The COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow this week is making us all think long and hard about how we are going to get to Net Zero Emissions by 2050. As a small business it seems a daunting goal because there are so many factors to consider: how we run our office, how we design our products, who we work with as suppliers, how we package and ship our orders... it's all a little overwhelming.
So this week we sat down and made a list of the decisions we've made to date that we hope will reduce Initially London's carbon footprint. It's baby steps, little decisions made every time a choice is available. And we've only just started down this road, but hopefully by 2050 (ideally sooner) each little decision will add up to great strides.
In July 2021 we moved in to our new studio which gave us an opportunity to ensure our energy supply is sourced by renewable energy. Our electricity supplier, Yorkshire Power and Gas, assures us that all our energy needs are now met with renewable sources.
Waste disposal for e-commerce businesses is daunting due in large part to the number of boxes that arrive from suppliers, along with general waste generated by a growing business. We now use First Mile who provides a zero-to-landfill general waste collection service, with all non-recyclable waste generating green energy instead of going to landfill. They also recycle all our cardboard boxes, paper, plastic, textiles and glass.
We love working with sustainable textiles such as linen, jute, palm leaf, organic cotton, sisal and glass as all these materials are sustainable grown or made and biodegrade if disposed of properly. They also monogram beautifully. As we develop a new product, we try as much as possible to use these materials exclusively. Check out our Sustainably Made edit to see some of the most popular products.
However, to the extent water-proof materials are required, we need to use HD polyester. So we recently switched from newly produced HD polyester to 100% recycled polyester for our microfibre duffle bags, backpacks and drawstring sports bags. The colours are more muted, but the fabric is fantastic. Click through to see our Recycled Chelsea Duffle, Recycled Oxford Backpack and Recycled Tedworth Sack, as well as our recycled Insulated Picnic Backpack.
Some of our products, such as our Etched Insulated Bottles, Cork KeepCups and Covent Garden Baskets are designed to reduce the use of plastic bottles, cups and bags by our clients. Monogramming adds that extra special dimension to a practical, environmentally responsible decision.
Monogrammed linen napkins are a wonderful way to reduce the amount of paper napkins used at mealtime. Linen is a gorgeous textile that will last for ages even after countless spins in the washer and dryer. Monogramming each family member's initials or name on them allows you to easily reuse them for several meals if they aren't soiled.
We are British manufacturers ourselves, producing every monogram to order in our London studio. However we have historically sourced our products from all over the globe. When we source new products for our line, we always look for UK manufacturers first. We work with a number of wonderful British suppliers who we visit, communicate with regularly and work collaboratively to develop products that suit our monogramming style.
When we can't source in the UK, we then look to Europe and Morocco where there are incredible artisans producing linens, leather goods and straw baskets which can be shipped easily to the UK.
Beyond Europe, we source in the USA, India and China. Materials like polyester and stainless steel are almost always made in China.
When possible, we visit our producers to design in person and meet the people who make our bags. When we can't visit, we communicate closely with our suppliers via trade assurance platforms to ensure the factories are managed responsibly. That's not to say there wouldn't be any surprises if we dropped in unexpectedly, but we are doing what we can to ensure that workers are treated well.
Packaging and Shipping
We are known for our gorgeous monograms, not for glamorous, marketing-focused packaging. Because all our items are made to order, we need to be sure you can easily see the items you've purchased to see how your monogram design turned out. So we package minimally, in biodegradable cellophane bags, acid-free and recyclable tissue paper, reusable and unbranded linen or cotton gift bags and FSC-certified paper shopping bags. There are no shiny branded gift boxes inside other boxes that fill up your recycling bin, no plastic bubble wrap or filler, no branded ribbons that go straight in the rubbish. It's not great marketing, but it makes good environmental sense.
We deliver locally via bike couriers or our very own Tuktuk. Nationally we deliver by Royal Mail's tracked 48 service and internationally by DHL air freight. Our mailing packaging is minimal and unbranded, but for a removable sticker, so it can be easily recycled or reused: recycled and recyclable Kraft paper, mailers and boxes.
Using Public Transport
Our studio and showroom is located in Parsons Green, just a short walk from the District Line station and the many buses that serve the Kings Road and Fulham Road. So all our staff and many of our clients take public transport rather than cars to get here. The Initially London TukTuk, a 50cc motorbike with a box on its back, is our one motorised indulgence, but she's not terribly thirsty for petrol. You can find her going up and down the neighbourhood streets most days.
Manufacturing right in the middle of a residential area of London is in many ways a crazy idea, but it does allow us to recruit the best staff and serve our local markets due to the easy access.
Small Steps towards Progress
These are tiny steps but altogether it feels like a little progress is being made. But there are so many challenges that we have yet to solve: supplier packaging (textiles arrive almost exclusively plastic bags), manufacturing in the UK, distribution logistics, etc. We are desperately in need of education and information so if you have any ideas for us, please get in touch.