meant more shopping online. Rather than rely on just one very big player in the online shopping game, I made it my mission throughout 2020, to find those smaller, online offerings that are not only more sustainable but that champion British business. So, in no particular order, here are my top three more sustainable finds of 2020.
I discovered the Bramley brand when my local pub, The Belgian Arms in Holyport – which is an outstanding country pub, but I’ll tell you more about that another time – began offering their hand sanitizer for customers to use. The first thing I noticed was how amazing it smelt – Rosemary, Peppermint and Spearmint, a natural, refreshing scent, packed with essential oils and nothing like the synthetic and strong alcohol-smelling hand sanitizers that you normally find in shops and restaurants. Keen to get a stash of my own, I did a quick search online and was very happy to learn that not only is Bramley a British sourced and British made company, but that it started in a pub in Wiltshire because the founders wanted to provide their customers with a hand soap that celebrated the best of the British countryside.
Avoiding single use plastic is a priority for Bramley and they offer both refillable and recyclable bottles. Packaging is minimised and orders arrive in shredded paper and their unique “mindful” tissue paper which can be coloured in by children (or adults). The products are certified cruelty free and vegan friendly, and as a business, Bramley is supporting local communities and causes including a £1 donation for every Bramley Room Spray or Body Lotion sold online to Plantlife, a British conservation charity working nationally and internationally to save threatened wild flowers, plants and fungi.
It may not have felt like there was much to celebrate in 2020, but when those moments did come along – lock down birthdays, engagements, arrival of babies, finishing a series on Netflix, whatever it might be, I found the perfect tipple to raise a glass – Forty Hall Vineyard’s 2018 London Sparkling Brut. Yes, you read that right – a sparkling wine from London.
Forty Hall Vineyard is a 10 acre community vineyard in Enfield, north London – the first commercial scale vineyard in the city since the middle ages and it’s also a social enterprise. Social enterprises, the sweet spot between traditional business and the charity sector, are fully functioning, profit generating businesses with the difference being that profits are reinvested back into communities and causes rather than paying dividends to shareholders. This Vineyard, part of a larger – 170 acre – organic farm and community food hub owned and operated by Capel Manor College, is largely run by volunteers and the wine is made organically by Will Davenport, a British winemaker who first started growing vines in Kent in 1991. The aim of the vineyard is to bring wine production to the heart of the local community and to champion quality, sustainability, health, wellbeing and community involvement. With the backdrop of the equally impressive Forty Hall & Estate, a Grade I listed Jacobean Manor House, what’s not to love about a glass of Britain’s finest that does a bit of good too.
I love having jars and vases full of fresh flowers, throughout my home. This year I’ll be giving growing my own flowers a go and am planning a cutting bed for the allotment but in the meantime I do still like to treat myself to the odd bunch or two. Only 10 per cent of the flowers sold in Britain are actually grown here, something that The Great British Florist are on a mission to change. Their approach, “Grown Not Flown”, aims to support British Growers and encourage a real appreciation of locally grown, sustainable garden flowers. In their own words “we don’t focus on one type of flower – we know Mother Nature always knows best so we put together our cut flowers, posies and bouquets from the flowers we have in the floristry on that day. This means no waste and no two bouquets are ever the same, – but we do guarantee each arrangement is absolutely gorgeous”.
As well as supporting British Growers, there’s a couple of other things that I particularly admire about Great British Florist. Firstly, their approach to transparency. It is made very clear that whilst they try to use as many British blooms as possible, its not easy, and sometimes they need to supplement with other blooms so will choose ones grown as near to the UK as possible to minimise the flower miles. All hand-tied fresh posies and bouquets will contain British flowers and/or foliage and a stem count stamp on the wrapping, tells the customer how many were grown in the UK. This is important because too often, as customers have become more savvy to sustainability issues, companies and brands have either over stated their credentials (known amongst practitioners as Green Washing) or have shied away from saying or doing anything about product sustainability for fear of criticism of not being perfect. Most companies are (excuse the cliche saying) on a journey and perhaps what is even more important than the end state is a companies’ willingness to be open and transparent about what it’s doing. And finally, dried flowers are BACK and they’re back in a big way. Not only do they obviously last a lot longer but add understated elegance to any room or occasion and Great British Florist just so happen to have some of the most beautiful dried flower wreaths, garlands and arrangements that I’ve ever seen.
So that was my round up of my favourite, more- sustainable finds of 2020. If last year taught us anything, it’s that less is more and now more than ever- it’s important to support businesses that are a force good.