As we have become more aware of climate change and the effects that our choices have on the planet and ecosystems, the rise of greenwashing has made terms like “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” start to mean less and less. There are many large corporations (and even small companies) that use these terms with no real action behind them. As a one woman owned business I have the ability to make the best choices that I can to reduce my impacts. And I want to be open and transparent with all of you around all stages of Mae Botanicals including where and how I am packaging and shipping products.
How and where I source packaging and shipping materials has been evolving over the years and continues to evolve and align with the values at Mae Botanicals. Until I find the perfect fit, I am doing the best with what I can access.
Decision Tree: criteria for making choices
I first consider resources used to produce the packaging, then how reusable it is, then can it be composted or recycled. I also have to consider costs, like is this really awesome product within my current budget (and the budget of my customers), if not, what is the next best thing that can be used?
Shipping: boxes and padding
I recently switched over from a virgin paper cardboard purchased from not-the-best corporation. But now I can afford to do better, so now all shipping boxes are 100% recycled cardboard from a decent corporation! I am excited for this transition, though this means my shipping prices will be increasing as these recycled boxes are double the price of the non recycled boxes :/
I reuse the packing paper that comes in shipments I receive to pad and cushion each of your shipments! I have a pretty large stash and have not purchased packing paper since I started in 2019—I actually still have most of that original roll.
Each bottle is wrapped in 60% recycled paper fiber tissue paper. Once that runs out, I am transitioning to 100% recycled paper. I also use fully compostable/recyclable paper tape (no plastic or icky adhesives!) to close each box. And your shipping labels are also fully compostable/recyclable!
My entire shipping set up is fully compostable or recyclable.
Carbon Offset: doing what we can
As of November 2022, I have joined with the Shopify Planet program to offer carbon neutral shipping on every order. This is achieved by supporting various carbon capture projects via an extra fee on the sellers end. While it is a nice program to join, I think it's important to acknowledge this is the absolute bare minimum carbon neutral shipping can offer. Another important consideration is that carbon capture programs may not be very effective—there is little to no research supporting the actual recapture of carbon (not to mention they excuse corporations from making actual admission reductions).
Ultimately, I believe we as a society need to reimagine our energy choices and consumption. Carbon recapturing until we can fully transition to renewable and sustainable energy is just one small thing we can do. Preferably we’ll have renewable and sustainable energy that isn't based on lithium ion batteries, (listen to this podcast) and that is divested from capitalism and the belief that unlimited growth is possible or even wanted.
What could it look like for us to create a society and structure to live in that is supportive and relational, one that understands us as a piece in the world, not separate from the world.
Bottles and Jars: reuse and recycle
These are primarily purchased in bulk from the least terrible corporate reseller I have been able to find. They are produced overseas with unknown working conditions from new material.
To aid in offsetting this, I offer a bottle reuse program where I select recyclable bottles and jars, mostly from folx who have used my products and gifted their containers back. I source metal lids (also reusable and recyclable) for as many products I am able.
Currently ¼ oz trial jars have plastic lids, as I have been unable to source these in metal, and the pump tops and dropper tops both contain plastic. There isn't a good replacement on the market unless a simple screw on cap is used. Let me know if you want me to transition to these! It is just an unusual packaging choice and seems to be a hard sell to the average consumer.
I have chosen a compostable plant based bioplastic for things that need clear bags. Lip balm tubes are also compostable, they are paper lined with bioplastics and they have been holding up to long term use.
Labels: the best we can
Labels are currently plastic waterproof vinyl. The future plan is to switch over to a screen printed bottle. It is not practical to use this option currently, as the order minimums are too high for me to swing at this point in the business. But in the future (hopefully within several years) keep an eye out for new plastic free labeling!
These changes need to be part of a group project not just individual actions, we need to shift thinking from the unlimited growth of capitalism to reimagining and creating a new future that is divested from these systems of harm. But until we can create these types of communities, let us take what small actions that are available to us now.