Our intent is to constantly improve the sustainability of what we offer you at Sea Soul Blessings, finding ways to support the sea as the sea supports us all.
We donate 10% of our income from each sale to environmental causes.
Ultimately, we’re working towards a position where we can ultimately donate 50% of net profits to environmental causes. Read on below for more specific details of this.
We’ve just launched a very exciting redesign that’s taking us on the next steps of this journey.
The redesigned box set removes any plastic, and is now made of around 70% recycled materials. It’s also now completely recyclable, printed entirely with mineral oil based inks, and vegan.
We’re also reducing our carbon footprint by keeping the printing, manufacture and fulfilment in one UK location. We’re continuing to use the Royal Mail for delivery as we believe this is the delivery route that currently has the lowest carbon footprint.
What does sustainability mean to us?
Sea Soul Blessings is a small family-run business, run by Pippa Best from home (where two children are also running wild a lot of the time) in Cornwall, UK.
As a family, we try to improve the sustainability of our own lives day by day, and we’re learning new ways to do that all the time.
We recycle, reuse, recreate, sew things back together, try to avoid single use plastic, shop local and organic where we can, beach clean regularly – and are extremely lucky to be able to spend lots of time in nature with family and friends, making it easy for us to remember why doing all this matters so much.
I started Sea Soul Blessings in October 2018 with a beautiful vision, lots of hope and a dollop of vulnerable courage, but very limited experience of print, manufacture, assembly and product delivery. The initial intention, with limited resources, was simply to test the idea, choosing printing, publishing and packaging from companies with good eco-credentials as far as I understood this at the time. Where possible, I wanted to do so locally, avoiding additional transportation.
But the more I learn about true sustainability, the more confusing and complex it becomes. Because of course, it isn’t as simple as using recycled paper boxes, reusable bags and eco-friendly jiffy bags…
So please bear with us as we continue to grow and learn. We’re a business in the early stages, looking to grow sustainably, while ensuring our products are priced well, beautiful, functional and easy to use.
We are a work in progress.
OUR STORY SO FAR
We’re offering some digital alternatives where we can, like…
Sea Soul Insights, Sea Soul Sessions, the digital version of the Sea Soul Blessings mini-book: These are all delivered digitally, which means that there are no negative production, printing, resource or delivery impacts on the environment. I do however use wifi and a reconditioned recycled computer…
OUR FIRST PRODUCTION LINE
We currently offer Sea Soul Blessings cards and books too. So here’s the Sea Soul Blessings product manufacturing story so far:
The first iteration of Sea Soul Blessings
(October 2018 – November 2019)
THE GOOD STUFF
The Sea Soul Blessings boxes and bag: Our extensive ‘road-tests’ (you lovely people using the cards) proved that the box and bag were both durable and reusable, and nearly all of you choose to keep your cards and book in these – in particular, their small size made them easily portable, using limited resources to do the job! Our boxes came from the Tiny Box Company, and are made of 40% recycled boxboard.
The Sea Soul Blessing cards: These were printed by Moo on paper stock sourced from sustainable forests, and are ECF (Elemental Chlorine Free), which prevents harmful emissions, minimising the environmental impact of the paper bleaching process.
The Sea Soul Blessing mini-books: Printed by a local supplier (I could walk to collect them) on Forest Stewardship Council paper sheet, the printers told us that their printer toner also has no negative environmental impact. These were the smallest card-accompanying books we’ve ever seen, so again, minimising our use of valuable resources to deliver a great product – but they did test your eyes a little!
Sea Soul Cuffs: (Limited edition – not currently available.) These have been handmade locally for us by an awesome mum supporting her family (much like Pippa!) at Stuff Made From Things and are made from stainless steel using hand tools that are over 100 years old.
The boxes: These came packaged in cotton fill inserts manufactured from industrial polyester waste which is recycled, and could be recycled (if your local facility can’t recycle them, the Tiny Box Company will do that for you). Should you tire of your sea soul cuff, and not have a fellow sea soul to pass it on to, stainless steel is recyclable.
Delivery: We used ‘green’ jiffy bags for all UK deliveries: made with 100% recycled paper fibre lining, they are fully recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable.
THE NOT SO GOOD STUFF
The Sea Soul Blessings boxes: The boxes and Sea Soul Blessing cards were both recyclable – but only if you removed the plastic laminate that strengthened and protected them, and that laminate was not biodegradable.
These boxes were supplied to us with a non-recyclable ‘velvet’ insert that we could remove and pass on to others who can make use of it (like jewellers), but it’s pretty likely that their re-use stops there.
The Sea Soul Blessings bags: The bags were made of non-organic material (which means that at least no silk worms are harmed to make them) but they were not recyclable or biodegradable.
We did however find lots of great ideas about how to reuse bags like these over at Raw Botanicals.
The Sea Soul Blessing cards and mini-book: Like the box, the cards were coated with a non-biodegradable laminate – this made them more durable than other small cards (and again – they are smaller than most packs of cards), but it’s also non-recyclable.
Moo don’t currently use their most eco-friendly paper stocks for this product, and neither the cards nor book are printed with vegetable or recyclable ink.
Delivery: While some elements of our products are sourced locally, others come from further afield – generating environmental transportation costs.
Your international packages also arrived in an occasional non-eco envelope until our first stock of those ran out – because they are lighter.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Here are some of the key questions we asked as we moved forward:
- Product packaging: can we source durable sturdy boxes made of recycled paper and without plastic, supplied without any insert? Or find an alternative form of packaging that works?
- Can our cards be printed naturally, and use a biodegradable laminate that ensures their durability (but not for thousands of years)?
- Can we find more sustainable packaging options?
- Is there an alternative recycled metal we might use for our cuffs?
- What more can we do to find the best ways to purchase and distribute, and utilise the most sustainable delivery routes? While transportation is always going to be a challenge for any product-based company, we want to improve on this.
- As Sea Soul Blessings grows, how can we best give back to nature?
GIVING BACK TO NATURE
We acted on that last question first – setting up a direct donation to environmental causes linked to every single sale.
Now we donate 10% of our purchase price directly to environmental causes from each sale. Every month, we make a decision about which cause to donate to that month.
From 16 September 2019, 10% of our purchase price is being donated to Surfers Against Sewage, a national charity based in Cornwall, who inspire, unite and empower communities to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife.
We’re donating via Work for Good – so you can find us over there too. We only joined them in September, but made their top 30% of regular business donors in 2019, thanks to all of your purchases and support.
Here’s how that 10% donation breaks down per product at the moment.
(These may seem like small sums, but they are a significant donation for a business of our size – and the more we sell, the bigger our donation will be…!)
- Sea Soul Blessings box set: £2.10
- Sea Soul Blessings book (digital): 50p
- Sea Soul Postcards (per set of 5): 68p
- Sea Soul Blessings book (hard copy): 60p
- Sea Soul Insight (as this service is paid for by donation, we can’t give a fixed sum here, but we will donate 10% of your donation to us)
- Sea Soul Session: £2.80, Set of three sessions: £7.20
This is our minimum donation at this stage of our growth (when we don’t actually have any net profits, yet…!). We’re absolutely intending to donate more as we grow – and we’re incredibly grateful for your support as we do that. We want to help to protect the sea for generations to come.
THE LATEST VERSION: NOVEMBER 2019
The second iteration of Sea Soul Blessings
(29 November 2019 onwards…)
The new box set is now entirely plastic-free and made of mostly recycled materials. Any card we use that’s not made of recycled materials comes from sustainable sources.
It’s also fully recyclable, vegan, and printed solely with oil-based inks (Hewlett Packard’s Indigo ElectroInk, used on a digital printing press, which is oil-based, certified by the Intertek Green Leaf Mark, and so far, the most environmentally friendly solution available to us at the moment.
If this run proves popular, we’ll be able to move on to water-based inks next…
The cards remain the same size, but we’ve removed the plastic laminate coating, and we’re printing these on stronger paper stock instead to ensure they’re still durable, (but not so durable that they will last for another thousand years…)
We’ve increased the size of the book to make it easier to read (it’s still pocket-sized though), and removed the small organza bag that had previously held the cards.
Instead of that not-very-sustainable organza bag, we’ve created a lovely display case within the cardboard box. And that means that you can now select one to three cards to display for the day or week ahead – creating your own beautifully presented reminder of the sea and your blessings.
The new box is bigger than the previous version – as yet, we haven’t been able to find a way to make a sturdy enough small box without using laminate coatings, or card sourced from less sustainable sources.
How else are we becoming more sustainable?
We’re continuing to use the Royal Mail for delivery as we currently believe this is the delivery route with the lowest carbon footprint.
And we’re reducing our own carbon footprint by keeping the printing, manufacture and fulfilment in one UK location.
That means that your orders can now be sent out direct from the spot in which they’re produced – with no travel miles wasted along the way…
We’ll also post your order out to you in recycled cardboard, using waste paper as protective packaging.
The printing issue
The printing issue is a challenging one for a small business – as different kinds of ink, printing and clean-up processes have different pros and cons (and some really aren’t affordable when you’re operating on a small scale), so this is one of the main areas we will be exploring as we grow.
Here’s what we understand about printing methods so far:
This is the process we use now.
With this method, the ink has charged particles – and the machine sprays the correct particle onto the correct place on the paper to create the image.
This does away with the need for plates (so there’s no metal or plastic used).
Because there are no plates, there is also no need for a clean-up process and thus no cleaning solvents either. Nor any waste ink, since it directly applies only what is needed.
However, the ink (containing the charged particles) still needs a carrier fluid – in this case, mineral oil (very refined). There are no water- based digital inks for the HP Indigo as yet.
Offset Litho Printing
This is a method that we could potentially shift to as we grow – using water-based inks, and being very careful about the clean up and disposal processes…
Litho printing uses metal or plastic plates to transfer an image from the plate to the paper by offsetting the ink, often utilising the non-mixing properties of water and oil.
This process uses metal or plastic plates, along with either water-based or oil-based inks. In some cases, there can be harsh clean-up techniques involved (after every run, the machine has to be cleaned down, using solvents and chemicals).
Water based inks are only eco-friendly when you use and dispose of them in a responsible manner. Most of the long term ecological damage of screen printing is a result of the waste in cleanup, not the process or the chemicals.
… so that’s where we are for now – but watch this space for the next set of questions we’ll be working on!
In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions – you can contact us here. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
“We each have within ourselves the ability to shape our own destinies. That much we understand. But, more important, each of us has an equal ability to shape the destiny of the universe.
Ah, that you find more difficult to believe. But I tell you it is so. You do not have to be the leader of the Council. You do not have to be king or monarch or the head of a clan to have a significant impact on the world around you.
In the vastness of the ocean, is any drop of water greater than another?
No, you answer, and neither has a single drop the ability to cause a tidal wave.
But, I argue, if a single drop falls into the ocean, it creates ripples. And these ripples spread. And perhaps – who knows – these ripples may grow and swell and eventually break foaming upon the shore.
Like a drop in the vast ocean, each of us causes ripples as we move through our lives. The effects of whatever we do – insignificant as it may seem – spread out beyond us.
We may never know what far-reaching impact even the simplest action might have on our fellow mortals. Thus we need to be conscious, all of the time, of our place in the ocean, of our place in the world, of our place among our fellow creatures.
For if enough of us join forces, we can swell the tide of events – for good or for evil.”
Margaret Weis (The Seventh Gate)