update on sustainability at Dot & Lil

In 2009 I wrote two blog posts on sustainability at Dot & Lil, this one and this one. In 2010, I followed it up with this post about our glass jars and tough choices, and this post about carbon offsets. As my business has evolved some things have become more sustainable, others less. And certainly new challenges have emerged! It is most certainly time for an update on sustainability at Dot & Lil!

A lot of things have remained the same:
  • We still use biodegradable bags made in Canada to hand out purchases at events and craft shows. This winter we alsmost switched suppliers for these, until I realized the bags, although still biodegradable, were made in China. Made in Canada always wins around here! I stuck with my previous supplier.
  • Nancy Marrelli (my lovely mama!) is still busy at her sewing machine making the cloth bags we wrap gifts in from upcycled vintage fabric and table linens.
  • Our packaging is still almost entirely glass and paper. All of our packaging is recyclable.
  • We still try and source our materials from Montreal first, then Quebec, Canada as a whole, and the U.S. as a last resort to cut down on shipping and reduce carbon.
  • We still ship most orders out using re-used shipping materials, usually using the boxes we receive supplies in and the packing peanuts etc that we have on hand. I have never purchased packing materials except occasionally one of the small boxes or bubble mailers from Canada Post (my supplies boxes are big--small orders needed a solution!)
  • Dot & Lil products don't contain animal fats. All the products are, in fact, vegan with the exception of the lip balms and glosses, which contain beeswax, and the milk bath, which contains whole milk powder.

But some things have changed, will change soon or didn't turn out as expected:
  • Try as I might, I cannot buy all my supplies directly from manufacturers as was part of my original mission. I wanted this so as to be able to cut out the huge amounts of carbon released when shipping supplies to and from a manufacturer and a middle man and me. But at the size I currently run Dot & Lil, it is just not possible in many cases, as some manufacturers will not even entertain the possibility of doing business with me at what is to them piddly volumes. I still do it whenever possible, as it's a great way to get the best prices, too. And it certainly is always on my mind as the best option as I grow and scale up.
  • I will in the next year be adding liquid soap and hand & body wash to the product line. These will necessitate PET bottles, as glass is unsafe for the shower. The more research I do on PET, the more convinced I am of it's relatively horror-free environmental impact. To be honest, I suspect it's greener than glass, though the public perception says the reverse. And to be VERY honest, adding liquid soap to the line is in no way green, because you know what's WAY greener than PET or glass? Bar soap, which requires neither. Just think of the global impact our communal switching to packaged liquid washes and soap products has had over the past decade? Huge.
  • All the soap is now wrapped in cellophane, which is entirely biodegradable and also allows you to see the bar of lovely soap you're purchasing!
  • Some of my supplies are now purchased from the U.S., mainly through co-op buys with other bath and body makers. This is mainly because I have discovered Montreal to be completely void of reasonable bulk pricing on such things as refined shea butter, which I go through rather quickly around here! As soon as I am able to find better pricing more locally, I'll be right back to buying in Quebec!
  • My beeswax and lavender are both purchased from local growers and producers. I'd love to do blog features on these eventually!
  • In the post from February 2010 where I discuss carbon offsets, I refer everyone to the David Suzuki Foundation for more information. Well, if you follow my blog at all you'll know that they are no longer my favourite people! You can read more about why that is with my post 'How David Suzuki broke my Heart'.
Overall, I am still trying and striving for a sustainable business. And yes, still struggling. As I've repeated many times, it's often a very gray decision when it comes to sustainability, it's often not clear what the right choices are! I'd love any feedback or insights into how you feel about sutainability in general and at Dot & Lil, and any ideas!

Images in this post are by nuttakit via www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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xoxo, Anne + the Dot & Lil Team