Buying sustainable products is a challenge when synthetics are everywhere and packaging is plastic, but there is a growing business sector taking on the problem with success, writes Carol O’Callaghan
In this day and age, who isn’t making at least some effort to be environmentally conscious?
But beyond recycling and avoiding plastic packaging at the supermarket, finding necessities for the home which are eco-worthy can turn a shopping expedition into a chore rather than a pleasure.
Happily, among a growing sustainability sector are three Irish businesses thriving on their commitment to quality, the planet and a focus on sourcing materials ethically, while avoiding plastic at the same time.
First up is White & Green run by Rebecca Winckworth, her mother, Sari, and sister, Danielle, in Co Wicklow. As Ireland’s only 100% organic Fairtrade bed linen brand, they make bed sheets and home accessories such as throws, towels and silk pillowcases.
“We use only natural, organic processes which are healthier for the environment and our producers,” Rebecca explains. “It also creates softer, longer-lasting products. Our production ensures that everyone involved with us from farmers through to factory workers are paid a living wage, are treated well in the workplace and that there is never, ever any child labour nor slavery, something which is still commonplace today in the fashion and textiles industries.”
Among the ranges the company sells, Rebecca says, “Our two most popular items are our organic Peace silk pillowcase which is incredibly great for your skin and hair. It means you won’t wake up with fuzzy hair or sleep lines anymore. It feels like a dream to sleep on. Our organic cotton Bed Bundle has four pillowcases, one duvet cover and one deep fitted sheet in the silkiest, softest sateen cotton at €258 for a double.”
Such worthy credentials have now been extended to their packaging systems and what Rebecca describes as guilt-free shopping.
“Deliveries arrive on our customers’ doorstep in biodegradable bags or cardboard boxes only. It’s a lovely shopping experience as our clients simply buy online with one click and their order arrives the next day in a totally sustainable way.”
Starting the business before sustainability was even fashionable, Rebecca says, “People questioned whether it was possible to be sustainable and offer high-quality products, and be affordable at the same time. Now, we have proven that it is possible with over 10,000 customers.”
Pat Kane, owner of Reuzi in Dublin’s Foxrock, offers everything in one place she considers we need to live a minimal waste lifestyle.
“We believe that it should be easy to make choices that positively benefit the planet,” she explains, “and that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you believe in, we can all take small yet meaningful steps to reduce our waste.”
Focusing on products to help us avoid single-use materials, Reuzi sells everything from bamboo toothbrushes, to wax alternatives to cling film, and runs an educational programme of talks and workshops to help schools and businesses understand sustainability while offering practical advice on how to get there.
With over 600 products to choose from, Pat picks out two favourites — the affordable bamboo Spork (€3.15) which is half spoon, half fork to keep in your bag and eliminate the need to use plastic cutlery while on the go. Another choice is the Way Cap reusable Nespresso capsule. “It costs €38,” she says. “You can always have your favourite ground coffee instead of going with the single-use capsule.”
Business partners Francie Duff and Sonia Reynolds also took the sustainability route when they set up shop to focus on Irish textiles including linens, wool and cashmere.
Called Stable of Ireland, it started as a successful pop-up shop four years ago and then established itself permanently in premises located on Grafton Street, selling scarves, blankets, cushions, throws and table linens.
“There’s so much quality in this country,” says Francie. “We work with manufacturers using ethically sourced materials. They’re all Irish dyed yarns made from natural fibres so there’s no processing.”
Customers can expect to find Irish linen handkerchiefs (€12), napkins (€20), and linen towels (€40), countering a belief that this sort of quality can be excessively pricey.
“The people who come into the shop are seeking out beautiful Irish products and are aware of environmentally sourced fibres,” Francie says.
“They are well educated about this so they are aware of the benefits of sustainable products. It’s something we’re seeing across the age groups where their attitude is buy better, buy less.”