This edition of the spotlight is a little different as we are talking about one of our distributing suppliers rather than featuring a direct manufacturer. EcoLiving was established in 2013 by Founder Jo and started supplying to The Bare Alternative in August 2019 after a customer recommended Biork, a deodorant brand that ecoLiving are the UK distributor of, and this opened up an unexpected but amazing new supplier for us.
While the company does have manufacturing partnerships to produce their own eco-friendly homeware brand, their main operation is distributing, and they offer a wide range of items for the kitchen, bathroom and on-the-go that has helped us expand our product range and provide loads of amazing plastic-free everyday essentials.
The company is highly passionate about promoting women in the workplace and the current team of 12 includes an oddity in the industry of an all-female warehouse packing team who do a fantastic job of packing all of our order with zero plastic packaging.
To start though, let's have a chat with Sarah.
What is your name and role at ecoLiving, and please tell us a little more about the business and the products that you distribute?
My name is Sarah, and I am Head of Global Wholesale for ecoLiving. Our business is a leading provider of eco-friendly household products to stores across the UK and EU. We are the creators of a growing line of such products, and our Director Jo is the creativity behind our range. EcoLiving is also the UK distributor for many well loved eco-brands, and our mission is to change the consumers use of everyday products to more sustainable options and to do business in the most sustainable and ethical way.
What motivates you to distribute low-impact products and promote sustainable living?
We have a firm belief that no matter what you are looking for, there is almost always an option that is comparable in price, equal or better in quality, and that doesn’t come at the expense of others or our planet. We want to be able to tell our children that we did everything we could to be part of the solution. At ecoLiving, we are passionate about supporting small independent companies that share our vision of sustainable living to bring products that are sustainable, effective and accessible to all.
Is there anything special in your production methods that promotes sustainability?
Yes, we only use wood for our products from FSC forests and we are FSC approved, certified and inspected. All of our organic cotton is also GOTS certified and we are currently working towards approval for B-corp certification. We are a carbon-neutral company, and not only do we plant a tree for every ecoLiving product sold, but we also plant more to offset any emissions. All vehicles owned and used by the company are electric, we use green energy to power our warehouse and office, and run a plastic-free warehouse and packaging solutions.
We've recently noticed you've had a large number of new items become available and we think it's great to be able to offer a wider range of sustainable products to our customers. Can you tell us a little more about the ecoLiving branded range?
Jo and her development team are passionate about improving and sourcing products to ensure they are of the best quality and eco-credentials. We prefer to manufacture and source from as close to home as possible and this is where changes are often made. We have some very exciting product coming soon, which I cannot disclose right now, but I think are real game changers!
Since the very first delivery we received from ecoLiving, we've been really impressed that everything has been sent with zero plastic packaging using only paper and card. Has this meant there have been any difficulties to overcome?
We are so pleased you notice and value the plastic-free packaging and deliveries, but yes it has been a journey. At first, we found many suppliers couldn’t quite get their heads around it! And we had to have many conversations and partnerships to get it right. Now we find we are in a great place, but we do liaise with manufacturers and suppliers to tweak methods and this means that they not only provide this for us but all purchasers (whether they want it or not lol).
What’s your personal favourite product from your range?
Ooh, this is hard! But I think I would have to say our compostable cloths. I love them as they are so effective, look great and are value for money. I find if people I know are asking about what I do and where I work, I give them a cloth to try and make a switch. I see you guys have the new Moroccan ones too, my fave!
What's your number one tip for living a low-impact lifestyle?
Buy or use only what you need, and love local. I make much more conscious choices, especially with food and clothing. Planning purchases and avoiding waste.
What's something you are working on outside of ecoLiving to live a more eco-friendly life?
Our household has switched to electric vehicle and bike use only. We have installed solar power and are enjoying cost-free transport as a by-product of this. I am part of our local group to look after the green spaces, and I do the warm ups for our beach litter pick events (I am also a qualified yoga teacher you see!)
Is there anything new coming down the pipeline that you’d like to tease?
We have a great partnership brewing with an electric car charging company and have a fantastic range in development! I love the part of my job when I am given a sample to try out that are in the product development stage, and I can tell you some fab things are coming to eco up even more of our lives!
Those new products certainly sound interesting and I can't wait to find out what they are and see what will be additions we can bring to The Bare Alternative. I hope it's clear to regular customers of the shop that key values really align between ecoLiving and The Bare Alternative as both we want to prove that you can get high-quality, low-impact products that are comparable in price to widely available commercial products that are damaging to the planet during use (as they may shed microplastics, made using chemicals) or at the end of life (when they are sent to landfill or incinerated).
In our chat, Sarah mentioned one of her favourite products is the Compostable Cloths and this is a great example of a product that is less damaging during its use. Many traditional cleaning sponges are manufactured from a human-made, non-biodegradable substance that breaks up slightly every time they are used. This broken off material is going down the sink and into our waterways, which can eventually even lead as far as getting to oceans, contributing to ocean plastic pollution. What's even better about ecoLiving's cloths is that they are certified according to Oeko-Tex standard 100 which means they are tested to not contain any substances that are harmful to human health.
Many of the new homeware items that we stock from ecoLiving are similar in price to what you would find in a supermarket or high street store, but they have been manufactured using eco-friendly materials. They are also designed with durability in mind to ensure they are long-lasting to provide long term value for money, also resulting in less waste, but when they do come to end of life they are significantly less impactful to the environment as the wood is a natural material and along with the metal is widely collected for recycling.
However, not every product can be directly compared on price as they are designed to replace their traditional counterpart and function in a different way. The Silicone Baking Liner is £13, whereas, a roll of greaseproof paper is typically £2, however, the liner is designed to be reusable for many years, whereas the paper is disposed of after a single use. So for somebody that enjoys baking, the higher upfront cost soon pays off, but even for somebody that would only use the liner on an infrequent basis, they are saving on waste and as long as they take care of it, there comes a point where they will also save money too.
Most of the time when we think of eco-friendly products we think of the impact on the planet, but something else Sarah touched on is the cost of products to others. You may have heard of Fairtrade products, but there is a similar certification called GOTS for textiles which all of ecoLiving's cotton products are made according to. In short, the certification ensures that working and social conditions such as labour conditions, zero discrimination, harassment or violence are followed, but also extends to check on manufacturing and that only organically produced raw materials are used.
Of course, when talking about manufacturing any kind of consumer product, the overall impact that product has on the planet is important, so it's great that when a brand like ecoLiving decides to start manufacturing products that they choose to use sustainable materials that are souced under certifications such as FSC. This certification ensures that when materials are harvested, actions such as keeping biodiversity, productivity, and ecological processes in balance are taken to minimize the impact through responsible management of forests, and also focuses on factors such as social and economic issues.
Something I previously discussed with Sarah is about the use of wood over bamboo when they started manufacturing their new homeware items. Many other suppliers we have access to tend to manufacture their products using bamboo so I was curious about this choice. Sarah's reply was that, as partially mentioned earlier, one way that ecoLiving work on reducing impact is through sourcing materials from certified programs, so by also choosing to source materials that are closer to home, for example, by favouring the FSC beechwood sourced in Germany and manufacturing in EU or UK, this lowers transport impact and emissions, compared to sourcing bamboo from China.
Ecoliving also has special working partnerships with other manufacturers that also in turn benefit stockists like The Bare Alternative. As an example, we are only able to buy bulk boxes of Loofco items like the Washing-Up and Cleaning Pads from ecoLiving. These bulk boxes are the same number of pads as three or four standard boxes, and due to the popularity of these products, we would normally buy this number of boxes anyway, so the bulk box reduces the amount of packaging we receive and need to dispose of.
EcoLiving is also a member of Eden Reforestation Projects
meaning that every time an ecoLiving branded product is purchased, this equates to a tree been planted in countries around the world where deforestation is an issue that also helps support the local communities and wildlife. This is clearly advertised on the product's packaging to help communicate the positive benefit of choosing to buy a more ecological and socially responsible product.
Finally, ecoLiving also contributes to 1% For The Planet which is an organisation that is a collection of more than 3,000 members who all donate funds that go towards supporting environmental organisations and activism to drive action for a healthy planet, with $275 million already raised.
I hope you found this interesting and also learnt something. We are looking forward to the new products coming, but worry that if ecoLiving keep putting out so many great products for us to stock, we are going to have to move into another bigger shop!
Check out the range of products we stock from ecoLiving on our online store to order for click and collect or home delivery or visit us at 332 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, S7 1FN where you can find all of the fantastic products we stock from ecoLiving in our new Homeware section and shop in-store with your own containers.
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