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Get clean with caffeine: An interview with Optiat

 

Optiat: One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure

I discovered this amazing beauty brand who use coffee waste to create natural, effective, high-quality scrubs at Stylist Live in 2017. Attracted by the energising scent of the lemongrass scrub, I bought one to test at home. I absolutely love how soft and smooth my skin feels after using it, and the fact that it squeezes out of a tube so you waste hardly any of the product compared to typical coffee scrubs packaged in pouches. My boyfriend, Ollie, is a big fan too – I frequently hear him call from the shower “I’m just going to use a bit of your coffee scrub”!

With their product range expanding, I caught up with co-founder Anna to find out a little more about Optiat started, what goes into their products and plans for the future…

 

Hey Anna, how are you? What have you been up to lately?

I’m very well thanks, I’ve been really busy recently with all sorts. We are expanding our website as our range grows, so I’ve spent lots of time last week on a product photoshoot getting some beautiful photos for the site. We were also at Vevolution Festival this weekend where we pitched at a dragons’ den competition against five other vegan brands. We ended up being selected as the winner which was extremely exciting! It was my first experience getting to hold a giant cheque so that was a nice box to tick!

Amazing! So you and your brother William set up Optiat – how did it all begin?

The idea to make sustainable coffee scrubs from repurposed used coffee grounds came about from a culmination of different things. Firstly, William was bought a cafetiere and was making his own coffee every morning. He lived in central London with no garden and so didn’t have plants to put the grounds on (as with many) so instead he was simply throwing them away. He got to thinking that if he alone was throwing away so many coffee grounds each morning, then, given the size of the coffee industry, on a wider scale there must be an awful lot of waste – and he was right! After research we learnt that we are throwing away 500,000 tonnes of coffee to landfill each year in the UK alone. If we could create a product which could help to minimize this then that could only be a good thing!

We were also aware that people have been using coffee on their skin for many years around the world and that it was something that had taken off particularly well in Australia in recent years. However, no one seemed to be making coffee scrubs from used coffee grounds. All of this came in parallel to the huge rise in awareness of the devastating impact of microbeads on our environment. As we all look towards natural alternatives for our exfoliators, repurposed coffee seemed like a brilliant option!

We are throwing away 500,000 tonnes of coffee to landfill each year in the UK alone


What did you and William do before going into business together?

Before forming Optiat my brother was working in finance for a hedge fund and I was working as an area manager for a supermarket managing several stores. My job gave me great insight into things like analysing trends, forecasting sales, warehouse management, stock control and staffing. My brother and I have very different strengths, so we really compliment each other when it comes to heading up our own business.

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How are you finding working together? What are the best and worst parts of going into business with your sibling?

People often ask what it’s like to work with a sibling! I guess you have to be wary of mixing family life and work life, but honestly for us it works really well. There can be disagreements and the odd argument, but we are able to speak our minds freely with each other so the resolution is always speedy. The worst part is that we have to be pretty disciplined when it comes to professionalism – we’re still working on that! As we take on our first staff members in 2018, I think any bickering will have to be quickly eliminated! The best part is that it’s so much fun, we laugh a lot and take great joy in being able to share Optiat’s success with the rest of our family.

Tell us more about Optiat and why you wanted to start a skincare company with a positive environmental impact?

Optiat products are made from ingredients which would otherwise be discarded. We create natural, vegan skincare products by breathing new life into these unloved ingredients. Fundamentally we wanted our brand to be totally unique, we wanted to be doing something which no one else is doing and we wanted to prove that there can still be great value in the things that we are choosing to simply dispose of. This ethos is appealing to customers as they are increasingly looking into the provenance of the ingredients of the products which they are choosing to buy. Consumers are beginning to shop in a much more conscious and critical way. We encourage our customers to ask us about what has gone into the making of our products, what is the process? What are the ingredients? Where are the ingredients from? Increased transparency and knowledge for the customer about a product and its ingredients allows the customer to make more informed choices about the brands they choose to buy from and the products they choose to use. It is beauty with a conscience, our customers don’t have to worry about what will happen when our products eventually are washed down the drains as the ingredients are natural and chemical-free. Keeping our ethics at the forefront of what we do is incredibly important to us, we will never compromise on our mission to have a positive environmental impact.

There can still be great value in the things that we are choosing to simply dispose of.


How did you discover the beauty benefits of leftover coffee waste?

Research, research and more research! We spent many many months absorbing as much information as we could. We then launched an initial range of three scrubs, gathering feedback from our initial customers before launching our current range in November 2016. This whole process was more than a year.

We began approaching coffee shops and asking them what they did with their coffee waste, they explained to us that it was simply thrown away. We gradually built up a portfolio of restaurants, bars and cafes and now we collect from around 50 coffee shops in London. The world has finite resources, and we as humans produce a significant amount of waste. For example, more than 9 million tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfill every year globally. This has significant consequences as the coffee grounds decompose to produce methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times worse than carbon dioxide! Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

The ingredients that we repurpose into our products retain their quality. Coffee, for example, has been shown to be higher in antioxidants once it has been brewed than beforehand, so the used coffee grounds that make up our scrubs are just as good (if not better) for your skin! The fact that it is collected from artisanal coffee shops and restaurants also means that it is the highest-quality Arabica coffee, as opposed to the lower-grade, cheaper Robusta coffee found in most coffee scrubs.

The caffeine in coffee helps stimulate blood flow, effective against skin conditions such as acne, eczema, cellulite and stretch marks, addressing those areas in need of renewal and regeneration. The caffeine can also help to brighten up your complexion, leaving you with a fresh looking glow, plus coffee is the same pH as your skin – meaning it won’t leave it feeling dry.

That’s a whole lot of skin goodness to be throwing to landfill!

More than 9 million tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfill every year globally.


Can you tell us more about your body scrubs and face masks and what they’re made of?

We like to keep our ingredients as simple as we can, and so all our scrubs are made using natural vegan ingredients. We believe you should be able to understand the ingredients on the labels of the food and cosmetics that you put in contact with your body.

The core ingredients in all our scrubs are the same, the only thing which we vary from scent to scent is the essential oils which we use to naturally fragrance each scrub. The essential oils included in our scrubs are: mandarin, lemongrass, peppermint, coconut, rosemary, orange, lime, eucalyptus and vanilla extract.

The base ingredient of our scrubs is the repurposed Arabica coffee grounds which give our scrubs their distinctive dark colour and unique smell. Arabica beans are only grown in mountain shade at altitudes above 600m. As a result, they are much harder to grow. They are more expensive but they taste way better too! We believe that if you wouldn’t eat or drink something, why would you be happy to put it on your skin? That’s why we only use Arabica grounds.

Added to these repurposed grounds are brown sugar and sea salt. These ingredients aid in the exfoliation and the sea salt acts as a natural antiseptic, preventing redness and breakouts and protecting any abrasions you may have on your skin. Next, we add almond oil and whipped shea butter, these ingredients help to form our scrubs into the gel-like consistency in which it comes. Not only this, but it is because of these ingredients that our scrubs are richly moisturizing, unlike a lot of exfoliators which can leave your skin feeling tight and dry.

Our face masks are made from repurposed hemp husks which we collect from an organic farm in Oxfordshire. Relatively known as a superfood, hemp is a holistic ingredient used for a variety of purposes including for fuel, protein, fibre and medicine. The hulls are an excellent source of minerals and a rare source of insoluble fibre. When used topically, the hemp husks act as a gentle exfoliator to lightly buff away dead skin cells and cleanse your skin for a glowing complexion. We also use activated charcoal in our masks, an ingredient which is great for drawing out toxins from your skin. Activated charcoal has the ability to bind to toxins, which is why it is often used in the medical field as a treatment for poisoning, as the activated charcoal can bind to toxins to prevent the body from absorbing them. The same logic applies to drawing our toxins from your skin. Using activated charcoal as an ingredient in a face mask can help to detoxify your skin and unclog your pores helping to even your skin tone, reduce acne and redness and give you a brighter looking complexion.

Where are your products made and who by?

Our products are all made in the UK by hand. Originally we were making all of our products ourselves, but we simply cannot manage doing all of the manufacture on top of everything else anymore. We now have a manufacturer based in Dorset, a small team produce our products there amid a setting of rolling hills and fields of cows! It’s beautiful!

What plans do you have for Optiat for the future?

There are so many wonderful natural ingredients which are unfortunately going unused. We are keen to rescue these unloved, unwanted ingredients and continue to develop more skincare products from them. Without wanting to give too much away, we will soon be releasing a lovely new range of products made from brewed chai spices which were previously used to make chai tea. By the time the chai production process is over, the spices are no longer needed yet they still smell amazing! We have taken the chai spices and used them as the core ingredient for an exciting new range. As always, our new products are vegan, cruelty-free, sustainable and 100% natural.

We are also revisiting our coffee scrubs and exploring some exciting new scents, we’ve been using our social media to ask our #ScrubSquad what scents they would like to see next!

For those who don’t know, our brand name Optiat is an acronym for “One Person’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure”. It is our focus on sustainability and making something out of nothing that we feel really sets us apart from the rest – and so this is what we will continue to do! We aim to show people that these unloved ingredients still have a huge amount to offer us. If we can produce high quality, effective skincare products by promoting sustainability as our core message, our hope is to demonstrate that we can all be more resourceful, that we can promote a circular economy and to inspire the beauty industry as a whole to be less wasteful.

For anyone wishing to use up their leftover coffee grounds at home, what can you suggest?

Go for it! Keep it simple and natural. All you really need is a nice oil to mix in with the grounds – something like coconut oil, almond oil or even olive oil should work nicely! You can also add a bit of sea salt if you’re prone to breakouts. Use a few drops of an essential oil of your choice, but try to choose one which compliments the scent of the coffee. Our four coffee scrub variants are vanilla, mandarin, lemongrass and peppermint. Lavender also works wonderfully! You can keep your scrub in a small kilner or old jam jar. Enjoy!

Finally, what are your top tips for shopping with people and planet in mind?

As a brand, we are committed to changing our current ‘take, make, dispose’ world by promoting a circular economy: keeping things in use for as long as possible before restoring them at the end of their lives. So, if products have the word ‘disposable’ in them, like disposable razors, or disposable cutlery, they are best avoided. Living an eco-conscious lifestyle is all about trying to minimise the impact we humans have on our wider environment. We currently live in a world where we are bombarded with negative headlines about climate change, pollution and our overuse of scarce resources, but we can all make changes that can make a difference. Here are just a few simple things you can do to create a greener beauty regime:

  • Swap your plastic toothbrush for a compostable bamboo one. Toothbrushes are increasingly being found washed up on beaches in the most remote areas of the planet.
  • Make sure you are not using a toothpaste or exfoliator which has microbeads in it – our scrubs are the perfect solution to that (*wink wink*)!
  • Avoid products which contain palm oil in both your beauty products and your food items, as the production of palm oil causes deforestation, destroying the habitat of endangered species like elephants and rhinos.
  • Try to introduce soap bars into your regime rather than just always using liquid soap. Soap bars last much longer and tend to have a lot less packaging. We are excited to be bringing out a new range of soap bars soon, so keep an eye out!
  • Try to avoid beauty products which spray out of a can, opt for a perfume / deodorant stick instead. They last a lot longer and are much less likely to be laden with harmful chemicals.
  • Choose products with recyclable packaging and responsibly sourced and organic ingredients wherever possible.

Thank you Anna!


Chai Soap Block Crowdfunder

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Optiat have just released a Crowdfunder for their exciting new product range, chai soap blocks! For this new range, they have partnered with Henny and Joe’s to collect the brewed chai spices that have been used to make their chai tea syrup. By the time the chai production process is over, the spices are no longer needed yet they still smell amazing! Chai tea spices have a number of skin benefits as they’re packed with antioxidants; from fighting free radicals, firming skin and reduce signs of skin aging, to gently drawing out toxins, removing impurities and purifying the skin. As always, their soaps will be vegan, cruelty-free and 100% natural.

Find out more and support their Crowdfunder here.

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Categories
Exercise Live

Detoxifying your deodorant with Elsa’s Organics

I recently interviewed Elsa’s Organics founder Henrietta Lampkin to find out a little more about how and why she launched the brand and the benefits of a deodorant made up of natural and organic ingredients. Read what we discussed below…

Hey Henrietta, how are you? How is 2018 treating you and Elsa’s Organics so far?  

I am very well and excited by all of the possibilities this new little brand is bringing me!

Why did you start Elsa’s Organics?   

After searching long and hard for a truly natural deodorant that was effective and long-lasting for myself and my daughters, I was left frustrated. I gave up my search and decided to create my own recipes. As a mum of four girls, I knew this was something I had to do!

Why deodorant?  

I saw a gap in the market as the existing “natural” deodorants weren’t that effective and had questionable ingredients.

What are some of the typical health and environmental issues associated with conventional deodorant?

All conventional antiperspirants and a vast majority of “natural” deodorants contain Aluminium in one form or another. Some contain up to 25% by volume of Aluminium salts! This is a toxin that your body has no use for in any amount. It has also been linked to diseases such as breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, bone disorders and kidney problems, as do Parabens which are also frequently found in conventional deodorants. Studies have shown that Aluminium accumulates in the breast tissue of women, with high incidence in the upper, outer quadrant of the breast, nearest to where antiperspirants are applied (Exley et al., 2007; McGrath, 2003). Parabens are also suspected to be endocrine disruptors (EWG, 2018).

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Photo credit: We Were Raised By Wolves

Why organic ingredients?

The skin around your under arm is sensitive, with some studies finding a 100% absorption rate. It’s therefore critical to use as pure and natural ingredients as possible as what you put on your underarm will be absorbed into your body.

 

“What you put on your underarm will be absorbed into your body”

 

What percentage of your deodorant stick ingredients are certified organic? Do you think you will go for Soil Association certification at any point? 

Of the ingredients in my deodorant sticks, 68% are certified organic. The remainder are clays, ocean minerals and Himalayan salts which can’t be certified as they aren’t agricultural. We’re currently working on getting our products fully organic certified by the Soil Association!

What ingredients do you use in your deodorant sticks and why? What are they good for? 

  • Detoxifies

Himalayan Pink Salt is a gentle detoxifier and deodoriser. It is readily absorbed into the skin and contains 84 minerals and elements that can naturally be found within the human body.

  • Nourishes

Castor Oil is found to have natural healing abilities, moving through the lymphatic channels within the body and breaking up any congestion. It’s been shown to be effective in preventing the growth of numerous species of bacteria and is also high in Vitamin E and beneficial fatty acids Omega 6 and 9!

  • Deodorises

Magnesium is involved in over 300 regularly occurring transactions in the human body, making it the most important nutrient for your body’s performance! It’s best absorbed through the skin and helps to neutralise bad odours! Essential oils are also great at adding a natural fragrance and keep you smelling sweet.

  • Soothes

Coconut Oil has many qualities, including it’s soothing nature. It also has great antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, making it perfect for a deodorant. Arrowroot powder is also thought to have soothing and anti-microbial properties.

  • Softens

Shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids and is praised for softening the skin.

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Photo credit: Love Lula

Where are your products made and by who? 

I formulate all products in my kitchen and they are now made in a small manufacturing plant in Scotland!

What do you have planned for Elsa’s Organics in the future? 

We will be launching a fun pre-teen zero waste creme deodorant and a charcoal-based arm-pit detox kit in May so keep an eye out for those.

What tips do you have for readers for more conscious shopping? 

Here are my top 3 tips:

  1. Read the labels and research any unfamiliar ingredients
  2. Aim for zero-waste where possible
  3. Go organic for skincare and food

 

Thank you Henrietta!

 

 

Categories
Live

Talking ‘Clean Beauty’ with the KINN Living co-founders 

I first discovered KINN Living at the Soil Association ‘Careers with a Conscience’ talk (which I wrote about here), where I received a gorgeous sample of their body oil. After following their Instagram page, fawning over their beautiful posts, and falling in love with their ethos, I reached out to them to see if they could support my barre class fundraising events. Luckily they were keen to support my efforts to raise awareness of sustainability-conscious brands, so the attendees of my last event in 2017 (read more here) received a gentle yet refreshing shower gel. This is now my favourite shower gel for every day use, leaving you feeling soft, clean and ready for the day ahead!

Pleased with my products, I got in touch with Marie and Sophie, the mother and daughter duo behind the brand, to find out a little more about KINN, how it all started, and what they’ve got planned for the future…

Hey Marie, Sophie, how are you both? What have you been up to lately?

Hi Zara. We’re really good, busy with lots of planning. Our home range launches into Waitrose next month so we’re excited about that and we’re working on bringing out a couple more ranges later in the year.

How exciting! So together you founded KINN Living – how did it all begin?

Marie – KINN originally began when I had just had Sophie. The typical cliché – I was looking for products that I thought would be best for my new baby. My searches for natural and organic products came up empty, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. My uncle had a company in The States selling aromatherapy-based products and I thought that those would be great to bring to the UK. However, for one reason or another, I ended up having to shelve the project.

Sophie – So when I started uni I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to work for myself. I could see already that the clean living lifestyle was a growing trend and that’s when I thought about my uncle’s company (no longer trading) and the products my mum had tried to develop in the 90’s. After a lot of bugging, I managed to convince mum to let me put my degree on hold and we began to work on KINN full-time. It quickly evolved from this idea of selling aromatherapy-based organic products, to this larger variety of lifestyle products and the idea of Clean Beauty™ for you, your family and your home.

“It quickly evolved from this idea of selling aromatherapy-based organic products, to this larger variety of lifestyle products and the idea of Clean Beauty™ for you, your family and your home.”

What did you both do before going into business together?

Marie – I worked in property developing and was lucky enough to create everything from bespoke multi-million pound properties to smaller developments such as starter homes. I fell into this career path in my 20’s when I bought my first house with Sophie’s father and decided that I wanted to rip out all of the walls, extend the back, and create an open plan home. Sophie jokingly says that I’m an extreme decorator!

Sophie – Before KINN, I was studying English Lit at uni and training to become an interior designer at KLC. I originally thought I would follow my mum into property, but through the interior design route rather than developing. I was lucky enough to have some great work experience that included running a pop-up fine art gallery in Mayfair for two months (art is my first love, having studied Art History at School) and working with the designers who created George Northwoods flagship salon. However, the more I thought about KINN, the more I thought the time was perfect for a company like it to exist!

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Photo Source: KINN Living

How are you finding working together? What are the best and worst parts of going into business with your mother/daughter?

Marie – Sophie is someone that I spend a huge amount of time laughing with, and we’re very alike in many ways, so the thought of building this company with my daughter, who was the main reason I wanted to do this back in the 90’s, made perfect sense!

Sophie – I love working with my mum. She’s honestly my best friend and I feel very lucky that we have a relationship that allows us to work together as well as go off on our travels together. I can’t really think of any downsides. I think the only thing is perhaps having that some outsiders find it hard to see us separately as business women, beyond our mother-daughter team.

Tell us more about KINN Living and why you wanted to start an organic beauty company?

So for us, organic has always just been a part of life and was never a trend or fad. Half of our family come from the South of France and have organic farms. It’s very much the normal thing for us to eat seasonally, to avoid harsh chemicals, and to shop organically. More recently, we started to find that with the growing trend of “clean living” the lines were getting blurred between what was really natural and organic, and what was just greenwashing. We wanted to create a company people could trust wouldn’t greenwash; what we say we are, we are.

“So for us, organic has always just been a part of life and was never a trend or fad.”

Marie – When I would be with my grandmother in France, she would send me out to fetch the eggs from the chickens or get fresh milk from the dairy farm across from us. Everything we had was very fresh and simple; we would often pick tomatoes to eat that night. Always searching for organic products, my friends back in the U.K. used to think I was a little bit bonkers, but it just wouldn’t cross my mind to want any other products!

Sophie – Like mum, I would go and spend time with my great-grandmother in France, and I would go fetch the milk fresh from the farm or help with the chickens. I spent a lot of time in nature with my cousins and I don’t really remember ever being able to have junk food or sit in front of the television for hours; we were always outside playing on the farms. So again, my friends would think I was a little bit odd when I’d turn up to uni with a bag stuffed full of misshapen vegetables to take home and chocolate mousse made using avocado, but it just wasn’t odd to me!


Photo Source: KINN Living 

Your ethos is ‘Clean Beauty’ – what does that mean to you?

So Clean Beauty™ to us is not just about what you put on your skin, but about what you treat your homes with, what you eat. Why should the notion of beauty only extend to a ‘beauty regime’? Why would we not treat everything else with the same care? We think our homes deserve to have a ‘beauty regime’ of their own that is free from harsh chemicals. After all, we think it’s a little bit crazy to make the effort to have an organic oil filled bath when you cleaned that bath with a load of harsh chemicals earlier that day!

 “Why should the notion of beauty only extend to a ‘beauty regime’? Why would we not treat everything else with the same care?”

Can you tell me more about where your products are made and who makes them?

Our products are all made in the U.K.

My uncle (Marie’s uncle, Sophie’s Great uncle), who originally had his aromatherapy company, is the brains behind the body care formulas. He makes sure that the right ingredients are included to stimulate certain feelings when using our products; for example, the lavender in our body oil helps you to relax and unwind. He really is amazing at what he does and is one of the reasons aromatherapy is what it is today!

How about where your ingredients are sourced from?

All of our ingredients are fully traceable, a prerequisite for the Soil Association COSMOS certification of our body care products. The essential oils come from all over the world and help to support smaller farmers who harvest these crops, choosing to not spray their fields in pesticides. It’s so important to support these people as they have a hard battle with larger conglomerates who try to force them into using their pesticides.


Photo Source: Pretty Green Tea

You have a huge range of products, from bath and beauty to household cleaning – which are you best sellers and your personal favourites?

Marie – I actually find it hard to pick as we’re creating our dream products! I love relaxing with our bath oils, but equally I enjoy starting the day with the body wash. When it comes to the cleaning, I love the smell that the floor wash leaves.

Sophie – I am a big fan of the body oil; I use it pretty much daily as it sinks in so nicely and doesn’t leave me sticky and fighting to get my skinny jeans on! I also love the kitchen spray, I’ve pretty much invaded my boyfriend’s apartment with the KINN products!

I don’t blame you – I’m trying to invade my own apartment with them!

What plans do you have for KINN Living for the future?

We would like to see the range of products KINN Living offers grow so that it really does become a place you can shop, with trust, for products for you, your family and your home. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have our own stores one day! We think the sky is the limit and that it’s just so great that people are really getting behind natural, organic and eco products!

For anyone wanting to go organic on a budget, what would you suggest?

For beauty, we would suggest that they look out for products that are Soil Association certified. There is currently a real problem with companies greenwashing on their labels, saying they’re organic when really their ingredients aren’t. They can get away with it as there are no labelling laws for ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ products in the UK yet.

With cleaning products, look out synthetic fragrances and products using unnecessary ingredients such as dyes and sodium lauryl sulphate.

Finally, what are your top tips for shopping with people and planet in mind?

Try to support smaller businesses rather than rushing straight to a large chain brand – some supermarkets are really great at championing the little guys on their shelves. We know it’s not always easy, especially when you don’t live in a large town.

Thank you Marie and Sophie!

To find out more and browse their collection, visit their website: https://www.kinn-living.com

Categories
Dress

Non-toxic nails with Kure Bazaar

 

Kure Bazaar are focused on their good nail philosophy: providing nail polish that is natural but effective for smooth, strong and healthy nails with a pop of colour.

Categories
Live

Give a gift that gives back this Christmas

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With so much on offer, how do you choose a worthy gift for a valued friend or family member? And what can you get that you know they’ll love and that aligns with your ethical and environmental values? There are plenty of sustainability-conscious brands stocking great gifts that give back; be that the profits donated to charity, through the company’s work in the local community, or their labour and environmental practices. I’ve rounded up a few examples of perfect presents that are more than just a gift…

Categories
Dress

BluePatch: Britain’s Sustainable Market

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Photo credit: Rose Fulbright

BluePatch is a sustainable marketplace for UK design, ethical fashion, eco-furniture, green gifts, organic & fair trade food. They’re helping to connect shoppers to independent, local businesses that are improving the sustainability of their operations. This may include the use of locally grown foods in their products, raw materials from sustainable sources or renewable energy to power their workshops.